The Anson County Board of Commissioners held its first meeting after the general election on Tuesday night. After Anna Baucom and Ross Streater were re-elected chair and vice chairman of the board, respectively, the commissioners commenced a busy meeting that included in-depth discussions on the county’s use of Anson Rescue Squad services, the need for repairs to the two sludge lagoons at the county’s filtration plant and one citizen’s concerns about the Tourism Development Authority.
Anson Rescue Squad to become 24/7 service on trial basis
The discussion about the Anson Rescue Squad and the services it provides in conjunction with Anson County EMS is part of an ongoing issue that the commissioners have been talking about for the past few months. Anthony Ratliff, representing the Anson Rescue Squad, said he was confused why he’d been asked to appear before the board.
A new contract between the county and the rescue squad was the main issue. Ratliff said the only change he was aware of was for the rescue squad to start being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rather than the originally contracted peak hours. Anson County EMS supervisor Ryan Teal said that he was concerned about the proposed change because it wouldn’t “create any public value,” and would end up costing taxpayers more than $100,000 a year to help pay for the extra volunteers at the rescue squad.
“We’re adding a service, but not adding revenue,” he said.
“I’m taken aback by this,” Ratliff said. “I didn’t expect any of this.”
County Manager Lawrence Gatewood said he doesn’t care whether county employees or the rescue squad’s paid volunteers receive pay for their services, as long as the county is properly covered. He suggested that the commissioners try the new agreement on a trial basis and revisit the issue in six months to see how it’s going.
After a lengthy discussion, the commissioners unanimously approved the contract on the suggested trial basis.
$5 million lagoon replacement project approved
As part of a utilities update to the board, utilities director Mike Sessions told the board that two sludge lagoons at the county’s filtration plant need to be replaced or repaired immediately. In March of 2011, he said, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources performed an inspection of the lagoons and reported it was time for them to be reworked.
Sessions offered three solutions to the board, two of which involved the county purchasing more land for new lagoons. The third option is for engineers to work on the lagoon from the inside out. That should keep the lagoons good for the next 30 years, he added.
“This is a $5 million project,” Sessions told the commissioners. “I think we can get funding from grants and from low-interest loans, but this is something that’s got to be done. This is the best solution we’ve been able to come up with because we wouldn’t have to buy land or add help.”
Baucom asked Sessions what would happen if the county didn’t repair the lagoons. “We have no choice,” he replied. “We would get fines until [DENR] shut us down.”
Sessions asked the commissioners to approve the third solution so that he can start applying for grants to help with the project. His request was approved unanimously.
TDA’s practices called into question
The third hot topic for the commissioners came from the public comment portion of the meeting, when Merrie Datin, owner of the Forever Inn, appeared before the board to voice complaints against the Tourism Development Authority.
Datin quoted state legislation that says all room occupancy tax monies must be collected and spent on tourism-related expenses. But, Datin said, the current TDA board doesn’t believe expenses are tourism-related, unless they put “heads in beds.”
“I think the TDA has killed the spirits of some small businesses in town because of this heads in beds mentality,” she said. “They have $80,000 in a bank account that they’re not spending.”
She also pointed out that the current members of the TDA board have nothing to do with tourism. “They do not know what they’re doing,” she said. “If you don’t spend the money for tourism, how do you expect the number of visitors to grow?”
In the interest of full disclosure, Datin said she had recently requested $400 from the TDA for an art contest. Although the TDA helped fund the contest last year, this year her request was denied.
When asked what she wanted the commissioners to do, Datin replied, “I would like for the TDA to spend money appropriately and for the appropriate people to be on the board.” Baucom said she and the other commissioners would look into how the TDA is set up, and what changes can be made.
In other business at the Dec. 4 meeting, the commissioners:
- received a new North Carolina state flag from Rep. Frank McGuirt, who said the flag has been certified by Gov. Bev Perdue as one that has flown above the State Capitol Building.
- held a public hearing on the fiscal year 2014 Community Transportation Grant application.
- unanimously approved a request from Gulledge Fire Department to relocate across the street from its current location.
- heard from Bjorn Hansen with the Centralina Council of Governments regarding a proposed volunteer transportation program, in which citizens would volunteer to provide transportation services for the elderly, people with disabilities and veterans. After discussion, the commissioners unanimously approved a resolution of support for the project.
- named Jarvis Woodburn as its voting delegate for the Legislative Goals Conference.
- approved their meeting schedule for 2013, with meetings scheduled for Jan. 7, Feb. 5, March 5, April 2, May 7, June 4, July 8, Aug. 6, Sept. 9, Oct. 7, Nov. 5 and Dec. 3.
- discussed dates for the annual meeting with the South Piedmont Community College board of trustees.
- unanimously approved the Pee Dee Lumber Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan.
- heard an update from County Manager Gatewood, who reported that county employees have exceeded their United Way fundraising goal for this year’s campaign. Gatewood also gave an update on the construction projects at the courthouse and Belk Building. He said a large American flag will be added to the roof of the Belk Building and the flag will be illuminated at night. - heard from interim Board of Elections director Steve Adams, who gave a report on the 2012 general election. Adams said Anson County had 66.42 percent voter turnout, with 6,322 voters participating in early voting. The move of the early voting site to the Board of Education on Camden Road was a success, he added. Gatewood echoed that sentiment, and expressed gratitude to the school board and Superintendent Dr. Greg Firn for allowing the county to use the facility for early voting.
- unanimously approved the records retention and disposition schedule for the Register of Deeds and a shared local foods extension agent for the Cooperative Extension Service.
The board went into closed session at about 8:30 p.m.
The next regular meeting of the Anson County Board of Commissioners will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Anson County Government Center.