Groups request county funds
Money was the recurring theme at Thursday night’s Clay County Board of Commissioners’ meeting.
Clay County Communities Revitalization Association asked that funds be included in this year’s annual budget for the historic courthouse on the town square. CCCRA requested $50,000 for continued preservation efforts.
Logan’s Run Rescue said residents of local counties that help the organization with grants and matching funds for low-cost animal spay and neuter programs can receive the services for $20. Logan’s Run officials asked the county to consider giving up to $10,000, which the organization would match with a promise that the funds will be spent on Clay County animals.
Jake Davies, of Davies Contracting Inc., of Hayesville made a plea for the county to intercede so subcontractors who worked to build the Clay County Health Department building almost two years ago can be paid as soon as possible by Blue Ridge Enterprises Inc. of Mt. Airy. The subs are still owned almost $80,000, he said.
Commissioners call special meeting to review process
The commissioners have called a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Clay County Courthouse to discuss the health department construction process and the subcontractors’ claims against the county. They also are to review the county’s performance bonding and payment bonding process and the county manager’s handling of the health department construction process.
“I’m not here to ask for money tonight,” said Sandy Zimmerman, who gave the commissioners a review of activities undertaken by Small Town Main Street, which is continuing its work to revitalize downtown Hayesville and promote Clay County.
Commissioners also received an annual update from Southwestern Commission Region A Executive Director Ryan Sherby of Sylva, who said he is retiring and handing over his position to Sarah Thompson in 18 days. Southwestern Commission is a conduit for federal funds for various local programs.
Historic courthouse update
Newly appointed Hayesville Town Councilman Joe Slaton, a director of the CCCRA, said the county had previously included $50,000 in the 2013 and 2014 budgets for historic revitalization, but those funds were omitted in the 2015 budget. He asked that county support be continued. Reading from a prepared statement, Slaton told the commissioners that local efforts had raised more than $45,000 in 2015 and volunteers gave more than 11,000 hours toward revitalization efforts.
To date, preservation costs have included a $29,450 project to stop moisture migration into the old building, and $31,600 to encapsulate interior lead paint.
Estimated cost of the next project, to be completed this year, is $116,400. This includes installing water and waste lines, adding an electrical service panel and conduit for wiring, leveling the ground floor with a new slab and replacing main stairs at the building’s entrance to meet the building code.
Slaton said this amount will be funded by money remaining from previous county allocations and funds already generated by CCCRA. The final revitalization phases will be completed as funds become available, by 2020 if possible, Slaton said.
“The historic courthouse and its square are the heart of Clay County. One can ignore their heart only to their detriment,” Slaton told the commissioners.
Help for dogs and cats
Waylon Hill and Linda Bamfield from Logan’s Run Rescue said the number of spay and neuters for Clay County animals is greater than the numbers for Cherokee. But spay and neuter services cost more for Clay County residents.
“We ask you to consider matching funds,” Bamfield said. “We will match up to $10,000 for low-cost spay and neuter and spend it in Clay County.”
“We have no paid employees but we have some great volunteers,” Waylon Hill told the commissioners.
“When we have money from local governments we can bring the price (of spay and neuter operations) down,” Bamfield said. “We hope you guys will get behind us. A lot of your people call us and want to know why the cost is more for Clay County animals. When we have money from participating governments we can bring the price down to $20.”
“We’ll take these things under consideration and discuss them and see what we can do,” Commission Chairman Randy Nichols told the applicants.
Sub still awaiting checks
Jake Davies of Davies Contracting Inc. addressed the commissioners on the issue of non-payment to subcontractors who had worked to build the new health department building and an addition to the rec building.
“As of yesterday, the amount still owed to the subcontractors is almost $80,000,” Davies said. “The (health department) building has been opened for almost six months but my hands are tied. I don’t know what to do.”
Davies said he has been unsuccessful in getting a response from Blue Ridge Enterprises, the general contractor.
“The subcontractors pretty much financed the job,” Davies continued. “People have been waiting up to 120 days to get paid. I’m still owed $10,000 on this job. We did plumbing on the DSS (Department of Social Services) Building and had the same slow payment problem with the same general contractor several years ago. I haven’t heard anything from them for at least three months. You all got any suggestions?”
“I understand your frustration,” Nichols told him. “This company was hired long before we were here. Clay County has paid the bill. It’s just not getting passed on.”
“You asked why did we hire them. At that time they were the lowest qualified bidder and we had no choice but to hire them,” Clay County Manager Paul Leek explained.
“General statute says you have to hire the lowest qualified bidder. As to your non-payment, the bonding company was called in. You will have to file your complaint with the bonding company. That’s the only way you can get help. We’ve done all we can.”
“I don’t have the means to hire a lawyer. The county has the means to do this,” Davies pointed out.
“Our obligation was to pay Blue Ridge, which Clay County did,” Leek said. “We did not have a contract with the subs. Blue Ridge has a contract with the subs.”
“Is the bond large enough to cover what is owed to the subcontractors?” Commissioner Ed Roach wanted to know.
“Should be,” Leek responded.
“If the county gets in contact with the bonding company, will it help?” Chairman Nichols wanted to know. “Jake, we’ll do what we can.”
Tax payments by credit card
In other action at Thursday’s meeting, the board gave the Clay County Tax Office approval to begin accepting credit card payments for owed taxes.
Clay County Tax Collector Rehnaye Talley had asked commissioners to consider giving the tax office authority to accept credit and debit cards and to set a rate of three percent for fees when credit cards are used. The fees would be passed back to the taxpayer.
Commissioner Robert Peck made a motion to begin accepting credit cards “with the understanding that we get more clarification on the fees. I’ve got some concerns about the rates. Would we offer this online as well?”
The commissioners gave N.C. Forest Service permission to lease two rooms for office space in the Community Service Building at no cost for a three-year period.
They accepted a bid from Sprinkle Surveying on TVA property so the county can enter into a 30-year long-term lease of Gibson Cove campground property.
Sprinkle’s was the lowest of two bids at $4,600. The county cannot enter into the lease agreement with TVA until surveying is completed.
Commissioner Clay Logan said he had asked TVA officials whether they would help pay for surveying costs but he has not received a response.
The board reappointed Southwestern Commission as lead agency for the Home and Community Care Block Program for Aging and named Paul Hedden the local representative to the board.
Under old business, the board voted to proceed with acquiring four new security cameras at the county transfer station.
In the past, the county has had issues with theft of metal, and at one point a safe was stolen from the office. The site has had security cameras in place but they are outdated and inefficient.
Before Thursday’s meeting the commissioners unveiled a large new clock and timer to be used to remind speakers of a 10-minute public speaking limit.
In other points of interest Thursday, Commissioner Ed Roach, who led the opening prayer and pledge of allegiance, asked for a moment of silence for Lois Dinsmore, who died March 29. Dinsmore was a candidate for the commission in 2014.
Nichols also remembered Billy Joe Chastain, director at the transfer station who was killed March 6 in an ATV accident and offered condolences to his family.