Keep the lid on Pandora#8217;s Box

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 18, 2008

I often don’t write columns about local issues, but I’ve been stewing about this topic for the past week or so.

And for those who are sick of reading about it: I promise this column is not about the US 13 bypass.

At the last Northampton County Board of Commissioners meeting an interesting conversation took place between the commissioners about the new Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center.

Upon discussing the new recreational complex’s operational plan (basically a list of what to do and what not to do); Commission Vice Chairwoman Fannie Greene and Commissioner Virginia Spruill took issue with a rule prohibiting alcohol for those who rent complex space.

Huh? That was my initial reaction.

The opposing commissioners were pointing out that in order to encourage citizens to rent the complex space for celebrations and gatherings such as weddings, graduation etc. alcohol beverages should be allowed.

The committee chosen to generate the Cultural and Wellness operational plan was made up of several county officials, including Commission Chairman Robert Carter and Commissioner James Hester as well as Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent. It was reported none of the committee members were for allowing alcohol on the premises.

While it was discussed in the meeting if alcohol were allowed it would be restricted to the area in which the event was taking place and not allowed on the recreational fields…it’s all a little disturbing to allow or even encourage the use of alcohol in any taxpayer’s building, specifically in this one.

From what I am aware of the Cultural and Wellness Center/Complex project, it was designed to designate a place for recreation within the county as well as new offices for two county departments.

And as I do not doubt, the Cultural and Wellness Center/Complex will provide many services to the county with its sports fields, auditorium, meeting rooms, event rooms and offices for the Recreation Department and Office on Aging.

If you haven’t noticed by now, recreation and wellness are key words here, none of which have anything to do with alcohol.

This is the type of center that will be used by Northampton County’s families, sport teams and others mainly for recreation to promote a healthy lifestyle in the area and not solely for “gatherings.”

There are plenty of private facilities in Northampton County that allow alcohol for celebrations…they’re called party houses, country clubs and reception halls for a reason.

While I’m sure most officials and citizens hope their constituents and neighbors “drink responsibly,” let’s be honest, that is all wishful and “politically correct” thinking. Not everyone is responsible with alcohol…drunk driving and alcohol related violence is a worldwide problem.

I’m sure for local law enforcement allowing alcohol at this facility is the equivalent of opening Pandora’s Box. And if you were paying attention to the beginning of this column, the Sheriff made his position perfectly clear.

The county’s liability and ABC insurance is another issue that arose during the discussion, and as with many counties in Northeast North Carolina, Northampton County is the last county that needs a lawsuit for an alcohol related fatality…or a lawsuit of any kind.

While I’m pretty sure my opinion doesn’t mean much to the commissioners since I am not a citizen of their county and I’m a reporter who they see on occasion, I would encourage them to take a closer look at this issue.

But for what it’s worth, I encourage the commissioners to really think about what this project means to Northampton County and what kind of message you want to send to your citizens, especially for the children and young adults that will utilize this facility.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.