The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners denied a $17.3 million Marquis Hills and Heritage Park sewer expansion capital project ordinance by a vote of 3-2 on Monday, Feb. 18.
Chairman Woody White, Commissioner Thomas Wolfe and Commissioner Brian Berger voted against, and Vice Chairwoman Beth Dawson and Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr. voted in favor of the ordinance.
“I have two very grave concerns with this project,” White said.
First, White said he has heard anecdotal issues but has not heard any public health issues. His second concern is that the county would finance and pay for the project and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority would benefit with new customers.
The ordinance requests the CFPUA fund up to $2,500 per parcel, which would total about $4.3 million for the two portions of the project.
“You could build an elementary school for $18 million,” White said. “… It’s a tremendous amount of money.”
Dawson, the only commissioner who attended the community meetings held on Feb. 12 and 13, spoke up saying that if the commissioners had looked into the eyes and heard the stories of those at the meetings they would understand the need.
“Friends, this is not any condition that any one of us up here should have to endure,” she said.
County manager Chris Coudriet said in the next 20 to 40 years, the properties could hollow out and be uninhabitable.
“There may not be an issue today,” he said. “I do see long term there is a public health and also an economic imperative.”
Commissioners also disagreed about increasing pay for members of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board.
As a former ABC chairman and current commission member, Wolfe recused himself from the discussion.
A general statute reduced the pay of ABC commission members to $150 per meeting unless the appointing authority approves a different salary. The motion, approved 3-1 with Berger dissenting, will increase the chairman’s compensation to $300 per month and members’ compensation to $250 per month.
Even though White voted in favor of the motion, he said there is an element of public service on other boards with members who do not receive compensation but do earn stipends for their service.
Following a public hearing with one person speaking for and one against, commissioners unanimously agreed to partner with the city of Wilmington on an incentive grant for Castle Branch, at a cost of up to $50,000 per year for five years.
Commissioners also unanimously approved to loan the county airport authority $4.5 million for an airport rental car facility and to deconstruct the stack at the former Wastec facility for safety reasons at a cost no more than $300,000.