On Wednesday February 22nd there was a Board of Commissioners meeting at the old courthouse in Carthage.
Mary Jo Morris acknowledged the Board’s support of both animals and the arts programs. The Board provided deputies from the Sheriff’s department to serve as Animal Control officers to protect animals from abuse and neglect. The Board also proposed a sales tax in the Spring which the people of Moore County voted against.
“I think the Board of Commissioners has done more than its fair share to come to the support of the children of Moore County,” she said.
Clay Perry, the director of the band at North Moore High School, spoke to the Board regarding the school budget. Perry thanked the board for the work they have done to fund local positions at Moore County Schools.
He explained hat other than a uniform allowance, all of the county’s band and theater programs are self-funded. Although they receive less funding than neighboring counties, they are still able to be compete against those bands.
“Why would I share that with you? Because we are already doing our job with less. Imagine what our children could do with what they deserve,” Perry said.
Dr. Christoph Diasio, a pediatrician in Moore County, also spoke regarding school funding. Diasio works with the poorest and richest parents in Moore County and sees “absolute support” from families to fully fund Moore County Schools. He believes schools are an economic engine of growth which should be fully funded so that they will be an attraction.
Several others addressed the Board in reference to the budget and why education is key in building up the youth and bringing families to Moore County.
Most of the room stood in support of Moore County Schools at the request of the Board.
Rich Smith requested that the Board allow him to receive an additional $8000 from the state be allotted for the Juvenile Crime Prevention Plan. Smith’s request was approved, and the additional revenue will provide for a pilot project that will serve the western Southern Pines community.
John Birath requested that money be allocated from the lottery fund in order to pay to renew the Union Pines athletic track as the current one has safety concerns due to erosion. John Birath’s request was approved.
David Watterson, representing the Restore Woodlake Committee, spoke to the board to request the authorization of the county manager and county attorney to work with the both the committee and Woodlake Property Owners Association to help find a solution to problems caused by Hurricane Matthew.
“The Woodlake dam has been a troubled dam for many years,” Watterson said.
When Hurricane Matthew hit, the dam began to crumble. Residents of the Woodlake community as well as residents downstream from the Woodlake dam were given evacuation notices.
Since 2007 the management and ownership have ignored the Department of Environmental Qualities notices of deficiencies regarding the dam. A safety order was also given to management of Woodlake.
“The management of Woodlake has missed all the deadlines associated with that safety order,” he said.
After the storm the Department of Environment Quality issued its third notice of deficiency, and the lake was then drained. Homeowners then formed the Restore Woodlake Committee.
Issues with the dam have caused property value to decrease substantially, decreasing the property tax in the process. Since 2015 the property values of Woodlake homes have decreased by nine percent, and Watterson said that he believes at least seven percent is due to the dam.
Now that the lake has been drained, Watterson predicts that the property values will decrease an additional thirty to fifty percent, causing a $400,000-$650,000 decrease in county tax revenue from Woodlake residents.
Nearly 500 signatures filled a petition for the Board to provide a resource for the Restore Woodlake Committee to help them find a solution.
Commended him for forming the committee first step and hopes his committee considers hiring legal expertise to advise them on how they may proceed.
“I do want to commend you for forming this committee. . . As much as we would like to provide a county manager or county attorney, we are prohibited from doing so. We are open and willing to help in any way we can,” Commissioner Graham said.
Watterson’s request for a County manager and attorney was denied.
“We are going to fight and do absolutely everything we can. . .,” Watterson said. “I hope we’re up for the challenge.”
County attorney, Maureen Krueger, then requested and received the approval to transfer the authority of the Department of Animal Operations from the county manager to the county sheriff.
Krueger also requested support of the Board for House Bill 13. If passed, House Bill 13 will prevent the $3.5 million budget cuts by changing the maximum class sizes of grades K-3 in Moore County Schools. The bill was passed unanimously by the state House of Representatives already. The approval means that the board will now urge the state Senate to pass the bill as well. The motion was passed by the Board of Commissioners.
Before the meeting was adjourned, Commissioner Graham read a letter that “touched [her] heart.” The letter was sent by Juniors for Jesus to let Graham know she was being prayed for. The letter contained about twelve signatures.
Commissioner Ritter said, “I received one of the same, and I kept it. And I will keep it.”
The next Commissioners Meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 7th at 5:30 PM at the old courthouse in Carthage.