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Neighbors helping neighbors

WINTON – Gates County has an ally.

Hertford County’s Board of Commissioners joined their neighbors across the Chowan River in opposing a proposal by the United States Navy to place an outlying landing field (OLF) in Gates County.

“The two sites that have been proposed in Gates County are very close in proximity to Hertford County,” Hertford County Manager Loria D. Williams told the board. “They are potential sites, but there are still others on the list.”

Williams said there would be a series of meetings to discuss six new proposed sites, including the two in Gates County. Those meetings will be conducted over the next six weeks when a decision will be reached by November 15 whether or not to proceed with an environmental assessment of all, some or none of the new sites, according to Williams.

The Hertford County Manager said she had pointed out to state officials that for counties like Gates and Hertford, the tax base is the primary avenue for funding county government.

“When you take away tax values, you are crippling the county’s ability to provide for their citizens,” Williams said.

Commissioner Johnnie R. Farmer said he appreciated Williams’ statement about tax values.

“We all know if we lose tax value, the first thing that will have to happen is to raise taxes,” Farmer said. “The citizens are going to have to pay for this landing strip. If it is built in eastern North Carolina, it will be on the backs of taxpayers.”

Commission Vice Chairman Howard J. Hunter III, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Curtis A. Freeman, said if the sandbanks area in Gates County was chosen, the noise level at the River’s Edge development in Hertford County would be high.

“Those people would sure enjoy that,” Commissioner Dupont L. Davis interjected facetiously.

Williams reiterated her position that she realizes the Navy has a job to do.

“We know the Navy has a job to do in defending our country,” Williams said. “Our position is that you also have to look at what you are doing to the area.”

On a motion by Commissioner John E. Pierce, the board unanimously approved a resolution opposing the OLF in Gates County and indeed in eastern North Carolina.

In part, the resolution reads,” Whereas, the Navy reported to the OLF Study Group that the proposed OLF would be used primarily by aircraft stationed at Oceana Naval Air Station at Virginia Beach, VA and not at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, located at Havelock, NC…

“Be it resolved the Hertford County Board of Commissioners believes that an OLF to primarily support Oceana Naval Air Station should be located in Virginia and not in North Carolina,” it reads.

The resolution also states, “The Hertford County Board of Commissioners opposes locating a new outlying landing field in eastern North Carolina.”

The resolution also asks for North Carolina Governor Michael F. Easley to allow more representation from Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Hertford, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties on the Governor’s OLF Study Group.

Williams told the board a group of county managers in the eastern part of the state would be working together to attempt to stop the OLF from locating in North Carolina.

She said if that group decided it was necessary to proceed legally, it is possible they would have to come back before the board to get financial assistance.

Gates County has already mobilized to stop the OLF from coming to the county, having a citizens meeting that was attended by numerous people from the county last week.

As part of that meeting, Gates County Commission Vice Chairman David Brown promised to fight the attempts to locate an OLF in the county.

“The Navy will take the path of least resistance,” Brown said. “Gates County will not be that path.”