Touts Economic Development, Hurricane Readiness, Mental Health Partnership Among 2018 Successes
Ted Godwin, Chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, delivered the annual State of the County Address today (Monday), which is traditionally given by the chairman each January.
Economic development remains a key focus for the county. Last year the board approved four performance-based incentive grants in support of expanding employers in Johnston County, Godwin reported. The grants are risk-free for the County, he said. “They are not paid until the new investment is made, the promised jobs have been created, and the taxes have been paid on the new investment,” said Godwin, a longtime commissioner.
But a growing economy and population bring challenges as well as opportunities, and county leaders are exploring solutions that can relieve traffic congestion and expand infrastructure. “Many of our citizens in the high-growth areas of the County are already experiencing frustrations and difficulties associated with ‘growth’,” Godwin said. “Addressing these concerns and finding balanced solutions must be one of the highest priorities of this Board.”
Godwin reported that the County became a partner in Alliance Behavioral Health last year. The regional provider of mental health services operates across Cumberland, Durham and Wake counties, and has opened a location in Smithfield at the site of the county’s former mental health office. “The Board recognizes the importance of mental health services for our citizens and part of the merger agreement included a provision that Alliance would have an office in our County,” Godwin said.
The County’s commitment to public safety helped minimize the impact Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael made on property, businesses and lives. “We owe a debt of gratitude to our many public safety partners and county agencies for their excellent work and dedication before, during and after the hurricanes this past fall,” Godwin said. “We’re blessed in this County to have the finest public safety agencies there are.” Commissioners are now working on design schematics for a new Public Safety Center on land the County has already acquired. “We anticipate the project to be completed by 2022,” Godwin said.
Johnston County fiscal position and financial management remain very strong. “It’s most important that we spend tax dollars wisely,” Godwin said. Outside auditors gave the County a clean bill of health for its FY2016-2017 books, its most recent audit. The County has now gone without a property tax-rate increase for 20 years, he pointed out. Sound finances keep the County’s credit rating high and its borrowing costs low. In 2016, both Moody’s and Standard & Poors upgraded Johnston County’s credit rating to the second-highest level. It was the County’s 7thcredit upgrade since 1999. “Our goal as a Board has always been to reach the AAA bond rating, and we are only one step away,” Godwin said. “I really believe that will become a reality in the very near future.”
Johnston County ongoing commitment to education and training was re-affirmed last year by the passage of bond referenda for new and upgraded K-12 schools and community college facilities. “The County will sell the first of the recently voter-approved education bonds this spring, and we are excited to see these projects begin,” Godwin said. “Thanks again to the voters for their support and confidence in us all.”
“The 2018 election also provided three new members to our Board which were sworn into office in December. We welcome newcomers, Commissioner Butch Lawter and Commissioner Patrick Harris. We also welcome the return of past member and former chairman, Commissioner Tony Braswell. I believe we have a very strong, conscientious Board that will serve Johnston County well.”
“I look forward to our Board’s annual work session this spring, as it will be a time for us to focus on and discuss the future of our great County. As mentioned earlier, the property for the new public safety center has been purchased and the schematic design is underway. We anticipate the project to be completed by 2022.”
“We must remain fiscally responsible and always recognize that it is the taxpayers’ money we are managing. Our goal as a Board has always been to reach the AAA bond rating and we are only one step away. I really believe that will become a reality in the very near future.”
“In closing, I look forward to working with you all in 2019 to plan for the years beyond. I am sure we will have different opinions on ways to get there from time to time, but I have no doubt we will come together on a direction that’s best for Johnston County. After all, that is why we are here – to help make our County the best it can possibly be.”