11/04/10 — Commissioner raises concerns about roads

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Commissioner raises concerns about roads

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 4, 2010 1:46 PM

Questions were raised Tuesday morning about the need and potential economic harm of proposed access management improvements along U.S. 70, particularly on the section of highway between William Street and Wayne Memorial Drive.

The questions led to back-and-forth maneuvering between county commissioners Jack Best and Steve Keen and generated a slew of confusing motions, counter motions and votes.

Two proposals -- closing U.S. 70 eastbound access to the service road east of William Street and closing westbound access to the service road near the hotel site just east of the Pizza Inn on U.S. 70 West -- were sticking points for Keen and businessmen Dillon Wooten and Doug Henry, both of whom own property on the highway.

The remaining proposed priority projects weren't mentioned.

During the public comment session at the end of Tuesday's board meeting Wooten told commissioners that he owns property on both eastbound and westbound U.S. 70 and had a vested interest in questions involving access to the highway.

"On the eastbound, I have been involved with property for 45 years and I have never known of an accident there," he said. "There are aggressive drivers that tailgate and so forth coming off William Street on the ramp. I would just like for all of the commissioners to know that property owners in Wayne County are being compensated on the new Highway 70 for being put on an access road. In others words, they are losing their access to Highway 70.

"In this particular case, and it is very important for you to understand, there is no eminent domain compensation from DOT taking what has been referred to as access points. I just want everybody to understand that your taxpayers or your property owners, are going to lose the rights to their access points, but that they are not going to be compensated."

Wooten said it is his understanding that the business owner affected by the closing of access to Florida Street had been compensated.

Henry of Doug Henry Buick Pontiac GMC said he had not been made aware of the plan until just recently. He said his business had been located on the access road for six years.

"It seems like that you all are making a recommendation on safety," he said. "But I have not heard any statistics about wrecks in front of my place."

Henry said that at times he feels caught between the city of Goldsboro and county rules.

"That and I don't know what personal is going on here, but I seem to be getting caught in the middle," Henry said. "I don't think that is right. I do generate a lot of sales tax for the county and city and I would like a little consideration."

There is no timetable or funding for the 6-year-old N.C. Department of Transportation plan. Only one is in the county's jurisdiction.

The other priorities, all ranked above the access issues, are:

* Installing a median reverse leftover concurrent with driveway consolidation and parking circulation improvement near Wilber's Barbecue.

* Installing directional mainline leftover at Ebenezer Road/Capps Bridge.

* Installing new finding/directional signs and possibly a dedicated right turn prior to the intersection with William Street.

The Ebenezer Road/Capps Bridge project is the only one within the county's jurisdiction.

The top priority, the Grantham Street ramps and closing access to Florida Street and the ramp to the state Highway Patrol Station, has been completed.

Earlier in the meeting Best had commented about needing a better understanding on an issue before voting. Keen used Best's own words against him reiterating those comments when he tried to move the plan from the consent agenda to either unfinished or new business.

Keen said he was asking for the discussion just for "clarity."

His motion to move the item from the consent agenda failed 5-2 with Keen and Commissioner Andy Anderson voting yes.

Commissioner Bud Gray followed up with a motion to approve the consent agenda.

Best attempted to move on with the vote, but Keen continued to press for discussion. Best finally asked board members if they wanted discussion.

Keen made the motion to allow discussion. Keen, Anderson and Commissioner Sandra McCullen voted for the motion. Best, Gray and Commissioner John Bell voted no. Commissioner J.D. Evans did not vote. In accordance with board protocol, Evans' lack of action was counted as a yes and the motion passed 4-3.

Keen's attempt to postpone action on the list pending the outcome of an ongoing economic impact study failed 5-2. Best, Bell, Gray, Mrs. McCullen and Evans voted no. Anderson did not vote and was counted as a yes along with Keen.

Keen said that during a recent meeting of the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission at Princeton that he had been told plans had changed for the access on westbound U.S. 70. Instead of closing one access point, the plan is now to close both and add a new one in between where the two are now located, he said.

County Manager Lee Smith reminded the board that the plan was commissioned by the state DOT and that the study had been done by Kimley-Horne, the company that is now the consultant for the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission.

The changes are based on safety, Best said.

Best added that the county did not have control over what the DOT does. Keen countered that the DOT is seeking local input on projects and that commissioners need to consider the economic impact of the areas in question.

Smith noted that the east side project has not been funded or scheduled. He said that improvements also will be necessary on Wayne Memorial Drive once the U.S. 70 Bypass is completed and its interchange is opened on that road north of Wayne Memorial Hospital.

The board finally voted on Gray's original motion to approve the consent agenda that included the priority list. It passed 6-1, with Keen voting no. Anderson said he voted for the plan because the William Street ramp onto U.S. 70 east is in a curve and "is dangerous."

The priority list was first discussed by the board in September. However, the board took no action on a request by the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission for its endorsement of the list even though the first phase already has been completed. Also, some board members appeared unaware of the access management plan, approved by the Wayne County Transportation Committee in August, even though it is six years old.

While Anderson had agreed that discussion was needed on the consent agenda, he did not comment on the access issue. His questions concerned wording in a memorandum of understanding between commissioners and the Wayne County Public Library Foundation.

The non-profit foundation had operated the library that is now a department of the county. Wording in the memorandum includes that the county establish a board of advisors to be filled by current members of the foundation board.

Anderson said that to be consistent with other county boards that the terms should be limited to nine years.

Smith assured him that would be the case.

After the final vote, Keen thanked Best for allowing him to speak and Best said he had not meant to seem to be attempting to prevent discussion.