Bertie opposes merger

Published 10:11 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WINDSOR – Bertie County officials are officially on record as opposing any merger for Martin Community College (MCC).

Monday morning, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners took action to oppose the merger, which has been proposed by a legislative study on the community college system.

During the meeting, MCC President Dr. Ann R. Britt and Board of Trustees member David Overton came to the commissioners to seek their support in opposing the merger.

Britt said the report suggested the merger of 22 community colleges statewide.

“If it happens, we would be merged with Pitt or Edgecombe,” she said. “We’re not sure which.”

Britt said the report indicated North Carolina would save $5.1 million per year after seven or eight years, but that most in the education industry doubted the figures. As an example, Britt said she had already spoken to the president of Pitt Community College (Dr. G. Dennis Massey) about the merger possibility.

According to Britt, Massey said he does not have staff in place to handle some of the duties that are necessary at Martin Community College. That means staff would have to be hired, thus eliminating some of the savings.

Britt also indicated MCC would lose its small business center if the merger went through.

Tuesday is a key day, according to Britt as the North Carolina General Assembly’s Joint Education Oversight Committee will meet to consider the report.

“It is crucial for Bertie, Martin and all Tier 1 counties,” she said.

Commissioner Norman M. Cherry Sr. asked what the impact of the merger would be for Roanoke-Chowan Community College, which is charged with serving some of Bertie County.

Britt said the college would not be merged because there was not another one in 30 miles of RCCC’s campus.

Cherry also indicated that Bertie County monetarily supported MCC.

“If the merger happens will they expect us to send our money to, for example, Edgecombe County,” Cherry asked.

Britt said there was no clear answer to that and said much debate has taken place because of the money local entities have spent on community college buildings and other expenses.

Cherry also said he was concerned because if MCC was combined with Edgecombe or Pitt, prospective students would not drive either there or to Roanoke-Chowan.

Following the discussion, Commission Vice Chairman J. Wallace Perry moved to adopt the resolution opposing the merger while Cherry offered a second.

Before the vote, Commission Chairman L.C. Hoggard III said that as an employee of Roanoke-Chowan Community College he thought it might be appropriate to recuse himself from the vote. Board Attorney Lloyd Smith said he believed under the circumstances Hoggard had the right to do so.

From that point, Perry asked for further discussion on the motion. There being none, he called for the vote and the board passed the motion by a 4-0 vote.

Britt closed by saying if the committee forwarded the bill to the floor of the General Assembly, she would be back to request more help opposing the merger.