a special meeting Wednesday night, March 7, the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax
Board approved recommending a grant of $10,000 to Hyde County’s
collaboration in hiring a lobbyist to fight the impending ferry toll
Beaufort and Pamlico counties hired the husband-and-wife team of Joe
and Henri McClees of Oriental to lobby legislators in Raleigh to fight
last year’s legislative mandate to increase the tolls on the coastal
ferries. Hyde County commissioners, in a recent meeting,
join the two counties in this effort.
the commissioners’ March 5 meeting, they learned that the Mainland
Occupancy Tax Board voted not to give any money to this effort,
although it did give the Engelhard Development Corporation $2,000 for a
into survival here,” said Wayne Clark, owner of Edward’s of Ocracoke
and a board member, in support of the appropriation.
Styron, the county commissioner who represents Ocracoke, said that
dealing with government nowadays is a lot more technical and that this
couple, between them, has 30 years of lobbying experience.
McCleeses were on Ocracoke a couple of weeks ago to talk about this
issue after Gov. Bev Perdue’s issued an executive order placing a
moratorium on all new ferry tolls across the state.
they (the legislators) can overturn that,” Styron said of Perdue’s
McCleeses, at the earlier meeting, said they would organize a big media
event later in the spring, but urged citizens to continually contact
legislators to voice their opposition to higher ferry tolls, which is,
in effect, more tax.
affects Ocracoke dramatically,” Styron continued about the ferry toll
issue. “This whole thing with the tolling of the Hatteras
is going to come back.”
legislative mandate not to toll the Hatteras-Ocracoke and Knotts Island
ferries is only applicable for this year and next.
Gibbs, Hyde County finance manager, attended the meeting to confirm
that the county’s budget has no room to pay for the
a special commissioners’ meeting in February, the board voted to pay
almost $3 million in outstanding bills for debris clean-up from
Hurricane Irene out of its investment funds, or fund balance.
the county has submitted this bill to the Federal Emergency Management
Agency for reimbursement, payment is not guaranteed, she
This payment caused Hyde to reduce its fund balance to close to the
state-mandated 8 percent of the total budget. So, Hyde cannot
appropriate the $10,000 for lobbyists out of that fund, and the rest of
the operating budget is “down to the bare bones,” she said.
fact of the matter is you know what a mess eastern North Carolina is in
for the foreseeable future,” noted Rudy Austin, who was in the audience
of about six. “You already see that they are putting a toll
the poorest area of the state."
that islanders don’t have the time and expertise to hang out in
Raleigh, he urged the board to contribute the $10,000 since the
McCleeses understand the fight, being from a coastal area, and they
know how to talk to people in Raleigh.
last 25 years are gone,” he said, referring to the good representation
eastern North Carolina had in retired state Sen. Marc
“We need to thank our lucky stars that we got our roads and the bridges
added that the county may set up a fund to which citizens can
contribute for this lobbying effort. The Hyde County Chamber
Commerce has contributed $300 towards the lobbyist filing fee, she said.
also urged the Occupancy Tax Board to consider doing a special
advertising campaign to attract more spring and fall tourists—for this
year and years hence.
beach closures, beach permit fees, higher gas prices, among other
things, some tourists are electing not to come to Ocracoke.
concern is over the next several years,” he said. “The
tax amount over the years has been trending south. Most of
is from fishermen, and the transportation system is fragile.
(an advertising campaign) is successful, it will bring in more tax.”
board will work on this idea in the next several weeks.
READ MORE ON FERRY TOLLS
rally support for no ‘ferry tax’
Governor aiming to block ferry toll increases
Hyde County is gearing up to take on
legislators over ferry tolls
Ocracokers turn out in force to oppose
increase in ferry tolls