The Board of Commissioners may fill an unexpected vacancy on the board and consider two environmental ordinances – one prohibiting the release of helium-filled balloons and the other banning the use of plastic bags for yard waste pickup – when it meets Tuesday at Town Hall.
The board must fill the seat vacated by Commissioner Angela Clinton, who resigned last week because of a family health issue. Angela, the leading vote getter in last November’s election, was an able commissioner whose preparedness and attention to detail will be missed. I know all the commissioners wish her and her family the best during this trying time.
According to state law, the board must appoint someone who will serve until the election in November 2019. The names I’ve heard as potential candidates: Larry Philpott, Phil Keagy, Jerry Seddon and Jim Allen.
Philpott served on the board from 2009-2013. He ran for election last year and missed by a handful of votes of winning one of the three seats. Philpott currently serves on our Planning and Parks and Recreation boards. Keagy was a commissioner until last year when he decided not to run for re-election. The commissioners recently appointed Seddon, a relative newcomer to town, to the Planning Board. A longtime commissioner, Allen lost his re-election bid in 2015.
We may decide to choose among those or other nominees when we meet Tuesday or the board could delay the appointment until our meeting on Aug. 28 to allow more candidates to come forward.
Balloons may be festive additions to birthdays, weddings, graduations and such, but they pose a grave threat to animals once they get loose. Birds, sea turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or kill them. Many animals can also become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or injure their feet.
For those reasons, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ocean Conservancy and several other organizations recommend banning the mass release of helium balloons. Five states and at least seven cities have done so, according to balloonsblows.org. Wrightsville Beach is the only town in the state with a local ordinance banning balloon releases.
Town resident Patricia Stone asked the board several weeks ago to consider a similar ban. The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to release an inflated balloon in town limits. Violators could be fined $250.
I support such a measure because I’ve seen what a deflated balloon floating in the ocean does to a loggerhead sea turtle that mistakes it for a squid. Biologists speculated the turtle died a slow death. I would, however, like to see the ordinance amended slightly to exclude the accidental release of a balloon. We don’t want to fine a five-year-old at the Mullet Festival whose balloon slipped out of his hand.
Our Public Works Department now picks up plastic bags filled with grass clippings, leaves and other small items of yard waste. We’re talking about thousands of bags a year. Because the bags can’t be recycled, each one must be ripped open by hand and its contents emptied. The town then pays a fee to dispose of the bags at the county landfill.
At our budget retreat in March, the commissioners agreed this seemed wasteful and expensive and directed the department to recommend a change. The proposed ordinance would ban plastic bags for yard waste and require “lawn-style” paper bags.
The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Hope to see you there.