Delay is disappointing

Published 5:21 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It’s disappointing that the joint meeting between the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and Washington City Council has been postponed until this fall.

The meeting, scheduled for July 29, was already long overdue. Moving it to the fall — a date not yet determined — just makes it that much more overdue. Will the two local governments fall apart without having that meeting? No. Would the two local governments have a better understanding of each other, each other’s problems and each other’s needs? More than likely.

With City Manager Brian Alligood new to the job as of July 1, it’s understandable he needs some time to get up to speed on issues involving the city and county that needs the two governing boards’ attention. It would be unfair to toss him into the arena without time for preparation to do battle. Still, the county and city must sit down together soon and find solutions to problems that need addressing.

One such issue is where to build a new county jail, if the county moves forward with that proposal.

The city’s position is it does not dispute the need for a new jail, but the city does not believe it should be located at the Beaufort County Industrial Park, which is jointly owned by Beaufort County and the city. Earlier this year, after the commissioners decided the new jail should be built at the industrial park, the mayor and council said they were somewhat miffed the city was not consulted on where to locate the new jail, if one is built. The industrial park is in the city limits. City zoning regulations could prevent the new jail from being located there.

In an apparent recent development, the county is evaluating other possible sites for a new jail, according to an email from Alligood. If that’s the case, a meeting between the city and county would provide an opportunity for the city to provide input on the jail matter.

It’s a safe bet that city officials wants to address a specific funding issue with their county counterparts — county funding of municipal recreation programs.

The city makes the point that because many county residents — those who live outside the city — participate in the city’s recreation programs, use city sports facilities and use city parks, the county should help cover some of the expenses associated with providing those programs and facilities.

The city has renewed its request — one it’s made several times before — that the county provide such funding. The council, during a meeting earlier this year, unanimously voted to have city staff forward that request to the county.

Councilman Doug Mercer broached the issue during that meeting.

“May I bring to the council’s attention the county commissioners were presented their budget on Monday afternoon. As you know, about two years ago we were receiving about ($17,000) from the county for our recreational programs. Last year, they took that out completely. This year, we had requested $15,732 from the county for our programs. They have recommended zero,” Mercer said then. “I think it is incumbent upon us, as a council, to go to the county commissioners and express our concern with the fact that they are giving every other recreational program in the county funds, and we’ve got the largest recreational program in the county and they’re providing nothing. Our citizens pay county taxes just like every other citizen, and yet here’s an area the county could assist us with and they’ve ignored us.”

Those two issues alone are why the city and county need to meet as soon as possible.