HC studies funding request

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2006

WINTON — The final order of business at the Hertford County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night was a request for funds by the Roanoke-Chowan Domestic Violence Offender Program.

Making the presentation for the organization was Director Jo M. Liles, Chief District Court Judge Alfred Kwasikpui and Bob Paciocco.

Paciocco asked the board to approve an increase in the amount of funds given to the program from $3,000 to $3,500 during the 2006-07 fiscal year and $4,000 for subsequent budget year.

The funds given to this program are not part of the county budget and have not been since it’s initial inception. County Manager Loria D. Williams confirmed that the funds appropriated for the program are allocated from the county’s General Fund Contingency.

The Domestic Violence Offender Program has been one of the most successful of its kind. Paciocco explained to the board that although this area has one of the highest rates of domestic violence, due to this program the region also has one of the lowest rates of recidivism, that is, repeat offenders.

“The jail or prison environment does not do much to facilitate rehabilitation in these type of offenses. The success of this program is the success of our community as well,” Paciocco said

Judge Kwasikpui touted the work of Liles as well as the local governments in the overall success of the program to date.

“Jo Liles has done a tremendous job in managing the organization,” Judge Kwasikpui said “In my position as an officer of the court, I see many instances where offenders return to the community and engage in the same type of behavior, but in different settings. Domestic violence is a behavioral issue that needs to be addressed and treated like other behavioral problems so that we do not have continued instances of aggression in the home.”

Legislators in Raleigh designated Liles’ program to serve as a “pilot” for the state. The Roanoke-Chowan region will serve as the “rural pilot” while the city of Durham will serve as the “urban pilot”.

The program, which was launched seven years ago in Bertie County, preceded the State of North Carolina’s realization that such a program was necessary. In December 2004, the state passed legislation mandating that all individuals convicted of crimes where domestic violence is involved would be required to undergo court ordered treatment programs, when they are available.

Said Kwasikpui, “We have been ahead of the game since our inception. We started out in one county (Bertie) and have managed to get the support of the surrounding counties as well (Hertford, Northampton).”

Paciocco further explained that local state government representatives Howard Hunter, Michael Wray and Robert Holloman have all agreed to introduce legislation to increase state funding to the tune of $50,000 per year.

“What Raleigh needs to see from us is sustainability,” Paciocco went on to say, “ They want to see the commitment from our local governments before they jump into the water with us.”

Board Chairman Curtis Freeman praised the efforts of the group.

“We will certainly go back and review the details of further funding this organization, although I don’t see where there should be any problems. I applaud the efforts of the people involved in this program. You all have done a great job,” Freeman said

In other news from the meeting: The board approved a motion by Williams to approve an initiative from the North Carolina General Assembly to enact a $1 billion bond bill in the 2006 session to fund construction and repair of urgently needed water, sewer and storm-water facilities.

The board gave a preliminary approval to advertise a “Land Use” agreement between Verizon Wireless and Hertford County. Hertford County Attorney Charles Revelle presented the proposed agreement between the telecommunications carrier and the county, with the understanding that before any agreement could be finalized the county would first need to make the terms of the agreement available to the public.

The board delayed recommending the appointment of Ben McLean to the Hertford County Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment. Planning Board Commissioner Bill Early had requested that McLean fill the unexpired term of Jim Farmer who is retiring. Commissioner John Pierce presented a motion to delay the appointment until other candidates could be presented. Commissioner Pierce was particularly concerned that there was not a single board member from the city of Winton.