A joint meeting between the Pitt County Board of Commissioners and the Pitt County Development Commission won't be held until January, following a Monday vote by the county board.

The joint meeting was the subject of a special Sunday meeting of the Board of Commissioners held on Nov. 24. The meeting was called shortly after the development board called a special meeting for Nov. 25.

A unanimous vote taken on Nov. 24 called for the two groups to meet in December to address issues that arose over appointments by the county board to the development board. The vote came after a failed motion to dissolve the development commission altogether and an agreement by the development commission to postpone its meeting.

On Wednesday, commissioners Chairwoman Beth Ward and Development Commission Chairman Randy Walters met privately with County Manager Scott Elliott, County Attorney Janis Gallagher and others to plan for the meeting, according to an email discussed at Monday's meeting.

The group decided to recommend that the meeting be held after the holidays in the month of January. Commissioners Monday unanimously approved a motion to postpone the joint meeting from December to January, although a date and time was not decided.

Economic downgrade

In other business, Elliott reported that the N.C. Department of Commerce recently changed Pitt County's economic designation from a Tier 2 to a Tier 1, classifying it with the state's most economically distressed counties.

The commerce department annually ranks the state’s 100 counties based on economic well-being and assigns each a designation. The tier system is incorporated into state programs to encourage economic activity in the less prosperous areas of the state, according to the department.

The 40 most distressed counties are designated as Tier 1, the next 40 as Tier 2 and the 20 least distressed as Tier 3.

County Tiers are calculated using four factors: average unemployment rate; median household income; percentage growth in population and adjusted property tax base per capita.

With a Tier 1 designation Pitt County will qualify for more economic development incentives to attract or retain business and industry, Elliott said.

Elliott also reported that the county had received eight different bids in response to a Request for Qualifications that it had publicized in regard to its search for a firm to lead the county in the development of an overall strategic plan. The board voted earlier this year to develop a strategic plan and to seek the leadership services of a firm that specializes in that type of planning.

The county is beginning the process of reviewing the bids and the selection of a firm may be made in January, he said.

Elliott reminded the board about the "Thriving Small Town Summit" for Pitt County municipalities to be held from 9 a.m.-noon Thursday. The meeting, hosted by the commissioners along with the Development Commission, will be held at the Vidant Administrative Building Conference Room, 800 W.H. Smith Blvd. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss economic development.

Also coming up on Thursday, Elliott said, is the first Pitt County Holiday Safety Fair to be held from 4-8 p.m. at Alice F. Keene District Park, 4561 County Home Road. The purpose of this fun, family event is to promote seasonal safety and help those in need, he said.

The event will include a home heating and cooking safety information session, live music, a petting zoo, food trucks with coffee and hot chocolate, and a touch-a-truck display with over a dozen emergency vehicles.

There will also be a donation collection for the Howell Center. Participants are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy donation to benefit children with special medical needs.

In other business the board:

  • Elected Melvin C. McLawhorn, District A, to serve as chairman. McLawhorn served in 2019 as vice chairman alongside Chairwoman Beth Ward. The board also unanimously elected Commissioner Tom Coulson, District B, as vice chairman.
  • Unanimously approved a budget amendment that establishes a capital reserve fund for the Pitt County Sheriff's Office in the amount of $418,843. The amendment is the result of federal inmate revenue that exceeded projections for the fiscal year 2018-19.
  • Unanimously approved a request from the Board of Health to write off a bad debt for 2017-19 in the amount of $539,340.77.
  • Re-appointed Judge Wendy Hazelton and appointed Jennifer Matthews to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.
  • Heard a report from Jan Elliott, director, about the Department of Social Services.
  • Heard a report from Ethan Lenker, superintendent, about the Pitt County Public Schools.

The next regular meeting of the board of commissioners will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 16.

Karen Eckert can be reached at 252-329-9565 or at keckert@reflector.com.