09/13/13 — Seven Springs: Floyd troubles remain

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Seven Springs: Floyd troubles remain

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 13, 2013 1:46 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- The floodwaters that covered most of Seven Springs in the wake of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 have long since subsided.

But 14 years later, the county's oldest town has yet to return to its pre-flood status, in part, town board members say, because of a decision to participate in the FEMA property buyout following the flood.

Town board members Thursday night told Wayne County commissioners that it was one of the worst decisions the town could have made.

It is a decision the town continues to pay for in the numerous vacant lots that can be used for nothing other than open space, the board members said. It has cost the town in terms of lost property taxes as well, they said.

The lack of available land for development, along with the lack of high-speed Internet access, is hamstringing any potential economic growth, the board members said.

Despite the flood, the river is still viewed as an asset, as is the town and surrounding area's rich history, both of which are viewed as a way to attract visitors.

However, part of that history -- the seven mineral springs that give the town its name, and an early 1900s resort hotel -- have been put off limits by the families that own them, the board members said. Nor do those families have any interest in selling the properties, they said.

Those were the key issues the board members brought before commissioners during their joint meeting at the Seven Springs Restaurant.

The session was the latest in a series of meetings that commissioners are holding with each of the town's seven municipalities. Commissioners will meet with the Pikeville Town Board on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at noon at Lane Tree Golf Club. They will meet with the Walnut Creek Village Council on Thursday, Sept. 19, at noon at the Walnut Creek Country Club. The final meeting is with the Goldsboro City Council on Monday, Sept. 30, at 8 a.m. in City Hall.

The county is working on comprehensive land use plan and it is important for county officials to know what is going on inside the county's seven municipalities, commission Chairman Steve Keen said.

Seven Spring's population dropped from 200 to just 110 following the flood, and most of its residents are over the age of 60.

The town operates on a budget of approximately $50,000 and offers few services to its residents. Law enforcement and inspections are handled by the county.

"It seems like one of the main things that everybody complains to me about, one of the reasons we have not been able to attract younger people and businesses is we have no information technology infrastructure at all," Mayor Alan Cash said. "If you want Internet down here they have to pipe it in on satellite or something.

"We have no cable (TV), no Internet and the phone lines are terrible. So anytime we ask about a business coming down here, if somebody is interested in renting one of our properties -- when we tell them we don't have high-speed Internet that knocks us right out."

The town's only source of broadband had been the town library that has since closed and that will be merged into the new Steele Memorial Library planned for Mount Olive some 14 miles to the east.

"It is hard to attract businesses and young people when you don't have stuff like that," Cash said. "They want high-speed Internet and they want TV that we cannot offer."

The existing cable line ends about a mile east and north of the town, he said. There has been no clear explanation from the cable companies as to why they do not offer services in the town.

Marcia Wilson, clerk to the county board, reminded commissioners that an official from Time Warner Cable was on their Tuesday agenda.

Commissioners agreed it is important to find a way to get cable TV lines, which also provide high-speed Internet, into the town.

Wayne County is hosting a four-day FEMA meeting next week, Keen said. That would be a good time to ask those questions of FEMA officials, he said.

Keen also asked what the county could do to help develop Seven Springs into a destination place for tourists.

Cash said that people still drive through town and ask where the springs are. However, the family that owns the property has allowed it to grow up and people are not allowed on the property. Cash said he had spoken to the owner about the town cleaning and repairing the area.

"But I was not received too well," he said. "That is the nicest way to say it."

Town Commissioner Stephen Potter noted the town's Civil War history and the nearby Cliffs of the Neuse as natural tourist draws.