Land, flight and roads on county agenda

Published 9:04 pm Friday, July 8, 2016

Courthouse security is once more on the agenda for Monday’s regular meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, as are a wide range of topics including land donations, military flight paths and state funding for local roads.

Commissioner and Board Chairman Jerry Langley will lead the discussion about the state of courthouse security, which is undergoing a transition, as entry points for the public have been decreased and metal detectors placed at entrances. Now, only courthouse employees can access the back door, according to Brian Alligood, Beaufort County manager.

“The back door has been locked. It’s secured and alarmed, and it takes card access to get in and out without setting the alarm off,” Alligood said.

Also on the agenda is a public defenders report, at the request of Commissioner Hood Richardson. The year’s report outlines the number of cases dispensed, the number of active cases and other information. Richardson has long argued that overcrowding of the Beaufort County Detention Center is a direct result of slow pace at which cases are dispensed, as opposed to the size of the jail.

On education spending, Alligood will discuss, also at the request of Richardson, whether commissioners have any input on how Beaufort County Community College’s $6.5 million share of the ConnectNC bond will be spent.

Commissioners will also discuss the donation to the county of two small parcels of land at the intersection of U.S. Highway 264 and N.C. Highway 99 in Belhaven. The parcels adjoin what is known as the cooperage tract, nearly 40 acres of land with waterfront that were donated to the county previously. At the request of N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, commissioners approved moving forward with a plan to build a Wildlife Resources managed boat ramp at the site, with the county pitching in day-to-day upkeep.

In light of the N.C. Senate’s recent attempt to prohibit wind farms within the flight paths of military operations, Richardson is proposing a resolution to oppose HB 763, Military Operations Protection Act of 2016. The bill died in conference committee, as it had grown expansive enough to impact 80 of 100 North Carolina counties, including all of Beaufort County, according to Alligood.

“I think we’re all about making sure they have what (the military) need to do their job, but that was an expansion that was a little long in the tooth,” Alligood said.

Another resolution to be proposed at Monday’s meeting will request legislative change to the state’s Strategic Transportation Investments Funding Formula, which designates how much funding any transportation project receives statewide. The formula targets areas of congestion, but does not account for geographic differences across the state, Alligood said.

“It fits for metropolitan areas. … But one formula doesn’t fit for the diversity of North Carolina,” Alligood said. “There are a lot of valid rural transportation needs that aren’t based on congestion.”

The funding is parsed out in tiers: from state, to region, to division, but by the time it rolls down to the divisional level, there’s no money left for projects such as the completion of a four-lane U.S. Highway 17 in Beaufort County, Alligood said. He said while the project is ready to go, and all environmental requirements have been met, there is no money available.

“It was one of the projects the governor put on the bond issue, had that passed. … It’s ready to go, but the way the funding formula works, it will never get funded,” Alligood said. “There’s just a contradiction there that doesn’t make sense.”

The County Administrative Office is located at 121 W. Third St., Washington. Monday’s meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and is open to the public.