02/06/13 — Sanitary districts might be redone

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Sanitary districts might be redone

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 6, 2013 1:46 PM

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The late J.D. Evans, who served for 12 years as District 2 representative on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, was remembered during the board's Tuesday session. Chairman Steve Keen, right, presented a plaque of appreciation and Evans' name plate to Evans' widow, Shirley, and sons, Jansen, left, and Dexter.

The landscape of Wayne County's seven sanitary districts could drastically change to the point of encompassing the entire county if state lawmakers agree to a local bill sought by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners on Tuesday morning agreed to ask the county's legislative delegation to introduce a bill granting them the authority to redraw the districts' lines.

The bill was suggested by Kevin Hayes of Mount Olive, an unsuccessful candidate for House District 4. The issue was not on the board's agenda, but was added at the request of Commissioner Joe Daughtery, who also made the motion to seek the bill.

"The sanitary districts were drawn up with specific borders when they were founded," Daughtery said. "Since that time, they have gone outside of those boundaries to provide services outside the original boundaries."

The issue is that people outside the district borders pay to receive the services, but cannot vote for, or serve on the district boards, Daughtery said.

A local bill is required to empower commissioners to adjust the district lines to accurately reflect their service areas, Daughtery said.

Several boards have tried to move their boundary lines to "no avail," he said.

Daughtery said that Rep. John Bell, Rep.-Wayne, has agreed to introduce the bill in the state House, while Sen. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, will do so in the Senate.

Commissioner Wayne Aycock, who resigned as member of the Northwestern Sanitary Board after he was elected commissioner, cast the sole dissenting vote. Aycock expressed reservations, saying that he had not seen the resolution supporting the bill prior to that time.

He said later in the meeting that he did not want people to think that he did not agree with the resolution.

"I just wanted to make sure that all parties involved knew what was going on," Aycock said. "As long as all the players are involved, I don't have a problem with it."

Filing for seats on the Belfast-Patetown, Eastern Wayne, Southeastern Wayne, Fork and Southern Wayne sanitary districts is held in July.

The bill would require that commissioners and district boards hold joint public hearings at least 14 days prior to any vote on a resolution changing district lines.

Commission Chairman Steve Keen asked County Attorney Borden Parker about the protocol to be followed.

It is drafted as a local bill, Parker said. However, it is "somewhat unusual" to have a local bill modifying something for just one county that is general legislation, he said.

Keen also asked about public hearings.

Parker said legislative committees, not commissioners, would hold hearings on the bill. If it passes as drafted, and commissioners want to have a public hearing on it, they can do so, he said.

However, public hearings are required before any lines could be changed, Parker said.

Also, since voting district lines are involved, any changes would require pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice -- a process that would require at least 60 days, he said.

Keen asked if there would be enough time to enact the legislation and follow the process to change the lines prior to the election.

Attorney Jack Edwards, who represents the districts, said the election would be in November.

Steve Hamilton, the districts' manager, pointed out that the resolution calls for the bill to become effective at the start of the fiscal year following its approval.

The fiscal year for the districts will be July 1 so board action changing district lines would be required before that date in order for it to be effective for the upcoming November election, he said.

"That indicates why time is of the essence because we have a lot to do between now and then if we are able to do that this year," Daughtery said.

In other business, commissioners paid tribute to late Commissioner J.D. Evans, who represented District 2 on the board for 12 years.

Keen presented a plaque in memory of Evans, and Evans' name plate to Evans' widow, Shirley, and his sons Jansen and Dexter.

Evans died Dec. 17.

Also, commissioners agreed to contribute $15,000 to the Wings Over Wayne Air Show.

Ben Seegars of the Military Affairs Committee, and Rick Sumner, air show coordinator, told commissioners that the Goldsboro City Council had agreed to $15,000 and that another $15,000 had been raised through area businesses.

Commissioners also approved a $5,000 contribution to the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition. The coalition is trying to raise $25,000 to help pay for hosting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall April 18-21 at Wayne Community College.

Commissioners challenged the Goldsboro City Council to match the donation.