Commissioners broadcast end of year state of the county addresses
New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White wrapped up a week of State of the County televised addresses covering school safety, economic development, solid waste policy, financial health and the recent amotion process.
The 30-minute segment originally aired on NHC-TV on Friday, June 28, at 7 p.m., but is also available on-demand at www.nhcgov.com/nhclive
“Government cannot be everything to everyone,” White said. “There are simply too many problems and too many needs out there for us to solve them all as government. So what we have to do, and are doing, is prioritize.”
One of the first challenges commissioners faced after White and Vice Chairwoman Beth Dawson were sworn in on Dec. 3, 2012, was how to tackle school safety locally following the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.
Currently, the commissioners are waiting to hear back about a New Hanover County Schools security audit and needs assessment.
“Will there be school resource officers in elementary schools in the future in New Hanover County? We will wait and see,” White said. “But what the citizens do need to know is: A, their input and opinion on this is always welcome. It’s critical as we form policy that we know what our citizens are thinking about. But: B, we’re going to adopt the right policy after we have the benefit of all of the information.”
The New Hanover County Board of Education supports some SROs in elementary schools, but not the price tag of $1.18 million to put them in all 25 elementary schools.
Without mentioning his name, White talked about the amotion process to remove Brian Berger from his commissioner’s seat toward the end of the segment.
“It was not something that we knew about. It was something that we learned almost at the same time that the citizens, that you learned about,” White said.
While White said the amotion process is now behind them, a hearing is scheduled at the North Carolina Business Court of Greensboro on July 16 to determine whether the amotion procedure is a proper procedure to remove a county commissioner.
During the same April 22 meeting that commissioners agreed to censure Berger, with only Berger dissenting, and scheduled the May amotion hearing, commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr. dissenting, to award consulting services to CDM Smith, Inc. to develop a comprehensive solid waste management plan.
“In New Hanover County, we have a fragmented policy to be frank,” White said.
The City of Wilmington, unincorporated area and the beach towns all have separate policies, with the city as the No. 1 landfill consumer.
“We do know that we need to increase recycling. How do we do that?” White said. “Well we partner with the city of Wilmington first off. We’re going to look toward doing that in the future.”
The commissioners repeatedly stated interest in transitioning to a pay-as-you-go government throughout the budgeting process.
“County government is always going to be in the debt business,” White said.
During the last 20 years, county debt has nearly tripled with money going toward public schools, Cape Fear Community College and jail needs, he said, with more facilities needs coming in the next two years.
“It’s done a lot of good things, but it’s also an unsustainable trend that we were seeing,” White said.
During the regular meeting on Monday, July 1, White said he does not know what the commissioners are going to do next year for the SOTC address, but the feedback so far has been tremendous.
“It was outside-of-the-box thinking,” he said. “It was inclusive, enlightening and it was a lot more entertaining than just a boring speech from somebody in a suit standing at a podium.”