LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Commissioners voted on Monday to add its voice to the clamor of concerns regarding the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plan to install a four-way stop at U.S. 501 and Old Wire Road.
DOT announced the four-way stop, planned to go into effect on Aug. 19, as its latest attempt to prevent accidents at that intersection.
“They said it would not necessarily change the number of accidents in total, but their data shows it would reduce the number and severity of bodily injury accidents,” said County Manager Kevin Patterson.
During the public comment period, Airbase Road resident Bill Stubbs expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of stop signs on U.S. 501.
“It’s going to be a total disaster, because that traffic is not going to stop or even slow down,” he said. “Not for a four-way stop.”
DOT officials have said that several factors contribute to problems at Five Points, including the angle of Old Wire Road relative to U.S. 501 and a hill on U.S. 501 north of the intersection that limits visibility.
“I’ve said all the time, the solution is to grade that hill so you can see,” said Commissioner Bob Davis. “Until you do that, whatever you do is a band-aid.”
The four-way stop has been presented as a temporary precursor to a traffic circle or, as Patterson surmised on Monday, a diversion of Old Wire Road’s approach to the highway on either side.
“My first sense was this was not a good solution, but I also thought these people know more about it than I do,” said Commissioner Whit Gibson, who pointed out that Sheriff Ralph Kersey also opposes the installation of a four-way stop. “But the more I’ve thought about it, I’m just not convinced that this isn’t a more dangerous situation than even leaving it like it is.”
The commissioners agreed to pursue a resolution to the state requesting a reassessment of its plans for the intersection and the presentation of an alternative.
“We’re not exactly sure how much influence we may have, but we’re going to find out,” said chairman Guy McCook.
In other business, the board approved an agreement to provide local current expense funding to the Scotland County Schools through 2017-2018. The Scotland County Board of Education approved the agreement, which establishes funding levels of $10,583,013 for 2016-2017 and $10,344,895 for 2017-2018, in July.
The agreement is the result of 13 months of discussions by a committee of members designated by both boards. McCook applauded the six-member committee’s efforts in creating an “historic” accord.
“This agreement for the first time in many years provides the commissioners valuable input into the funding of our schools and it ensures the school system will have access to resources at the local level to provide a quality education for the children of our community.”
Also on Monday, the commissioners heard annual reports of the Child Fatality Prevention Team and Community Child Protection Team from Carlotta Rivers, the health department’s maternal health coordinator, and Department of Social Service Director April Snead.
The fatality prevention team, composed of health department staff and community agency representatives, conducts county-level reviews of child fatalities. Last year, it reviewed two cases of 2013 deaths, down from 12 in 2012.
According to Rivers, perinatal conditions related to complications of childbirth or newborn babies, birth defects, and illnesses have remained the most prevalent causes of child fatality in recent years.
While the two groups’ efforts overlap, the child protection team focuses on promoting child welfare through the prevention of abuse and neglect.
“What we see in Scotland County is a huge trend in substance abuse, often that and mental health disorder are going to trickle down into the neglect or improper supervision or physical abuse or improper care or worse,” Snead said.
In other business, the commissioners:
— Approved the current year’s tax settlement of $20,689,451, in addition to $4.5 million in delinquent taxes from prior years.
— Heard from Scotland County Schools public information officer Meredith Bounds on recent developments, including new principals, construction to refit Sycamore Lane to serve as an elementary school, and a redesign of the Scotland High commons area.
— Appointed Hal Jernigan and Ken Jackson to the Laurinburg/Scotland County Planning and Zoning Board.
— Appointed John Lewis to the Aging Advisory Council.
— Appointed Kyle Bethel, Carol Gaskill, and Rodney Hassler to the Scotland County Memorial Library Advisory Board.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.