Possible tax and utility fee increases following Vidant Pungo Ho - WNCN: News, Weather

Possible tax and utility fee increases following Vidant Pungo Hospital closure

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BELHAVEN, N.C. - The closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven may mean higher taxes for people who live in Beaufort County.

At a November county board meeting, Emergency Management Services Director, John Pack, was asked to give an estimate about what it would cost the county to make sure all EMS districts had paramedic level care. An official study has not been done, but Pack gave a ballpark figure of about $2.6-million. It’s a change county commissioners are considering to make sure residents in all parts of the county have access to paramedics in an emergency.

For Beaufort County resident Steve Foreman, he says any tax increase is going to hurt.

“Cut their budget instead of raising up taxes eve more. The people in eastern North Carolina are struggling enough as it is,” said Foreman.

Since the county learned the hospital would be closing as of April 1st, it has had to take $30,000 from the general fund to add paramedic services to the Belhaven area.

Belhaven Adam O’Neal says the closing of the hospital will have long term economic impact on the community.

“The economic devastation to our area by closing this hospital is incredible and it's far reaching. We have a situation where utilities in Belhaven, we are going to lose about a $450,000 a year utility customer. The people of Belhaven are going to pick that up. In addition we are going to have about 80 or 90 less people coming to town everyday eating at the restaurants everyday and buying at the restaurants downtown. It's going to cause out downtown to possible suffer great harm, and maybe devastate it," said O’Neal.

O’Neal says the town has to consider raising the utility fees up to 10% in the next year.

Foreman says closing the hospital and then possible raising taxes is like putting salt in an open wound.

“It’s already insulting them saying you don’t deserve a hospital because they don’t’ make enough money. Then to turn around and increase the taxes and they get not benefit out of it? No, I don’t like that at all,” said Foreman.

O’Neal says he plans to attend the Beaufort County commissioners meeting on Mar. 10th to see what else can be done for the people of Belhaven.

Vidant Pungo Hospital is set to close on April 1st.

Although the hospital is set to close, the North Carolina NAACP has filed a federal lawsuit against the hospital with the Department of Health and Human Services. Both the NAACP and the town are waiting to hear waiting on an update on that suit.
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