Chocowinity speaks: "No jail" | Beaufort County Now | The Chocowinity Town Board met for its regular monthly meeting on April 1, 2014. It was a short agenda and the public meeting lasted only 30 minutes.

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

    The Chocowinity Town Board met for its regular monthly meeting on April 1, 2014. It was a short agenda and the public meeting lasted only 30 minutes. During the Public Comment section of the agenda several citizens spoke against locating a jail in the Chocowinity Industrial Park. You can watch the video of those comment below:

    As a footnote, you might miss it if you don't know to watch for it, but at the first of the video clip Mayor Jimmy Mobley switched from the previous stance he has taken of "we want to hear what you have to say..." to the Langleyesque "you have three minutes...and then shut up" approach to citizen participation in government. We commended Mr. Mobley on his previous approach. We now take it back. There was no reason to take the position he did Tuesday night. He sent the wrong message. That's a shame.

    We would also offer the following commentary on the jail presentations:

   

    Harold Smith has done his homework and the board would be well advised to take advantage of it rather than try to restrict him sharing that information. He makes many good points but one in particular warrants highlighting. That is the issue of how the benefit of locating a new jail in the Industrial Park will benefit or hurt Chocowinity.

    He points out that the only advantage that has been offered is that the jail would increase revenue to the Town from selling water and sewer to the County. But as Mr. Smith points out, if the jail depresses residential development then the loss of that potential revenue for residential development may be considerably more than the revenue a jail would create. Thus, the jail would be a liability to Chocowinity's financial position rather than an asset. Chocowinity does not need to fall into the trap of being "penny wise and pound foolish."

    The point Mr. Smith made that the Board should follow-up on is to "run the numbers" on the comparison between the anticipated revenue and the potential loss of future revenue. The board's staff should tell them how many typical homes it would take being lost to offset any potential water/sewer revenue from the jail.

    Buzz Cayton's points are also something the Board should carefully consider. The Board should carefully consider what the jail would do to the future image of Chocowinity. The Board should have a vision of what it wants the town to be fifty years down the road. We agree with Mr. Cayton that the vision should be that of a residential community that draws residents that work in Greenville. The new U. S. 17 By-pass, as a connector to U. S. 264 for a straight-shot commute to the medical complex in Greenville is the best economic development asset Chocowinity has, in our opinion. A jail in that vicinity is not going to be attractive to residential growth that would bring in money from Greenville to Chocowinity and Beaufort County.

    As a routine part of the monthly meetings Town Clerk Joy McRoy provides financial reports to the board and public. We have scanned her March report for review by clicking here.

    We would like to suggest that other finance officers and boards consider emulating how Ms. McRoy provides this information. In eight pages she gives what we view to be a clear and concise picture not only of the month's activities but a snapshot of where the Town stands in its budget management year to date. Her format is simple and clear. In less than fifteen minutes one can get a pretty good picture of the important financial information routinely needed. You can see what the cash position is, where the money is coming from and where it is going but more importantly, how much was budgeted per line item, how much as been spent year to date and what the percentage of the budget amounts are still available or already spent. Thus, you can tell if revenue is coming in as was anticipated and if expenditures are more than or less than anticipated.

    Other agencies we cover make it much more complicated and obfuscated. It need not be. Chocowinity does not have a huge budget like the City of Washington or Beaufort County or the school system. But the financial reporting is basically the same, it's just that the numbers are larger with larger entities. But we would suggest that other agencies consider using the reporting format that Ms. McRoy has developed, at least for their public information reports.
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