With the U.S. 70 bypass being worked on for the future, the Corridor Commission wanted to solidify its structure in the present.
On Thursday, the Highway 70 Corridor Commission approved a document to formalize its bylaws and to also allow municipalities to join the board. Before the approval, only counties could be a part of the commission.
Robin Comer — Chairman of the Highway 70 Corridor Commission and a Carteret County Commissioner — said the board wanted to have a language on the document to have more members in case the municipalities wanted to play a part in the decision.
“This used to be all initiated by the counties,” Comer said. “I feel like the Highway 70 corridor is important to the east, as well as transportation is concerned and municipalities should take a strong interest in it.”
Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy wanted the vote postponed until he could converse with administrators about the possible negative effects it could have on the city, but the commission approved it anyway.
“The city is concerned about the possibility of our taxpayers, who are also county taxpayers, having to pay extra money to get the same results,” Murphy said. “Therefore, our only request was to delay the vote so the Kinston City Council or Lenoir County Transportation Committee could at least review a document that they haven’t seen.”
The commission didn’t feel inclined to make alterations in its push to solidify the bylaws.
“ Kinston asked questions during the meeting, but Kinston isn’t a member,” Comer said. “We fielded their questions, but I didn’t feel obliged to delay the process. This has been talked about and worked on for almost a year.”
Comer also said the commission would be more than happy to work with Kinston in finding a healthy compromise.
“Things can be changed in the future to work it toward everyone’s benefit,” Comer said. “We will work with them as they want to work with us. We’re not making laws. We’re a group advocating the corridor and we just want to keep this project on track.”
Lenoir County Commissioner J. Mac Daughety — also the vice chair of the Highway 70 Corridor Commission — said the commission had been in place for about five years and needed the structure in the organization.
“This started as a loosely organized coalition without the necessary structure and bylaws,” Daughety said. “It was brought to our attention when we tried to seek funding for economic impact study, which would be a huge economic benefit for all cities and counties around the Highway 70 Corridor. We needed to do things in an organized manner, which is the standard for boards and commissions.”
In a statement to The Free Press earlier this month, Daughety said a route will be picked in late 2014 or early 2015 and the construction may start as early as 2017.
“They’ve narrowed down to about five routes as of now, but there isn’t a definite determinant on one,” Comer said. “We’re still looking at a number of best routes, but there are a lot of factors to analyze, like environmental archeology and land acquisition. We’re still at a study stage and there would be a lot of public input on that.”
Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said there haven’t been any discussions about the document because the administrators hadn’t had the opportunity to take a look at it.
“The city council and city of Kinston has not seen the document,” Sears said. “It has only recently been available.”
Sears did acknowledge how Lenoir County has shown a willingness to incorporate Kinston into the commission.
“ Lenoir County was gracious enough to allow the city of Kinstonto have a seat at the table, and we really appreciate the relationship we have with the county,” Sears said. “One of the points I made in (Thursday’s) meeting was any municipality who does the $10,000 buy-in should be able to select who they want to serve, instead of putting forth a slate of individuals for them to select from.”
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.