Michael Bobbitt: Notes From The Peanut Gallery (City Council March 24th, 2014)

Public Hearings

The City Council held the second of two mandated public hearings regarding Community Development Block Grants for infrastructure improvements. Although the City Council announces and holds public hearings the public appears uninterested or disinterested in providing input even when the city is going to apply for taxpayers’ money (a grant). There were two separate projects the Council sought the publics’ input. One project is for new sewer lines and the other is for improved fresh water lines. Both are needed and both would improve citizens’ health and welfare especially in the areas directly benefiting from the improvements. Council member Deake asked if property owners would connect to the new sewer lines. A cost apparently not paid with the grant funds. Council member Kearny said he had heard of opposition to the sewer lines. That opposition did not publically object. Council member Rainey asked if there was a health issue with septic fields in the area. Mr. Frazer indicated when it rains the ditches fill with water possibly with runoff from the areas’ stressed septic fields. The Council hearing no public input favoring or opposing either project voted for the additional sewer lines; community health was the trump card.

New Business

Three topics were on the new business agenda. The first of the new business topics was Ms. Bradford’s (Finance Director) explanation how one human error cascaded through the accounting system causing an audit issue then a mistaken resolution. Ms. Bradford presentation was a detailed entry-by-entry account of a technical correction to properly report the receipt of water reservation fee from Granville County and correcting the Vance County water reservation fee. When she finished Mayor Pro-Tem Rainey’s asked if everyone understood. His question although serious was comic relief for a bewildered audience.

The third New Business topic was in response to a citizen’s complained to the council about the pot holes in the streets of his neighborhood. Reverend William Brodie spoke to the Council about potholes in his neighborhood streets during the public comment period at the February 24th Council meeting. Mr. Frazer reported he didn’t count them all, as some are rather small, he agreed there are plenty of holes on Pinkston, Montgomery, Clark and Rocksprings Street and on Beckford Drive. Now that the holes have been confirmed the next task is for the city to patch the ones on city streets and to encourage the State to patch the ones on State maintained roads. Before the meeting started someone suggested renaming Beckford Drive to Lunar Drive; saying Lunar Drive was more a befitting name for Beckford Drive.

Public Comment

Seneca Jacobs representing Locklear, Locklear, and Jacobs an engineering firm came calling to do business for Henderson’s quest for EPA Brownfield funds. Mr. Jacobs sort of forgot to say he and his company are in Pembroke, NC not Henderson or Vance County. He also skipped over the part about his firm’s “diverse backgrounds in Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP), Environmental and Construction Engineering.” Mr. Jacobs was in town to pitch his firm’s services to help Henderson obtain EPA Brownfield grants something not listed on his firm’s website. What is an EPA Brownfield grant? To hear Mr. Jacobs talk an EPA Brownfield grant is a big Federal money tree full of juicy ripe hundred dollar bills in easy reach. To fill our basket the elected representatives’ of the good citizens of Henderson need only to listen to Mr. Jacobs’ whole schpeal and have the Mayor sign the Locklear, Locklear and Jacobs’ contract. Then we’re in the money. Mr. Jacobs said the funds are free. Hearing the words free money Council members reacted like Pavlov’s dog. As Pavlov taught one stimulus, Free Money, can overwhelm the other senses. The elected seemed to ignore a warning sign when Mr. Jacobs answered Mr. Zollicoffer’s only question. Both Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Zollicoffer are attorneys so both know words have meaning. Mr. Zollicoffer asked Mr. Jacobs “if he had a list of potential sites he would send to the manager.” Mr. Jacobs hesitantly said, “I, you know, I, I could and that would be the inactive … .” The answer to Mr. Zollicoffer’s question should have been a simple ‘yes’ instead of a hedged answer. Why does the thinking of the elected seem to short circuit whenever they hear there is pot of gold, free for the taking, if you just trust the dream peddler? Remember the paint recycler?


With the irrational exuberance still wafting through the air after Mr. Jacobs’s money for nothing presentation, Mr. Griffin requested permission to accelerate the approval process for a new housing project in Henderson. Apparently the developer has a pre-determined start date for construction of a new (government subsidized?) housing project. Approval for the project requires notification of a public hearing. The notification was delayed because the recent inclement weather prevented a quorum of the planning committee members to meet. The committee’s approval triggers the notification of the public to hearing before the Council. Mr. Griffin made a rational argument to schedule the public hearing for the next Council meeting by triggering the notification of a public hearing before the planning committee has approved the project. Hopefully, the Council will have the fortitude necessary to evaluate any pending housing project especially one that could expand what they collectively agreed at their retreat is a detriment to the City’s full potential.