Local News

Small Northampton Town Could See Change -- Like It Or Not

Posted October 5, 2005

— Change in the small Northampton County town of Gaston has not gone over very well in the past, but whether they like it or not, town residents are in for a big change.

For example, up for consideration at the polls Tuesday was a fire tax to help residents protect their property. The idea, however, had already been snuffed out once at the polls.

"Well, the first time around, we missed it by four votes," said Gaston Fire Department Chief Ed Porter.

No matter which way you size up the town of Gaston, it is small. Money is hard to come by for town services. Volunteers staff the fire department. Donations, as well as state and federal grants, help purchase equipment.

Town leaders say the fire tax would collect about $8,000 to help foot the bills.

"The main idea of the fire tax is (that) as the community grows, the fire department income will grow right along with the community, which will allow us to steadily upgrade our equipment," Porter said.

That growth may not be that far off.

Gaston is just across the river from Roanoke Rapids and near Interstate 95 -- not far from the proposed Roanoke Rapids Entertainment District, as well as the 3,000 new jobs the complex will bring with it.

That could reshape the small town -- where the civic center used to be a general store and the police department is a one-room attachment.

The lack of looking forward on all fronts caused the town's former mayor, Billy Melton, to call it quits just last week.

"(Gaston is) on the verge of growing and commissioners apparently want to stay the same," Melton said. "And sometimes, we miss the boat."

Passage of the fire tax could be the signal that it is time to move forward.

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