Under the dome

Basnight wants restoration funds for lodge

staff writersDecember 27, 2010 

Senate leader Marc Basnight sent Gov. Bev Perdue and other statewide elected officials a letter last week asking them to approve borrowing $3.3 million to continue renovations of a Lake Mattamuskeet Lodge in Hyde County.

The lodge, built in 1915, is on the National Historic Register. The state is in the middle of renovating it.

"Not only is this a one-of-a-kind historic structure that should be preserved," the Manteo Democrat wrote, "but we have made a commitment through state and federal laws to complete the job."

The debt Basnight wants approved was one of the items the Council of State postponed at its meeting this month.

Officials decided to put off a decision on issuing $175million in debt for building repairs and repair projects. The elected officials said it was a bad time to borrow with the state facing a $3 billion-plus budget hole.

The projects have been approved by the legislature, but the Council of State needs to approve them before bonds can be sold.

"It is a small amount of debt," Basnight said in an interview. "It would not affect our debt or credit rating at all."

The 2006 federal law giving the state the lodge specified that the state would restore it. The legislature pushed for the law because the state was keen on repairing the building, and there was no guarantee the federal government would move fast enough, Basnight said.

The state so far has spent about $5 million on repairs. The total cost to restore it will be about $12 million.

Experienced transition team

Incoming Speaker Thom Tillis has some familiar faces on the GOP's transition team in the N.C. House.

Tillis has tapped former legislator Bill Daughtridge of Rocky Mount to serve as his interim chief of staff during the transition. Daughtridge, who runs his family's oil company, represented Nash County from 2003 to 2008, when he campaigned unsuccessfully for state treasurer.

Former GOP legislator Charles Thomas of Asheville is also helping Tillis with the transition. A professional financial advisor, Thomas served one term in the House during 2007-08, representing Buncombe County.

Rep. Laura Wiley of High Point is helping guide the GOP push on education issues. A former educator,Wiley has served as a member of the Education and Appropriations committees, as well as vice chairman of the Education Subcommittee on Pre-School, Elementary and Secondary Education.

Bald Head ferry to cost more

State regulators have resolved a dispute about ferry costs to and from Bald Head Island, the small resort community across from Southport on the Cape Fear River and accessible only by ferry.

The N.C. Utilities Commission approved a rate increase that represents a compromise between the current rate and the big increases Bald Head Island Transportation had requested in May.

Under rate changes effective Saturday, a general pass will increase from $16 to $23. The ferry operator had requested $28.

The annual pass will go from $1,665 to $1,850. The ferry company wanted $2,800.

A one-way pass will go from $5 to $11.50, not the $14 requested.

Though the tiny island has just 1,200 individual property owners, the increases proposed by the ferry company resonated beyond the state's borders.

The utilities commission was inundated with complaints from part-time residents, including those who live in the Triangle as well as in Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey.

The ferry company argued that it has been operating at a deficit for 10 years and needed to raise rates to pay for business operations.

The utilities commission is best known for regulating the rates of utilities like Duke Energy, Progress Energy, PSNC Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas.

But the agency also regulates ferry rates and mover rates.

For their expert witness, The Village of Bald Head Island, Bald Head Island Club and Bald Head Association hired consultant Julius Wright, who has a doctorate in economics from N.C. State University and who is a former state senator in the General Assembly and a former member of the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Wright argued that Bald Head Island Transportation based its rate request on flawed assumptions.

lynn.bonner@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4821

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