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Plan targets goals in two counties

WINTON – There’s no time like the present to prepare for the future.

In their meeting here Monday night, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners heard an update on the Northampton-Hertford 21st Century Communities Initiative Action Plan. It was presented to the board in a packet of information on the needs of the counties, covering everything from highways and airports to teacher retention.

County Manager Loria Williams told the commissioners the project was spearheaded by the Department of Commerce and initially kicked off three years ago. The plan was drafted to show the manner in which counties could be assisted in achieving sustainable economic viability.

Williams spoke on behalf of Commissioner Johnnie R. Farmer, who could not attend the Monday meeting, but chairs the 21st Century Committee. She provided the commissioners each with one of the informative packets and asked that they look over the information prior to a final draft and formal presentation.

Commissioners Howard Hunter III and Curtis Freeman motioned for approval and seconded the motion for the board to accept the packets of information for consideration.

Some of the identified needs in the packets included a four-lane US Highway 158 from I-95 to Winton, and the information shows possible funding sources for that project.

Another item was the expansion of airport runways to allow larger planes to land, a move that would provide more air access for industries, existing and potential.

The draft also looks at the need for quality house and building stock to attract new residents and employers. There is a large number of substandard housing in the area and some lack plumbing. Others have asbestos and lead within them. The 21st Century plan calls for upgrades, removal of dilapidated buildings and junk and removal of asbestos and lead.

Williams said the plan draft will be brought up in a later commission meeting.

During the public comment period of Monday night’s meeting, the commissioners received high praise for their assistance and support of the Ahoskie Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Laura Cutler, a member of the squad, delivered a message to the board on behalf of her husband, Robert, who is president of the Ahoskie Squad.

She thanked the commissioners for Hertford County’s contribution of $6,000 and the Town of Ahoskie’s contribution of $20,000. Those contributions all go toward the squad’s operations budget of more than $40,000 and they will have to come up with the balance through fund raising projects.

Cutler also thanked the commissioners and Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn, who attends the meetings, for a slightly used diesel ambulance. It was previously taken out of service, but will now be repaired and put back on the road.

Board Chairman DuPont Davis thanked Cutler for the positive comments, saying that it is not too often the board receives such high praise.