2017-18 budget likely to get a vote at Monday’s meeting

Published 10:17 pm Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting will get a venue change Monday night, as the board prepares to pass the 2017-18 budget.

The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Superior Courtroom of the Beaufort County Courthouse to accommodate a larger crowd and all those who plan to speak at the public hearing held in advance of any vote on the budget’s approval.

Next fiscal year’s budget comes in at $57,037,351, a figure that’s slightly lower than the 2016-17 approved budget. However, the number does not include the recommendation that the county take out a $3 million loan to tackle maintenance and new construction on several county buildings including the courthouse and the Oakland Building that houses the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, as well as a new parking lot for the Board of Elections. Large potholes in the current parking lot collect water and cause the lot to flood extensively during rain events.

The bulk of the board’s regular meeting will be held after the budget’s public hearing.

A change as to who pays for solid waste fees will be discussed, as the board will reconsider applying solid waste fees to tax-exempt properties. According to the meeting’s agenda, several years ago, an action by the board led to an interpretation that tax-exempt properties are also exempt from being charged solid waste fees. However, according to county Manager Brian Alligood, the solid waste fees are not a tax. Rather, they are a utility similar to water, sewer, gas and electrical services, and the revenue collected from the fee is used to pay for the operation of convenience sites and to pay for the disposal of solid waste throughout the county. Alligood is seeking the board’s approval to apply the solid waste fee uniformly on all property in the county, barring vacant land and any business, industry or property that contracts with a private solid waste removal company.

Another solid waste issue up for decision is contracting a consulting firm to figure out how to fix problems found at the Hawkins Beach Road landfill. According to a North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality report, a recent inspection of the landfill revealed several violations including: some inadequate erosion control; in certain spots, surface water collecting, rather than draining in a controlled manner; some areas lacking the required stabilization of native grasses; an area of leachate — the liquid that drains from the landfill that contains dissolved material — seepage that is currently not draining outside the landfill, but must be repaired to prevent that; and uncovered scrap tires that are collecting water, which can become a mosquito breeding ground. The cost for the consulting firm CDM Smith’s engineering services is $12,625; the cost to correct the violations has yet to be determined.

Residents of Terra Ceia will address the proposal of solar farm near Terra Ceia Christian School, which has proven unpopular. Board Chairman Frankie Waters, a native of nearby Pantego, is proposing a resolution asking the solar developer and the school to seek a compromise in their dealings.

As many people must pay court fees in the Beaufort County Courthouse, the county manager will present the prospect of installing an ATM on the premises. If approved, an RFPs will be published.