Mayor, alderman want Chamber land

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2016

BELHAVEN — The Belhaven Board of Aldermen meeting took a turn from the agenda on Monday night.

Alderman Charles Boyette and Mayor Adam O’Neal made clear their wish for the Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce to donate a newly acquired parcel of land to the town.

The issue arose as Dianne Bowen, president of the Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce, was giving the council a report on the money earned from Belhaven’s Christmas festivities and Boyette began asking Bowen questions about the parcel of land the Chamber was given in December.

Given as a gift by Marian Keech, the 0.56-acre plot is located at 166 E. Water St. and has a tax value of $383,056. The land is also part of the town’s eminent domain dispute surrounding the now-closed Vidant Pungo Hospital property.

As part of Belhaven’s effort to obtain the hospital property under eminent domain from its current owners, Pantego Creek LLC, and thus, be one step closer to reopening the hospital, town officials have enlisted the help of attorney Dahmian Blue.

Securing the property is also one of the requirements for Belhaven to acquire a $6 million loan from the United State Department of Agriculture to help cover the costs of reopening the medical facility.

Boyette said at the meeting that he would like to see the Chamber’s new property handed over to the town, instead the town acquiring it by eminent domain, so it can be used in reopening the hospital. He said that the hospital could potentially bring up to 90 jobs to the area.

“It was certainly a very commendable gift,” he said. “The Chamber has a place and a part to play in trying to make this a reality.”

Boyette said he did not think there was a better use for the property, as it would revitalize the community and lead to more jobs.

“This would be an area in which you folks could really help us and assist us as a community effort,” he said. “I would like to see if the Chamber and the town could have any type of discussion on the issue. … I don’t know anything else that would be more advantageous for a town and community.”

In response, Bowen said the Chamber board had not yet had the opportunity to discuss what to do with the land, but they would be having that discussion in the future.

She also said she was unable to shed any light on the situation, as the entire board would have to make those types of decisions.

But O’Neal vehemently insisted that the issue is a more straightforward one and is directly affecting the reopening of the hospital.

“The question is simple: Is the Chamber of Commerce going to give that (land) to the town, or is the Chamber going against business and against health care?” he asked. “I think it’s something that the entire community will be watching to see what your board does.”

Despite O’Neal’s comments, Bowen remained adamant that the Chamber board would have to discuss any actions regarding the land.

“I am not the whole board, Mr. Mayor,” she said.

Monday’s meeting also involved action from the board to place the names of the newly elected aldermen on Belhaven’s bank account to allow them to sign checks for the town when needed.

The new names on the board include Aldermen Dr. Charles Boyette, Ricky Credle and Amos Wilson.

Town Manager Woody Jarvis presented a plan for a new travel policy for board members, in which estimates for the costs of travel and overnight stays were given to establish guidelines in the policy.

The Board of Aldermen tabled the travel policy for the next meeting to discuss any amendments the members may want to make on the draft.