Weed control receives funding

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2004

JACKSON – After a public hearing for the 2004-2005 Northampton County budget, John Slaton of the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council approached the board of commissioners with a request for additional funds to support the treatment of problem Hydrilla and other noxious weeds plaguing Lake Gaston property owners and others who use the area for recreational purposes.

As Slaton presented his request for an additional $19,000 from the county, he cited his commitment to examine all options and explained that the funds would help the council obtain a matching grant from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources.

&uot;Each county has been asked to contribute $40,000 towards the treatment of the problem,&uot; said Slaton. &uot;If each county commits to contributing the requested amount, we would raise $200,000 that the state would match, leaving the overall amount available for treating the weed problem at the lake at $400,000.&uot;

According to Slaton, the $19,000 would be added to the $21,000 already budgeted for 04-05 and would supply the county with its portion of the commitment, bringing the council one step closer to obtaining the maximum funds needed for treating problem weeds in the lake area.

&uot;Three out of the five counties have already committed,&uot; said Slaton referencing Mecklenburg County and Brunswick County in Virginia, and Warren County, North Carolina who have each agreed to contribute $40,000 to help solve the problem.

&uot;Halifax is the only one that has not yet decided what they are going to do, but we will continue to pursue their assistance.&uot;

Slaton added that if Halifax chooses to give only $20,000 the total would be reduced by $40,000.

As the board discussed the issue, question was raised over what effect the appropriation would have on the county’s fund balance.

&uot;In the grand scheme of things this request is not that much,&uot; said Northampton County Finance Officer Dot Vick. &uot;It just depends on whether or not you want to do it.&uot;

Despite the challenge that there is currently &uot;no revenue stream to support the district,&uot; Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins encouraged the board to consider the appropriation of funds on behalf of the citizens and the hard work of the weed council. &uot;The loan would decrease the fund balance by less than one tenth percent overall,&uot; he said, &uot;so I don’t think it will make or break us.&uot;

&uot;I believe the board put forth good faith in establishing the district,&uot; said Slaton looking to the long-term benefit of property owners on the lake.

&uot;After the control of the noxious weeds is at a manageable level, the tax rate will be reduced and may go as low as 2 cents per $100 of evaluation,&uot; he said, estimating a time frame of three to five years depending on the cooperation of the other counties.

&uot;Any way you could help come up with the money would be greatly appreciated by the citizens up there.&uot; He continued to state that contrary to what some may perceive about property values at Lake Gaston, there has been an increase of approximately $20 million in the last year.

&uot;We recognize the value the lake has for us and the importance of keeping the Hydrilla and other weeds under control,&uot; said Commissioner Jennings White.

Vice Chair Robert Carter agreed adding, &uot;It would be best to allow&uot; the appropriation of funds to assist in securing the maximum amount of money needed to handle the problem.

The board ultimately approved Slaton’s request for a loan in the amount of $19,000.

&uot;On behalf of the citizens of Lake Gaston and the county, we thank you,&uot; he said graciously.

Slaton’s projected budget, when complete is expected to be presented to LGWCC Board for approval sometime in July.