State Takes Over Finances Of Historic Princeville

The saying "times are tough" may seem like an understatement to the residents of Princeville in Edgecombe County where the budget is stretched so thin the state treasurer's office has moved in to take over again.

The small town has quite a history as one of the country's first towns established by freed slaves. Princeville also has a history of financial problems. The state had to take over its finances back in 1997. This time around water bills are the focal point. Residents say the price of water is way too high, and paying their bills each month is a challenge.

"I have to let my medicine go to pay the water bill, to keep the water bill from being cut off," said Princeville resident Rosa Smith.

Even small households like Jane Bridgers' where only 2 people live
are paying a heavy price.

"Very high water bill, ranging from 90 dollars to 100 dollars a month, sometimes over," said Bridgers.

Earlier this month, Princeville shut off water to a portion of the town because customers were failing to pay their bills. Residents say part of the reason why they're so high is that the city is broke and needs the money.

There has been a lot of money taken from the town of Princeville since 1999 when the flood came from Hurricane Floyd.

A law enforcement officer spoke with WITN and said he didn't see the mayor at town hall Tuesday. We attempted to get in touch with her and all of the town commissioners but none of them returned our calls.

We even went to the home of Mayor Priscilla Everette-Oates on Strickland Drive, but she didn't answer the door. The state of North Carolina has taken over her town's budget, as Princeville could default on a loan over $300,000. Smith and Bridgers say they're glad the state has moved in to take over.

"This crew that's in the administration, and the last administration, they all should be kicked out the door," said Smith.

Smith and Bridgers have lived in Princeville for over two decades, and did say things were better before Hurricane Floyd.

The storm left almost the entire town under water, and they say even 13 years later, it's been tough for everyone

The state treasurer's office warned the town years ago that if the financial problems continued they would intervene.

North Carolina officials are taking financial control of one of the country's first towns established by freed slaves.

The state's Local Government Commission is stepping in to take over the accounts and assume responsibility for Princeville's finances. Officials in the state treasurer's office say town leaders were warned of problems for two years.

Officials say Princeville is in danger of defaulting on a $310,000 loan to replace its water meters and has failed to comply with bookkeeping requirements.

The town was settled by freed slaves in 1865 and is one of America's oldest black-founded chartered towns. Allegations of mismanagement have been around for years. About 90 percent of the town was submerged under 20 feet of water from Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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