Duplin GOP asks for more transparency in county meetings (2024)

KENANSVILLE — There was a full house at the County Commissioners meeting Monday night as the board approved the FY 2024-25 budget ordinance.

During public comment, Angela B. Mainor praised County Manager Bryan Miller and his team for a job well done putting the budget together and making it easy for the people of Duplin County to understand. She also thanked the board and said it was the first time in many years she was pleased with it.

Andrew Odom, Duplin County Republican Party Chair who had also signed up for public comment, addressed the board asking for them to consider video recording the meetings and live streaming or broadcasting them after the fact.

“There are a number of counties, including Wayne, Onslow, Jones, Lenoir, Pender, Sampson, that all do that in some regard,” said Odom, pointing out that nowadays it is so simple, even churches are live streaming on Sunday mornings. He added that having that feature would be an asset for the county as they can better serve the public who are not able to attend.

“We just feel like it would be a great way to maintain the transparency of the commissioners’ meeting, as well as allow some of the members of the community that can’t get out, whether it be because they are homebound, or they’re just older, or they have meetings in other regards,” said Odom. “There’s also been some issues in the past with meetings being up to date on the website, that sort of thing, so this would be one way to get past that, to be able to have these. And with technology being as simple as it is, it really doesn’t require a lot of money or a lot of technology. You can use an iPhone and just upload it to YouTube after the fact.”

Odom told Duplin Journal that he had sent a few emails but has not gotten a response.

“I’ve been bringing this up through emails. I’ve sent four emails now to the group of commissioners and the county manager and I haven’t gotten one email in return. Not even so much as saying, ‘hey, got your email. Thanks for sending it.’ Nothing,” said Odom.

He pointed out that it should be simple to record the meetings as there is a camera that feeds the TV in the lobby’s overflow space.

“I don’t understand why we can show it that way, but we can’t record it and broadcast it,” said Odom. “It’s not like there is a lack of technology because the technology is already in place… All you got to do is press record and it will record the whole meeting and then go home and put it on YouTube.”

After public comment closed, Miller thanked Mainor for her comments, crediting the budget team and the finance director.

Mainor’s and Miller’s comments were echoed by other members of the board.

“Two years ago, our county implemented a significant pay raise,” said Commissioner Justin Edwards, explaining that it was funded by COVID money for two years. “At the end of that two years, we knew that our county would have to pay for it out of pocket through ad valorem taxes and the other revenue streams … for 18 months we have worked on securing that. And I’m proud of this budget because we have funded that and given a 5% cost of living adjustment, and we have not had to raise ad valorem taxes any to make it happen.”

Commissioner Edwards remarked that 5% is not much considering the cost-of-living increases everyone has seen over the last few years, and he felt that they needed to help their employees in some way.

“We have been able to do that by giving that COLA, but also respecting our taxpayers and hoping they still feel valued with our county and with our elected leaders,” said Commissioner Edwards. “I give hats off to Bryan and our finance department, and the majority of our department heads, they have bent over backwards to come together and work and make all of these things happen and I am proud of that.”

Commissioner Elwood Garner also thanked the team and everyone who contributed to making the budget.

“It’s probably been one of the easier budgets that we have had to deal with in a rock good while with what we were facing. I was not looking forward to this in January, but with the team that Mr. Miller has assembled, it is not hard. Y’all have done a tremendous job keeping our employees in mind and the taxpayers — that, can be a hard battle.”

Chair Dexter Edwards added that it was all about teamwork.

“You know, it has been a really good exercise, probably one of the most transparent teamwork budgets that I’ve been involved in since I have been a part of the board,” said Chair Edwards, thanking Miller for his leadership and for recognizing his team.

“We’re doing a lot in this county with all the expansion we have out in the building processes and what we have laid out and continue, and a lot of that is accomplished through having good support from our state leaders as well, helping us with some funding. … As chairman of this board, I say it is one of the easiest things that I do because of how y’all work so diligently together for common cause.”

In other business:

Mainor asked the board to consider making Juneteenth a holiday for Duplin County Employees.

Cindy Sallis brought up road concerns about Popeye Road and Hunting Club Road. “Popeye Road can be absolutely devastating, especially after it rains,” said Sallis about the gravel road. “You have to drive incredibly slow— it’s such a mess, and Hunting Club also is, I’ve heard a number of people complaining it’s pretty bad.”

Miller shared that re-stripping for Penny Branch Road in Warsaw is now on NC DOT’s schedule.

The board approved Miller’s request to cancel the first meeting in July as customary due to the holiday.

The next meeting will be held on July 15.

Duplin GOP asks for more transparency in county meetings (2024)
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