Treasurer focuses on eastern NC towns in Tuesday press conference | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is Theresa Opeka.

    N.C. State Treasurer Dale Folwell discussed issues surrounding several towns in the state Tuesday during his monthly "Ask Me Anything" virtual press conference.

    Folwell said he had concerns about Winnabow, Brunswick County, wanting to be incorporated as a town.

    "Winnabow did make an application to the Local Government Commission (LGC)," he said. "I just had an opportunity in the last few days to review the official recommendation from the LGC staff. I'm obviously concerned about their application to become a city, but I'm also concerned about what events are leading up to them to think that they need to play defense."

    Residents have reportedly become concerned that nearby jurisdictions would try to annex the area, mainly Leland, according to a Jan. 12 post on the Town of Winnabow's Facebook page.

    The Town of Leland stated on its website on Jan. 17 that its plans to seek annexation of Winnabow were false.

    Folwell mentioned that this is the first application for the incorporation of a town he has had as state treasurer.

    "It's my understanding that a lot of these laws and issues were taken care of as far as the annexation and things like that," said Folwell. "I'm going to be working with Senator (Bill) Rabon and the members from the delegation from the North Carolina House and Senate. I'm always interested in sitting down with the people from Winnabow to see what pressures they see that may have led them to file this application."

    Folwell next discussed the turmoil in the Town of Navassa, Brunswick County. Claudia Bray resigned as town manager and finance officer on June 3. Council member James Hardy stepped in to serve as the town's finance officer on June 16 but has resigned from both positions effective Nov.17. Also, the town council had trouble holding meetings on several occasions as they didn't have a required quorum in place.

    "We've had issues with Navassa a few months ago where the finance director walked out without much notice, and that's very concerning to us because somebody has to sign checks," he said. "Secondly and probably more sadly, you know Navassa has such great historical importance to Brunswick County and our state. The citizens of Navassa deserve to have a government they're paying money into to have the competency, transparency, and good governance."

    As far as some good news, Folwell promised that there would be some about Pikeville, Wayne County, in the coming weeks. The LGC took over control of the town's finances in April 2021. The town of approximately 600 reportedly had nearly $160,000 in debt for essential services like water and sewer.

    "It looks like Pikeville is in the 8th or 9th inning, and I think you'll be hearing some good news out of us over the next few weeks regarding Pikeville," he said. "You know, a tip of the hat to the staff of the Local Government Commission. They're running all over the place because there are so many cities and towns and water sewer districts that are failing, so we're very pleased to have this result because it's a similar result that we had, I believe, in Ahoskie."

    Folwell addressed the LGC's vote in September against New Hanover County's $80 million request to build a mixed-use development that includes a new library and museum that would sit on a block in downtown Wilmington. The project, also known as Project Grace, received scrutiny from the LGC regarding the nature of the financing agreement under which the county would sell the land to the developer and then lease it back.

    "Just a few days after Project Grace was not approved, we had the news about the purchase of the Bank of America building," he said. "It seems to be a lot of drama and complexity that you have over a county regarding any type of transaction that they're involved in. I will tell you that we're always interested in partnering with any community, big or small, regarding anything that makes financial sense to the citizens."

    Reports say the county plans to take a different avenue to complete the project.
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