Monday, May 1, 2017

Politician Manipulates System to Get County Land for 10 Cents an Acre, 1948

The Coastland Times, Manteo, N.C., published Friday, May 7, 1948

How Theo. Meekins Got 10,000 Acres of County’s Land at 10 Cents an Acre
With Only Three members of the Board Present, Including His Brother John Acting as Chairman, Our Present Tax Supervisor and Representative Got 10,000 Aces of County-Owned Tracts on the Mainland; Subsequent Sales of These Lands in Washington, D.C., and Elsewhere Brought Many Thousands of Dollars

In the light of political developments in Dare County in the past few weeks, it may be of interest to recount how Theo. S. Meekins, who now seeks to represent the people a third time, got hold of 10,000 acres of land owned by Dare County by paying 10 cents an acre for it to the Board of Commissioners.

It is particularly interesting when we take into account the fact that the Commissioners who approved this deal for the Representative of the people valued the peoples’ property at only 10 cents an acre, and accepted this sum for the land, while the lowest valuations anyone else was allowed to list adjoining land was $2.75 an acre.

We are going to print here the facts without any dressing. This is not mud-slinging. It has nothing to do with anybody’s personal affairs. It is the recital of official acts, which is the business of every citizen and taxpayer. It is of timely interest right now, when certain people involved are trying to continue as representatives of the people, when others are trying to keep them in office, and who are trying to move heaven and earth to defeat others who are willing to work for a change of the situation in Dare County.

Back in March 1942, the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Dare County was Jake Daniels, a beloved citizen of Wanchese and a man who had the interests of the county at heart, who sought to save money, who never jumped at conclusions too quickly.

But Mr. Daniels, who died shortly afterward, was then on his death bed and on a blustery March day when few people were around, and with John A. Meekins of Rodanthe, brother of Theo., Acting Chairman of the Board that day, and only two other members out of five present, namely John Ferebee and A.B. Hooper, there popped suddenly into the meeting an offer of $1,000, accompanied by the check of Theo. S. Meekins, if the Board would sell him several tracts of land owned by the county in Croatan and East Lake Townships, and approximating a total of 10,000 acres. The offer of the ridiculous sum of 10 cents an acre was quickly accepted by the board, without once making a suggestion that some time should be taken for consideration, that the people should have an opportunity to express themselves, without publication anywhere, and without even posting at the courthouse door a notice of their action.

Lands Were Valued by County for Taxes at $41,000

Now these lands which sold for 10 cents an acre, or only $1,000, had been valued for many years by various Boards of Commissioners at a total of $41,302.50. At the time they were foreclosed for taxes, there was around $3,000 due the county on them, and which they were easily worth, in the opinion of many people.

These tracts totaling 9,691 acres and sold for 10 cents, had been valued at figures running from $3 to $7 an acre. They are as follows.

Casey’s Point tract at Stumpy Point, 137.5 acres, valued at $250. Dewey Smith tract. Reids Point at Mashoes, 300 acres, valued at $900. Hinton property at Mashoes, 250 acres valued at $1,500. The F.H. Shoaf property at Long Shoal River, 6,374 acres valued at $20,000. Four tracts known as the Daniel Ed Williams property at East Lake, totaling 2,640 acres valued at $18,900. Total value, $41,302.50.

There is a difference of about $40,000 dollars between the appraisal price and the selling price. Somebody made a big mistake!

Now we have been cussed and abused and threatened and told we are ruining Dare County by what we print about some of the people in it. So to see who may be liars, we will print book and page, and any who are interested can go to the Office of the Register of Deeds of Dare County to see for himself.

The record of this action of the Board of Commissioners may be found in Minute Book 4, dated March 3, 1942, in the office of Melvin R. Daniels, Clerk to the Board.—See page 32.

The record of the deed, which was taken to Capt. Jake for his signature, while confined to his home with the illness which soon ended his life, may be found in Deed Book 25, pages 123 and 125 in the office of Melvin R Daniels, Clerk to the Board and Register Clerk to the Board and Register of Deeds.

Subsequent records show that the lands were sold to various people in Washington, D.C., and in other places, with Mr. Meekins first having reserved all mineral rights to himself. The records indicate that the buyers of these lands paid tens of thousands of dollars for the lands, for which Dare County got only 10 cents an acre.

Mr. Meekins not only sold the lands, but he leased the mineral rights for one or more years to the Standard Oil Company, and collected an annual rental of 10 cents per acre, getting back more per are than he paid the county; actually the lands cost him nothing.

Dare County might have got this income and still had the lands; it might have still had the lands of Chairman Jake hadn’t been sick, and this action taken by three men in his absence.

At the time of the transaction, an account was printed in this newspaper, and it caused something of a stir. Evidently there were other lands in the county desired. The county owns a few more tracts, including a 670 acre tract, the gift of the late David Lindquist, a sportsman of New York and Bodie Island, who gave this piece of land, which is now worth $30,000, and might in a few years double in value. In fact, the county has received nearly $4,000 cash from the sale of about 75 acres of this land, taken over by the U.S. Coast Guard for the station at Bodie Island.

This gift of land came to Dare County only through the intersession of Victor Meekins, a friend of Mr. Linquist, who said, out of appreciation of several courtesies rendered him, including good will he was going to give Dare County people the land, and hoped they would keep it for several years, and in time be used for the pleasure and benefit of the people, or turned into cash, when its ocean frontage increased in value, so that it might provide a fine public building, or something else badly needed for the county.

But the Commissioners were not included to sell any more county land, especially after the miscarriage of a more recent scheme to sell of the front of Manteo High School playground for building lots. This newspaper exposed the plan; it backfired and was dropped like a hot brick, but not until the Commissioners had taken $600 of the people’s money and bought an acre of swamp on the back of the playground to make up in area, if not in value the amount of the land planned to be sold off of the front.

Figure This Out for Yourself

In March 1947, during the last term of the Legislature, at the same time our County Representative passed a bill creating the office of full time Tax Supervisor, and which job he got for himself and for which he now draws $180 a month, and expenses, to administer a $5,000 annual budget, he also passed a bill to force the County Commissioners to sell all the land owned by Dare County (whether it was profitable or not) to sell all these lands not being used for Governmental purposes, which of course leave us ground under the courthouse, the jail, the school buildings, etc., by December 1947.
And Bless the Lord, he put into the bill that all these sales “shall be under the supervision of the Tax Supervisor of Dare County.” And, may we ask, who is the tax supervisor of Dare County?

But like a lot of other things, the Commissioners haven’t had the nerve to carry out this bill, which would throw the county’s property on the market, regardless of how advisable the time, and how greatly it might be needed later on by the county.

Well, don’t take our word for this either. You will find the whole bill, entitled House Bill No 698, Chapter 442, in the Public Laws of North Carolina. This book is in several offices of the courthouse.

We would print it in full, but it is too long for the space we have this week. And there is another bill, the bill which provides for assessment of property this year, while Mr. Meekins is Tax Supervisor, and which provides the latter hold office for two years.

What will be the result to the ordinary citizen if he continues to value his ocean front at $20 an acre, while others must be assessed at $500 an ocean front lot, as has been done in the past? There is little can be done about it for four year.

Don’t take our word for it. The law is House Bill No. 669, Chapter 628, of the Public Laws of 1947, and in the same book mentioned theretofore.

This is the job which pays Mr. Meekins $180 a month while somebody else does the work, as he sits across the street in his real estate office.

“It Is Wrong to Print These Facts”

No wonder Mr. Meekins doesn’t like this newspaper, and says the editor is a dangerous man.
And he wants to represent Dare County people a third time.

And the same people who are fighting tooth and toe-nail to send Mr. Meekins to the Legislature again, don’t want the editor of this newspaper to get in office with the Board of Commissioners, who will stop the squandering of the pitiful wealth of the poor people of Dare County.

You will soon be seeing men out soliciting votes carrying on their coat-tails the price-tag of Theo. Meekins.

Well, you know this tag won’t be on the editor of this newspaper, and it will never be, and it has never been Raleigh Scribes to the contrary.

The editor is well aware that some of the supporters of Theo. Meekins would be happy to see any kind of dire fate befall him. He is not surprised at anything some of them might do. Warnings have already come to watch out for foul lies and last minute tricks to be played to discredit the editor of this newspaper.

But threats will not stop us from printing the truth, and whether elected or not, we will continue to print the truth, and as time goes on, we will have more things about how a lot of these other honorable gentlemen, while doing nothing for which the law can touch them, seem to be usually smarter than the officials of Dare they deal with, so that the poor taxpayer is the “goat.”

They have no answer but curses and threats and abuse, and they do not want us to print, how in some of their dealings, the county comes out at the little end of the horn, or as the saying goes, gets the dirty end of the stick.

So who is this editor criticizing Theo. Meekins? I turned to the editorial page of the newspaper and found out that Victor Meekins is editor and general manager of the Coastland Times. Catherine D. Meekins is secretary-treasurer, and Roger P. and Francis W. Meekins are managers of the mechanical department. The newspaper was founded July 4, 1935 and was called The Dare County Times until July 4, 1947, when it was changed. Oh, and Meekins was not reelected.

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