Town, county talk funding

Published 1:18 pm Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Community Editor

BELHAVEN — The town government has plenty of work left to do if it wants the county to help fund certain projects, most notably a sewer project.
Following a presentation by Mayor Adam O’Neal, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, in so many words, asked the town to better breakdown the cost of the sewer project.
“I can’t have a factual opinion until I know what it (the cost) is,” Commissioner Al Klemm said during the council and commissioners’ first-ever joint meeting Monday night.
The town could owe as much as $1,128,242 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by the time the sewer project is completed, said O’Neal. The total amount charged to the town depends on a grant/loan issued by USDA, which could cost the town as little as $395,533 in loans.
O’Neal stressed that the sewer-bypass project will service county residents who are creating an excess of flow in the town’s 4-inch pipe running through the west end of Belhaven and to the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
“The bypass is not needed because of the city. It’s due to the flow from the county that we’re looking at a sewer bypass,” he told the commissioners.
O’Neal suggested that County Manager Paul Spruill and Town Manager Guinn Leverett review the sewer-bypass project.
“We’re asking for help with this disaster,” he said.
Commissioner Jay McRoy asked O’Neal if the town would consider selling the wastewater treatment plant to the county, therefore eliminating the financial burden it places on Belhaven.
“If the county took over, we wouldn’t have that asset,” O’Neal said, adding that the town is trying to turn what he called a “burden” into an asset.
O’Neal also asked the county to pay a prorated share for recreational services provided by the town. He said the town’s recreation department has an annual budget of about $100,000 and receives $12,000 a year from the county. Yet, 90 percent of participants in the department’s programs are from outside the town limits, he said.
Board Chairman Jerry Langley said that every municipality in Beaufort County receives comparable funding.
“Every municipality is the same way,” he said.
O’Neal said he plans to make an appearance at one of the county board’s upcoming budget workshops, which are open to the public. The county hasn’t started working on its budget, according to Spruill, who expects to have a draft of the proposed budget for the next fiscal year ready by May 10.
In other news, the commissioners supported a resolution adopted by the Belhaven Town Council at its April 12 meeting. The resolution, which concerns the habitual flooding of Main Street in Belhaven, has been submitted to Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, and Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, in an effort to secure funding from the state to address the problem.
“As every commissioner knows, there is a significant flooding problem in Belhaven,” O’Neal said.
Any funding from the state would go toward what O’Neal called the “second phase” of the town’s ongoing flood-mitigation project.
Klemm asked O’Neal what the second phase entails, to which O’Neal replied, “Installing some kind of basin with a pump for water.”
O’Neal said the town has not determined the cost of the second phase, yet.
County Tax Administrator Bobby Parker gave a brief presentation on property revaluation. He said Friday is the tentative cutoff day for appeals of property revaluations.
“Take advantage of this right now. There are a lot of ways to appeal,” he said.
Councilman Steve Carawan said he’s appealed the revaluations of a couple of properties.
“When I see a 200 percent increase on a property with no improvements, I question that myself,” he said.
After the presentation, the council opened the floor to public comments.
Graham Boyd asked Parker when the average increase in property-tax values from the latest revaluation would be made available to the public. Spruill said that when the county’s draft budget is finished, most likely May 10, it will include the average change in real-property values.
Marian Keech asked Bob Pearson, owner of Pearson Appraisal Group, which did the revaluations, what the revaluation criteria is for nonresidential and agricultural land.
Pearson said he took land sales throughout the county and used them as a “benchmark.”
“I don’t think farmland is out of line with Hyde County, Washington County,” he said.