Keagy Appointed to Empty Seat

The Board of Commissioners last night elected Phil Keagy to fill an empty seat on the board. They also passed ordinances that allow beer and wine to be served at catered events at the Recreation Center, ban the release of helium-filled balloons and require the use of paper bags for curbside yard waste.

Filling the seat vacated when Commissioner Angela Clinton resigned last week was the night’s main event. Board members nominated three candidates: Keagy, Jeff Conaway and Larry Philpott. Keagy got two votes when the four commissioners cast their ballots and Philpott and Conaway each got one.

I nominated and voted for Philpott because he was the fourth-leading vote getter in the November election, missing the third available seat by less than 20 votes. He went through the public vetting of an election and was to me the logical and rightful replacement. Philpott has also remained involved in local affairs, serving on our Planning and Parks and Recreation boards.

Because none of the candidates received the required majority votes of the five-member board, Mayor John Davis, who votes only in case of ties, cast the deciding ballot for Keagy.

A native of Swansboro who lives downtown, Keagy served on the board until November when he chose no to run for re-election.

The new ordinance allows people who reserve rooms at our Rec Center for catered events to serve beer and wine. The alcohol must be served by the caterer and consumed in the reserved room. All state ABC laws must be observed.

The ordinance, like the two others, passed unanimously.

Released balloons present grave threats to wildlife, especially birds and sea turtles, which can mistake the deflated plastic for a squid. The ordinance makes it illegal to release “balloons” in town limits. The use of the plural and the judgment of our cops should prevent us from fining the kid at the Mullet Festival whose balloon slipped out of her hand. Swansboro joins Wrightsville Beach as the only towns in the state that ban the release of balloons.

Our Public Works Department picks up almost 10,000 plastic bags of yard waste each year. The bags can’t be recycled and must be emptied by hand and disposed of at the county landfill. Starting Oct. 1, our trucks will only pick up yard waste packed in paper “lawn” bags.

Budget Up for Approval

The Swansboro Board of Commissioners is likely to approve the town’s $4.3 million budget for the new fiscal year during a public hearing tomorrow night at Town Hall.

As far as I know, nothing much has changed since I first described the proposed budget and my objections to it in a blog post here a few weeks ago. I still intend to vote against it.

I won’t detail all the reasons why. You can go back and re-read them if you like. To summarize, the budget simply makes policy choices that I don’t agree with. It prioritizes extraordinary future expenses over current staff needs, devalues our expert legal services and, most importantly, moves toward ending free health insurance for our employees. We will become one of the few local governments in the state that require employees to pay a portion of their insurance premium, which I fear will make it harder for us to attract good employees and keep the ones we have.

The commissioners will also consider approving an Economic Development Strategic Plan that’s been almost two years in the making. Drafted by a committee of residents with considerable public input, the plan has four basic principles: Develop as a connected community, improve and protect the town’s natural environment, foster and improve the town’s sense of place and actively recruit new businesses and support the expansion of existing businesses.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Hope to see you there.