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Commissioners boast full roster, appoint chair and vice-chair

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

BOLIVIA—And then there were five.

County commissioners on Monday appointed their newest member to the board—Marty Cooke.

Cooke was selected by the Brunswick County Republican Party Executive Committee last month to serve as county commissioner until the first meeting in December; and to appear on the ballot on Election Day this November.

The seat was vacated April 4 with the death of longtime county commissioner and past chairman David Sandifer.

On Saturday, the Brunswick County Democratic Party Executive Committee is slated to vote for a Democratic candidate to oppose Cooke in November’s election.

With the board operating again with five members, board members appointed a new chairman and vice-chairman. Commissioner Bill Sue was appointed as chairman, and commissioner Phil Norris was appointed as vice-chairman of the board.

Wilmington bypass and Cape Fear Skyway

N.C. Turnpike Authority representatives presented commissioners with an overview of the proposed Wilmington bypass and the Cape Fear Skyway projects.

David Redwine, turnpike authority member, told commissioners the authority was “established as another option in trying to work our way out of the transportation and infrastructure problems in the state.”

Redwine said the board’s role within the two proposed transportation projects is to discuss it with commissioners and any other local entities, including rural and metropolitan planning organizations and municipal elected officials.

“It’s not something we’re trying to force or impose on somebody,” he said of the two proposed projects.

The three-part project—the skyway over the Cape Fear River, Section A of the bypass and Section B of the bypass—is a “very, very expensive process.”

Authority members are mulling the idea of making the three-part project a toll road.

Chief engineer Steve Dewitt told commissioners without the Wilmington bypass project in place, the “Cape Fear Skyway simply cannot exist.”

Of the three-part project, only one section, Section B, has Department of Transportation funding allocated. Construction for the $234.4 million Section B of the Wilmington bypass is scheduled for 2012-2015.

Rights of way acquisitions for both Sections A and B should begin around October, Dewitt said.

“There is nothing on the horizon for section A to be completed,” he said.

“I do not want to say we are not here to advocate this as a toll project, we were asked to look at it to see what the applicability might be,” Dewitt said.

The toll cost, he said, would likely be between 12-15 cents per mile.

About 50 percent of the cost to build the project could be financed with toll roads.

Toll revenues offset the cost of not just the construction of the transportation projects, he said, but also the maintenance and operations costs for the next 40 years.

“Toll roads are not the only answer in North Carolina; it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” Dewitt said.

Caroline Curran is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at ccurran@brunswickbeacon.com