No help for Newsoms?

Published 4:45 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2018

by Carol Drake Majors

Years ago, the town of Newsoms installed a system of drainage ditches to keep ground water from pilling up around buildings and in yards and streets. Excess water was directed through these ditches to the swamp on the south of the town. It worked for a time, but eventually nature, weather, trash dumpers and such filled these ditches with trash, dead plants and other debris. The flow of extra water was blocked to a large degree. Then highway 671 (General Thomas Highway) was built. This road covered the drainage ditches going from the north side of town to the swamp in the south. Culverts were put under this road, but after a time they were also filling up with mud or plant material, and only a small percent of the water was able to get through.

Today, the problem is severe. Several homes have been condemned and torn down. Several others are empty as the owners or renters could no longer live in the dampness caused by the standing water in the yards and under the houses.

People who live in the area are plagued with water problems. Mold and mildew coat walls, foundations are deteriorating, boards are rotting, metal is rusting, the smell is musty. Dampness is coming up through the floors. Some houses have large pools of water in the yards. Gardens have been flooded out. I wanted to add a room to the house I own in that area, and I was told I could not build it where I wanted to because there was too much standing water. Often people get their autos stuck in their yards.

The people who live in this area of Newsoms are low-income folks. Some are on fixed pensions, some live on Social Security, disability or welfare. Much of their money is invested in their house.

There are many infants and young children and there are seniors with health problems. A number of these residents have respiratory trouble. At the last Board of Supervisors meeting, a brave little woman stepped up to the podium and told the supervisors that often they would go to their church to worship, but had to turn their car around and go back home because the water on the road to their church was too deep for them to drive through. A number of times, I have gone to our local cemetery to visit my family graves and had to back my car all the way out down a narrow, one-way lane because the lane was inundated at the south end, and I feared I would not make it through. After a good rain, my water meter is several inches under water and stays that way for days. One Newsoms resident has, at her own expense, cleaned out the Newsoms town drainage ditch that runs through her yard so that her guests could get to her house. Our parsonage drive is sometimes impassable to our minister trying to get out, and to anyone wanting to get in to see her.

For a number of years, some residents of Newsoms have been making a valiant attempt to find some rescue from the continual inconvenience, home repair and unhealthy living conditions brought about from the lack of adequate drainage for the town. After several possible solutions proved unsuccessful, they found a government grant which is available to help solve problems like this one. Many, many volunteer hours have gone into the attempt to apply for this grant. We were turned down in favor of another applicant, and given some suggestions as to how to make a more favorable application. We have not yet been successful.

One year, the death of a key person in the application process caused us to lose it again. This year, we have a new hope. Mr. Craig Wilson and his company do grant applications for towns like ours. They would do all the work: surveys, forms, photographs, research, application processing — everything. The Board of Supervisors seemed to recommend this company as having a high success rating for acquiring grants such as the one we need.

The question now is where do we get the $30,000 that the services of this company will cost? Thirty-thousand dollars doesn’t sound like too much when one realizes that the grant for this entire project, over a period of years, could provide several million dollars. Newsoms does not have $30,000. Who does? The Southampton Board of Supervisors. This board exists to administer to, assist, and support the citizens and towns of Southampton County. We all pay considerable taxes to allow them to do this job.

At a recent joint meeting (workshop) of the Newsoms Town Council and the Board, right up front one board member said, “We do not have $30,000 to give Newsoms.”

This is not true. Well, the part about “to give Newsoms” may be true, but they DO have $30,000 to do with whatever they chose. The question is: Will they give it to Newsoms? Now, the board is made up of men who represent different areas of the county. This is to be sure everyone gets the same fair chance with their problems being considered by the board. So, on our side, we have one, maybe two members who feel justified in helping us with this crisis, plus our own representative, right? Wrong!

Unbelievably, our very own Newsoms person on the board, trusted and voted for by the people of Newsoms, Mr. Randolph Cook, will not lift a finger, or say a word to get us a penny or any help at all for our drainage problem. I can understand why. He is a kind, friendly man. His friends and neighbors in Newsoms have always liked him and been very proud of him as he started from humble beginnings, as do most of us here, and made such a success of his life with his good humor, hard work and diligence.

It would be difficult for him to have those friends and neighbors see him refuse to work to help us. On the other hand, it would be very difficult for him to go against the group of board members who have no sympathy with the water problem in Newsoms, especially board members who present their case with extremely aggressive vocal and body language. And it would not be to Mr. Cook’s best interest to defy people who can be of future support to him; so, he has decided on a reason to excuse himself from ANY connection with the Newsoms Drainage Problem whatsoever: He has a ‘friend’ who will be doing the work in Newsoms so he can’t take sides.

If this is a reason that is up eld by some authority, then Mr. Cook should be admired for his integrity. I would like to hear an unbiased authority tell us that Mr. Cook’s excuse is valid and he is correct for invoking it. If the application is successful, how is it decided on who gets the work? On a project such as this, won’t there be a number of companies working on various aspects?

Won’t the jobs go out for bids? Who takes the bids and decides on who gets the job? Unless it is the Southampton Board of Supervisors, how would Mr. Cook influence the decision? If the SB of S becomes the group to accept bids from company, then I can see why he would excuse himself from that particular vote, but only then, and I can’t see the government giving several million dollars to the Board and saying, “OK, go hire someone to do the work.”

And if Mr. Cook’s friend is the only person to do this job, how is Mr. Cook’s influence a factor? Newsoms needs help to influence a decision from our Board of Supervisors, and we are trying to get a favorable decision while handicapped with NO representation on the board.

In the meantime, the Southampton Board of Supervisors has found over $50,000 in the past year to give the Country Club to support the golfing activities and provide a place for the Schools to teach golf to any students who wish to learn. When someone complained that not many kids played golf, it came under discussion to find another sport that more kids play and try to give them some money to help justify giving 24 golf-playing kids, $50,000. They still do not seem to be able to “justify” helping Newsoms drain their town. One of the supervisors suggested that the money might be better spent on helping Newsoms acquire their much-needed grant. It wasn’t Mr. Cook. Mr. Cook voted to give the money to the Country Club for the golf course, and never mentioned the challenge facing his own town and neighbors.

CAROL DRAKE MAJORS, who lives in Newsoms, is a retired Army colonel. Contact her at 654-6368.