Published 1:32 am Friday, July 29, 2011

To The Editor:
I am blessed to have been part of the Northside High School family for 20 years until my retirement. Spending my entire 35 years in public education in Beaufort County, I have always felt a loyalty to this school system as an employee and a parent. What some may not understand is how hard so many work for years and years to create that sense of loyalty and camaraderie among faculty, students, parents, and community. And yes, Northside became my family, but not without tears, hard work, and determination to make it the great school it has always had the potential to be.
A group of administrators, faculty, cafeteria, clerical, and custodial staff walked into the doors of Northside in August 1989, having been uprooted (or so it felt) from our local school communities to build and establish a strong educational foundation on Free Union Road. As we walked on plywood sheets placed over floors still lacking tile and saw open ceilings without ceiletex, there were obvious feelings of anxiety, apprehension, confusion, and some excitement. Handwritten notes of unfinished projects taped on walls, lack of landscaping, no outdoor athletic facilities, not even a school sign in place — obvious indicators that Northside was the “red-headed stepchild” of Beaufort County Schools.
As I learned this week of the removal of trophies from Northside, I immediately felt a sense of remorse as it felt that what many had worked to build over these 20-plus years is quickly disappearing. Though they may seem to others as “just trophies,” the legacy these trophies represent is one that should always be upheld highly, not only in the Northside community but throughout our county and state.
The academic and athletic achievements of our students represent tremendous talent:  a state baseball championship, state championship games in football, women’s and men’s basketball, state placements in track & cross-country, individual state golf recognition, and initiating volleyball and soccer programs. Northside FBLA, FFA, FCCLA, SkillsUSA, ROTC, dance and band have won at state level; the 1999 Quiz Bowl team advanced to the state championship. Science Olympiad and math contest winners, a Morehead scholar — these in no way reflect all accomplishments.
NHS student government raised money for the school sign through car washes, dinners, dances, and community donations. Landscaping and planting shrubs was begun by parents and students. Financial support and physical labor of the entire Northside community helped acquire outdoor athletic facilities. Reflecting back on all this reinforces the pride we felt knowing we had acquired some “ownership” of our school as we worked to build this fine institution.
I am happy to learn that the trophies will be returned to Northside and placed in the trophy cases of the hallways where they belong so that administrators, faculty, and students will be reminded of the legacy that has been built and will be inspired to continue to build on its greatness for years to come.  I am . . .
Proud to be a Panther,
Retired NHS Counselor
To the Editor:
Help stop the Economic Development Commission before it does any more harm.
From 2002 to 2007 the Economic Development Commission (EDC) obtained funded grants totaling less than $4,700,000 (EDC Report 2010). These were awarded to just seven local companies. The largest of these grant packages was for $2,900,000 and, by the recipient’s own evaluation, resulted in only 45 jobs being created (Beaufort County Budget Hearing: 6/20/2011). A second firm was given a package of $711,000 in grants for the creation of 66 jobs (Washington City Council minutes: 4/12/10, pg. 9). The third largest recipient received $637,000 in grants and local tax relief to create 84 jobs (Grants: EDC Report 2010).  The remaining $435,000 was spread across four firms intending to create 206 jobs (One NC Fund).
This is a total of 401 jobs, but the EDC Report for these same seven firms flatters itself with creating 812 jobs. The EDC’s glowing 411 job exaggeration of its performance has been regularly presented to the community as part of the reasoning behind budget and salary requests made by the EDC and its staff.
The EDC states no methodology or rationale for its construction of this very favorable evaluation of its own performance. It omits any mention that the grants described were intended to build jobs over a number of years that these scheduled and hoped-for jobs should not be counted as an immediate benefit. Neither does the EDC discuss the duration of employment or the fact that many of the planned-for jobs were expected to pay below average wages. The reports preceding and following 2007 show no more rhyme or reason in reporting jobs than does the report for 2007.
If  $4,700,000 in monetary stimulus can create 401 jobs or even 812 jobs, then how many job opportunities would we expect to be destroyed if  $7,750,000 was withdrawn from circulation?
This is exactly what the EDC’s strategy of real estate speculation and its hiring of non county resident employees has allowed to happen, i.e., over $6,250,000 in taxpayer money has been sunk for years in vacant and idle real estate and more than what I  estimate at $1,500,000 was paid for an EDC executive director who will not even make Beaufort County his home.
Ironically, it seems quite obvious that our Beaufort County tax money is being spent in affluent New Bern’s stores and restaurants and being used to pay Craven County’s property taxes. In effect, the executive director’s salary is a grant written by Beaufort County to Craven County.
Meanwhile, the EDC grant writing process has not disbursed funding to any Beaufort County business enterprise since 2007.
How’s that for local economic development?
How much better off would we be without the EDC’s comedy of errors and misinformation? How many retirees and entrepreneurs would have been attracted to our county by the appeal of the lower taxes we could have offered?
Would we need to sell the hospital or raise taxes?