Highway 70 Corridor Commission Questioned
A meeting notice for the US 70 Corridor Commission, and the subsequent agenda mailed to invited parties, sparked a flurry of emails between Chairman Robin Comer and BJ Murphy, Mayor of Kinston.
I spoke with BJ Murphy, Mayor of Kinston regarding his concerns and he was particularly bothered by the agenda going out without an attachment or supporting documentation on what the line item “Organizational Structure” would be. He believes the Commission is planning to turn the present organization into a lobbying entity. In addition, as it presently stands, only counties are allowed to have representation on the board – not municipalities.
The background on the Highway 70 Corridor Commission is as follows:
HWY. 70 Corridor Commission began as a County Commission, created by representatives from 5 counties to forward the progress of Highway 70 from Raleigh to the coast. The 70 corridor has been an NCDOT backed project, as it was included in the Transportation Improvement Plan more than 10 years ago.
The project is well under way with some sections complete and others in mid-phase.
Each county pays $25,000 a year to be a part of the commission and 4 county government officials from each are on the board.
$90,000 of that money pays Durwood Stephenson as the executive director. Stephenson is a former NCDOT Board member.
The following emails capture Mayor Murphy’s concerns, and the responses by Chairman Comer and one other Commission member:
“Chairman Comer and Highway 70 Corridor Commission,
The agenda for Thursday’s meeting includes an item on “Organizational Structure”. My understanding is that the cities along highway 70 are financially impacted by the proposed document. On behalf of the City of Kinston, I would respectfully request that this item be limited to discussion only until our elected body is able to review the proposed document. The Kinston City Council would be happy to review this proposal at our next regularly scheduled board meeting.
Mayor, City of Kinston”
No city is financially impacted at all. We have language that allows the cities to participate “at will” as an official member. This would be at a rate considerably less than counties participate.
I personally would like the cities to commit their input as I feel their presence I’m important, but it is at will.
My goal is to get the organization official ASAP, which hopefully is today.
Carteret County Commissioner”
Counties collect taxes from city taxpayers also. To ask cities to either join at will or to have their respective county pay more from our tax dollars seems to be an issue worth having a discussion at the municipal level. My only request is that the cities be given the right to review this.
However, if your organization moves forward regardless of this request, then I would ask a revision be made that would negate the extra tax payment and make one of the four county appointees a municipal appointee. We all save tax dollars and your organization gets input from cities without growing the size of the board.
Mayor, City of Kinston”
I agree with Chairman Comer. We have worked on this with the blessing of the entire Corridor Commission for almost 4 months. We have shared with our members the basic details of what we were trying to achieve with this document.
Chairman Comer is correct , there is no financial impact on any entity by approving or not approving this document.
Much like our communities association in almost all of these coalitions or associations we aren’t committed to any financial impact unless we choose with our individual governing body.
In this document the only financial consideration is the cost of the option of membership. Once we finalize the document them all entities should take that documentation back to the body they represent and then that body will have the option of making a financial commitment or not.
This document doesn’t commit any municipality or entity to a financial commitment, it only outlines what that financial commitment would be if said entity chose the right of membership.
I support a vote today on this item so we can move on to other important business of the Commission.
J Mac Daughety
The Executive Search Corporation
Over the past four months has this Organizational document been presented to the Lenoir County Transportation Committee, Lenoir County Board of Commissioners and/or the Kinston City Council for any input or review? We had a Lenoir County Transportation Committee meeting yesterday with a quorum present. In the past, all transportation related matters have been taken under advisement by the LCTC, which met yesterday.
All I’ve asked is that the City Council be given an opportunity to review this document. This document was not supplied with the Agenda for the 70 Corridor meeting being held today nor with our LCTC agenda, but has been worked on for four months.
I’m not understanding why this request is being given so much push back. At a time when the State is trying to take politics out of transportation, the US 70 Corridor Commission is becoming a lobbying entity made up of local government and taxpayer dollars to lobby DOT and state legislators with very little checks and balances from those very organizations.