City Hall ponders town-hall meetings

Published 8:32 pm Friday, September 30, 2016

Washington officials are considering holding “town hall” meetings to find out what the public wants went it comes to specific issues, such as drainage in the city.

The matter was discussed during the City Council’s meeting last week as the mayor and council members discussed city resident’s concerns and projects that could benefit from public input.

“May I make a suggestion? Over the years, we’ve sat here as a group of six people and decide that we need to do this or that or the other, and we get an individual project and we go out and we ask the public, ‘What to you think of this project and how do you want us to do this project?’ Let’s expand that concept a little bit and have a town-hall meeting, or multiple town-hall meetings, and let the citizens come in and tell us what they want done,” Councilman Doug Mercer said. “If they want Main Street fixed, let them tell us. If they want the electric system upgraded, let them tell us. If they want drainage improved, let them tell us. Let them prioritize. Let the citizens tell us what they want.”

That approach would provide the council “a feel for what the citizens want,” Mercer said.

Mayor Mac Hodges questions how many city residents would show up at town-hall meetings, adding that few public meetings about city matters in recent years — with some exceptions — have drawn much interest from the public. Hodges said he’s willing for the city to conduct town-hall meetings if they will result in meaningful input from city residents.

In other business, Mercer said that additional savings to be realized by the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (from which the city buys power at a wholesale rate), likely would result in the city and, possibly, the city’s power customers not being hit with rate increases in the near future. Mercer shared several items that surfaced at a meeting earlier this month. “One of them is the fact that because of some additional negotiations between the power agency and Duke Power, they have realized two additional savings that are going to occur over the next three years. One of them is a little over a million dollars and the other is about $800,000,” Mercer, who represents the city on the NCEMPA board, said.

The power agency is working hard to reduce wholesale-power costs for its 32 members, including Washington, Mercer said. “They’re working, I think, every day, to see if they can push our wholesale cost down. We’ve got a meeting of the rate committee scheduled in January, and I’m hoping at the point in time we’re going to see the potential for a rate increase pushed off for an additional period of time.”



About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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