By John Peters
March 18, 2014
Monday night the Surry County Board of Commissioners again showed an appalling lack of responsiveness and concern for the very people the board members were elected to serve, refusing to allow anyone to address the board regarding the planned construction of two Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, sometimes known as broiler houses.
A local group, known as Shoals Clean Air Clean Water, opposes the construction, fearing water and air pollution, as well as a steep devaluation in nearby property values. Monday night the group asked if it could appear on an upcoming board agenda to air its concerns.
The board shot the group down with no more thought than one would give smacking a mosquito, as if the group was an irritant that should be brushed aside and forgotten.
“We have certain protocols, and one of those involves a certain amount of respect for the opinion of the commissioner in whose district an issue resides,” said board chairman Eddie Harris, noting that the Shoals community is in Commissioner Paul Johnson’s district. “He (Johnson) has no desire for the Shoals Clean Air Clean Water group to be on the agenda, and as chair I respect that. I’m inclined not to honor the request to put on the agenda.”
With all due respect to Harris, that’s a load of chicken poop.
The board members were elected by the residents of Surry County, and it is to those residents that the board members owe their respect and allegiance. We understand this board has demonstrated again and again its disregard for the voters of Surry County and, in some cases, for laws designed to protect those voters against closed-door government actions.
Still, it is stunning to see such a callous disregard for the residents of the county displayed so openly.
For his part, Johnson seems to be miffed over a recent meeting in that community in which a number of folks living in that area expressed fear over the developments. Johnson, on Monday night, claimed the presentation that night was so “One-sided and so fictional in some regards that in my opinion it doesn’t even deserve the 30 minutes we’ve spent on it tonight.”
We understand that when someone talks about certain types of developments — and most anything related to chicken farming is among those types — people tend to get emotional and sometimes spread disinformation.
We understand that folks who have an ax to grind, and those opposing such a development would fall into that category, might give a one-sided presentation supporting their position or might be reluctant to accept facts that counter their beliefs.
That may be happening in this case, that recent meeting that Johnson attended may have included a one-sided presentation that was mostly fiction.
Then again, maybe it did not. Maybe these folks have legitimate concerns that the board ought to consider.
Either way, the Surry County Board of Commissioners exists to serve the residents of Surry County, not to follow the direction of Paul Johnson, Eddie Harris, or any other individual member of the board.
Right now, it looks as if the county still is being led by a group of good old country boys intent upon watching out for one another, and the rest of the county can go take a hike if they don’t like it.