01/04/11 — Duplin not sold on translating documents

View Archive

Duplin not sold on translating documents

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 4, 2011 1:57 PM

KENANSVILLE --The government should declare English the official language of the United States, Duplin County commissioners said Monday.

At their first meeting of the new year, the commissioners unanimously approved a resolution respectfully requesting the declaration, after discussing a few concerns some board members had with the idea.

"It's hard for me to separate citizens and government," Commissioner Chairman Frances Parks said.

She did not want to create a communication barrier at government service programs -- but that would probably not be a risk, Commissioner Tim Smith said.

"I don't think this resolution affects that," he said. "... I wouldn't intend for it to affect services."

Providing services for people who speak languages other than English sometimes costs taxpayers extra, Commissioner Harold Raynor said.

"The taxpayers of the county are having to put interpreters in schools," he said.

The board then voted to approve the resolution.

Duplin schools maintenance director Bobby Norwood passed on a copy of the school system's facility needs survey, which is like a wish list for everything the school system needs in terms of its facilities, he said.

The board of commissioners is not necessarily obligated to fund or endorse any of the suggestions in the survey results, Norwood said, but the schools are required by state law to present the survey results to the commissioners and submit the final results to the state.

"If it was a perfect world, these are the needs we have out in the school system," Norwood explained.

The school system must conduct the survey every five years.

Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan was also present at the meeting and thanked the board for their work.

"We promise you transparency and that's what we will deliver. Anything less would be uncivilized," he said.

The commissioners voted 4-2 in favor of approving the survey results. Commissioners David Fussell and Harold Raynor voted against the motion.

Fussell and Raynor also voted against a motion that passed 4-2 in favor of hiring a new water office assistant to replace an employee retiring from the office.

"It is a question of, we do not know what the future holds," Fussell said, citing the county's ongoing hiring freeze.

But the services must continue, Smith argued.

"If you need it, you need it. If we shut down completely, we need to shut the doors and we'll all go home," he said.

The board members then heard from airport manager George Futrelle about the ongoing land acquisition project to preserve the Duplin airport's runway zone by purchasing land around the ends of the runway.

The county has just three parcels still under negotiation, he said.

Commissioner Jessie Ladson raised concerns about how the project affected the landowners.

"They don't want to move and if they have to move, they are not being paid enough to move," Mrs. Ladson said.

But it is important for people to move into the future, she added.

Only one home resided on any of the parcels near the airport, Futrelle said. The county used federal funding to secure the property, and the airport committee had a limit on how much money could be given to each property owner in exchange for the land, he said.

The commissioners could choose to add more to the purchase price if they were willing to pay for the overage themselves, the board has previously discussed.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires the county to control the property around the runway approaches, and not doing that could jeopardize future grant funding for the airport, Futrelle said.

"They want you to control your investment," he said.

The county will likely farm the property with hay or sod, after allowing the previous owners to cut and sell any timber on the land.

The commissioners held a nearly two-hour-long closed session before reconvening to hear Sheriff Blake Wallace briefly discuss the reorganization of the Sheriff's Office.

The board approved the reorganization efforts last year. The reorganization will save the county about $4,000, Wallace said.

The office will shift some duties to different positions and move two existing officers to the rank of major, a rank that has not previously been used by the office. The redistributing of duties will help the office save money while operating efficiently, he said.