Commissioners Outline Priorities

Panel takes a look forward.

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The Harnett County Board of Commissioners outlined some of their priorities for the future of the county during their work session Tuesday morning.

County manager Paula Stewart led the discussion listing several areas the commissioners and county administration are focusing their efforts on.

“Each year we know what our priorities are, this year there are so many things, we wanted to get the board to help us prioritize,” she said.

Discussion began with the parks and recreation department and Director Carl Davis who gave commissioners an update on the ongoing and future projects, including the new Patriot Park in the western portion of the county.

He said despite the appearance, things are progressing.

“We’re on track there, it’s slower than the community would like to see, especially since we had the grand opening out there,” he said. “They see a sign that says coming soon and don’t see a lot of progress. Unfortunately its in the engineering and design process and not the construction process where you can actually see things going on.”

Commissioner Barbara McKoy raised concern about the African-American population of Harnett County having a misunderstanding about Anderson Creek County Park.

She said many are not aware the park is open to the public and is operated by the county.

“They think that the park belongs to Anderson Creek Club,” she said. “They don’t know it’s a public park. There’s confusion about it.”

Mr. Davis admitted the marketing of the park has not been as broad or as successful as he or other officials would like.

“I think we probably need to do a better job marketing the park out there,” he said.

One option the panel discussed was renaming the park to indicate it’s public usage.

The next area addressed was regarding broadband access throughout the county and what type of service is needed.

Assistant County Manager Brian Haney said a survey of residents about their internet needs and usage will soon get underway.

“We are working with a consultant to do a survey of the county’s residents to find out the type of service they have, what speeds they have and what they don’t have and what they want,” Mr. Haney said. “We’re trying to identify the gaps from a public standpoint.”

A substantial part of the survey is to determine what the public is willing to pay for and what their biggest issues are preventing them from having broadband, then taking the results to develop a plan.

“We want to be able to take that information it provides to entice them to come into Harnett County,” he said. “We want them to see us as a viable option to extend lines into other areas.”

As of right now, county officials can only partner with internet service providers to bring broadband to more people. Because of legislative decisions, counties are limited in what they can do.

“We’re looking at options as to how best to achieve that goal in the fiscal year format working with the companies,” Mr. Haney said.

Other areas discussed included ongoing demolitions and renovations such as Shawtown School, the new addition to the courthouse and demolition of the old jail.

“These are things we really want to get done,” Mrs. Stewart said. “We want to get the demolitions done as soon as possible. We’ve worked with Preservation NC on Boone Trail and on Erwin Elementary just to see what options we’ve got out there.”

Library consolidation was discussed as well. Mrs. Stewart said because of the cost to the county it was not addressed in the current budget.

“It would be a budget item for next year,” she said. “But we can look at not doing the total step down where the towns pay nothing or a partial step down.”

The panel also discussed upgrades at Harnett Regional Jetport, landfill space, animal services, the status of Harnett County in one of the Council of Government organizations and management of the county’s fleet of vehicles.

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