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Although New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger was awarded a scholarship to attend an economic development and finance course offered through the UNC School of Government this week, he did not go.
According to New Hanover County Public Information Officer Charles Smith, Berger authored a press release about the scholarship and, on the day the course began, emailed it to the county and asked that it be distributed to local and state media. The county complied and issued the press release that day.
“I can confirm that Commissioner Berger did not go” to the two-day course, Smith said Friday. The course was held Sept. 19-20 at UNC Chapel Hill.
Reached Friday evening, Berger said the county’s administration would not accommodate his trip due to the roughly $547 the county says he owes for past no-shows at conferences he was registered to attend. Associated but unfulfilled hotel bookings also factored in.
Berger said he offered to provide the county a check to “put the issue to bed, but there was not a welcome reception to that.”
Over the phone Friday he lamented the fact that the scholarship went to waste. “I thought it was pertinent to attend, given the economic situation that we’re in,” he said.
A follow-up attempt to reach the county administration for comment was not immediately successful.
According to the Sept. 19 press release, the scholarship was to cover Berger’s attendance of the “Development Finance Toolbox” program. It dealt with financial mechanisms, like incentives available to Main Street businesses and tax increment financing, that North Carolina governments may use.
The scholarship’s value was not disclosed but the press release credited support from Food Lion.
The release called the course a “high-paced introduction and analysis of the mechanisms local communities have used with varied success to jumpstart and anchor public, and public-private partnership, initiatives with stated goals including job creation and ‘eliminating blight’ in economically depressed areas.”
The release also noted Berger’s recent reappointments to boards including the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Environment, Energy and Land Use Steering Committee, which assists NACo’s policy development related to air, water, solid waste management, energy and land resources.