Commissioners vote to keep Airlie open to the public; election chair addresses problems
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It was a packed house at Monday's New Hanover County Commission meeting as commissioners discussed some hot topics. From election mix-ups to preserving Airlie Gardens, county commissioners talked about ways to make New Hanover County a better place.

One of the first things on the agenda was Election Day 2010.

"I just don't see how people were pulling the wrong ballot off the shelf and sending it to the wrong precinct," said District 16 Rep. Carolyn Justice. "As a business woman myself, it seems like a simple warehouse procedure and maybe mechanisms were not in place to control that. Those kind of errors should not happen when it comes to election day and the sanctity of the vote."

Justice was one candidate affected by mistakes made by the New Hanover County Board of Elections. The board admitted Monday it sent the wrong ballots to two precincts and not enough ballots to a third. Even though the board answers to the state county commissioners requested it make a presentation to help explain what happened.

"It's been said that some people feel we don't take things seriously," said New Hanover County Board of Elections Director Bonnie Williams. "You lose sleep over it, you stop eating over it and you take it pretty seriously."

The board plans to implement a more in-depth checklist among other things to prevent similar mistakes from happening again.

Another hot button topic on the agenda was preserving Airlie Gardens.

"With the May 4th passing of the sale tax I think the public was very clear that they are concerned about the quality of life initiatives here in New Hanover County and they want to preserve those things and I'm in favor of that as well," said New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield.

County commissioners voted in favor of a preservation easement at Airlie. The easement doesn't put restrictions on the sale of the garden. It simply means Airlie will remain open to the public, regardless of who own's it, forever.

"It's very big," said Jim McDaniel, who is the Director of Parks, Gardens and Senior Resources in New Hanover County. "During the economic downturn budgets became very tight and there was some discussion briefly that Airlie and some other activities would possibly be not funded."

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No one is going to purchase this property, EVER, if it must remain a public garden. If you recall, the county bought it because it couldn't make it as a privately owned garden.

It still doesn't "make it." Maintenance and operations suck large sums of money from the county, money that could be spent better, elsewhere. The return from admissions and bookings is paltry.

So now, it's ours forever...a never-ending artesian well of red ink.

Thanks for the going away present, Bill and Bobby! One last chance to screw the taxpayers, eh?

I quess you're for getting rid of all the parks too, after all they don't bring in any money at all. Everything is always about money.

I'd suggest that you check the financial condition of this country, state, AND COUNTY after decades of spending money like drunken sailors.

Yes, it **IS** all about the money, until we get our books in order.

We are broke - do you understand that? Keep ignoring the money, as we are doing at all levels of government, and this nation will rip apart at the seems and collapse.

Have you ever asked yourself exactly WHY the county would buy a failing business venture that so few people visited? Does it not seem intuitively obvious that a low number of visitors means that the attraction is not all that significant?

We're raising taxes, ordering emplyees to take forced furloughs, and cutting operating hours to own this white elephant that few visit more than once?

Does that make sense to even you?

I agree, we should of never bought Airlie,but with your reasoning we should not have parks.

Commonsensenotcommontoday and WilmingtonMAJ,

OK... let's say we close the parks and everything else. Let's close boat ramps, I don't boat. Let's close airports, I don't fly. Let's close Rt.40, I don't leave town. God takes sand away, why pay to put it back. Insurance subsidies keeping our rates low, a storm comes and we loses our houses, so what! We were dumb enough to build here. Think about government funded things you use on daily basis... do we really need that extravagance either!

What now geniuses?

Why not make real suggestions that can make a difference, come on! Name one thing that will truly lower taxes! Stop talking trinkets and trash.

Let's talk entitlements... if you're on Social Security, get off once you drawn what you've paid in. If you're on disability, get off, get a job and stop raising my rates. Unemployment, flip burgers! If you're on welfare... well you know the rest.

Trust me, I'll take a walk in the park or airlie any day for the few pennies it takes compared to the bigger picture. So get real!

We shouldn't trim small, wasteful expenses because they aren't the big problem?

Well, small expensess add up fast...especially in a county the size of New Hanover, where we can't simply print another $600 billion like Washington can.

NOWHERE did I suggest closing the parks. I pointed out that placing this restriction on Airlie Gardens was pure idiocy because it eliminates options for the county. Why would anyone with a brain vote to reduce the county's future flexibility?

I couldn't agree with you more Common! People want to whine and cry about parks that bring in NO money and then it's the same people that whine when their taxes go up. SOMEONE has to pay for all of the extravagance.

The people that whine the most are usually the people that have the most.Poor people use parks, God forbid,they don't pay taxes, remember? I'm not saying Common was wrong about Airlie,but what he said,you can say about parks and I knew he wouldn't like them either.At least parks create some jobs.

Why do we have ANY citizen, at all, who doesn't pay taxes? How, in a country founded upon the equality of man, and possessing a Constitution that guarantees "equal protection of law" does one man escape taxation totally, while another pays thirty-one percent or more?

I don't care if you make one hundred dollars a year - a small portion of that should be contributing to the support of the country that YOU live in.

Second question - in times of fiscal austerity, how would you rate the importance of the following:

* Law enforcement
* Fire protection
* Courts and corrections
* Road maintenance
* Sanitation and health
* Parks and recreation

Do you catch my drift? Yes, parks and recreation are nice, but they are also "nice to have" items. When the checkbook is empty, new foul lines at the Ogden fields is priority 999.

Airlie isn't like any park in the county. It's a very valuable piece of land, worth far more as a potential sale item than it will ever benefit the county or be enjoyed by the few visitors it attracts.

Placing a permanent "public garden" requirement means that the county has closed every door to future sale. Exactly why would the county want to reduce their fexibility and options? It's like buying a rare $30k shotgun and then scratching your initials on the receiver with a nail. You may never plan on selling it, but once you took that nail to it, you made sure you never could sell it!

You have obviously never been to Airlie. It COSTS MONEY To get into Airlie Garden. It is not free by any means, though it is cheap at $5/each. I would imagine they have no more than say 20 people working there? The real money maker is in private events and weddings. Weddings are upwards of $8k I believe...just to hold it there