Staff photo by Allison Potter
New Hanover County commissioners Beth Dawson, middle, and Thomas Wolfe confer with county manager Chris Coudriet as commissioner Brian Berger, left, leaves the room following an agenda briefing on Thursday, Sept. 12, at the county government center.
Commissioner Brian Berger will remain in his seat on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners until further notice, but with some rules.
Board members will wait to see how Berger behaves before scheduling another amotion hearing.
Chairman Woody White announced the decision during the first Monday, Sept. 16, meeting agenda item, which was an administrative discussion about the judge’s order reinstating Berger to his seat. White was the only commissioner who spoke during the seven minute long item.
“For now, we’re not going to set another amotion hearing,” White said. “We’re going to wait and see how Mr. Berger does.”
Within the same motion, which passed 4-1 with Berger dissenting, White listed six rules Berger must follow.
The first rule states Berger must be on time for all public meetings and not disrupt proceedings. He arrived to Monday’s 9 a.m. meeting at 8:57 a.m.
Berger will not be given a key to any buildings and is only permitted in county offices and buildings during business hours. He must call ahead to notify county staff that he is coming and must be escorted by a deputy sheriff.
He will not be allowed to use county owned vehicles or have a county credit card. Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr. is the only commissioner with a county credit card, but Berger has requested a county card multiple times.
Berger refused to comment after the meeting.
The county has spent more than $1 million on outside assistance related to the solid waste discussion since July 2007. Nearly $350,000 has been spent on consultancy, and more than $650,000 has been spent on legal counsel so far.
During the last agenda item, commissioners unanimously motioned to postpone the decision about the direction of solid waste for three weeks.
Vice chairwoman Beth Dawson and Commissioner Thomas Wolfe said they wanted more time to analyze options.
Environmental management director Joe Suleyman presented a quick summary of the history to commissioners before their discussion.
“We’ve been down this road before,” Suleyman said. “This will be really the fourth iteration for this department really trying to address some of the very same issues we’re trying to address today.”
Barfield said he has been involved in most of the solid waste discussion, and brought up the Covanta contract the board formally rejected in January 2013.
“It’s interesting that our previous board directed staff to enter a contract with Covanta and then decided not to follow through with that contract,” Barfield said, questioning what occurred after the agenda briefing and before the regular meeting to change board members’ minds. “… For me, this county has spent an awful lot of money on consultants and reports, and we’re coming back to the same answers.”
He estimated after CDM Smith’s consulting work is complete, the county will have spent more than $600,000 on solid waste consultants and reports since 2008, significantly lower than the actual amount.
White said he took issue with some of Barfield’s comments.
“His comments had a number of inconsistencies,” White said. “He’s concerned about tax dollar spending, with spending on consultants, but he voted in favor of the Covanta contract that would have put a $330 million price tag on burning trash for the next 20 years, almost doubling our tip fee. … He talks about pollution and the trucks driving from here to Sampson County, a convenient, notable exception to that is the tens of thousands of tons of trash that Wastec, which he advocates for, go into our atmosphere.”
Commissioners received a proposal on Friday from Waste Industries. The solid waste conversation will continue during the Oct. 7 meeting.