Group proposes additional commissioners

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008

JACKSON – A community action group is requesting Northampton County’s increase the number of commissioners from five to seven.

At Monday’s meeting, Clarence Drumgoole, Chairman of Men United for Change, came before the Northampton County Board of Commissioners asking them to “take action” in re-districting the county’s current five commissioner districts.

In a letter to the board, Drumgoole writes under the current five district structure of the county, district one (encompassing the Conway area) is made up of 16 percent of registered voters, as is district two, which includes the Rich Square township.

Commissioner James Hester represents district one, while Commissioner Virginia Spruill is the representative for district two.

District three, consisting of the Roanoke and Jackson townships and represented by Commissioner Chester Deloatch, stands for 11 percent of the county’s registered voters and Commission Chair Robert Carter’s district (four) accounts for 16 percent of voters living in the Seaboard and Wiccacanee areas.

According to Drumgoole, district five (including Occoneechee, Pleasant Hill and Gaston area), represented by Commission Vice-Chair Fannie Greene, has the largest amount of registered voters with 40 percent.

Drumgoole also wrote the number of taxpayers who are part time residents, and therefore ineligible to vote, brings the total percent of property taxes paid by the fifth district to 64 percent.

“We feel the best way to rectify this situation would see District 5 divided to create additional districts and seats on the board of commissioners,” Drumgoole wrote. “This division should see residents of Henrico and Roanoke Rapids Lake forming one district, while Garysburg and Gaston are separated to form the other new districts.”

Drumgoole continued by noting this would bring the total number of commissioners on the board to seven and the percentages of voters and tax monies represented by a district commissioner would be more proportionate.

“We trust that you can see the inadequacy of the current system and will take action swiftly to correct the inadequate representation that currently exists,” concluded Drumgoole.

Commission Chair Carter thanked Drumgoole for his comments and noted they would be entered into the record.

Upon Drumgoole asking if he could be provided a timeline or a response to the request, Carter responded it would be provided upon Drumgoole’s request.

During public comment, Charles Youse of Henrico took issue with the commissioners’ lack of response to Drumgoole.

“The response of this board was a dismissal,” he said. “I think he deserves an answer…I really felt that you had blown him off.”

Youse urged the commissioners to respond to Drumgoole by the adjournment of the meeting.

Bennett Taylor of Garysburg showed his support for the commissioners.

“I realize the county has grown, but for as long as I know of the county has five county commissioners and things have gone very well,” said Taylor.

Taylor continued by saying the commissioners are voted on by all of the citizens in the county and the commissioners take in account all citizens and not just those within their own district.

According to County Manager Wayne Jenkins, two routes could be taken by the county in order to redistrict their voting districts.

One way would be through the county’s local legislators who would present it to the North Carolina General Assembly.

The other way would be through General Statute 153A-60, Initiation of alterations by resolution, which allows the commissioners to initiate any alteration in the structure of the board by adopting a resolution.

According to the statute, the resolution must completely describe the proposed alterations, prescribe the manner of transition from the existing structure to the altered structure and define the electoral districts, if any, and apportion the members among the districts.

The statute also states there must be a call for a special referendum on the alterations held by the board of elections.