02/20/14 — Wayne County commissioners agree on division of loan funds

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Wayne County commissioners agree on division of loan funds

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 20, 2014 1:46 PM

A turf war of sorts erupted Tuesday over how Wayne County commissioners should dole out the $576,923.08 they will borrow from the county's Eastern Region Trust Fund.

The debate also sparked allegations that a decision on how to split the money had been made without full board participation. But following nearly 45 minutes of sometimes terse discussion, commissioners reached a compromise, which they approved unanimously.

Under that compromise, which was suggested by Pikeville Town Administrator Blake Proctor, the requested amounts were reduced.

Mount Olive will get $100,000 for its airport project; Pikeville $75,000 to refurbish a tank used to store treated wastewater; Fremont $255,244,71 to pay off long-term debt; and Eureka $146,678 for sewer improvements.

Commissioners also agreed to borrow the money for 59 months instead of the full 60 so the county would not need Local Government Commission approval to take out the loan.

However, the towns will need Local Government Commission approval. If any of the towns are denied, it would free up money that could go back to the other projects, commissioners said.

Commissioners did not say how much, if any, interest the county would charge the municipalities.

The Eastern Region is being dissolved and will be replaced by a privatized Eastern Regional Alliance. The state funded the trust fund when the Eastern Region was first formed. The stipulation is that the money can be used by member counties for economic development projects only.

March 1 is the deadline for the county to file an application to borrow the money. If the money is not obligated by June 30, it will be turned back over to the state.

Commissioners heard requests from Goldsboro, Mount Olive, Pikeville and Fremont during a Feb. 4 work session. Eureka later asked for a portion of the money.

Commissioner Ray Mayo, whose district includes a portion of northern Wayne County, opened the discussion by saying that with the board's approval he would like to lump Pikeville, Fremont and Eureka together because of their pressing needs. The three also have sewer issues that are hampering economic development, he said.

Looking at all the requests together, Mayo said he did not see any greater need than those three towns.

Mayo then made a motion to fund their requests to help them get on their feet and "providing their own way."

Commissioner John Bell asked Mayo what the other towns were asking before taking a vote. Mayo told Bell the information was in the agenda packet, but offered nothing further.

Bell said he knew that and just wanted Mayo to say it. Mayo responded that any commissioner could make a motion.

"But the commissioners are making the decision as to the priority on this," he said. "I am just throwing mine out there for Pikeville, Fremont and Eureka. If anybody wants to make a different motion, that is fine."

Bell said the reason he asked the question is that, because of the limited amount of money, he had thought commissioners would try to spread it around to everyone who asked.

"No, that was never talked about," Mayo said.

Bell said he was not saying that was what the board had discussed the option, but that it had been his perception.

"We knew from the start we didn't have enough money to cover all of the requests, and that is why I had asked the commission to set priorities," Mayo said. "This the recommendation from the motion that I have made."

Bell asked Mayo which commissioners he was talking about because he had never been consulted.

Mayo said the rules had been set four or five weeks ago when commissioners started looking at the process. Tuesday's purpose was to set the priorities, he said.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery said he appreciated Mayo's concern, but that the county had limited funds and to be fair, the other towns should be included as well. Chairman Wayne Aycock agreed.

Daughtery also said he had not realized the board would be making a decision on the requests that morning.

He suggested that the towns review their numbers to see if they could trim their requests to accommodate all of the municipalities.

Commissioner Ed Cromartie, who lives in Mount Olive, agreed. He asked how it had been determined a decision would be made that day and questioned whether some commissioners had met to decide the three towns would get all of the money.

Cromartie said Mount Olive had been among the first to ask for the money. He was told funding was based on need, not first-come, first-serve.

Commissioner Bill Pate, who also represents northern Wayne County, said in the past the county had helped municipalities that enjoyed larger fund balances.

The northern part of the county "has been left out," he said.

Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown responded that he felt the town was being punished for operating efficiently and being able to have a good fund balance.