Commissioner candidates White and Hickey squabble over footbridg - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Commissioner candidates White and Hickey squabble over footbridge and reputations

Derrick Hickey (Source: WECT) Derrick Hickey (Source: WECT)
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -

Neighborly love -- it's not the feeling between two neighbors who happen to be running against each other for public office. Woody White and Derrick Hickey both want your vote for seats on the New Hanover County Commission. The issue between the two? A footbridge.

The walkway sits on Woody White's property. Derrick Hickey, who lives just a few doors down, says that walkway violates several CFPUA regulations.

He says White got special treatment because of his position on the CFPUA board.

In Woody White's backyard, spanning over marsh, close to a CFPUA pump station is a wooden-planked footbridge.

White says neighbors in both the Rabbit Run and New Hall communities chipped in to pay for the walkway. They had it built a year and half ago.

"A win win for everybody because of the dozens of kids that used to ride their bikes and run on Greenville Loop Rd now have a safe way to connect with their grandparents across the marsh," he says.

Not everyone in the neighborhood agrees. Derrick Hickey lives just few doors down from White. 

Hickey says the walkway is illegal. During an interview a few days ago he handed WECT copies of emails showing what he says is proof.

The documents date back to November 2014, showing where CFPUA staff emailed that the footbridge violated CAMA, easement and building code violations. Soon after, White asked the authority for an encroachment on the easement and two days later, the authority approved his request.

"It was scheduled for demolition right up until they found out it had been instructed by Cape Fear Public Utility board member and at the time current county commission Chairman Woody White," Hickey says.

But White says this issue is not about the footbridge.

"Derrick should be ashamed of himself for trying to turn this into a political issue, but it is in keep with his life of conflict and it's frankly keeping with his life of conflict and it's really why he's not really meant to serve in public office," he says.

Conflict between them is nothing new. Monday, WECT interviewed Hickey about a Facebook page he created, called Stop the CFPUA 3 – the 3 being Woody White, Pat Kusek and Jim Brumit – all on the CFPUA board and all running against Hickey for county commissioner.

"I'm not asking for your viewers to vote for me," Hickey told WECT. "What I'm asking in the end is that your viewers don't vote for the three of them."

"He would be a disaster for this community," White says. "He's a disaster for our neighbors."

Hickey responded to White's  contention Wednesday night.

“As is his pattern, Woody White resorts to name calling and personal attacks because he can’t dispute the facts,” Hickey said in a statement. “He used his office as a county commissioner and a CFPUA board member to get preferential treatment that the average New Hanover County resident would never receive. Building over 404 regulated wetland, CAMA regulated waters, and not to be overlooked – DIRECTLY OVER SEWER MAIN is not something that any utility authority would deem acceptable, not to mention any city, county or state. Were the average person to build a structure like this, not only would they be required to remove it at their own cost, but the fines and penalties from the Army Corps of Engineers and CAMA would likely be in the tens of thousands of dollars. For Woody White IT COST NOTHING.  

No part of this issue is about conflict between two neighbors. Again, that is Woody’s attempt to dismiss or divert from the facts. But the fact is that this is about his abuse of a county office. County Officials must hold themselves to the same standards as every other resident of the county. Mr. White is an elitist, self serving politician who has run roughshod over residents while he plays by a different set of rules.  

My record as a New Hanover County Board of Education member stands on its own. Mr. White’s political career has been mired in controversy and accusations against other elected officials. This pattern of behavior began during his brief tenure in the state senate, continued during his failed run for congress, and continues today as a county commissioner.”

Below is a statement by the CFPUA, sent by spokesman Mike McGill:

“Every year, CFPUA discovers about a dozen property owners who have constructed improvements on their property that could potentially hamper access to our water or sewer utilities.  Upon the discovery, CFPUA contacts the homeowner to inform them of the issue and offer the opportunity to apply for an approval of the encroachment.  Our goal is to work with the customer to reach a reasonable solution.

"An encroachment approval includes an investigation of how the encroachment relates to our work.  The primary deciding factor for an approval is a determination as to whether or not CFPUA utilities are obstructed to the point where our staff cannot properly access them or conduct their work.  In this case, the walkway was determined to be a temporary improvement that did not hamper CFPUA’s access or operation.  As a result, the variance was approved with an agreement that CFPUA would not be held responsible for any damage if/when we need to access our utilities.  This past year, we granted similar variances to about 10 customers using these same standards.”

Copyright 2016 WECT. All rights reserved.

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