After its annual report from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service Oct. 2, the Anson County Board of Commissioners spent a large part of its regular monthly meeting focusing on the issue of fracking, as well as some ongoing problems with the county’s emergency services.
Jennifer Lee, a resident of Ansonville and a member of Anson County’s W.A.L.L., appeared before the board to give an update on fracking in North Carolina. Fracking is the process of hydraulic fracturing of shale rock basins beneath the ground to produce natural gas. One of those basins runs straight through Anson County.
Opponents to fracking say that the process causes irreversible environmental damage, polluting natural waters and wells, and can make people and animals sick. Proponents argue that it will help improve the state’s economy by providing a domestic source of natural gas.
The W.A.L.L. group, which stands for “protecting Water, Air, Land and Lives,” was established last year to help prevent fracking from coming to Anson County. However, Lee said, the group has received a lot of interest and has made contacts throughout the region, and the group has changed its name to Pee Dee W.A.L.L. In June, the N.C. General Assembly voted to allow fracking in North Carolina. “This is a cart-before-the-horse situation,” Lee said. “There are no regulations in place yet.”
“Why would the state vote for such a thing?” Commissioner Jim Sims asked. Lee said that there are some property owners in Lee County who want to bring fracking there, for the economic benefits. “They should’ve exempted some areas then,” Sims said.
Commission Chair Anna Baucom said that she would like for the commissioners to form a task force on fracking. “I think we should get the information and get us to a place where we can take action,” she said. “Our board should take leadership on this.”
Later in the meeting, Baucom asked for a vote on creating a task force. Commissioner Jarvis Woodburn offered the motion, while Commissioner Vancine Sturdivant seconded. The motion passed unanimously. “We’ve got a lot riding on this,” Baucom said. “I think the state has gotten into something they don’t fully understand.”
As part of his monthly report to the commissioners, County Manager Lawrence Gatewood stated that the proposed new Emergency Services Center has hit a snag. Bids were opened Sept. 11, and the county received eight bids on the project. Although eight is a good number of bids to receive, Gatewood said the bids ranged from $4.25 million to $5 million, 18.2 percent over what he had expected.
“We really need to stay within that $3.6 million window we budgeted for,” Gatewood said. He added that he planned to work with the architect and the lowest bidder to identify areas that could be cut back on.
“Over the next few weeks, we will reconvene and see what we can do to build a facility for $3.6 million,” Gatewood said.
Also in the area of emergency services, Commissioner Bobby Sikes said that recently there was an incident that caused Anson Rescue Squad to consider disbanding. “They now have a person on-site 24 hours so that someone can respond,” he said, referring to an accident three weeks ago, in which it took more than five minutes for an ambulance to respond.
Gatewood said that the county funds Anson Rescue Squad, which is made up of volunteers, with $24,000 a year, and the volunteer rescue squad answers approximately every third 911 call during peak hours from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., while others are handled by Anson EMS, which is made up of paid county employees. It is our goal to respond to all 911 calls for ambulance service as quickly and safely as possible.
Baucom said she wanted the commissioners to discuss increasing county funding for the rescue squad during the next budget cycle. “We need to look at this,” she said. “We need a seamless process between our volunteers and Anson County services.”
In other business, the commissioners:
- heard a report from tourism director Dave Smith, who will give quarterly report on tourism and the Tourism Development Authority’s activities from now on.
-approved a land acquisition for the Anson County Airport and a lease renewal for the Anson Flying Club.
-unanimously adopted a resolution accepting bids from the county’s recent surplus auction. Gatewood reported that the auction had exceeded expectations, raising $34,700. He said another auction will hopefully be forthcoming next year.
-heard an update from Randy Gulledge on the county’s website and GIS.
The commissioners went into closed session before adjourning.