Southampton County needs to deal better with its economic woes

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In the past several months, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors has been going down the wrong economic road, against the guidance of the county citizens. The large majority of the people wish the sewage pipe line project would be delayed until the economy of the United States and Southampton County improve or they are completely against it. The county is feeling the same economic problems as the rest of the world. However, you would not believe that if you attend the Board of Supervisors meetings. They approved $26.5 million for the sewage system.

Here are some facts from the Davenport & Company LLC report:

1. The project cost is approximately $26.6 million with possible change orders that may add to that cost. However, at this level, prior to change orders, the total size of the financing would be in excess of $31 million due to additional borrowing to fund interest during construction of the project.

2. The construction spending schedule shows that more than $5 million will be required by year’s end.

3. Given that more construction dollars than the county currently has on hand will be needed until VRA funding becomes available on or about Dec. 15, Davenport recommends that the county pursue a short-term line of credit to bridge the gap.

The $31 million does not include the purchasing of the International Paper land and the buildings. We cannot afford to borrow all that money and give away thousands of dollars to anyone who requests it. An example of what I am talking about is PBS TV station WHRO requesting and receiving $2,500. If I want to make a donation to WHRO, I have an opportunity every night to make a donation to them and I don’t need the county to do this on my behalf. Other donations have been given to ball teams at a rate of $500 to $1,000, regardless of where they are from, i.e. Emporia, Suffolk, Sussex, etc. They also approved $6,000 for a county official to attend a meeting. The list goes on.

We have two choices: Stay at home and do nothing or get out to the board meetings and let the board members know that enough is enough. We can’t afford all these expenditures. Just look around at the number of houses for sale in the county, check out fuel and food costs and look at the decreased value of your financial assets. I think you will have to agree that this is not a strong economic time for our country or county.

If you think our county taxes are a burden now, wait until the new reassessments take place in two years, and the full annual payment on our county’s debt begins.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing for the bond issue, according to Davenport & Co., on Monday morning. The county must begin a responsible financial plan if Southampton is to survive in this tight economic time. We must get our financial situation in order right now. We desperately need to cut all unnecessary spending and cut back on all construction projects.

We must contact our supervisors and let them know where we stand, attend board meetings and speak up at public hearings.