Better Governing Now » Too many bullies, not enough servants


Too many bullies, not enough servants

    Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.

    It has become more obvious that the majority of the Beaufort County leadership offices are occupied by bullies. A bully is going to have his way, no matter what others may think or desire, even if how they go about achieving their desires borders on illegal or unethical activities. This was in plain sight for anyone to see that attended the three member Jail Committee meeting on August 20, 2014 at the Beaufort County administrative office.

    After having been turned down by the federally controlled USDA Rural Development Commission for a loan and after receiving no support from the NC Local Government Commission for a $20-30 million loan backed by limited obligation bonds, the decision was taken to continue spending tax dollars from the fund balance of Beaufort County. The Local Government Commission said they would revisit the loan application upon the seating of a new board of commissioners in December. The one vote majority have already spent or obligated over $1 million toward planning for a new Public Safety Facility, to include a new jail, to be constructed in the Chocowinity Industrial Park, a parcel of undeveloped land located in the southwest corner of Beaufort County. At this, 8/20/14, meeting, they determined it is in the best interest of the board to continue spending tax money to complete the project planning. A project that will, in all likely-hood, be stopped by a newly elected board in December. Two million dollars wasted.

    Never mind that this property is ideally suited to light industrial applications. Never mind that the tax payers of Beaufort County do not support the project at this time. Never mind that we do not have any good reasons for building a new jail. Never mind that the income combined with the unemployment rate in Beaufort County places this county in Tier One status by the NC Department of Commerce. Never mind that the NC general statues and the NC Constitution require a referendum of the voters in the county to take on such an obligation. Never mind that the usual financing for such projects is through General Obligation bonds, which obligates the taxing authority of the commissioners to service the debt and repay the principle. Never mind that the payments on Limited Obligation bonds have to be allocated every year in the planning budget by the county commissioners. Never mind that the NC Constitution mandates a voter referendum for such non-revenue generating projects. Never mind that a board of commissioners in the future could elect to default on the obligation, leaving the bond holders to take possession of the underwritten asset. Never mind that without the taxing authority to pay the bond holders, the bond holders may be left with a jail and other facilities that the county would most likely have to vacate. Never mind that two jails would have to be maintained in the county. Never mind the additional overhead spending to transport incarcerated prisoners back and forth to the court room. Never mind that the sewage disposal system in Chocowinity will be left with lower excess capacity. Never mind anything that would slow down or stop the spending. Oh, Just Never Mind!

    Yes, the majority of the commissioners are bullies, but they are not alone. They bully the tax payers and the judicial system, the current sheriff bullies the board of commissioners, with their consent, the current clerk of court bullies the staff and the citizens, the district attorney bullies the courts, and the resident Superior Court judge bullies the tax payers and the county commissioners by issuing an unlawful order to build a new jail. What a mess! Every person that occupies these positions takes a solemn oath to uphold the NC Constitution. It appears that bullies do not take this oath seriously.

    And to top it off, there is $2 million in the project to upgrade the county court house in Washington. (Did I mention the $2 million already spent or obligated on planning for the new jail?) During the August 20, 2014 meeting, Commissioner Klemm asked the design team to pull the courthouse part of the project out of the new facility planning and budgeting. This is a very unusual practice as the two projects complement and are dependent upon the other. Then he asked for options to reduce the cost of both projects. From what I heard, the cost reduction options proposed would very likely make some of the features of the projects unsuitable for the intended purposes. Working space would be reduced, auxiliary generators would only provide power for a portion of the new facility, the Emergency Operations Center would be compromised by eliminating the raised floor, a construction feature common to rooms housing multiple computer work stations, the aesthetics of the new facility would border on being out of compliance with the limited use permit granted by the Chocowinity Board of Commissioners, and vehicle access would not allow for vehicles larger than a transport van, i.e., no buses. The sheriff's office already has a transport bus. Is this the cart before the horse? The Chocowinity board's approval of the limited use permit was predicated on an artist rendering and descriptions of the building to be constructed. Some of the cost reduction items will change the external appearance of the proposed building. The landscaping and parking facilities have also been changed from what the Chocowinity board thought they were approving. This is just another example of bullying the Chocowinity Board of Commissioners.

    There are serious issues that need to be addressed and these issues are on one city block in Washington NC bordered by Second and Third Street and North Market Street and Union Drive. And those issues have nothing to do with infrastructure.

    It is time to replace as many of the incumbent bullies in the county leadership as possible. The election in November 2014 is the path and process to accomplish this. A new sheriff will be installed that is not connected with the current regime. A new board of commissioners will be seated. Two of the commissioner candidates have openly and forcefully declared they will vote to stop this blunder at the first opportunity. A new clerk of superior court can be elected. Replacing the incumbents in these offices will make a difference. The upcoming election can clear out some of the bullies and hopefully cause those remaining to be less truculent. Do not allow apathy to keep you from voting. At some point in time every individual in the county will be face-to-face with one or more of these officials. Do you want to be face-to-face with a bully that cares not one wit about what you want or need, or do you want to interact with someone that places your interests ahead of the incumbent official's holier-than-thou demeanor? We elect these leaders to serve us, and we pay them well. We should not be disrespected when we engage them for the services we elected them to provide.

    We are currently not being served very well. Don't miss your one opportunity to make a difference in how you will be served. Vote for sanity this November.

Dear Commissioners, August 31, 2014; with an Update to for "Dear Commissioners, August 28" Local Government The Chamber needs to do its homework and educate its members