Johnston focused on basic services

January 11, 2014 

An observer of Johnston County government, after a recent County Commissioners’ meeting, remarked that commissioners don’t do much.

It’s true that the average commissioners’ meeting is void of broad policy-making. That’s partly because earlier commissioners did much of the heavy lifting. They adopted zoning and the accompanying land-use rules. They built a water plant and championed the borrowing that carried public water to every corner of the county.

Much of what commissioners do today is maintaining and building on what earlier boards did. Today’s commissioners, for example, bought the former rock quarry that will become a water reservoir.

On occasion, these commissioners do make policy. In response to ill-mannered neighbors, they adopted ordinances that govern gunfire and other loud noises. They also settled on tax rebates as the incentive of choice for industrial recruitment.

But it’s true that these commissioners prefer a county government that performs just the basics and performs them well and efficiently. This board appropriates the dollars for law enforcement, emergency medical services, social services, school buildings and school operations.

Indeed, these commissioners take these basic government functions very seriously. They’re the ones who made emergency medical services a department of county government, partly to bail out cash-strapped volunteer rescue squads but also to bring the best possible emergency care to all Johnstonians. They’re the ones who insist on ample cash reserves so the county can borrow money cheaply for new school buildings.

Do we sometimes wish commissioners did more than the basics? Sure, especially when it comes to parks and recreation. Commissioners in Johnston have never been inclined to build parks and offer recreation programming. But at the very least, they could be more supportive financially of the towns and community groups that run recreation programs. (We do, however, appreciate the $100,000 commissioners gave this past week for the construction of a park and ball field for children with disabilities.)

Still, these commissioners oversee a government that provides basic services without annual property-tax increases, and no one should have a problem with that.

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