Two citizens asked the board for internet services during the Northampton County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday.
During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, Ruby Vincent Garner of Lake Gaston began with a Bible verse from James 4:1-5, “And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is you don’t ask God for it.”
She said the citizens in her area are in desperate need of high-speed internet.
“My great nephew, Tay, and other students in our community were unable to do their homework when forced to do virtual learning from the pandemic,” she said. “I want my little nephew and other young people to get all the education they can get. All of our internet in the area is very slow and we sometimes had the problem of dropping our phone calls. But our neighbors approximately one or two miles on River Road closer to the lake, don’t have that problem.”
She said on March 5 she sent a letter to Rep. Michael Wray, D-27, regarding the lack of high-speed internet in the community. Copies were also sent to then County Manager Charles Jackson and some members of the board.
“I’m here because I read in the June 24 Daily Herald, Mr. Curtis Wynn will be receiving funds for broadband services for the rural area in which I live,” she said.
Wynn is president and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative, when during the June 21 meeting presented concerns about broadband and Roanoke Connect Holdings LLC.
In May 2019, it was announced Roanoke Connect received a $1,867,547 Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology grant, along with Northampton County in the amount of $521,667. RC’s GREAT grant will help drive the effort to bring better internet access with REC’s territory, Wynn stated during that meeting.
“I’ve asked God, now I am asking you to help us with high-speed internet in our community,” Garner said.
In addition, the Rev. Tony Flood of Gaston Missionary Baptist Church spoke about the lack of internet.
Earlier this year, he was asked by Pamela Chamblee, superintendent of Northampton County Schools, if the church, located on N.C. Highway 46, would open up the parking lot if it had internet service to assist the children.
“The saddest words I could say to her is ‘No,’ we cannot because our internet service is not strong at all,” Flood said. “Our provider cannot give us more than we cannot have; the power is not there. We must be plugged into the power in order to get results.”
Rev. Flood said all he is asking is for the board to lean over on the Western side and have some company somewhere to plug in.
“There is power there, we just need internet service to assist as we continue on,” he said. “Our Sunday services — I have to use my cell phone. We have state-of-the-art recording equipment. We cannot do it because we don’t have internet service. Please consider to come on the Western end with some internet.”
Board Chairman Charles Tyner said they are working on the issue.
In other news the board approved two matters presented by county attorney Scott McKellar.
The first was a proposed resolution for accepting the American Rescue Plan Act, whereas Northampton County is eligible for funding from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds of the ARPA of 2021.
“Through the guidance and advice of Franklin Williams and our Economic Development department, Northampton County may be eligible for additional coronavirus relief funds,” McKellar said.
The second matter is an engagement letter from the McGuireWoods LLP lawfirm of Raleigh, setting the terms to serve as Bond Counsel to the county in connection with a proposed installment financing agreement with a bank to be secured by a deed of trust to finance a portion of the costs of constructing a new courthouse in the county.
Mary Nash Rusher will be primarily responsible for the representation with assistance from Jim Twiddy, according to the letter. Their fee for an installment financing agreement with a bank is $25,000, billed at the completion of the transaction. In addition to fees, the county will be charged for all costs and expenses associated with the services rendered, such as travel expenses, delivery and courier services, express mail, filing fees and publication costs.
McKellar said the county is in the planning stages of a proposed new court house.
“Should the county have to finance that project, likely there will be bonds issued to secure that debt,” he said.
Also, Anna Jones, daughter of the late James H. Jones, received approval from the board for the county to partner with her to apply for a N.C. Civil Rights marker for her father.
Anna was recognized by Durham Magazine’s “Women of Achievement,” May issue, for her work producing the award-winning 2015 documentary film, “Chairman Jones — An Improbable Leader.”
James was a leading farmer and tireless champion for quality education, justice, equal rights, voting rights, race relations and peace, Anna stated. He is renown for leading the school integration movement in 1969, when Northampton refused to implement Brown v. Board and desegregate the public schools.
James was also Northampton’s first black school board representative in 1971; N.C.’s first black school board chairman, 1980-1984; worked tirelessly for all of Northampton and her children, according to Anna’s report. His visionary leadership as chairman changed the educational landscape in North Carolina and he was inducted into East Carolina University Educator’s Hall of Fame in 2014.
Anna added, there are no markers that she is aware of for African Americans in Northampton.
“The civil rights movement did not bypass Northampton County — it came here too,” she said.
If the application is approved, funding for the marker will come from the William Pomeroy Foundation, N.C. African-American Heritage Commission in partnership with the N.C. Office of Archives and History and Visit N.C., Anna said.
Tyner said this subject is very important to him and he will serve as the contact for Anna and the project.
“I lack his wisdom — the man had more wisdom than anybody else,” Tyner said. “We need not ever forget Mr. Jones. He helped us to integrate our schools.”
Anna said, “If we are successful with this application process — it’s a lot of work — our responsibilities would be to install the markers and hold a ceremony.”
In addition, Craig Ellison, N.C. Cooperative Extension director, Northampton County Center, received approval for the county to receive two Roanoke-Chowan Vidant Health Foundation grants:
• $1,500 for the Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program
• $2,000 for the Diabetes/Chronic Disease Prevention Program
The board went into closed session regarding personnel, attorney client privilege and economic development commission reporting.