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JoCo Board handles its February business briskly

New Johnston County Tax Administrator Sheila Garner, who took over the job at the start of 2014, reported to the board that revenue collection is going well. The only exception came in the case of motor vehicle taxes, where the collection rate has actually dropped since the state took over collection under the “tax and tag” law. (NL photo by John Cate)
By John Cate

The business before the Johnston County Board of Commissioners that directly affected the town of Princeton during the February meeting didn't take long to be enacted. Neither did anything else.
Midway through the Monday morning meeting, the board unanimously signed off on a resolution to issue the $19 million in school and community college bonds that were approved by the voters last November. The bonds cover capital projects in the various Johnston County Schools and at Johnston Community College. Included in the former is $3 million for a new, regulation-size gym at Princeton High School.
Toward the end of the meeting, two Princeton residents were the candidates before the board for one open spot on the Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action Board. One candidate was Bob Atkinson, who had held a seat on the board for the last eight years. Also applying for appointment was Stephen Ruberg, a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor who filed an application in mid-January. The board decided to reappoint Mr. Atkinson to the seat.
The entire meeting lasted only about an hour, with most agenda items moved through quickly. The most important was probably an appearance by Economic Development Director Chris Johnson, who was joined by Ted Abernathy, a long-time public policy consultant. The two spoke to the board about creating a long-term strategic plan for economic development in the county, based on a similar statewide plan that was completed last week. It is based on product development and marketing, and is done more in the form of an agenda, with expected outcomes and time frames for accomplishing those outcomes. 
Mr. Johnson took note of the fact that different parts of the county have different needs, and said that plan would have to cover all areas of the county.
"What might work in Clayton might not work in Princeton," he told the board.
The request to develop the plan was approved by the board. Funding for this type of work was already budgeted for this year.
County Manager Rick Hester proposed to the board that the annual planning work session be held on Feb. 21 at Johnston Community College. Mr. Hester wanted to make sure that this was acceptable to the board before he requested the space from the college. Everyone was agreeable with the date, and some possible agenda items were even discussed. The board agreed that the work session would start at 8:30 that morning.
The Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department asked for and received tax-exempt loan status from the board so that they could secure a $470,458 loan from the Local Government Credit Union for the purchase of a 2014 Pierce Pumper Tanker Truck. The department informed the board that their existing truck was costing more in repairs every month than the cost of making payments on a new truck.
The board acceded to a request from the towns of Clayton and Pine Level that the county enforce its three-month-old Erosion and Sediment Control ordinance within those towns. Currently, regulations on erosion and sediment control within those towns is enforced by the state.

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