Swansboro commissioners were leery, but in the end voted unanimously to join the Jacksonville Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. At the Dec. 28 regular meeting, the commissioners authorized Mayor John Davis to sign a memorandum of understanding outlining the terms of the relationship.
The organization plans and funds transportation – primarily roads and highways – improvements.
Deanna Trebil, JUMPO administrator, joined the commissioners in the online meeting, conducted entirely through Zoom platform.
She was called on to explain why Swansboro, should it join, would not be allowed a vote on either of the two committees that direct the organization.
Until fairly recently JUMPO was covering only the city of Jacksonville and portions of the county. The organization is designed to work in cooperation with the N.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to plan and implement transportation improvements.
Chris Seaberg, town administrator, said Swansboro, by contrast, is part of the Down East Rural Planning Organization, which is a state-funded organization. DERPO members include local governments in Carteret, Craven, Jones, Onslow and Pamlico counties.
In a memo to the board, Seaberg said, “JUMPO currently serves a geographic region considerably smaller than DERPO’s. JUMPO is federally supported.” Eighty percent of JUMPO’s annual operating revenues come through the Federal Highway Administration. “This arrangement provides a stronger investment in the area’s transportation needs.”
In addition to Swansboro, JUMPO has agreed to open membership to all of Onslow County’s municipalities, according to Trebil. For now, the influence of the new members will be limited on the Technical Coordinating Committee, which makes recommendations on projects. While the towns will have a seat, they won’t have a vote. All members would have a vote on the other committee, the Transportation Advisory Committee, which serves as the policy board for JUMPO.
The absence of a vote on the Technical Coordination Committee didn’t sit well with the commissioners.
“When we started discussing the boundaries we did consider that,” Trebil said of extending the vote. “We felt that if we spent next year … educating our members on what’s needed … that (extending the vote) would be something we could discuss at a later time.”
Commissioner Laurent Meilleur asked if that could be put in agreement.
Trebil said the amendment would not be possible because some participants have approved the agreement.
Commissioner Frank Tursi took issue with the logic behind the denial.
“People get elected to this board with no experience,” he said of the town commission. “We don’t ask them to sit out. I’m having a hard time understanding. I would like a commitment from the five voting members.”
Trebil did not offer it. But she did say that none of the new members would be obligated financially the first year, even though the the organization must provide 20 percent of the funding. Jacksonville and Onslow County would cover that cost, $60,000, she said. And, she added, there would be little to discuss over the next year in terms of projects, as they are already in place.
One of those projects is local to Swansboro, according to Seaberg.
“There is discussion on alleviating the Queens Creek intersection issue,” he said. To that, he added that the DERPO was less responsive to the needs of the members than had been the JUMPO, even though Swansboro was not technically a member.
“The MPO is a federally mandated program that provides regional planning,” Trebil explained.
Tursi then suggested that Swansboro might be willing to contribute its share of the 20 percent of local funding this year, if the town gets a vote.
“I can certainly convey your concerns moving forward,” Trebil replied. But, she added, “They are not interested in amending the voting structure … but that is something they would consider at a future date.”
Seaberg tried to allay the commissioners’ concerns about moving from DERPO to JUMPO.
“This is a good move in my opinion,” he said.
On a question from Meilleur, Seaberg said the town could return to the DERPO if it chose to exit JUMPO.
“They would have no choice but accept us, correct?” Meilleur asked. Seaberg replied, “That is correct.”
In the motion to join JUMPO, Meilleur included an offer to consider funding from the town immediately in exchange for a vote on the Technical Coordination Committee.
Once seconded, the motion was approved unanimously.
Commissioners then voted to appoint Seaberg, or his designee, to serve on the TCC. Meilleur was appointed to serve on the TAC.
Email Jimmy Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.