The answer is the same: no

Published 2:24 pm Thursday, July 23, 2009

JACKSON—A decision made by Northampton County officials to cut funding for this fiscal year to the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council prompted a letter urging reconsideration from leaders in a neighboring county.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners was presented a letter from Gene W. Minton, Chairman of the Halifax County Board of Commissioners.

In a letter addressed to Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins, Minton wrote on his Board’s behalf about a decision made by the Northampton County commissioners, in which $116,000 of funding for LGWCC was left out of the county’s 2009-10 fiscal year budget.

The funds are used to control noxious aquatic weeds in the man-made lake that is bordered by Northampton, Halifax, Warren counties in North Carolina as well as Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties in Virginia.

Minton wrote that Halifax County has budgeted their full $116,000 for the LGWCC and at their last board meeting voted to disperse half of the amount ($58,000) in July and revisit the issue later in the year.

“It has been the consensus of the Board to appropriate funds in the amount of $116,000 contingent upon the full participation and funding from all five counties (that surround the lake),” Minton writes. “We believe that it is extremely important for each County to continue to join together to make this project a success. I would request your continued support of the Lake Gaston Weed Control Council.”

The Northampton County Commissioners made their decision regarding the LGWCC and the county’s budget on June 30 (the last day of the fiscal year) with their top priority being avoiding employee furloughs. Recouping contributions to LGWCC and other organizations that were also cut from the budget was also a concern of the board.

Jenkins along with Finance Officer Dot Vick and county department heads were able to shuffle funds to evade furloughing employees, but could not regain contributions to outside agencies.

The county’s budget was passed in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Chester Deloatch voicing opposition after referencing the lack of contributions to outside organizations including LGWCC.

After presenting the letter, Jenkins asked the commissioners for guidance on how to respond to the letter.

“We waited until June 30 to adopt our budget,” Chairman Robert Carter responded. “We didn’t have $116,000 on June 30. I don’t think we have found any in 20 days. That’s my position.”

Carter directed Jenkins to genially respond to the letter. He then called for his colleagues comments.

“Of course we wished on June 30 that we had the $116,000 for the Weed Council,” Vice Chair Fannie Greene said. “I would ask the County Manager now if we have anything to contribute.”

“We have no new revenues to contribute,” Jenkins answered.

Board Attorney Charles Vaughan suggested Jenkins advise Halifax officials that Northampton formed a service district for Lake Gaston and “welcome them in considering doing the same thing.”

“That money is already appropriated, ours is not,” said Jenkins.

“I understand that,” Vaughan said. “If it would work the way it ought to work all counties on the lake would have a service district.”

Commissioner Virginia Spruill said she agreed with Carter’s statement.

“I don’t see how we can do this without going in and jeopardizing and pulling from other folks we have already committed to and how we can say to folks we have not committed to, based upon budget constraints, that we can give to this one,” she said. “And certainly your needs are just as important as the Weed Council.”

Jenkins said he understood the board was sympathetic to those affected by the funding cut, but until additional funding is available the county had no means to meet the need.

Carter asked Jenkins to relay that consensus as well as Vaughan’s comments in the response to the Halifax County commissioners.