bills that are being considered on the state level by the General
Assembly were seemingly the primary topic of conversation at the April
3 meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.
than a dozen local residents took to the podium during the public
comments section, and the majority of these comments were focused on
three new bills that have a direct effect on Dare County.
these bills included the state’s House Bill 531, which focuses on how
the occupancy tax funds should be used, House Bill 265 and Senate Bill
94, which proposes partisan school board elections, and House Bill 271
and Senate Bill 539, which repeals the current ban on plastic bags for
the majority of Dare County.
during the public comment section included the Chair of the Dare County
Tourism Board and pro-tem Nags Head mayor Susie Walters, the Chair of
the Dare County Board of Education Bea Basnight, and Ivy Ingram of the
Surfrider Foundation – among many others.
sets an exceedingly dangerous precedence, and causes folks to take
sides on issues that have no business in partisan bickering,” said a
local resident in regards to the education-related bill. “I myself have
personally benefitted from the even-handed education this county has
own and operate the Waterfront Shops in Duck,” said resident Matthew
Price, while speaking against the repeal of the plastic bags, “and
since the ban, we’ve noticed a lot less plastic bags in our sound and
also informally polled out tenants… [and] nearly 90% are all in favor
of this ban,” he added. “These are all smaller businesses that use
paper bags, and even if the ban were introduced, would still use paper
bags because they see such a great benefit to the community, wildlife
and nature in our area.”
were specific reasons behind the opposition for each of the
aforementioned bills, but a common theme throughout seemed to be that
many folks believed that local input wasn’t being taken into
consideration for these ‘local’ bills.
Kelly, one of the many public commenters, has been a volunteer on
numerous area boards for 20 years, and served on the Currituck County
Chamber of Commerce. During her comments, she generated a round of
applause for her summation. “[This is the] first time I have heard so
many comments in a public comment period on state bills, where local
bills have been introduced, and where you, [the Board of
Commissioners], have not directed their introduction.”
time for a town hall meeting [or some other forum] with state officials
to see what they are doing without our direction.”
a result of the engaged public comment period – as well as many emails
and phone calls that a number of board members reported receiving – the
BOC unanimously approved to draft a resolution opposing two of the
bills on hand.
Item 11 on the BOC meeting agenda, the board agreed to oppose the
“North Carolina House Bill 271 to Repeal the Plastic Bag Ban.”
oppose the repeal of the bag ban. I’ve heard [our constituents] loud
and clear,” said Hatteras Island Commissioner Danny Couch.
boils down to [the fact that] local bills are supposed to - or should
have - overwhelming or majority local support, and this bill does not
seem to meet that requirement,” added Commissioner Wally Overman.
concerned about this bill, and as one of our local residents stated
earlier, I’m opposed to local bills being proposed on the state level
without local support or local vetting,” said County Commissioner
Chairman Bob Woodard, who also noted during the discussion period that
he and his wife often have overflowing recycle bins. “Quite honestly, I
really and truly don’t understand that… how you could present something
without vetting it through your local community, especially if it’s a
12 on the agenda addressed one of the other unpopular state bills on
the table, the House Bill 265 to “Change Board of Education Elections
from Nonpartisan to Partisan.”
strong arguments against this bill were made by various community
members during the public comments section. Bea Basnight, Chair of the
Dare County Board of Education, listed three primary issues with the
bill, noting that the method itself to bring the bill to fruition –
without local input - was questionable, that the bill could damage
relations with the BOC as now party affiliation was in the mix, and the
new timing of the elections – which would change from summer to
November – would be detrimental.
there is time [before the school year starts] to make crucial planning
and financial decisions for our students and staff,” said Basnight,
noting that new board members who were voted in November instead of
during the summertime “need to be oriented to budget processes and
school operations at a time when our staff and board members are busy
taking care of our students… In education, we put students first,
The board agreed, especially when it came to the relationship with the board itself.
has no business in the school system,” said Woodard during the
discussion period. “This board has built an incredible relationship
with our school board, and I challenge any of the other 99 counties in
this state to have a relationship as strong as Dare County has with its
Board of Education. And I, personally, will do nothing that would
separate the relationship that these two boards have… I am highly
opposed to this legislation.”
island-related items of interest included a public comment from a
Buxton resident who proposed that leash laws be enacted for Hatteras
Island and / or other unincorporated parts of Dare County. Being a dog
owner herself, she noted that it would make it a lot easier to protect
her pets, while also making it easier to find the owner of stray dogs
that came up to her property. “Let’s eliminate this problem… Dogs need
to be on leashes if [they are] off their property,” she said,
mentioning that not having a leash law could lead to bites, dogs
getting hit by cars, and other area problems.
addition, per Item 14 in the meeting agenda, the board unanimously
approved distributing $125,000 towards the ongoing Hatteras Inlet
Manager Bobby Outten noted that the funds were part of a budget
amendment, and that all permits were in place, and that the MOA had
been recently been signed in DC and was en route to Raleigh to be
signed before landing in Wilmington.
MOA says the state will deposit $500,000 in an account so they can get
started as soon as they sign, and there’s a 25% match we have to make
so that’s $125,000, and we have a fund,” said Outten.
The motion to approve the funds was passed with no discussion.
next Dare County Board of Commissioner meeting will be on April 17 at 5
p.m. at the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo.