Our Opinion: Animal shelter talk is long overdue, but so is action

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THUMBS UP to the Wilson County Board of Commissioners for considering an expedited timetable for financing and building a new animal shelter. 

A replacement for the aging Airport Road shelter has been discussed for more than a decade. In January 2008, commissioners approved pet registration fees to take effect the following year, ostensibly to pay for the new shelter and for animal control improvements. 

County residents have dutifully paid their pet tax, but the county's only saved about a third of the $800,000 project cost. That's because fees were funneled into the general fund and misappropriated for other uses, and commissioners finally started putting money aside in a capital reserve account in 2015.

At this rate, it will take longer to replace an animal shelter in a small North Carolina county than it took to build the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center. Depending on when you start the clock, it already has. While a ceremonial cornerstone was placed the year prior, the final design was unveiled in June 2005 and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere was complete by May 2013.

Commissioners earned an attaboy when they expressed a willingness to increase annual shelter savings during their June 5 public hearing on the 2018-19 budget. To prevent that thumbs-up from inverting, they must commit to devoting 100 percent of pet fee collections to shelter construction and, at long last, set a deadline for completion. 

THUMBS DOWN to fuel prices creeping up nearly a quarter a gallon from April 1 to June 1. Most drivers can absorb the extra cost, but if supply doesn't start growing a bit faster than demand, we could be flirting with $3-per-gallon gas.

Those pennies add up — auto club AAA Carolinas says motorists will spend an average of $250 more on gas this summer than they spent in 2017. For families of modest means, that could put a crimp on travel plans and back-to-school shopping. 

This seasonal inflation may have less to do with the free market's invisible hand and more to do with oil companies giving us the proverbial middle finger. In Tuesday's New York Post, columnist John Crudele writes that U.S. gasoline refiners have delayed dropping pump prices even though oil is down from $80 a barrel in mid-May to less than $75 now. 

No one likes paying more to get from Point A to Point B. We're allowed to like it even less when greed, not scarcity, appears to be the root cause.

THUMBS UP to BB&T's Lighthouse Project, a community service effort by Wilson County's largest employer that's making a considerable difference in needy Wilsonians' lives this summer.

Last week, BB&T's operational risk management division purchased nearly $1,500 worth of food and more than $500 worth of towels, washcloths, dish soap and laundry detergent for the New Christian Food Pantry and Child Development Center. The charity's co-founder, Candy Taylor, shed tears of joy.

"God has been mighty good," Taylor told Times reporter Olivia Neeley. "It takes a village. I want the community to see the village that's helping."

More than a dozen bank employees volunteered their time to pitch in at the food pantry. The same week, another BB&T crew bought and assembled home startup kits — bedding, kitchen and cleaning supplies — for domestic violence survivors leaving the Wesley Shelter to start new lives.

Bank associates have tackled five projects at the women's and children's shelter this year, and Executive Director Lynne White said their efforts mean the world to her clients. One Lighthouse Project team built raised garden beds and planted vegetables for shelter clients to harvest.

After Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December, BB&T announced it would pour $100 million of its anticipated tax savings into the philanthropic fund that bankrolls the Lighthouse Project's largess. 

While that money will be spread across the thousands of communities BB&T serves nationwide, we know some of it is being used to great effect right here in Wilson, where predecessor company Branch & Hadley was born in 1872.