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New food pantry, broadband initiative planned in Tyrrell County

Tyrrell County will build a food pantry building on county-owned land along US 64 and a broadband initiative will install equipment on existing towers and connect low and moderate income areas in the county to the world wide web.

At its March meeting, the Tyrrell Board of Commissioners approved an Economic Development Block Grant of $900,000.

For the food pantry, $270,000 is allocated to build a 1,000 square foot elevated building. While the building will be owned by the county, a non-profit organization with the board appointed by county commissioners will operate the pantry. The pantry will increase the amount of food that can be brought into the county by the Albemarle Food Bank. The food bank building project has been in the works for three years.

County manager David L. Clegg called the broadband project “utterly ground-breaking. It’s a remarkable opportunity.” Block grant funds of $590,000 are awarded to this project.

Managing the grant is allocated $40,000.

Day-to-day cash deposits will switch to BB&T in order to comply with the state’s requirement to make daily cash deposits. The county’s main accounts will remain with First National Bank, even though the Columbia branch has closed. The commissioners agreed to make BB&T an official depository and authorized electronic payment.

Regarding the county’s water and wastewater system, Clegg made this statement: “Tyrrell County utility system is not distressed.” In July 2020, the system was called a distressed utility. The label was forced on the Tyrrell system by the state, reported Clegg. In September 2019, North Carolina closed the prison in Tyrrell County. The facility was the largest user of water in the system. The state eventually stepped up and made all of the 2020 payments on bonds issued to build a water plant at the prison.

The commissioners accepted the apparent low bid from Semper Fi of Otisville, Michigan for painting a water storage tank at Alligator. The cost to the county will be $154,000.

The county manager’s report including several informational items:

– The deed book from 1761-66 along with others volumes are now back from restoration and are at the courthouse. Clegg commented that the books reflect “a historic uniqueness of where we are.”

– The North Carolina National Guard’s Cyber Team has assisted the county with its critical needs in Information Technology infrastructure. The guard unit delivered “outstanding help,” said Clegg.

– Medicaid is now managed medical care. “It’s going to be a mess,” said Clegg.

At the start of the meeting, Vickie Manning, assistant director of Martin-Tyrrell-Washington Health District, delivered a COVID-19 case and vaccination report. As of March 1, 63.9% of Tyrrell residents had been tested for the virus and 16% had received a first vaccine dose and 10.3% a second dose.

Harry Phelps talked about his problems with drainage in the Lake Phelps area. Board Chairman Nathan Everett described the situation as lake water spilling over its banks. State Rep. Ed Goodwin is going to address digging out ditches. Clegg was directed by the commissioners to contact Washington County’s manager for a status report. The eastern edge of Lake Phelps bumps the Tyrrell-Washington county line.

Also during public comment:

– Diane Bryant complained about her tax increase. During the year, she received a new home through a grant. The board suggested she visit the tax office. “We all had a tax increase,” said Everett.

– Joyce Sykes Fitch inquired about her application for a sewer hookup. Tyrrell County has applied for a grant to extend the sewer system.

At the conclusion of the regular meeting, the commissioners took a break and returned to the meeting room.

Everett restarted the meeting, saying the board would address a previous issue that the board had worked on a number of times.

The issue is the statue at the courthouse, which has been the focus of two demonstrations.

The statue is referred to as the “Tyrrell County Confederate Monument,” by “Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina,” a part of the digital publishing program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library. The statue stands on the southeast corner of Main Street and Broad Street in Columbia next to the county courthouse.

The statue “memorializes Civil War soldiers as well as former slaves . . . General James Johnston Pettigrew, a Tyrrell county native who acted as a Confederate general, is depicted atop the monument facing north,” reports Landscapes of North Carolina.

Clegg reported that the statue was erected in 1902 by the Tyrrell Monument Association. It was moved to its current location in 1938 so that NC 94 could be completed.

In 2015, The General Assembly passed a law titled “Protection of monuments, memorials, and works of art” calls the Tyrrell statue an “object of remembrance.” The law places limits on removal or relocation of objects of remembrance.

Clegg said the Tyrrell Monument Association doesn’t exist. “We own it,” said Clegg.

The law gives two reasons for relocation: for preservation or construction.

A statue permanently relocated must be moved to a “site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, availability and access” within the jurisdiction.

The object of remembrance may not be relocated to a museum, cemetery or mausoleum unless it was originally placed at such location.

“We’ve inherited this thing through no fault of our own,” said Everett.

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