ONLINE UPDATE: Wilmington City Council meets with state reps

by Daniel Bowden
Monday, February 18, 2013

Members of the Wilmington City Council met with Rep. Susi Hamilton, Rep. Ted Davis, Rep. Rick Catlin and Sen. Thom Goolsby to discuss the city's legislative agenda for 2013 on Feb. 18.

City officials discussed ways to increase the local revenue stream and preserve the revenue they are currently bringing in. Council and state reps were in agreement that tax credits extended to the film industry should be preserved.

Rep. Hamilton said that 30 percent of North Carolina counties are currently receiving benefits from the film industry, not just New Hanover. New Hanover County has been the epicenter of film activity in the state because of Screen Gems Studios, but the film industry has been taking advantage of state tax credits as far west as Asheville.

“Clearly with the film industry, [tax credits] make it or break it,” said Davis. “It's not as if they wanna see whether or not we're going to do it, it's expected. If we don't, they'll pack up their bags up and move to a state that does.”

Davis stressed the importance of educating those in the general assembly that don't know or have appreciation for topic such as coastal issues and the movie industry that don't pertain to their counties.

“They have no idea the impact that it can have,” Davis said.

Goolsby mentioned the general assembly has not yet gotten into tax reform this year, their time has been focused on medicaid and unemployment insurance.

Talk later turned to pursuing the reestablishment of a rail line from Castle Hayne to Wallace, with Catlin noting that cost of transportation was one of the major impediments facing trade from the state's ports.

Hamilton said she believed momentum leaned in favor of making progress with a rail line, noting that several people in the room has been working for a very long time on the topic. Councilwoman Laura Padgett recalled working with Catlin on the topic 15 to 18 years ago.

Offshore drilling for natural gas was also briefly addressed at the meeting, with Councilman Kevin O'Grady asking to see the same rigorous examination of the process as the offshore wind industry is currently receiving.

Padgett recalled a trip to Santa Barbara, where a 25-year-old oil spill was still leaving tar on the bottom of visitors shoes.

Goolsby said the area being looked at for offshore natural gas exploration was much smaller than the areas being looked at for offshore wind.

Catlin acknowledged that offshore drilling is a process that “needs to be done right.”

Towards the end of the meeting, Goolsby announced that he intends to file a bill that would excuse Monkey Junction residents from $100,000 in property taxes from the six-month period they were annexed by the city.

“We don't want to bill these Monkey Junction residents for such a short time and for such limited city operational costs if at all possible,” stated Mayor Saffo in a press release following the meeting. “It doesn't seem fair with all the controversy surrounding this situation.”

Approximately 1,000 acres of the Monkey Junction were annexed by the city in Jan. 2012; however, a court ruling six months later decided changes made to state annexation laws by the General Assembly were unconstitutional.

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