Public Hearing Might Help Us

Published 3:56 am Tuesday, March 11, 2003

By Staff
There often comes a time in the political life of public officials when they inwardly want to take a certain action but not knowing exactly where public service rested in the case. He or she wants to know how the people feel.
Actually, inwardly that public official might personally be opposed to what the people seem to want, but before he votes on an issue of a proposal he wants to be sure he is guarding the best interests of his people, regardless of his personal leaning.
Looking out over the vast space, we often read where some public hearing is being held in order to give those in power an insight into the thinking and the feeling of the people they serve. We have a clear example of an issue in the state of North Carolina in which there is a difference of opinion. We speak of the lottery. The Legislature on its own motion could institute a lottery system, but it never will on its own action. A vote of the people will be necessary if ever such a system comes to this state.
There are people along the way who will say that "you were elected to serve us, to make decisions affecting us, and to act in our behalf. You make this or that decision just as you were elected to do." So often he who takes this position just does not understand.
In Beaufort County today we have a rather unusual situation. We have a county nursing home operated by the county. It is the only such home in this state. Today that home is in need of an overhauling. We are advised that a new air and heating system costing some $250,000 is necessary. Then we are told that other maintenance and repair work might take as much as $50,000 to get the necessary work done.
Now we are told that one cent in property taxes in Beaufort County will yield about $300,000.
We come to the point where we feel a public hearing will be most helpful with one question being asked. "Do you favor Beaufort County using one cent on the tax levy to sustain and maintain this home?"
If such a public hearing should be called, the public interest is such that it ought to be held in a school auditorium. Speakers should be limited to 4 or 5 minutes and time limits must be enforced. It would not be a time for commissioners to ask questions but an occasion to listen carefully. We can guarantee adequate publicity which will bring out a sizable crowd.
This home preservation is a matter not merely of the mind, but also of the heart. The occupants of this home are elderly and many are feeble. Some might say that this responsibility is one the county should not have to face. Some might say that if the home is closed, present occupants will then be cared for by kinsmen.
Let the people of Beaufort County speak out on this issue. And let the tone be loud and clear.