The Beaufort County Conservative Club held the January 2020 meeting at King Chicken Restaurant in Washington, NC Thursday night, January 9, 2020. There were approximately 30 people in attendance. Commissioner Hood Richardson (R) conducted the meeting.
The Conservative Club goals are to elect conservative candidates to the Beaufort County Commission.
Republican candidates which have filed for the primary election to be held on March 3, 2020 were invited to present their perspectives on what priorities they would pursue upon election to the board. Four candidates were present. All spoke to those in attendance and took questions from the attendees. Most of the questions centered on the taxes, spending, budget development, using fund balance and borrowing money to support the annual county budgets. The Unassigned Fund Balance was $19,318,500 at the end of 2014-2015. At the end of fiscal year 2018-2019 the Unassigned Fund Balance was $15,979,428 and the tax rate has increased from $0.55 in the 2016-2017 Budget to $0.635 in the 2019-2020 Budget.
Hood Richardson presented a list of recent projects undertaken by a majority of the board. The current board is composed of five registered Republicans and two registered Democrats. Two of the Republican commissioners routinely vote with the Democrats. Taxes and fees have increased by 20% over the past four years. Several examples were given:
- Loss of $1,000,000 on a building in the Industrial Park
- Failure to make timely repairs to the detention center (jail) resulting in over $1,000,000 to now make repairs
- Safekeeping of incarcerated persons (contracting with other counties) in 2019, again close to $1,000,000
- Agreeing to take over the VOA site on Cherry Run Road, another $150,000 sink hole that was eventually released to the NC Wildlife Commission when the realization sunk in that there was no commercial value to be gained and no tax revenue from the 2,800 acre albatross,
- Suspending the Hospital Authority Board and then depleting the Hospital Authority Funds of $4,000,000 which were turned over to Beaufort County in 2017, most of which was then used to augment the maintenance budget
- The failed attempt to construct a new Public Safety Center without seeking approval of the tax payers/voters. This little gem resulted in the loss of $1,600,000.
- The move to EMS paramedics and other administrative hiring throughout the county has increased county employee headcount approximately 85.
This list clearly demonstrates that the Republicans on the board, over the last four years, are not observed to be "conservative" when it comes to spending your money. It is also clear why taxes and fees have been increased.
The Beaufort County GOP Chairman, and former state senator, Bill Cook, was in attendance. He strongly objected to Hood's observations that the Republicans on the current and past boards were not "conservative". Hood made the statement that the past three Republicans became chairmen only because of deals made with Langley and Booth in which Langley became Vice Chairman, with five Republicans sitting on a 7 member board. These tactics shut down the conservatives on the board. This exchange went on for about two minutes with Cook leaving the meeting telling Hood he would not be returning. As a parting shot, Chairman Cook said to Hood, "You're an idiot!"
Hood told the group that Evans is an ineffective chairman who has to constantly rely on Commissioners Waters and Langley for guidance during the board meetings. He went on to tell those assembled that the board should have a real Republican chairman and explained how Evans and Waters changed their party affiliation to run as Republicans because they could not get elected as tax and spend Democrats.
Hood went on to explain that there is very little discussion from Evans, Waters, Langley, and Booth on issues before the board during regularly scheduled meetings. This failure to air all the ramifications of taking an action on issues before the board leaves the public with questions. Calling for the vote to silence Hood is a common tactic used to stifle and end discussion.
What is clear from history is that Commissioner Waters and Evans vote with the Democrat commissioners more often than not. The jury is still out on Commissioner John Rebholz as he was recently selected by the Beaufort County GOP to fill the vacant seat of Commissioner Gary Brinn.