N’hampton Commissioners table discussion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

JACKSON – Northampton County’s Board of Commissioners tabled a discussion here last week regarding the Recreation Steering Committee’s request for a joint effort in negotiations to acquire property for a potential site for the proposed new elementary school and the Northampton County Recreation Complex.

In the interest of making a more informed decision and having ample opportunity to review all available materials pertaining to the issue, the Commissioners decided to postpone their discussion until a later time.

Chairman of the Recreation Steering Committee, Merrill Gay expressed pleasure and gratitude for the opportunity to share his request with members of county government as he made his first appearance before the Board.

Gay commented that despite setbacks from Hurricane Isabel, the committee has been functioning and making progress. Gay’s request for authorization of negotiation to acquire property for the development of a recreation complex began with an update on committee attempts to locate parties interested in selling or trading properties.

Having nothing manifest of great enough value to pursue, members of the committee deemed it appropriate to petition the assistance of the county, through partnering with them in negotiations for land that would benefit both.

&uot;Of the seven to eight pieces of property we entertained purchasing, we visibly eyeballed three,&uot; said Gay. &uot;Our mission was to narrow it down to one site, which we feel we have successfully done and we hope you will look at it.&uot;

The piece of land was described, by Gay as being in excess of 100 acres, well situated and suitable to both the needs of a recreation complex and an elementary school. He also said that he felt the county would benefit from revenue generated by the complex.

As of yet, the location of the potential site has not been publicly disclosed.

Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins commended the conservative approach and offered his support of the committee in withholding the potential location of the property citing, &uot;We are not at that point yet.&uot;

He also commented that his support of the request is a result of information made available to him through &uot;several committee meetings and advice from public experts&uot; in the field.

&uot;We feel that a joint effort would help in the acquisition of the land,&uot; said Gay. &uot;We cannot accomplish this task alone. We need help. We don’t have the personnel and we need someone to tell us what needs to be paid and where.&uot;

Gay added a clarification that even though joint efforts were still needed in the negotiation process, the properties would be &uot;distinctly separate.&uot;

&uot;It is very likely the areas could be utilized by both,&uot; said Jenkins, &uot;we want to make it as convenient as possible for our citizens.&uot;

School Superintendent James Pickens concurred that focusing on purchasing a piece of property that could support both would be in everyone’s best interest.

&uot;All of our facilities would be available for recreation activities,&uot; he said.

Commissioner Jennings White commented that he wondered whether or not they were &uot;putting the cart before the horse&uot; and stated that he didn’t think land was the first thing that was needed.

&uot;It’s going to take a lot of planning,&uot; he said.

He added that he didn’t know how the county could overlook the current access to recreational facilities at Northampton East and West high schools and noted a possible transportation issue citizens and families might run into.

Northampton Recreation Director James Roberts expressed his feelings on utilizing the existing school facilities available to them, stating that he was concerned about the issues it might present in waiting for others to finish their activities before they could begin their own adding, &uot;other than that, it would be great.&uot;

Pickens, responding to the issue of transportation stated, &uot;There will always be travel involved in sports activities.&uot;

He concurred with White that it would take a lot of planning and coordination, but respectfully submitted his belief that, &uot;it can be done.&uot;

Board of Education Chairwoman Catherine Moody noted that taxes would not be raised to cover the cost of this project and added that it would actually save the school board money.

Jenkins suggested authorizing a negotiating committee to handle the issue, but Commissioners held a consensus that it would be more prudent to hold off on discussing the issue until appropriate time had been given to properly review the matter. North Carolina State Statute allows the Commissioners to exercise their right to a closed session to discuss the acquisition of land, although it is unknown whether they will employ the ramifications of that option.

Further information on the issue will be disclosed at the appropriate time.