Economic talk heats up

Published 10:33 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The future of economic development in Beaufort County and the role of the board that guides that development was the subject of heated discussion by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners earlier this week.
The board on Monday delayed until November action on a new set of by-laws that will govern the actions of the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission in the future.
But it acted on 13 resolutions designed to limit the powers and control the actions of the economic panel.
The resolutions were presented by Commissioners Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage, who took turns discussing them with the other board members.
Votes on those resolutions often came after heated debate and highlighted the continued animosity between Richardson and Deatherage and Commissioners Al Klemm and Jay McRoy, the other Republican members of the board.
“You want to run (the EDC) to the old method of doing things and we’re not going to do that,” Richardson said to Klemm and McRoy, who serve on the EDC Board of Directors, in debate over a resolution on the EDC’s annual report to the commissioners. “You’re incompetent. The whole board is incompetent.”
In response McRoy said, “You were jockeying the books.”
In a debate over the future membership of the board, Richardson charged that EDC board members had acted in bad faith and had taken advantage of insider knowledge.
“Give me one example of that,” McRoy said, raising his voice.
Said Klemm, “They are all fine citizens of Beaufort County.”
Reports last week revealed that the continued animosity between the two groups on the county board has begun to spill over into the county’s Republican Party as a whole.
Monday’s debate among the commissioners also highlighted frustrations among other board members over the issue of economic development for the county.
“A lot of times you are dead on, and then you start tinkering with it and you make it so God awful,” said board Chairman Jerry Langley, after hearing Richardson discuss a resolution on ethics for the EDC board at length.
It also revealed distrust among some board members over the issue.
“There’s a trick behind this somewhere,” said Commissioner Ed Booth during debate over a resolution that outlines the chain-of-command for the new economic development director.
Ultimately, the board approved eight of the resolutions presented by Richardson and Deatherage and turned back five of them.
Those approved by the board are as follows:
• No member of the Economic Development Commission shall serve as an officer, director or any other official capacity of the Committee of 100, although EDC members can be members of the nonprofit group;
• No member of the EDC or their immediate family members shall benefit from any contract or business relationship with the Committee of 100 or any company recruited by the EDC or the committee;
• Beaufort County will not indemnify grant incentives;
• No member of the EDC or the member’s company or intermediary will benefit from an activity of the EDC;
• The economic development director will be supervised by the county manager according to the county’s personnel policy.
• The EDC board will be appointed according to its rules and by-laws as approved at a regular meeting of the county commissioners;
• The EDC board is advisory to the county manager and the county commissioners. It does not have supervisory authority over the director of economic development.
• The EDC will comply with the ethics, open-meeting and public-records statutes of North Carolina.
Resolutions governing the EDC annual report, the service of current EDC board members on a newly formed board, the relationship between the EDC director and the Committee of 100, the ethics of family members of EDC board members and the power of the resolutions passed by the commissioners failed in votes by the board.
All commissioners attended the meeting.

Board handles other business

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners took action on a number of items on its agenda Monday night. In those actions, the board:
• Reversed by a vote of 4-3 a decision in October regarding a request from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office to buy two vehicles for its Narcotics Division with some $51,800 in Drug Asset Forfeiture Funds. On Monday, the board voted to authorize the purchase of the vehicles with Commissioner Al Klemm joining Commissioners Robert Cayton, Jerry Langley and Jay McRoy in approving the request. In October, Klemm voted against the purchase.
• Voted 5-0 to approve travel requests in the amount of $6,695.67 with Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson casting dissenting votes.
• Unanimously approved a resolution requiring the Board of Commissioners to be notified if the Register of Deeds is unable to record documents at the office.
• Voted unanimously to appoint John Taylor and Stephen Persche to the Bath Volunteer Fire Department’s trustees to the N.C. Fireman’s Relief Fund and tabled appointments to the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission and the Beaufort Regional Medical Authority.
• Voted unanimously to approve a three-year lease between the county and the Richland Senior Club for a building in Aurora, with the stipulation that the club pays the utility bills for the building.
• Heard a request from four of the county’s drainage districts to include annual tax maintenance assessments on the tax notices mailed to land owners in those districts. The board voted unanimously to refer the request to County Manager Randell Woodruff and hear a report on the request in November.
• Voted unanimously to retire a firearm used by retiring sheriff’s Deputy Lewis Young.