Published 5:35 pm Friday, August 23, 2019

RICH SQUARE – The Northampton County Board of Commissioners promised at the beginning of the year they would hold some of their meetings at different town halls throughout the county in order to hear from more citizens. Rich Square’s town council hosted the special joint meeting between town and county officials here Monday, Aug. 19.

The biggest topic of discussion was the water drainage issue which often causes flooding in various parts of the town, including several businesses on Main Street. Representatives from the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) were invited to the meeting to answer questions and offer suggestions to remedy the problem.

“DOT is a landowner in the watershed just like everybody else who owns land in the watershed. Our job is to receive water coming to us, convey it, and release it,” explained Win Bridgers, DOT Division Maintenance Engineer, noting they did not have jurisdiction on private property.

Bridgers said the local DOT maintenance crew worked in July to clear out some 575 feet of ditches in one area particularly prone to flooding. They also investigated and found some pipes which had been partially or completely blocked. He recommended the town clean those problem areas out.

“Those are really, in the grand scheme of things, small fixes that really do need to be addressed by the town,” he said.

They also discussed the area by the railroad tracks on Highway 305, another place that is also often dealing with drainage issues. Bridgers explained the NCDOT has committed to putting a pipe in to help, but there’s currently no outlet ditch to drain the water.

Bridgers also added that other helpful improvements were scheduled to be included in the DOT’s broader Highway 305 modernization project, though that project is currently delayed due to NCDOT’s budgetary concerns.

Commissioner Board Chair Charles Tyner said after the presentation they want to help Rich Square solve the problem.

“Tonight is just the beginning of what we want to see for Rich Square. Flooding is not an option,” he said. “What it’s going to take is all of us working together. We’re in this fight with you. If Rich Square does not grow and Rich Square does not progress, then the county will not progress.”

Tyner said they would plan to hold another meeting soon to continue the water drainage discussions.

Other topics of discussion from the Monday night meeting included the recreation expansion goals, the Creecy school building, and a satellite campus for Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

Commissioner Geneva Faulkner, who represents Rich Square as a part of her district, explained one of the county’s goals is to expand recreational options for young people throughout the area. She said for Rich Square they wanted to create partnerships to develop more programs.

“When we had very active recreation programs going on in Rich Square, the criminal rate, especially among our youth, dramatically decreased,” she cited.

She encouraged people to contact the county’s recreation department if they have ideas or suggestions.

Several citizens voiced concerns about the former Creecy school building which has been closed for several years.

Tyner said they were working with the Board of Education to get the gym building back in use, but emphasized he couldn’t say too much about it yet since they were still in the early stages of working that out.

The last topic of discussion was an announcement about Roanoke-Chowan Community College’s plan to open up a small satellite campus in the town’s former dialysis building. Through funds from a CDBG-I grant, the property will be renovated inside and out to serve as a community education center and provide a number of educational programs for citizens.

With the meeting concluded, Rich Square Commissioner Reginald White thanked the Northampton commissioners for coming to town.

The Board of Commissioners’ tour throughout the county will continue on Monday, Sept. 16 at the Woodland Town Hall, located at 123 E. Main Street. They previously held a joint meeting in Seaboard back in April.