Seeking a fair share

Published 9:08 am Thursday, April 2, 2009

JACKSON — The mayors in Northampton County now have an ear in what is going on with Golden LEAF and stimulus funds.

On Monday evening, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners met with several of the county’s municipal leaders to discuss topics that will affect the county and, ultimately, its towns. Those in attendance included representatives from Rich Square, Lasker, Conway, Severn, Seaboard and Garysburg.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins provided the mayors with resources and information to get town governments involved in both the Golden LEAF process and garnering stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Jenkins first spoke about the uncompetitive grant from Golden LEAF that could invest up to $2 million into the county.

Jenkins said his office had just finished compiling a database of 196 individuals (including government officials, church leaders, fire department chiefs, rescue squad captains, etc.) that will be contacted to participate in a public meeting that will be held on an upcoming date.

He added no specific projects will be discussed at that particular meeting, rather a discussion of key issues and objectives for the county.

Golden LEAF’s partner, the University of North Carolina’s School of Government, has also been in touch with county officials for the process. Jenkins said graduate student Kendra Cotton has been in recent contact in order to get the “feel of the county” through interviews with officials.

Jenkins asked the mayors to keep in mind the mission of Golden LEAF.

“The mission centers around job creation and retention,” he said. “This is the uniqueness that we’re facing right now.”

Both Jenkins and the commissioners encouraged the mayors to “come to the table” in order to benefit the county at-large.

Jenkins said the county as a whole stands to benefit from the funds.

“You think about it, it could happen where you stand, where you live,” said Commissioner Virginia Spruill.

The mayors seemed to be on the same page of working as a team to benefit the citizens of the county as a whole.

“This will benefit all municipalities,” said Seaboard Mayor Melvin Broadnax. “Jobs are important, but the quality of life is important too.”

Jenkins agreed.

“I don’t think we should lock ourselves in,” said Jenkins. “We have to have an open mind.”

Town and county officials also discussed stimulus money, in which the structure for allocation has yet to be organized. Commission Chair Robert Carter and Jenkins recently met with numerous local representatives, including District 1 Congressman G.K. Butterfield, to discuss the plan.

Jenkins said of the $828 billon in stimulus funds nationwide, $6.1 billion is earmarked for the state of North Carolina.

Jenkins said the commissioners have requested $93 million for various projects in the county.

He continued urging the mayors to apply for stimulus funds, but also cautioned them about what they apply for, especially grant/loans and “loan forgiveness” as the burden could trickle down to taxpayers.

Jenkins provided the attendees with information about the stimulus funds.

“We want Northampton County to receive its fair share,” said Carter.