04/06/09 — County rejecting roadwork proposal

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County rejecting roadwork proposal

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 6, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday will be told they would have to raise property taxes by 9.5 cents should the state dump the cost of road construction and maintenance on the county.

The meeting gets under way with an 8 a.m. briefing session followed by the board meeting at 9 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

House Bill 758 introduced last month would transfer those responsibilities to counties -- a move that County Manager Lee Smith has said has "disaster written all over it."

The bill's filing on March 24 prompted a mass e-mailing by Smith to drum up opposition to the proposal.

During the 2007 General Assembly session, lawmakers gave counties the optional authority to voluntarily help pay for such road projects. Smith at that time warned that voluntary participation simply opened the door to mandated participation.

Currently, there are 884.42 miles of secondary roads in the county.

Based on last year's tax data, loss of state revenues to pay for road upkeep and construction would require the 9.5-cent tax increase per hundred-dollar valuation.

According to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, the state faces a $65 billion road funding shortfall over the next 20 years. As such, association officials said, "we can expect further attempts to shift responsibility for the maintenance and construction of roads to our county property tax base."

Two other transportation issues will be before the board.

Wayne County Transportation Committee Chairman Atlas Price Jr. will brief the board on local transportation issues, and commissioners will consider adoption of an amended memorandum of understanding for "cooperative, comprehensive and continuing transportation planning between the county, city, Walnut Creek and the North Carolina Department of Transportation."

A public hearing will be held at 9:15 a.m. on a request to rename Moye Road, northeast of Fremont, to New Daniels Chapel Road.

The hearing was scheduled during the commissioners' second meeting last month. The change, which is being sought by church officials, has been recommended by the county Planning Board.

Two agenda issues relate to the Health Department.

Health Director James Roosen is expected to discuss local monies to assist with the department's dental clinic and with hiring a coordinator for the county's HIV/AIDS program.

Commissioners also will consider changes in patient fees, eligibility and bad debt write-offs.

In other business, the board will:

-- Establish the 2009 Board of Equalization and Review meeting schedule.

-- Be asked to write a letter of support for the WATCH program that is preparing for recertification through the Office of Healthy Carolinians/Health Education, Division of Public Health of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

-- Consider proclaiming April as Month of the Military Child in Wayne County.