04/10/12 — County, municipal leaders confer

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County, municipal leaders confer

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 10, 2012 1:46 PM

The scene at Wilber's Barbecue Monday evening, with a little imagination, was reminiscent of a long overdue family reunion.

Half a dozen tables were lined end to end all covered in barbecue and sides as public officials from across the county passed dishes to one another during the first Wayne County-sponsored intergovernmental meeting of the year.

Elected officials from Wayne County, Goldsboro, Mount Olive, Fremont and Walnut Creek attended the meeting, although County Manager Lee Smith offered up the biggest news of the evening as he admitted that the county's $10 million radio system had "glitches" that would be fixed within two months.

The radio system is used by county EMS workers, volunteer fire departments and municipal emergency workers in each town and city in the county.

Smith spoke extensively about the system during his report, admitting that there were software "glitches" that the manufacturer was seeking to remedy.

The glitch would switch users of the radios -- Goldsboro's and the county's emergency response workers -- between channels which would, at times, make it impossible for those in the field to communicate with dispatch. Within 30 to 45 days, he said, his staff would install patches onto the system's 1,400 radios fixing the problem. He also said the county had obtained 10 new frequencies to cut down on interference. The patches would first be uploaded in Goldsboro, he said, with other radios receiving them in the coming months.

Beyond the radios, the main theme of the discussions Monday night concerned regionalization, a term brought up by Eastern Carolina Council Executive Director Larry Moolenaar who addressed the group initially.

Moolenaar advocated the consolidation of services within regions to save money for municipalities in close proximity to one another. Ideas were shared about combining entire departments within the municipalities, especially utilities.

County Manager Lee Smith said the recent expansion of Eastpointe's coverage area to 12 counties was a sign that overlapping or duplicate programs, like DSS, could be streamlined through consolidation.

The meeting shifted gears as representatives from Literacy Connections of Wayne County discussed the county's literacy issues, including the fact that more than half of adults in the county read below a ninth-grade level. Municipalities were encouraged to help fund the program, which, along with Veterans Services, will relocate to the former Nash Printing facility on Ash Street.

Smith noted the fighter jet crash in Virginia Beach recently and said Wayne's situation with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, emphasized the need to limit development around the base.

Goldsboro Mayor Al King concurred, saying that allowing development in restricted areas was the fastest way to get a base closed.