Our View: The year ahead may see resolution of several key issues

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The issue

Many projects, issues and news that emerged in 2015 will continue to affect area residents this year

Our position

Those continuing developments, along with the upcoming elections and, of course, the unexpected, is going to make 2016 a busy and interesting year

Over the past several days, we’ve highlighted some of the top stories of 2015 — many of which will spill over into the new year. For example, many are eager to see what happens next at Elizabeth City State University, where Chancellor Stacey Franklin Jones abruptly resigned last month after only 15 months leading the Viking ship.

Neither Jones nor University of North Carolina officials have said why she is stepping down. Many rumors are flying around, and it behooves the ECSU Trustees and UNC system to put those rumors to rest. The sooner, the better so that Jones’ successor, Dr. Thomas Conway from Fayetteville State University, can hit the ground running and turn around declining enrollment numbers. There’s also a head football coach vacancy that needs to be filled soon.

Another top story was College of The Albemarle’s vote to suspend school athletics, citing a lack of money. The board of trustees went along with President Kandi Deitemeyer’s recommendation, and agreed to revisit athletics after a year. So we’ll find out this year whether sports will return at COA.

No doubt the year ahead will be filled with politics. After all, this is a presidential election year, and the state has moved our primary up to March 15. North Carolina once again is likely to be a pivotal state. Expect presidential candidates to pay a visit — maybe to the Albemarle.

There’s also the governor’s race as Democrats including Attorney General Roy Cooper hope to make Republican Pat McCrory a one-term governor. The legislature will likely stay in the hands of Republicans whose redrawn district lines favor their re-election chances.

Locally, Mayor Joe Peel won re-election in Elizabeth City, withstanding a strong challenge from Democrat Sam Davis III, who has now thrown his hat into the ring to run against District 1 state Rep. Bob Steinburg, a popular Republican who is seeking re-election to a third term.

This year should also feature developments in two wind farm proposals, one of which is already under construction and another in the planning stages. A groundswell of residential opposition has risen in Perquimans and Chowan counties, and a legal challenge to the Amazon Wind Farm East project in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties should be decided.

Meanwhile, the past year included the sale of two Albemarle Regional Health Service agencies — home health and hospice — for $4.3 million to Medical Services of America. ARHS Director Jerry Parks cited a static market share, rising costs and declining revenues, all of which meant ARHS couldn’t keep shoring up the agencies’ losses.

ARHS board member and Pasquotank Commissioner Cecil Perry said a key point in MSA’s offer was the no-layoff guarantee for half a year. Thus, we’ll find out this year if those employees will continue to enjoy employment with MSA.

The past year was also a busy one in Currituck County, as the county commissioners took over operation of the county-owned and county-financed Whalehead at Historic Corolla and the Currituck Animal Shelter from the Currituck SPCA. Concerns about Whalehead overspending its budget in part prompted the move, which included placing new people in charge. The new and long-awaited $2.5 million animal shelter in Barco recently opened, with new leadership and plenty of space for dogs and cats up for adoption.

Currituck is also expecting the growth and development that occurred in 2015 to continue. One subdivision is already scheduled for construction this year in Moyock, while Planning Director Ben Woody said several more proposed subdivisions will be going through the planning process in 2016.

And neighboring Camden County will be getting a new Hardee’s restaurant at U.S. Highway 158 and N.C. Highway 343, with a nearby Todd’s Pharmacy planned for construction. Expect those businesses to seed other commercial development.

Hence, there’s been a lot on-going that we know will be rolling into the new year — not to mention the unexpected.

So as they say, fasten your seat belts.