Northampton County commissioners voted Monday to allow a company to begin the process that could lead to the construction of a hazardous waste incinerator in the county.

The invitation passed despite the fact that only two commissioners voted in favor of it. Two members were absent from the meeting and another walked out before the vote.Commissioner John Liverman voted in favor of the proposal.

``The past weeks have been difficult for Northampton citizens,' he said. ``I've read information provided by both the opponents and proponents. I have received death threats and have been threatened politically.'

North Carolina had agreed to build a hazardous-waste incinerator as part of a five-state pact. Under the proposal, North Carolina's role would be to run a hazardous-waste incinerator capable of recovering some solvents and metals.

Under the agreement with South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, the state was to apply for permits for the chemical waste complex by Dec. 31, 1990. The deadline passed without the applications being made.

Some North Carolina officials have been frustrated by their inability to find a site for the $70 million incinerator, ash landfill and solvents recycling complex.

The N.C. Hazardous Waste Management Commission had selected a state-owned Granville County tract last year as its preferred site, but the Council of State in December refused to transfer the land to the waste commission.

It was learned in December that Northampton County officials had been talking with the hazardous-waste management company ThermalKEM about the county volunteering to host the facility.

On Monday, Joe Motzno, the chairman of the county's economic development commission, asked for a vote.

``I'm asking you to give a favorable vote,' he said. ``Let's be a progressive county, not what we have done in the past. We will never get another chance at something like this.'

Commissioner Henry Moncure walked out of the meeting before the vote was taken. Liverman and commissioner Vernon Kee voted in favor of the invitation. Commission chairman Jack Faison and vice chairman Jasper Eley were absent due to illness.

County Manager Jim Futrell said his office has checked with advisers at the University of North Carolina Institute of Government in Chapel Hill who said the vote apparently was legal.

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