04/11/12 — Municipal officials talk about concerns

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Municipal officials talk about concerns

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 11, 2012 1:46 PM

Between mouthfuls of barbecue and banana pudding Monday evening, the state of the county's municipalities was shared as elected officials and staff of the county and its municipalities came together at Wilber's Barbecue for a county-sponsored intergovernmental meeting.

County Manager Lee Smith opened the meeting and invited officials from each town to comment on developments.

Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown picked up where Eastern Carolina Council Executive Director Larry Moolenaar left off in his discussion of regionalization, noting that through collaboration and elimination of duplicate projects, the town was able to trim $1 billion from its 30-year Comprehensive Transportation Plan. Brown also noted the impending end to the town's fourth phase of sewer upgrades and said Mount Olive was about two months from beginning the bid process to increase its water capacity by 1 million gallons.

Discussion turned soon to potential water shortages as Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald pointed out that the town's water connection was essentially two blocks from the water line that runs to Castle Hayne. If the connection was made, it would mean Mount Olive could provide water to Goldsboro and surrounding municipalities during drought without fear of running out itself, he said.

Walnut Creek Mayor Darrell Horne said the village was developing a master plan for its parks as well as expanding its water and sewer services.

Fremont Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie was critical of the timing of the meeting in regard to the election cycle, saying it would be more fruitful after the elections.

Smith said later that there were plans to have another meeting in the fall, adding that he would like to have the meetings twice a year.

McDuffie said Fremont's chief concern was its library. He noted that Fremont had lost its magistrate's office, its ABC store and its DMV office in recent years.

"We don't want to see the library become another vacant building owned by the county," he said.

He noted that Fremont residents had raised $80,000 to remodel the library when it was rumored to be on the chopping block but said he was concerned that there was still talk of closing it, especially amid talk of building a larger facility to serve the northern end of the county.

Smith said that the library's operations funds were currently in the county's 2012-13 budget draft, but said he couldn't guarantee anything beyond that, especially since elections could bring about a new board by next year.

"The recommendation is to leave it as it is now," he said, adding that advisory boards would be formed before the next budget season to make recommendations on what the library system's next move should be.

Goldsboro City Manager Scott Stevens read off his city's accomplishments with little elaboration. He noted the finalization of a parks and recreation master plan, the impending hire of a police chief, renovations to the golf course and the outcome of the city's lawsuit, which sought to claim legislation approved in the General Assembly was unconstitutional. That law was struck down, but Stevens said municipalities should pay attention to what's happening within the legislature.

No representatives from the town of Pikeville attended the meeting.

Smith said following the meeting that the benefit of the meeting was to bring elected officials together who otherwise would not be involved in discussions.