Dare’s commissioners split on name for new bridge

Published 11:19 pm Thursday, February 7, 2019

Dare County commissioners split on name for the new bridge over Oregon Inlet.

On Monday, Feb. 4, Dare’s commissioners voted 3-2 to submit the name Marc Basnight Oregon Inlet Bridge to the state’s transportation board.

Citing the results of the poll conducted on the Dare County website, board chairman Robert L. Woodward, vice chairman Wally Overman and commissioner Ervin Bateman voted for the proposed name.

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Commissioner Danny Couch said his constituents wanted the Herbert C. Bonner name continued. Commissioner Steve House said, “I’m all about protecting history.” He suggested the Bonner-Basnight Bridge and voted in opposition.

Commissioner Jim Tobin asked to be excused from the agenda item as he is negotiating a financial arrangement with a member of the Bonner family. He was granted that request and left the room. Commissioner Rob Ross was out of town.

As of Feb. 1, the county’s online poll showed Basnight with 309, Bonner with 266, Oregon Inlet with 74, Toby Tillett with 60 and six more.

Last month, Bateman suggested naming the new bridge for Basnight, a Manteo resident and state senator for 26 years. Basnight holds the state record as the longest-serving Senate President Pro Tem.

Herbert Covington Bonner was a Democratic U.S. Congressman representing northeastern North Carolina between 1940 and 1965. He pushed for the formation of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and for the first bridge connecting Bodie and Hatteras islands over Oregon Inlet.

On Saturday, Feb. 9, at 10 a.m., a brief ceremony will start Community Day for the new replacement bridge. After the ceremony and wreath blessing, the bridge will be open for walkers, runners and bicyclists until 4 p.m.

At the board meeting, the commissioners heard from Shannon Brooks, Dare County Extension director, about accomplishments of the Dare County Cooperative Extension Service.

Dave Hallac, superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, gave a brief update on the reopening of the “three Dare County jewels.” A majority of the park service staff in Dare County was furloughed, but went back to work Jan. 26. He said the staffers are working to prepare for the traditional spring season, but there’s no guarantee that all will be in place.

He came to the board to offer thanks to the community, Dare County staff and board of commissioners for all the assistance during the lapse in funding.

“It was incredible,” said Hallac, of the support that came from many sectors of the county. He thanked Social Services for “invaluable assistance to federal workers.”

To the commissioners, he said “you created this family culture . . . you made us feel like family. I thank you.”

The commissioners unanimously passed a resolution supporting an increase in state funding for the Juvenile Crime Prevention program. Raise the Age legislation, enacted in the General Assembly in 2017, goes into effect Dec. 1. The legislation expands the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 16- and 17-year-olds. Local councils such as Dare are asking for additional funding to deliver services for new clients.