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Meeting of the minds

WOODLAND – A joint meeting between the Northampton County Board of Commissioners and the Town of Woodland was held at their Town Hall here Monday, as the county commissioners continued their tour around the county.

“We’re glad to be here. We’re here to hear from you,” said Board Chair Charles Tyner at the opening of the evening meeting.

The commissioners have been holding joint meetings with town boards throughout the county, having already visited Seaboard and Rich Square. Their goal, Tyner said, was to start conversations about the needs of each town in order to find ways to address those issues.

Woodland Mayor Ken Manuel said it was “historic” for the county commissioners to come visit the towns individually, and he welcomed their input.

The discussion, which was facilitated through questions from the town board and town citizens, covered several topics such as the fire department, abandoned houses, economic development, and internet infrastructure.

Woodland Mayor Ken Manuel (standing) and Town Commissioner Brian Christison were among the town officials to put forth improvement ideas at Monday’s meeting. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

“Is there any way you could help us get a new fire department,” asked Woodland town council member Barbara Outland, noting the very poor condition of the current building.

Fellow town commissioner Brian Christison added they had looked into USDA grants, but were told they only qualified for loans.

“We’ve got to get in touch with the right people,” Tyner replied, suggesting that the two boards meet together with Congressman G.K. Butterfield to look into more options for the town.

County Commissioner Geneva Faulkner also said Northampton’s Emergency Management Department would help look into grants for the project as well.

Another concern brought forth by town commissioner Pat Liverman was the abundance of abandoned properties within the town. She said they had counted up to 40 houses and 21 commercial lots that need to be taken care of.

Tyner acknowledged that was a problem all over the county, and it was something they were currently working on.

“A lot of your abandoned places are abandoned because nobody was paying taxes on it. We might be able to help you in some of those situations. We’re going to sell them,” he explained.

County Attorney Scott McKellar explained they were preparing to increase their tax foreclosure efforts, noting one property in Woodland would be up for sale in less than two weeks. Ultimately, the properties will gain new owners and be put back on the tax scrolls to generate more tax revenue for the county and municipalities.

Town commissioner David Cooper said he’d like to see more economic growth within the town, such as a “mom & pop grocery store.” Several Woodland residents said they’d like to see more transportation options and better internet access, both of which could benefit the economy of the town. Other discussions centered on workforce development.

“It means having a conversation,” said Tyner about addressing these issues. “We’re having a conversation tonight.”

Tyner emphasized the importance of working together to continue the conversations to make sure the town of Woodland, as well as the rest of the county, moves forward.

The next joint town/county board meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21 at Garysburg Town Hall. After that, the commissioners will gather at the Conway Volunteer Fire Department at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 18.