Chowan County Redistrict

Chowan County Commissioners voted on Monday to schedule a public hearing for a new redistricting proposal which is slated to be implemented by mid-November.

Bob Kirby, Chowan County Commission Chairman, proposed a public hearing be held at the next meeting of the commission on Monday, Nov. 1. The commission voted unanimously to approve the hearing.

The redistricting proposal in question makes changes to the Chowan County Commission and School Board district map. Those changes involve expanding District Three northward and westward to balance out shifting populations from the 2020 Census.

As of the final results of the census, District One had 4,637 people residing in it — or 33.83 percent of the population — District Two had 4,974 — or 36.29 percent — and District Three had 4,097 — or 29.89 percent of the population.

The proposed shift in district geography would allow District Three to consume mostly empty farmland and a small percentage of properties currently within District Two. This expansion would occur northward past U.S. 17 and follow Paradise Road to its intersection with Greenhall Road. To the west, District Three would follow Wildcat Road until it crosses over Pembroke Creek.

The additions to District Three would bring it back within five percent of the other two districts in terms of population and return the district map to balance.

A total of 340 people would be moving from District Two to District Three as a result of the redistricting, if approved in its current form.

The final tally for each district would read as follows: 4,637 or 33.83 percent for District One, 4,634 or 33.81 percent for District Two and 4,437 or 32.37% for District Three.

According to the presentation of the new districts, the census blocks chosen to be removed from District Two and added to District Three were chosen for the purpose of keeping District Three a minority-majority district. To remain a minority-majority district, District Three would need to contain a 55% or greater population of African-Americans.

Prior to the 2020 Census, the minority-majority percentage of District Three was 57.31 percent. After the proposed changes, the number would rise slightly to 58.01 percent.

The deadline to approve the redistricting is Nov. 17, to keep in line with election results. The first commission meeting of November would be the only plausible time for a public hearing given the time limit.

“We’ll hopefully iron it out by then,” Kirby said. “If we can’t, we’ll have to do an extra meeting. We have to have it buttoned up by the second scheduled November meeting.”

The commission also voted unanimously to approve a budget amendment and contract with Motorola Solutions to finish work on a backup 911 center alongside Perquimans County.

Chowan County 911 Director Herman Weiss presented the proposal and financials to the commission. Weiss worked to win Chowan County a grant to apply toward the overall cost.

The total cost of the project is $329,376.37. Of that, $136,781.62 from a capital grant will be used in tandem with $191,944.75 from the N.C. 911 Board Fund to pay for its completion.

Kirby asked Chowan County Manager Kevin Howard how much of the project will come from taxpayer dollars. Howard then explained the origin of the allowances of the 911 Board.

The 911 Board Fund is remitted money from telecommunications providers statewide via a $0.65 surcharge imposed on customers for 911 calls. The collected fees are then allocated to numerous public-safety answering points (PSAPs) throughout the state for equipment upgrades and expansion projects.

A total of $650 will be directly owed from Chowan County after the capital grant and 911 fund take effect. This remaining amount was approved to be utilized via the operating budget.

The project involves replacing one end-of-life MCC 5500 dispatch console at the backup center and purchasing two new MCC 7500E dispatch consoles to align with equipment replacement guidelines.

With approval, the new equipment is expected to be purchased in January 2022, with installation taking place between March and October 2022. The project is expected to be completed by December 2022.

The commission also approved a new ambulance purchase for the county. The decision was okayed unanimously after a review of the financial details.

BB&T Bank offered a proposal for $225,000 in financing for the ambulance purchase on Oct. 5. The financing term would run for two years with a 0.81% interest rate.

The first payment of $113,868.71 will be due on Oct. 5, 2022 with the second and final payment — for the same amount as the first — due one year later on Oct. 5, 2023.

Rather than remounting an ambulance — a process that involves mounting the box of an ambulance onto a newer truck chassis — the existing box is scheduled to be replaced with a newer model that does include a loading stretcher.

The trade-in of the vehicle being taken out of service will net Chowan County a few thousand dollars.

Two budget amendments were also approved unanimously towards the end of the meeting. The first was from the water department for relocating utilities and repairing water lines and the second was for insurance proceeds and to repair the EMS garage door after an accident caused it to become damaged.

Thadd White is Group Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance, Chowan Herald, Perquimans Weekly, The Enterprise & Eastern North Carolina Living. He can be reached via email at twhite@ncweeklies.com.