Water, water everywhere, and not a palatable drop to drink ... or any way to get to the source if you could.
    The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners approved its $276 million budget Monday, June 9, but issued warnings that there are a number of issues not addressed in this budget that are rolling down on the county like a runaway train — particularly the issues of providing enough clean water and providing transportation for county residents, including the influx of military families that will flood the area when the Base Realignment and Closure gets going full tilt.
    “We’re going to have to do some serious soul searching during next year about what, if anything, we’re going to do about transportation in this county,” said Commissioner Billy King. “Our partners in the city are talking but no effort is being made and we’re just going to have to decide if we want some type of authority or do we not want to get into the business at all. But it seems to me we have to answer that question up or down. We are growing; BRAC is coming, there is intense discussion about transportation and so I think in years to come, perhaps the next budget, there will be a hard discussion about transportation.”
    {mosimage}The commissioners are waiting on a state-sponsored study on transportation before they throw themselves headfirst into the fray.
    Despite the dire warnings of trouble on the horizon the commissioners unanimously approved the budget — a budget that includes a 2-cent property tax reduction, with the rate dropping from 88 cents to 86 cents per valuation. The reduction will save property owners of a $200,000 home about $20.
    The commissioners also moved $142,000 into a fuel account to prepare for ever-rising gas costs.
    The commissioners also put some heat on the county’s Fire Chief’s Association, which wants to raise the fee for fire district members. However, that was not voted on by the commissioners who said that state law requires the members of a fire district to approach the commissioners with a petition asking for a 5-cent increase in the fire districts.
    “The onus is on them (Fire Chief’s Association) to get the petition for a special election,” said Chairman Breeden Blackwell, “an election we (the county) would have to pay for. We’d have to pay for that election.”
In the end, all the commissioners agreed it was the best possible compromise for a budget they could come up with, though King suggested numerous issues that need to be discussed months before next year’s budget process so the commissioners will be ready to make some hard decisions.
    “We’re going to have to decide if we want good water for all our citizens,” said King, “which I see as a right. The Parks and Recreations needs attention, and I don’t think the county can continue to receive money from the hospital in the long term.
    “And if we’re going to have a transportation system, we need to go ahead and say so,” said King. “If we’re not, we need to go ahead and say that.”
    Blackwell suggested the commissioners start getting together in January to discuss the issues facing the county.
“I hope the citizens understand that it’s going to be at a snail’s pace,” said Blackwell. “We’re going to have to take baby steps.”

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