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Currituck County to take over Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education

Currituck commissioners met for a short regular meeting June 21 to approve the agreement to take over the 15,000 square foot Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education currently owned by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

The county will enter into a two-year agreement with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, during which time the county has agreed to continue to employ the two-full time employees until the employees vacate the position or in two years, whichever comes first. Programming will be determined by both parties during the transition period.

“The county will own the building, essentially for free,” said county manager Ben Stikeleather. “It’s a great deal for us. It is going to finish off that property for us [in Historic Corolla Park],” he said. According to visitcurrituck.com, “The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education offers exhibits and outdoor programs designed to help you explore North Carolina’s coastal wildlife, natural history and cultural heritage.” Other attractions at the park include Whalehead tours and museum and the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

“You can spend the whole day there. It’s a win-win-win,” said commissioner Bob White. The center also has a small auditorium that can be used for community meetings.

The second item of new business, presented by county attorney Ike McRee, involved the sale of a one-acre property on Uncle Graham Road. Joanne Armstrong offered to purchase the property for $30,000 and paid the required 5% down payment. The commissioners authorized the upset bid process, which allows a higher bidder to come forward within 10 days of the sale publication.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Barbara Snowden invited the community to attend the reading of the Declaration of Independence on Sunday, July 4 at the county courthouse at 2 p.m. There will be a kid’s parade and any child who participates will receive a crisp $2 bill, which depicts the 1818 painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull. There will be prizes for the best decorated bikes. Chairman Mike Payment said, “Please make a point to come to that event. It’s special to see the kids participate and to hear the reading of the Declaration again.”

For commissioners’ reports, Owen Etheridge requested that commissioners draft a resolution to send to the governor and other counties in North Carolina opposing the unfunded mandates required by the state. Said Etheridge: “Is it moral for the state to force down unfunded mandates on counties? That unfunded mandate has forced every county in NC to raise revenue. Is it moral for the state to be talking about lowering taxes and pushing it down on the counties?”

This comes in light of the state’s reduced class size requirement for kindergarten through third grade, forcing districts to hire new teachers. While the state pays teachers’ salaries, it does not financially provide for the additional infrastructure needed to accommodate additional classrooms.

Continued Etheridge: “They’re going to be sitting on a $10 billion surplus and they’re finding a place to spend. I’d like to see them help the counties … to take care of the k-3 reduction size and the space they’re requiring.”

The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of drafting the resolution.

Stikeleather said that some relief may be coming if Senate Bill 654, which seeks to assist counties in the implementation of the unfunded mandate passes the House. Presumably because of COVID-19 and the number of entering kindergartners that did not enroll in public school in August 2020, the Senate is proposing a one year accommodation for a 20:1 ratio instead of the required 18:1 ration to give schools an extra year to make the necessary hires and find classroom space. “Statewide they are thinking the incoming class [in August 2021] could be larger. It gives you time to make adjustments,” said Stikeleather.

In other news, Stikeleather updated the board of the progress of three projects set to be completed in mid-July: the Maritime Museum, Shingle Landing Park and the new public safety center building.

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