Northampton officials work together

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2005

JACKSON – With an eye toward the future, Northampton County Commissioner and Vice Chair Robert Carter shared some changes that could impact the county’s future economic development.

In a brief report given during the citizen and board comments of the Northampton County Commissioners meeting on Monday, Carter shared information from a quarterly Board of Education workgroup held April 28.

The group, which initially planned to update interim superintendent J. Wendell Hall regarding the education budget, was not able to engage in discussion with Hall due to an illness that prevented him from attending the session.

However, despite his absence, Carter said he was pleased with the relationship being built between county government and the Board of Education.

&uot;We’re striving for a harmonious relationship with the school board,&uot; he said, &uot;and we had a really good meeting.&uot;

Carter told his fellow commissioners that the Northampton school system declared the old Gaston Middle School a surplus property and it would be marketed as such, adding that once the new elementary school is built combining students from Jackson-Eastside Elementary and Seaboard-Coates Elementary, it was likely that the school board would consider doing the same with the property housing Jackson-Eastside.

Carter also shared that the school board recently purchased 30 acres of property on NC 305 North, just outside of Jackson, which it will utilize for the new school.

Of the 30 acres, school officials will likely use only 20 acres for the building and grounds, leaving 10 acres available for other potential projects, including the possibility of a recreational facility.

Carter indicated, if that were to occur, a discussion would probably ensue between the school board and the county to determine whether the Jackson-Eastside property would be a proper location to build a recreation facility.

&uot;It’s possible that plot of land will not be large enough to house a recreational facility,&uot; said Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins, alluding to the possibility that additional property may be needed.

&uot;We may find, in the future, the need to speak with the adjacent property owners,&uot; he said, &uot;but none of that has been determined yet.&uot;

In addition, Carter stated the Board of Education had informed the Department of Transportation on the status of the school bonds, which were sold April 19 at a remarkable interest rate of 4.2025%.

&uot;The funds will be deposited in our account, effective for draw downs as early as May 3,&uot; Carter said during the meeting.

Last month, the sale of the school bonds coincided with one of the best financial ratings the county ever received when Moody Investor’s Service assigned it an A3 rating.

The high rating came at perfect time for the county to sell the bonds and will allow the county increased flexibility when leveraging for funds to take on new projects.

Commissioner James Hester also shared information from a recent meeting of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners in Greenville where the question was raised over whether county commissioners should have more input when it came to school finances.

&uot;It was very interesting,&uot; he said.

He also petitioned the board to be mindful of the importance of being proactive with regard to high school dropouts.

&uot;While I was at the meeting, I learned that approximately 40 percent of high school students in the state do not graduate,&uot; he said. &uot;We have a lot of work to do.&uot;

Commissioner Fannie Greene also brought a situation of concern to the attention of the board, stating she had been made aware of a conflict between fire and EMS workers in the Garysburg service area.

Greene stated both Gaston fire department/EMS and Roanoke Valley fire/EMS were experiencing a mild conflict over procedural response in Gaston’s coverage area.

&uot;I suppose if the county were to have a problem, this is a good problem to have,&uot; said Jenkins, noting that all parties had signed an agreement indicating an understanding of their respective duties/responsibilities.

&uot;The protocols are very clear,&uot; he said. &uot;The volunteers are given the first opportunity to put a crew together and if, for some reason, they aren’t able to, the responsibility would fall to Roanoke Valley.&uot;

Jenkins concluded saying, &uot;We realize this is a very sensitive issue, especially because our volunteers are very important to us.&uot;