The year in preview

Published 1:22 am Sunday, January 1, 2012

Staff Reports
Projects that could have long-range economic consequences for this community, local elections that might determine the direction in which county government travels, festivals of art and history — all are on the bill for 2012.
Here’s a look at some of the Beaufort County news events yet to be.

Economy vs. environment

Three companies looking to expand their operations have set their sights on Beaufort County-based projects, but all three proposals have raised concerns from various residents and environmental groups who fear the damage to the county’s environment is not worth the economic benefit. The N.C. Utilities Commission is expected to rule in early 2012 on a proposal by Invenergy to build a 49-turbine wind farm in eastern Beaufort County. The 80-megawatt project is planned for an area near the Pungo Unit of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge — a region designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. At the same time, a proposal by Martin Marietta Materials Inc. to operate an open-pit mine that would supply road-building and other construction materials has one environmental group and some fisheries officials concerned about the effects of the proposed discharge of 9 million gallons of freshwater a day into the tributaries of Blount’s Creek on the fish and fisheries habitat in that tributary of the Pamlico River. Finally, in a move that some local residents oppose, a sulfur-melting plant once proposed for a state port in Morehead City could be headed for Beaufort County as PotashCorp considers its operations in Aurora as the new preferred location for the plant. And although the company and the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners — who were briefed on the project in September — have promised transparency as the plans are developed, some environmental groups and residents who live near the company’s operations are concerned about the effects of the process on the environment.


Americans will pick a president this year.
But locally, voters could alter the membership of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education.
Four of the seven commissioners’ seats are in play this year — those filled by Democrats Robert Cayton and Jerry Langley and Republicans Jay McRoy and Hood Richardson.
The nonpartisan school board seats on the ballot are those held by board members Eltha Booth, Barbara Boyd-Williams, Mac Hodges, Robert Belcher and Mike Isbell.
Jennifer Whitehurst, the county’s register of deeds, is up for re-election.
Legislative races will be a little more complicated for Beaufort County ballot-markers. Last year’s legislative redistricting divided the county in a state House district for the first time in many years.
Roughly half the county north of the Pamlico River is lumped in with all of Hyde, Dare and Washington counties in House District 6. The district is represented by Rep. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort. Cook’s home precinct, Gilead, is sited south of the river and is included in the new district.
Cook could have opposition from Paul Tine, a Dare County Democrat who has announced his intention to vie for the District 6 post.
Excluding Gilead, precincts south of the river are in the new House District 3, which takes in all of Pamlico and portions of Craven County. This district is represented by Rep. Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico.
Beaufort County in its entirety is in Senate District 1, which also encompasses Hyde, Dare, Gates, Camden, Currituck, Perquimans and Pasquotank counties.
Senate District 1 is represented by Sen. Stan White, D-Dare.
White may be opposed by Wayne Langston, a Chocowinity Republican who has begun his campaign.
Statewide, voters will select candidates for Congress, the Legislature, judicial jobs — and, of course, the nation’s top job, president.


Residents across Beaufort County will celebrate the tricentennial of the county’s founding in 1712 with events to be scheduled in towns throughout the county in 2012. With a kick-off event tentatively scheduled for March 2012, a 14-member committee has already begun planning events that will salute Beaufort County’s history and benefit the local economy with an influx of tourists. Some members of the committee have discussed using the tricentennial to conduct an inventory of the historically significant buildings in the county that will form the basis of a book that can be read by generations of people to come.

New jail

A committee appointed by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to begin work on design and construction of a new jail once county leaders agree on where that new jail should be built. The jail currently in use by Beaufort County, in the basement of the Beaufort County Courthouse, has been described by county leaders in previous news reports as “a maze of narrow, crowded, stifling cell blocks.” In the 1980s, prisoners won a lawsuit against the jail because of overcrowding, which forced much of the facility to convert to jail cells. The realignment severely reduced the administrative area for jail employees. The detention center, which was originally built to house roughly 35 inmates, regularly holds about 85, according to previous reports.
But while the commissioners generally agree that a new jail should be sited on the north side of the Pamlico River, recent discussions by the panel have shown little agreement on anything else. The commissioners are expected to hold a workshop in early 2012 to try to reach an agreement on issues concerning the new jail’s construction.

County hospitals to get new name

Effective later this month, Beaufort County’s two hospitals will undergo name changes along with the hospitals’ parent company, University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina. UHS will become Vidant Health. Washington’s hospital will become Vidant Beaufort Hospital and Belhaven’s hospital will become Vidant Pungo Hospital. The name changes are just the latest in changes at the two hospitals. In 2010, leaders of both health systems signed agreements brining the two under the management of UHS.

Cycle N.C.

Cycle North Carolina’s Spring Ride will bring hundreds of cyclists to Washington during April 13-15.
Cycle North Carolina’s Spring Ride last visited Washington during April 17-19 in 2009. That event resulted in a record number of cyclists making the annual spring ride. Washington also hosted Cycle North Carolina’s 2005 Spring Ride.
As in 2009, volunteers will be needed to assist the cyclists. Among the duties volunteers will perform are greeting bicyclists, conducting guided tours of the city’s historic district and manning rest stops for bicyclists taking tours of the county.
The bicyclists will use Washington as a base as they select from several routes on which to ride that weekend.

Decoy carving

The 17th-annual East Carolina Wildlife Arts Festival and North Carolina Decoy Carving Championships return to Washington next month, Feb. 11-12, with some preliminary events set for Feb. 10.
The festival, one of Washington’s signature events, is spread throughout the city, with most of the action taking place at the Civic Center, Peterson Building, Improved Order of Red Men’s Lodge and Kugler Field. Returning for a third year will be the DockDogs competitions, held at Kugler Field.
Carving competitions take place at the Red Men’s Lodge on East Third Street.
The festival includes the Southern Classic Duck, Goose and Swan Calling Championships.
The Southern Classic includes the North Carolina duck-calling championship, the winner of which will represent North Carolina at the World Championship Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart, Ark., during Thanksgiving weekend this year.

Daily News staff members Mike Voss and Jonathan Clayborne and Contributing Writer Betty Mitchell Gray contributed to this article.