Board endorses plan for U.S. 17 rest stop

Published 8:15 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Staff Writer

Beaufort County leaders on Monday dropped their objections to a proposed rest area on U.S. Highway 17 and voted to endorse a N.C. Department of Transportation plan to build the project, provided the county can get “a suitable price” for the land.
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to move forward with the project after turning back a proposal by Commissioner Hood Richardson to offer a part of the property for sale to a commercial developer.
Voting to move forward with the DOT proposal were Commissioners Ed Booth, Robert Cayton, Al Klemm, Jerry Langley and Jay McRoy. Voting against the proposal were Richardson and Commissioner Stan Deatherage, who voted against the motion after amending it to include wording about the price.
The property, owned by the county, is adjacent to land intended to serve as an industrial park.
The specter of a rest area on U.S. 17 about one mile south of Chocowinity had drawn concern from county leaders who initially feared that an unmanned rest area would attract drug dealers, prostitution and be the source of unsightly litter.
The head of DOT’s Rest Area Section told the commissioners in June that reports had misrepresented the project and fears about it are unfounded.
Jimmy Parrish, DOT’s Rest Area Section supervisor, also told the commissioners in June that if they opposed the project and did not want to sell the land where the rest area is proposed to be located, DOT would not pursue it.
DOT’s proposal calls for a rest area to be built on about 20 acres of land on the east side of U.S. 17 just north of the Harding Road intersection and just south of the junction of U.S. 17 Business and U.S. 17
It would be similar in construction to a DOT rest area on U.S. Highway 64 in Dare County.
Construction on the rest area would begin in September 2013 or October 2013, and it would take about 12 months to 18 months to complete. 
When completed, the site will be manned by a custodian at least 12 hours a day for seven months of the year and 10 hours a day for the rest of the year, according to DOT.
The rest area will bring four to six jobs to the county. It likely attract between 100,000 and 150,000 visitors each year, according to DOT.
If the Beaufort County rest area is built, DOT will close a rest area, built in 1952, on U.S. 17 in Craven County.
In other business, the board:
• Voted 4-3 to allocate funding up to $2,250 to pay for video recordings to be made of meetings of the Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners and Beaufort County Medical Center Board of Trustees for three months beginning in August, with the stipulation that Richardson, who represents the county commissioners on the two boards, will ask BRHS to reimburse the county for the expense of video taping the meetings. Cayton, Deatherage, Langley and Richardson voted in favor of the motion. Voting against the motion were Booth, Klemm and McRoy.
• Voted unanimously to approve a new child service coordination Medicaid billing rate of $17.52 per 15 minutes and a new maternity care coordination Medicaid billing rate of $23.61 per 15 minutes. The new rates are reduced from the previous rates and are reflected in the county budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, County Manager Paul Spruill told the commissioners.
• Voted unanimously to appoint some 34 representatives as annual delegates representing Beaufort County to the Southern Albemarle Association and 10 members to the Beaufort County Juvenile Prevention Council. The board tabled appointments to the Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners, the Beaufort County Board of Health, the Richland Township Fire and Rescue Advisory Board and the Region Q Workforce Development Board.
• Voted 5-2 to approve $8,328.57 in travel requests, with Richardson and Deatherage casting the dissenting votes.
• Held a public hearing on funding for the Rural Operating Assistance Program that provides funding for public transportation operated by the Beaufort Area Transit System. The county has applied for $174,148 from the program for transportation to be provided to the elderly, disabled and public from rural areas by BATS.
All commissioners attended the meeting.