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BOC opposes changes to commercial fisherman definition

Currituck’s Board of Commissioners joined the efforts of other coastal counties in the state to oppose the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission’s proposal to change the definition of commercial fisherman.

During its first meeting this month, the board unanimously passed a resolution, that reads in part that the Marine Fisheries Commission is considering a  “. . . requirement that those holding commercial fishing licenses must have 50 percent of their earned income from the Trip Ticket Program, generate 36 Trip Tickets per year and that those who do not have Trip Tickets to show proof of $10,000 or more income per year . . .”

The resolution points out that “. . . no other professional license issued by the state dictates a percentage of income or minimum income requirement or level of participation in order to qualify . . .” It is also noted that in 2010 Marine Fisheries created a task force to look at the requirements for holding a commercial fishing license and that task force found no need to redefine commercial fisherman.

The resolution contains the board’s strong opposition to changing the definition, contending a change would have a harmful effect on commercial fishermen, “. . . who already suffer because of government overregulation that imposes severe quotas and unnecessary restrictions on fishing seasons, limits, and gear forcing many to take on additional jobs and engage in part time businesses in order to responsibly support their families . . .”

In other items taken up during the meeting, the topic of beach driving has been causing some telephones to ring and popped up during the meeting. County manager Dan Scanlon took the opportunity to report that a proposal is scheduled to be presented at the board’s second meeting this month. And, to clear up what seems to be the biggest concern, both Scanlon and board chairman Bobby Hanig explained that residents and property owners will not have to pay a fee for a permit to use the beach.

On a question from commissioner Mary Etheridge, Scanlon explained that a $111,000 budget amendment for the Sheriff’s Office is for vehicles and equipment for patrolling the beach, funded by the Occupancy Tax. Included will be three Jeeps, that Scanlon explained will provide better transport than an ATV, particularly when people are taken into custody. The manager added that the request was delayed while the board considered the beach permit proposal.

The board also authorized Captain Sam B. Casey and Deputy Christopher Doxey of the Sheriff’s Office to purchase their service weapons for $1 upon their retirements.

The board also authorized that K-9 Kido, a nine year old Belgian Melinois, be retired to his handler Deputy Jeremy Evans.

The board agreed for the county and the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department to discuss the county financing the department’s purchase of a used fire engine, in the amount of $250,000.

The board voted its support for HB 551/SB 595, called “Marsy’s Law” to ensure that “. . . victims receive the same rights that are afforded to criminals and have rights to notification of release, hearings, appropriate restitution and the right to speak during criminal proceedings . . .”

Chairman Hanig and commissioner Marion Gilbert both commended those honored at a recent Moyock Volunteer Fire Department awards banquet, as Hanig noted that one young member of the department had 3,800 volunteer hours.

Commissioner Mike Payment reported that Lower Currituck VFD, that he is a member of, has a banquet coming up and encouraged citizens to volunteer at the departments, explaining that are numerous opportunities besides fighting fires.

Commissioner Gilbert also commended the Moyock Women’s Club for its recent event that raised money for the county’s food pantries.

During public comment at the start of the meeting, Moyock resident Doris Flora asked about the progress on the county’s park in Moyock. With plans and drawings already in-hand, Scanlon responded that it is a matter of identifying funds to move the estimated $6 million 25-acre park forward in the budget.

Also during public comment, Corolla resident Ed Cornet told the commissioners they need to get their facts straight and have an open debate about problems and solutions on the county’s Outer Banks, pointing to crowded stores in the summer, beach erosion and competition from Dare County beaches.

As it has done in the past, the board authorized the county to contract with CT Mechanical, Inc., commissioner Payment’s company. Certain restrictions apply by law, including that the amount of work done in one year not exceed $40,000. Payment recused himself from the item.

Elizabeth White was appointed to the Albemarle Commission.

The commissioners also sat as the Tourism Development Authority and approved budget amendments including $2,450 to repair damage from frozen pipes at the public restrooms at the Whalehead Club.

Giving the invocation at the start of the meeting was Rev. Susan Fitch-Slater, pastor of Sharon United Methodist Church in Poplar Branch, that was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.