EDC members work to tackle hard questions
Clay County’s Economic Development Commission held its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 8, only a couple of weeks after the February meeting which had been rescheduled due to inclement weather. Despite the short time between meetings, the group had continued work on its chosen initiatives.
Board member Mary Weigold shared information from the county finance office. “The EDC has no budget to work with,” Weigold said. “No line item.”
EDC Director Aaron Patton confirmed, but explained the current budget year has $3,055.20 remaining from the money set for his travel, salary, FICA and taxes. Patton is a county employee while board members serve voluntarily. Clay County Commissioner Rob Peck reminded the board any budget requests for the new year must be in by Friday, April 1. Peck is the commission representative to the EDC.
Patton presented his activity report, telling how he learned about community data and analysis when he attended the Tennessee Valley Authority Leadership Institute. “I’ve also been working with a business interested in attracting local breweries or a tap house,” he said. “A local business is looking to expand so we set up pre-hire classes of three hours per night for three nights.”
Mayor Harry Baughn thanked Patton for being so involved.
“Patton keeps in touch with everything in the county and the Town of Hayesville,” Baughn said. “He’s on the committee for economic restructuring with Small Town Main Street which is looking to have a real estate open house. It will target businesses within an hour of here.” Baughn said it is still in the planning stages. “We’ll put on a shindig,” he said.
As before, the largest topic of conversation was the county’s water and sewer lines and the recommendations made by an EDC sub-committee. EDC Chairman Matthew Waldroup said the utility’s director, Jason Waldroup, feels the fees are comparable and will meet with his advisory board on March 18. “He’s no relation, by the way,” Matthew Waldroup said.
Sub-committee member Weigold said there are issues the group wants to address. There is no provision mandating new construction to join sewer and water. In addition, if repair is needed, property owners may still put in a well or septic.
“This defeats the purpose of what we have done,” Weigold said. “The proposed reduced fees would promote business and create jobs. The system is at about 50 percent.”
Board member Debbie Woody added, “The cost is more economical to hook onto this if it goes as proposed than it is to drill a well and dig a septic tank”
Baughn agreed. “A well is never a guarantee. I think you’re right in trying to make this accessible.”
Peck said he believes there is something at the state level that allows wells, but he would check. He said reducing hook-up fees may hurt because that money is used for repairs and maintenance costs. He also said the group should have contacted Jason Waldroup much sooner and not just before the proposal was being presented.
“I want to encourage that we work to improve communication,” Peck said. “We’re all for economic development, but we need to keep in mind the greater good.”
Weigold responded, “If we’re putting it all on the table, we did reach out to him two months ago. We did not get to talk to him until this month.”
Patton informed the board he would not be writing the Investprep grant since the commissioners did not approve it despite the EDC board’s recommendation. Board members discussed they would like clarification on their responsibilities. Waldroup said he would work with Patton to get those.
Other meeting topics included:
• The need for more recreational facilities.
• The possibility of sending representatives to home shows or recreational shows.
• Bike trails and campgrounds and the need for clearer signs to both.
• A comprehensive map for facilities and sites.
After the discussions, Commissioner Randy Nichols said, “Thanks to all of you. Being on a board can be a thankless job.”
Matthew Waldroup ended the meeting by saying, “I know everyone here is about economic development, industrial development, tourism and real estate. One in four people here are at or below poverty level. We raise up really intelligent young people to send them off to help with someone else’s economic development. We have negative growth.”
He continued, “We need to condition this community to weather the next economic downturn better than the last. We need to tackle these discussions and the hard questions.”
Clay County’s Economic Development Commission will meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12 in the multi-purpose room of the courthouse.