Pasquotank County Commissioners' Meeting: December 1, 2014
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At last night's Commissioner meeting, the first-order business was the swearing-in of reelected commissioners, Joe Winslow of the Providence District, Cecil Perry of the Southern Inside District and Dr William Sterritt, at Large. But the highlight of these proceedings was the swearing-in of newly elected Bettie Parker at Large, as the first African-American female member of the Pasquotank Board of Commissioners. A very large crowd of supporters filled the Commissioners meeting room in support of this momentous event. Judge J C Cole not only performed the service but he also took a moment of personal privilege to tell the audience that he and Mrs. Parker had attended school together all the way from the 1st grade to the 12th grade, even being in the same classrooms together the entire time. In a very prideful moment, Judge Cole asked Bettie who would have thought that after all those years that the two of them would be standing there together having achieved so much in their respective lives. One of the audience broke the ice by asking Bettie why she didn't marry the judge and ended up marrying the other guy. Of course everybody broke out in laughter and it seemed to take a little seriousness out of this emotional time.
Once the swearing-in was completed, retired Judge Herbert Small performed the swearing-in of Joe Winslow as the unanimous choice for Chairman of the Board of Commissioners. Once all these formal matters were concluded, the Commissioners took their respective places and the balance of the agenda was commenced.
As it turns out, there were many things on the agenda which ultimately prevented the Commissioners from adjourning until nearly 11 PM. The first order of business was Public Meeting in consideration of a Conditional Use Permit under petition from Morgan Corner Solar Farms for an energy firm known as Invenergy who was represented by an attorney out of Raleigh named Parker Poe of the firm of Henry C. Campen Jr. Mr. Poe identified his credentials in this field as having represented approximately 200 energy companies seeking permits such as the one being sought. After an initial talk by Mr. Poe, he introduced several witnesses that he had brought with him to the meeting, some of which were technical experts while others were residents who had agreed to either sell or lease their property for this project. While the testimony by the various witnesses provided useful information, at least two of the commissioners, Frankie Meads and Lloyd Griffin had several questions dealing with water runoff which included questions that the technical experts had difficulty answering. In fact, Mr. Poe stated that in all of the similar projects in which he has been involved, no one had asked the type of questions that were being asked here.
Commissioner Griffin asks penetrating questions regarding storm water runoff since the site in question is an integral part of the farm land drainage on the north side of Pasquotank County. Commissioner Meads mentioned his concerns about how the property was going to be drained, given the information he had received about standing water and another Solar site off Forman Bundy Rd and his understanding that the landowners were now having second thoughts about their project. Commissioner Meads wanted some assurances from the developers. This solar site is located in Newland Township at the intersection of Highway 158 and Blindman Rd, adjacent to the intersection with Firehouse Road and consisting of two parcels containing more than 100 acres, requiring that electricity to service the project will have to go under the highway.
Various Commissioners had questions about the project but Commissioner Dixon seemed to be the most agitated and annoyed.
One of the witnesses was an engineer who testified that the Army Corps of Engineers at been consulted by the developers and that their plan was in full compliance with all regulations that the Corps had presented along with other state agencies that had been consulted.
Commissioner Griffin asked about electromagnetic effects regarding health concerns. The developers stated they had never faced this type of questioning and had no ready responses.
The developer stated that the proposed project was their first in North Carolina but that they had 4 other projects in other states that they had developed successfully and were operational. They stated that the investment that they are prepared to make in construction and acquisition costs is approximately $35 million which will generate approximately $50,000 per year in property taxes to Pasquotank County.
After all testimony was heard, the commissioners voted to approve the Conditional Use Permit subject to the Developers agreement to a few conditions.
Coincidentally, there were two renewal energy projects on the agenda, the second of which was by Iberdrola Renewables trading as Atlantic Wind LLC. A public hearing was held primarily for the purpose of securing an extension to the contract for a period of two years. This project was first voted on and approved four years ago. But as time has progressed, the developer seeks to extend the project until September 2017. Again, as before, there was considerable discussion among the various Commissioners about the economics of this project which will involve a minimum $30 million investment with $1 million in land owner payments and make the developer the largest taxpayer in the County. They want to start the project in mid 2015. Commissioner Meads made a motion to table this matter, which was seconded by Commissioner Griffin. However, the motion was defeated 5-2. Again, as before, Commissioner Dixon became quite animated, stating that this project was better than nothing when economic development in this County is so wanting.
Regrettably, there were no dissenting voices from the citizens of the county and apparently the Commissioners have heard only the pro side of this issue. However, a retired physicist from Morehead City, named John Droz has been speaking out against Wind Farms. He is retired from GE Airospace in Utica NY. Perhaps our Commissioners will ask him to speak here. In the past, Cateret Co Commissioners, like their counterparts in Pasquotank and Perquimans Cos had voted to approve these wind projects but when further information was received, they chose to reverse their previous position. Perhaps the citizens of Pasquotank County have something to look forward too.
Nationwide announced today that it has partnered, for the second year in a row, with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) to present the 2021 Financial Empowerment Charlas (talks) series to provide financial education to Latinas and Latinos across the country.