‘Coming to your city’

Published 8:24 am Thursday, July 24, 2014

LEWISTON – On the premier evening that the Bertie County Board of Commissioners held their first community meeting outside Windsor they found out that another government organization, The Mid-East Commission (MEC), is making similar plans.

They want to be “coming-to-your-city”.

The regional planning agency, which serves Bertie, Hertford, Martin, Pitt, and Beaufort counties, and has its headquarters in Washington, NC, came before the Board on Monday night to request Bertie host one of the organization’s upcoming meetings.

“It’s an opportunity we’re trying to promote throughout our five counties about a series of meetings we want to co-host with our individual counties,” said MEC Executive Director Timothy Baynes. “We’ve been trying to conduct some community outreach meetings where we come into your communities and educate everyone about the programs and services the Mid-East Commission has to offer throughout the region.”

Baynes said that often some of the smaller local governments don’t always understand all of what the MEC can provide.

“What we’re asking is that we’d like to co-ordinate within our counties a way to have a forum that they can discuss any county-wide issues that they feel like they want to present to their municipalities to try to get everybody within the same room,” Baynes continued.

He noted that the first such meeting was held last year in BeaufortCounty. At that time Beaufort County’s local government request was for someone from the North Carolina Department of Commerce to come and share information about how rural communities will now work with the new public-private economic development partnership at the state level.

“Their economic developer also used it as an opportunity to just present an economic development update to all the local governments within the county,” Baynes said.

Another such meeting was held in Martin County and Baynes says they were working on a county-wide plan update to present to all their local governments.

“It provides you with a forum to present anything you have going on that you feel is worthwhile and that you need to share with all your local governments at one time,” he said.

“We’re not clear on everything we’ll be able to access and how that will work moving forward now that the formerly known economic partnerships have been kind of dissolved and changed form into calling themselves alliances now,” Baynes said.

The cost of the two-hour dinner meeting would be provided by the Mid-East Commission as a sort of outreach to local governments.

“We envision this as being successful and becoming an annual recurring meeting where we can come out and share information with local governments,” Baynes said. “What better way than to come into your back yard so that you don’t have to travel long distances.”

Other than securing a location, which would be the county’s responsibility, the MEC would take care of everything else, including the database mailings.

“On the evening of the event we would just ask that you and your staff assist with registration, name-badges, programs, and making sure we have everything in place,” Baynes requested.

Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer said he’d work with Baynes and the MEC on securing a location, most likely the Cashie Convention Center in Windsor, if that facility is available.

One of Bertie’s representatives on the MEC is current county commissioner Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson, who said the county meetings with all the local governments is something they’d been working on for some time.

“Just as we take our meetings on the road once a month, the Mid-East is trying to do the same thing,” Wesson said.

Wesson also pointed out to those in attendance that Lewiston-Woodville mayor Dayle Vaughan is currently MEC vice-chairman and in line to become chairman in the future.

“Under her leadership I think this county can get a better understanding of what the Mid-East has to offer to us,” he continued. “The officials in this county need to understand what Mid-East is about, what opportunities there are and how we can  access everything from small-business loan programs to all the different grant opportunities and stuff; we really need to detail an ‘Introduction to Mid-East’…basic kind of stuff is what we need.”

Baynes assured the Board that all the Mid-East program directors would be available at the meeting to present their individual programs and discuss them.

“This grant-finder program that we’ve just now started to provide to our local governments needs a short training program on that service specifically because we want to make sure that’s an option to our local governments and how they can tap into it,” Baynes said in closing.

“Let’s crank it up,” said Bertie chairman J. Wallace Perry.

Baynes again said he would meet with Sauer to come up with a date for a Mid-East meeting in Bertie, and report back when such a date has been secured.