Budget includes millions for local projects

Published 7:14 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The state budget Gov. Roy Cooper signed last week includes millions of dollars for various projects throughout Beaufort County.

The budget allocates $20 million — an amount Airport Manager Earl Malpass said could change in the weeks to come — that will be used for “modernizing the Washington-Warren Airport, including landing areas and air navigation facilities and acquiring real property for these purposes, to attract new jobs and economic growth, including existing sectors in manufacturing, boat building, and agriculture,” the signed budget document reads. The money will be appropriated to and dispersed by the Washington-Warren Airport Advisory Board.

In October, before the budget was finalized and passed, Beaufort County Economic Director Martyn Johnson said the airport would see “significant improvement” once those projects were funded. He said they projects could increase property tax and jet fuel revenues, thus helping the airport break even.

Malpass said the funding is “Obviously a pretty big deal” for the facility’s development.

In other areas of the state budget:

·      Bath was allocated $5 million for sewer system improvements.

·      The state allocated $2.5 million for the Beaufort Community College annex in Aurora. The annex will be located within a new industrial park set to be built within the town limits.

·      Chocowinity was allocated $235,000 for a new emergency vehicle.

·      The budget also allocates $121,000 for repairs and renovations at Washington High School’s soccer field.

“This is a strong budget for North Carolina and will have a great impact on eastern North Carolina,” Rep. Keith Kidwell, who represents Beaufort County in the N.C. House, said in a statement. “I am happy to have secured $28 million for District 79 to support our local communities, towns and infrastructure.”

Sen. Ernestine Bazemore, who also represents Beaufort County said that while a few items in the budget were necessary, it is “woefully inadequate” for Tier One counties. The N.C. Department of Commerce annually assigns each county a tier designation based on their economic well-being, with Tier One being the most distressed and Tier Three being the least distressed. Beaufort County is in Tier Two. Several nearby counties are in Tier One.

“As we look at the total package (a very lucrative budget) eastern rural counties did not receive their fair share, as in comparison to other counties,” Bazemore said in a Facebook post last Wednesday.

“… I firmly believe with all the funding that was dispersed to North Carolina from the federal level that more funds could have been given to counties across the state, not just the majority going to more urban, metropolitan and Republican-led districts,” Bazemore added. “Rural areas in North Carolina should have received more and I worked to secure more for my constituents to no avail. Therefore, I voted against the state budget as presented today.”