Do the right thing

Published 1:57 am Friday, May 30, 2008

By Staff
One of these days, Beaufort County’s commissioners will do the right thing and help pay for municipal-run services and programs that benefit county residents who do not live in the county’s municipalities.
Take Belhaven’s recreation program for example. According to Trevor Franks, who represented the town’s recreation program during a public hearing on the county’s proposed budget this week, 91 percent of participants in Belhaven’s recreation program are county residents who don’t live in the town.
It costs Belhaven $96,000 a year to run its recreation program. For this current fiscal year, Beaufort County provided $12,000 to that program. That equates to one-eighth of the revenue needed to run the program for a year.
Where’s the equity?
The town is asking the county to provide $50,000 to help pay for the program. If the county paid its fair share based on use of the program by county residents who are not town residents, it would have to come up with more than $50,000.
Don’t look for the county to help anytime soon, if ever.
Commissioner Hood Richardson’s take on the request was this: The town should shut down the program if it doesn’t want to provide it to people who live outside the town.
Belhaven isn’t alone in its attempt to get money from the county for a recreation program. Washington has been trying to get the county to pay its fair share for services and programs the city provides to county residents who don’t live in the city.
For several years, the city has been asking the county to help pay to operate Brown Library, where more than 50 percent of the patrons are county residents who do not live in the city and pay taxes to support the library. The city also has been asking the county to increase the amount it allocates to the city to help pay for parks and recreation facilities, which are used by many county residents who do not live in the city.
The county does not have a recreation program.
It costs the city about $400,000 a year to operate its library. City officials contend the county should help bear some of that cost if county residents who don’t live in the city are using the library.
Councilman Archie Jennings, for the past several years, has adopted a similar view. He’s said it’s time for the city to stop giving the county a free ride when it comes to providing services used by many county residents who don’t live in the city.
Jennings and Gibson are right. Now, if only the county would do the right thing.
During a public hearing on the city’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, several county residents who don’t live in the city but use its pool said the county should allocate money to help operate the pool. That got Washington Mayor Judy Meier Jennette’s attention.
Jennette suggested they leave the Municipal Building and attend the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners’ public hearing on the proposed county budget. That hearing was being conducted at the same time the city’s hearing was being conducted.
The mayor wanted them to deliver that message to the county commissioners. Of course, that message would have fallen upon deaf ears.
The county’s municipalities could restrict use of their facilities and programs to just their residents, but that’s not being good neighbors. It’s been talked about, but don’t look for it to happen.
If it were not for municipalities providing recreation programs and other services not provided by the county, the quality of life in Beaufort County would not be at its current level.
It’s time for the county to open its eyes and its wallet.