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RALEIGH, NC— On May 10, Onslow County Vice-Chairman Royce Bennett and Commissioner Mark Price met with state legislators in Raleigh to advocate for county priorities as part of County Assembly Day. The event, which was hosted by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, is held each year to give county commissioners and other county officials the opportunity to talk to state leaders about issues affecting their communities. Among other things, counties discussed the need for public school facility funding, fast and reliable internet access for underserved areas of North Carolina, and providing flexibility to publish required public notices through electronic means.
“We got to meet with most of the members of [Onslow County’s] delegation and speak with them about things that are going to impact our county,” said Commissioner Price. “We talked with them about the needs of school construction due to House Bill 13 and the need for additional classrooms. We also advocated for rejection of a bill in the [state] Senate that proposes a new model for the Department of Social Services, as we feel it is already similar to the current broken model that exists for handling mental health.”
As part of County Assembly Day, county commissioners visited legislative offices to meet with members of their delegation and advocate on behalf of counties. Legislators also joined county commissioners for lunch on the Halifax Mall lawn outside the General Assembly to strengthen their relationships and continue the dialogue on county issues.
“Together, Commissioner Price and I spoke with Representatives George Cleveland, Chris Millis and Phil Shepard. We were grateful for them taking time to meet with us,” explained Vice-Chairman Bennett. “We had lunch with Representative Shepard, which provided a good opportunity to communicate with him and express our views on the issues that affect Onslow County.”
The event kicked off with remarks from Governor Roy Cooper, who emphasized the importance of empowering local leaders to make local decisions. He discussed his goals to bring jobs to the state, expand broadband access, and help local communities invest in water and sewer and other infrastructure projects. The Governor also stressed the need for the state and local government to work together to ensure North Carolina can compete in the global economy. He said that education must be the focal point of that effort and that having a highly trained workforce is instrumental in attracting businesses to North Carolina. Vice-Chairman Bennett and Commissioner Price both voiced their support of the NCACC’s goal to provide reliable funding for public school facilities.
Bennett: “To meet the requirements that the legislature places on school facilities, we need to advocate for increased funding from the state because Onslow County’s options are limited in raising revenue to build school facilities.”Price: “Long-term education is the core of what all businesses are looking for. Since Onslow is a growing county, we understand we must meet that need to provide strong education backgrounds for our students. We also discussed additional lottery funds being designated for school construction; I believe our state delegation agreed with us on that.”
Counties also heard from House Majority Leader John Bell, who shared his insight on the budget process. He commended commissioners for engaging with legislators and welcomed new ideas to address complex challenges facing the state such as aging infrastructure and school construction needs. In addition, prominent Democratic and Republican political strategists, Morgan Jackson and Paul Shumaker, and NCACC leaders discussed the latest political developments affecting counties. Both Vice-Chairman Bennett and Commissioner Price spoke to leaders about the actions being taken to help Onslow County succeed.
“We are working with Jacksonville-Onslow Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce to increase business and industrial activity in Onslow County,” said Bennett. “For Onslow to continue to grow and supply the needs of its citizens, we will continue to provide an economic climate desirable to companies seeking to conduct business in Onslow County.”
“The opioid crisis is a problem across the state of North Carolina,” said Price. “The Senate budgeted $250,000 for New Hanover County on a model to move forward fighting the opioid issue there. We need to address that same crisis here in Onslow County.”
The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) is the official voice of all 100 counties on issues being considered by the General Assembly, Congress and federal and state agencies. The Association provides expertise to counties in the areas of advocacy, research, risk management and education and leadership training.
Pictured L-R: Onslow County Commissioner Mark Price, NC Rep. Phil Shepard, Onslow County Vice-Chairman Royce Bennett