At our regular meeting on Tuesday evening of this week, the usual business was enhanced by two informal discussions, headed up by Eric Broyles and by Carteret County Commissioner Robin Comer.
First up was Eric Broyles, Chairman of the Morehead-Beaufort Tea Party, who brought the gratifying news that the Morehead City Town Council had, at least for now, dropped the idea of adding more median strips to the Highway-70/Arendell Street corridor. Although Eric had obtained hundreds of signatories to a petition against the median additions, the Town Council anticipated his presentation in opposition and moved expeditiously to kill the proposal. However, since this idea seems to be part and parcel of the NC Department of Transportation’s “Super-70” concept, we should not think that a stake has been driven through it’s heart.
Second up was Commissioner Robin Comer, who had come to suggest that the CCTPP, in voting to oppose the quarter-cent sales tax option on the ballot for Carteret County, had not given sufficient weight to the urgency of finding money to continue the vital dredging projects in the County.
Although those who do not own a boat may not give it much thought, he said, keeping our waterways dredged is an indispensible part of maintaining the Crystal Coast as a vacation spot for out-of-state visitors and for the in-state weekenders as well. And, since Federal funds for dredging have virtually dried up, the Commissioners had viewed the anticipated $2.5-million from the sales tax as a source for that purpose.
Although NC law would not permit the revenue to be formally dedicated to dredging, the Commissioners would have the revenue set up on the county’s books as a special “appropriated use account”, meaning that related revenues and expenditures from it would be readily identifiable to the public. In this way, citizens could easily tell if the quarter-cent sales tax revenue was being diverted to other purposes. He could not, of course, guarantee that a future Commission would not see things differently, but he believes that the current Commission is unified in favoring this plan, and would honor the commitment for so long as they held office. It would be up to us and other conservatives in the County to continue electing conservative commissioners, people who would also honor the original commitment.
Although not all own boats, most of our members are long-time residents and property owners in the County, and understand well the importance of maintaining our waterways. Running a boat aground can be an expensive proposition, and a visitor doesn’t have to do so but once in a supposedly navigable waterway to dampen his or her enthusiasm for returning to the same locale. Indisputable, the economy of Carteret County is dependent on tourism, and the appeal of our waterways to fishermen and recreational boaters undergirds that tourism.
Several of the attending members were of the opinion that, had the NC General Assembly written the law in such a way as to permit the revenue from the quarter-cent sales tax option to be formally dedicated to a specific purpose, such as dredging, then our vote might have been to endorse rather than to oppose passage of the referendum. However, according to Senator Sanderson (also present) a change in the law to that effect does not seem to be in the cards in the short term. Therefore, Commissioner Comer is right in pointing out that we must get the revenue to dredge from somewhere, and if the ballot referendum for the quarter-cent sales tax option does not pass, the Commissioners will be forced to look at increasing the property tax.