Craven County Board of Commissioners – A Look Back at 2016

Watchdog Report
Craven County Board of Commissioners Meeting
Monday, 5 December 2016

At the beginning of the meeting in the last few minutes of Chairman George Liner’s Board Chairmanship, Commissioner Liner told those present what he believes are the outstanding accomplishments of the Board under his chairmanship. There are 13 of them. They are:

1) The refugee resettlement resolution which asked that the importation of refugees who cannot be thoroughly vetted to be sure that they don’t intend to harm citizens be stopped.

I would like to note that the resolution was first proposed by CCTA’s National Security Committee and supported by Chairman Scott Dacey.  Commissioner Liner did not mention that.  However, it WAS a very good thing to do; he’s absolutely right about that.

2) The real estate evaluation that was made for property tax assessments.  He stated that the loss of property values in Craven County amounted to about $1 billion dollars.   He did not mention that in spite of the obvious hardship this drop in property values presented for property owners, the Board raised the tax rate enough to collect even more tax dollars from the citizens. THIS IS DIRECTLY CONTRARY TO CCTA’S ADVOCACY AGAINST EXCESSIVE TAXATION!

3) The County’s response to Hurricane Mathew.  We agree.  It was terrific!

4) The adoption of the Solar Farm Ordinance.  CCTA did not oppose this ordinance, but as our Chairman, Glenn Fink, has pointed out numerous times, if it were not for unconstitutional federal and state subsidies for the solar farms, they would not exist, and such an ordinance interfering with property rights would not have been necessary.

5) Cherry Point Marine Base support.  Here again, we wholeheartedly concur.

6) The approval of the  Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) expansion of Havelock’s land use, zoning, and other ordinances two miles beyond Havelock’s southern and western borders.  This is an intrusion into the rights of property owners who have no ability to vote for members of Havelock’s governing body, and it FLIES IN THE FACE OF CCTA’S ADVOCACY OF MINIMUM GOVERNMENT.

7) The approval and construction of fiber optic cable.  This deal made between the county and a private company needs a thorough check to see if the taxpayers were ripped off.  No good explanation was ever given to the public by the Board as to how the agreed upon price was arrived at.

8) The Creekside Park expansions.  We support good parks for all citizens. However, the scope of this project grew by huge amounts of money when it was discovered that excellent grant writers could corner huge amounts of state and federal tax dollars for this project as it benefited handicapped children, veterans, etc.  There seems to be an endless pot of gold for well intentioned projects. The park was the recipient of a Trillium grant.  (More on how Trillium gets money below.)

9) The emergency 911 backup system.  Again, we applaud that . A very legitimate function of government.

10) The great improvement in the animal shelter. That was needed as well.

11) The Cooperative Extension Agency kept in Craven County.  If there was an analysis of this situation made public, somehow I missed it.  I’d like to know more.

12) Trillium “came aboard.”  This huge 501 C3 organization collects more money from Medicaid and other government sources than it needs to contract out with other organizations to provide the services it has collected money for providing. Then, it provides money for other endeavors of it’s choosing. This is a huge layer of expensive bureaucracy that I can’t understand the need for.  It squanders taxpayer money.  It is NOT something to be proud of.

13) Sale of land to Moen and BSH. The grant money and the discounts given to Moen amounted to a total of $822,000 that was provided by the taxpayers hoping to gain 75 jobs paying an average of $619 per week.  I would not have been proud of brokering that deal.  I doubt of President Elect Donald Trump would have been either!  HIGH RISK WITH OTHER PEOPLES MONEY where there is small opportunity for reward!

The next thing that occurred at the meeting was the election of Commissioner Tom Mark as the Board’s new Chairman.  I had heard earlier that he would be elected and that it was already arranged.  THE ELECTION AT THE MEETING WAS A DOG AND PONY SHOW!  It was previously explained to me that Commissioner Mark could use the position to help in some of his endeavors.  It is probably his efforts to gain support for improvements to the highway systems in Craven County.  That’s not a bad motive, but it should have come out in a meeting rather than being decided in private.  Commissioner Dacey was elected Vice-Chair.

The Commissioners instructed staff to put the solid waste removal contract out for bids again.  This is because the current contractor asked for a payment increase for each trash ticket turned in.  That would have resulted in the citizens having to pay $3.50 for each ticket which is UP from the current charge of $2.25.  Let’s hope they can make a better deal somewhere else or find some other way of paying for this service that every citizen needs.  Raising the price of this government service is akin to raising taxes.  Also, making trash removal increasingly expensive will tend to make our county increasingly littered.

Most of the rest of the meeting was devoted to legitimate functions of government.  There was a very detailed presentation by Greg Singleton, Director of Community Education and Outreach of the Re-entry Council.  He raised the very pertinent question, “Do the inmates really want to improve their situations?”  He stated that the jail had about 250-300 inmates most of the time and that 76% OF THEM ARE 18-24 YEARS OF AGE!

He stated that when asked to participate, 48 inmates has agreed to do so. He also said that THE BIGGEST PROBLEM THEY FACE IS ATTITUDE!  We will be very interested to find out how successful this Re-entry Program turns out.  Most people understand that it is impossible to help people help themselves unless THEY WANT to help themselves.  It appears that selling the benefit of their helping themselves is a VERY UPHILL battle.

Mr. Singleton said that 8 community organizations had agreed to help. They include Religious Community Services (RCS) and several churches in the community.  THIS IS INDEED GOOD NEWS!  Charity belongs in the private sector.  However, the news that another good grant writer has found 6 grants the program is eligible for is FAR from thrilling.  The potential “take” from that source is $3 million dollars.  I suspect most (or all) of that will be taxpayer money.

HOWEVER, MR. SINGLETON STATED THAT THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS WOULD NOT BE ASKED FOR MONEY!  Good news as far as it goes, but it will still probably come out of our pockets, and our Craven County Board of Commissioners is busy making it happen.  What part of LOW TAXES is so difficult to understand?
Respectfully submitted,

Hal James, Chairman, CCTA’s Watchdog Committee

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