Officials take advantage of voter apathy to push library boondoggle
PERQUIMANS COUNTY — When we spoke to a Perquimans Commissioner about the proposed new library, among the various excuses used to justify the project, was the prospect that the existing library lacked meeting rooms for community groups and it also lacked off street parking.
We already knew that there was vacant land adjacent to the library on the same street and that this vacant land extended to the rear with frontage on another street. We considered then that trees could be removed so that this vacant property could be used as off street parking for the library.
We noticed a one-story building adjacent to the library, which appeared to be vacant, so when we checked it out, we found that this was the old senior center, which has recently been replaced by a new building.
The old senior center is owned by the County for community meetings — if requested — but elected officials appear intent to ignore citizen complaints about the improper use of tax money, and go forward with the new library project.
In checking the exterior of the former senior center, there is nothing that stands out as a problem, therefore we presume that any occupancy concerns could be resolved with a small amount of maintenance. The rear of the former senior center is but a few feet from the left side of the current library.
It seems reasonable that an enclosed connection could be made between the two buildings that would protect visitors from having to go outside in order to get from one building to the other.
The matter of off-street parking and site work to be performed at the new library location has not been factored into the bids for the new library building.
Therefore, creating parking at the old location will be no more expensive than it will be at the new location.
Clearly, the concerns about meeting space and off-street parking are nothing but a smokescreen to justify a new building. Commissioner Peeler, whom we interviewed for our previous article, stated that all of these options were discussed by the commissioners before a decision was made to go forward with the new library project.
In view of these representations, this reporter has requested documents from County Manager Frank Heath to include copies of the minutes of Commissioner Meetings where these alternatives were discussed. In addition, we have requested copies of any studies that were performed before deciding to go forward – and decision that calls for spending $2.5 million or more on a new library that appears to be unneeded.
We were surprised that Commissioner Peeler supported this project since he appeared to be one of the few conservatives on the Board of Commissioners. In fact, it was he who argued on behalf of citizens against the wind energy project just a few months ago. Now, however, he seems to have changed his tune with respect to this proposed library project.
Perquimans County has various buildings that they own, which are vacant and could be used as meeting sites with a little bit of maintenance and upkeep. One such building is at the corner of Edenton Road and Grubb Street. It is a one-story building with a flat roof, which has some off street parking and there is a vacant shopping center just across the street. Likewise, the new senior center has a large gathering space, which could be used for meetings of a single group, after hours.
There are two offices in the new senior center, one of which is rented by Commission Chairman, Janice Cole.
As it has been said before; where there is a will there is a way and where there is no will there is no way. It sure looks as though the Commissioners are part of the no way crowd.
Finally, we need to consider this project in the context of the money that it will take to build. Even though Perquimans County is sitting on a massive fund balance (also known as ‘rainy day fund’) officials are considering borrowing the money to build the library so that they can sit on the millions in this fund balance.
Apparently, the fact that money can be borrowed so cheaply right now is a major factor in this decision.
But if they are getting ready to raise taxes, why do they need to do so when they have already overtaxed their citizens? It sure appears that officials want to keep their money while fattening reserves at taxpayers’ expense.
Is this the type of fiscal management that you expected from your local government?
At a recent County Commission meeting, three3 ordinary citizens spoke against the library project while two people spoke in favor of it — one of whom was on the Library Board. One citizen sent in a letter, which was read into the record, stating his opposition to the library and suggesting alternatives.
In the end, however, the Commissioners voted to accept the financing proposal from BB&T Bank at 1.88 percent interest with no prepayment penalty.
One opponent of the library project stated that he had been to every County Commission meeting since last year. Unfortunately, the commissioners don’t really care what the 900 or so people who spoke about the Wind Energy project think — so why would we expect them to see it our way on the library project?
They just push ahead with Pet Projects and ignore the citizens! Do the Commissioners rely on voter apathy and get away with it?