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County urges more state funding for rural roads

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Tom Coulson, Pitt County Board of Commissioners

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Ginger Livingston

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Pitt County Board of Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a resolution asking the General Assembly to revise its formula for awarding transportation dollars for work in the state’s counties.

Commissioner Tom Coulson proposed the resolution and hopes other counties in eastern and western North Carolina also adopt it so the General Assembly can recognize the majority of the state's counties aren't being served under the Strategic Transportation Investments' formula developed in 2013.

"The only thing strategic about the formula is it strategically takes more money from east and west counties," Coulson said. He doesn't want to engage in a battle with the General Assembly, but he wants acknowledgement that rural eastern and western counties are being short-changed.

The legislation changed the transportation funding formula so it places more emphasis on congestion and population and less on intrastate road improvements, Coulson said.

The Martin County Board of Commissioners have adopted a similar resolution.

Coulson said he hoped Commissioner Glen Webb, who will soon finish his tenure as president of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, could endorse the resolution without violating one of the organization's provisions that it supports legislation that benefits all North Carolina counties.

Webb said the association has supported provisions in the past that seek investment in the state's rural counties.

"We've had tremendous growth in the state; the problem is, it's only in 10 or 12 counties," Webb said.

Planning Director James Rhodes said Greenville and Pitt County have benefited from the investment formula but also want to support surrounding counties that struggle with transportation funding. 

The most recent strategic improvement transportation plan adopted in November identifies 16 projects that will be undertaken in the near future in Division 2, which includes Pitt and seven surrounding counties.

Ten of the projects, including five new ones, are in Pitt County. The new projects include the purchase of right-of-way and construction of improvements along Dickinson Avenue from Reade Circle to N.C. 11. There also are plans to widen Fire Tower Road and East 14th Street.

Coulson said he believe's Pitt County's political connections are the reason it secured funding, not the current formula.

The problem is the Department of Transportation doesn't have the money it needs to address all the state's transportation needs, Coulson said. Many people have told him they would support a tax increase to fund road repairs and expansion but the General Assembly's more than 20-year history of transferring revenues from existing transportation taxes to the state general budget have left people wary of supporting a tax increase.

While the commissioners were unanimous in supporting the transportation resolution, a proposal to change the board's rules and procedures was rejected with an 8-1 vote.

Commissioner Charles Farley wanted to amend the current rules for ending board meetings.

County Manager Scott Elliott started the discussion by saying an error had been made in the agenda memorandum sent to commissioners. The memo said Farley wanted to eliminate the requirement for a motion to adjourn.

Farley said he wanted a note added that the board chairman may end meetings without a vote after polling all commissioners for comments. Farley, who sought a similar change in December, said it reflected procedures found in Robert's Rules of Order, a guide originally published in 1876 on which many governmental bodies, including the Pitt County Board of Commissioners, base their policies for conducting meetings.

"What value does that add to the board?" Commissioner Jimmy Garris asked.

County Attorney Janis Gallagher said the board's rules don't exactly mirror Robert's Rules, which were originally created to govern large assemblies. There is no mandate that local governments follow Robert's Rules, she said.

"You could get someone in that (chairman's) seat who could yield that (procedure) with a heavy hand," Coulson said.

Farley made the motion to approve the change and Webb seconded it. Then Garris made a substitute motion to affirm the existing rules which was seconded by Commissioner Mary Perkins-Williams.

Following the board's procedures, the Garris motion was voted on first and passed 8-1 with Farley being the lone no vote. Because the substitute motion passed, no vote was taken on Farley's original request.

Other actions taken during Monday's meeting included:

• Unanimous approval of a contract amendment that paid $16,375 to L.R. Kimball, the consulting firm working on improvements to the county’s emergency radio and paging system. The additional money was needed because the firm had to design four new radio towers for the project instead of two.

• Elliott reporting changes in courthouse security are going well. All members of the public must enter the courthouse through one entrance with a metal detector. Elliott said there doesn't seem to be a problem with the flow of traffic.

Staff is discussing adding an awning to the entrance to shield people from inclement weather and have received preliminary bids ranging from $35,000 to $95,000, he said. Staff will continue working on the project to ensure the awning complements the building's architecture.

Commissioner Mark Owens Jr. asked staff to look at a wheelchair lift that is now being used to access the Register of Deeds office to ensure it is working properly and citizens understand how it operates.

• Staton Mill Road resident Charles Credle thanked the board for adopting a resolution asking CSX Railroad to stop parking running engines near his and other homes. Credle said CSX is violating a promise its representatives made when seeking county approval to relocate its transfer station from downtown Greenville to its current location. Commissioner Beth Ward, board chairwoman, said a lot of people are working on a solution.

• More than 20 Pitt County employees were recognized for their service, which ranged from five years to 25 years.

• Alyssa Coleman was recognized for receiving the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in the organization.

 

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.

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