January 20, 2016
Public turnout is low for town hall on freezing night
By CATHERINE KOZAK
temperatures may have put a chill on public turnout at the Dare County
Board of Commissioner’s second annual town hall meeting in Manteo on
Tuesday evening, when more county employees were in attendance than
members of the community.
Compared with last year’s gathering, which lasted 2 ½ hours with about
20 people coming to the microphone, only a handful of people made
comments to the board during a meeting that lasted about an hour.
“Wow! That’s a good feeling,” board Chairman Bob Woodard said, seeing
no more questions from the audience after the fifth speaker. “We must
be doing a good job.”
Issues that were raised by speakers included concerns about water
quality, the county libraries and the drug problem, as well as a poorly
lit road and a county workforce that can barely afford to live in the
“Our libraries are a focus of visits from lots (of people),” said Bob
Muller, a former mayor of Nags Head. “They need to look good. The Kill
Devil Hills library’s carpets need to be replaced – and don’t take it
out of the books’ money.”
Muller also encouraged the board to resume water quality monitoring in
the county, and to develop strategies to better address wastewater and
On another issue, Charles Earley told the board that drug abuse and addiction in the county has “touched my heart.”
“It affects a lot of our families, our kids,” he said. “I think we need
to come together and really tackle this problem. We need to find a
Responding, Commissioner Wally Overman said that when he helped start a
task force to address substance abuse about 18 months ago, he was told
that there were about 120 school children in the county who were
exposed directly and indirectly to drugs.
“You are absolutely right,” Overman said to Earley. “It’s a
crucial issue for Dare County . . . There’s no simple answer.”
The task force was working on a list of laws that would address the
problem, he said. He said the county also needs additional
resources for education, treatment, prevention and law enforcement.
Commissioners Jack Shea and Warren Judge also cautioned that abuse is
not limited to illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine or marijuana.
“Prescription drugs are actually a bigger problem,” Judge said.
In acknowledging that pain relief is an important concern, Shea also
said that attention must be paid to where people are getting the
“Doctors need to prescribe drugs that are not subject to addiction,” he said.
Hatteras Commissioner Allen Burrus, who has long advocated for
substance abuse programs in the community, said that the problem “takes
a village” to tackle and requires education.
“It is about people helping people,” he said. “If you don’t do that, it ain’t going to work.”
Woodard had Dare County employees stand to recognize their dedication
to their work. He said that the county plans to do a salary study in
the coming year “to help these folks. "
In closing, Woodard lauded the county’s accomplishments in the last year.
“Does this board have all the answers? Heck no,” he said. “But I can tell you one thing – we have tackled the tough issues.”
A second Town Hall meeting is scheduled on Hatteras Island on Thursday, Feb. 4., at 6:30 p.m. at the Fessenden Center.