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Bye-bye bats

JACKSON — The proverbial elephant (or perhaps bats) in the room between judicial and county officials here has been cleared.

On Tuesday, those employees who work in the courthouse received an early Christmas present from the Northampton County Board of Commissioners.

Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins told the Courthouse Facility and Security Committee at their Tuesday meeting that the Board of Northampton County Commissioners had approved a motion on Monday to contract with Clegg’s Termite and Pest Control to rid the 150-year-old courthouse of bats.

Jenkins said the board’s decision came after a funding source, via a line item in the Public Works Department’s buildings and grounds budget, was found.

Jenkins told the committee’s chairperson, Chief District Court Judge Alfred Kwasikpui, that as soon as the paperwork was in order the contract would be carried out to eradicate the bat problem in the attic of the courthouse.

The $12,800 contract with Cleggs will rid the attic of bats, sanitize the area and seal the building. The work has a lifetime guarantee attached to it as well.

Jenkins said he requested for proposals from seven pest removal companies within the area and received only one response from Cornwell’s Wildlife Control in Virginia Beach, Va. which proposed a $17,750 contract for the work.

A representative with Cornwell’s visited the courthouse to do a through inspection of the building for the proposal.

“What was encouraging was there was no evidence of a major bat colony present,” said Jenkins.

Though the representative did find the bodies of bats and guano (bat feces); he did not find piles of guano that would cause respiratory infections.

Jenkins said the price of the Cleggs contract and lifetime guarantee was important to the commissioners as it was not only fiscally wise, but assured the problem would not return.

“As an occupant of the courthouse, I appreciate the board of commissioners contracting with Cleggs,” said Kwasikpui. “I’m pleased not that much bat guano was found, but it was still present.”

Jenkins also provided the committee with copies of a press release (printed in the December 16th edition of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald) he drafted on behalf of the board. The commissioners formally responded to the concerns passed to them by the committee.

Jenkins said the main focus of the release was to let the community know the reasons behind the board’s seemingly slow response to the bat concern and their position on the topic.

According to the release, while the commissioners identified with the concerns at the courthouse, in the broader scope of things the commissioners must be “careful, through and absolute in its approach to all issues facing the county.”

The release notes the county’s undesignated fund balance is currently at 13 percent, just above the 8 percent recommended by the Local Government Commission and just below the 20 percent suggested by the county’s auditor.

General public concern over an increase of crime in the southeast portion of the county, mainly around the Woodland and Potecasi areas which will require overtime for existing Northampton County Sheriff’s deputies, was also revealed by the release.

“The Board could not go to its ‘undesignated fund balance’ for the same reasons the ‘undesignated fund balance’ could not be used in addressing the Security and Facility’s recommendations for the courthouse,” Jenkins wrote in the release.

Northampton Clerk of Court Venus Spruill took issue with the release in a few points, including saying that courthouse personnel had never been incorporated in the county’s budgetary process (a procedure they will be involved with for this upcoming budget).

“We have never been privileged to be a part of that,” said Spruill.

With the past aside and the news of the contract with Clegg’s, court and county officials agreed the dialogue and improvements to the courthouse through the Facility and Security Committee was an accomplishment.

“I think that it will benefit the community,” said Spruill.

“I certainly agree,” said Jenkins.

In other news, a year-end report compiled by the Facility and Security Committee showed the enhancements made to the courthouse.

Among the noticeable items accomplished:

Locked courtrooms and electric panels

Courthouse locked during non-business hours

Repaired back entrance to the facility

Deputy escorts for bank deposits

Replastering of the stairwells

The group also obtained several estimates for security changes/needs and floor tile replacement.