Ground should be broken next month on a new emergency services center after the Board of Commissioners approved a contract with Messer Construction Company Monday night.
The contract brings the cost of the construction of the new center to $3.6 million, down from the original bid of $4,255,000. When commissioners asked finance director Cathy Baxter, who’s helped lead the center’s task force, how the costs were reduced, she said that cuts had been made all over the center, most notably cutting down from six ambulance bays to four.
Commissioner Harold Smith asked how the county would be paying for the new center. County Manager Lawrence Gatewood gave multiple options, including increasing the county’s tax collection rate to 95 percent, thus increasing revenue. Gatewood also said that the county’s debt to Progress Energy should be paid off in 2015-16, and the county will continue to sell surplus property and is also looking into selling some of its surplus timber and land. Grant opportunities are also being explored. “We are in good shape,” Gatewood said. “Our fund balance is healthy.”
Despite the assurances from Gatewood, Smith expressed concern over the cost of the facility and ultimately was the sole “no” vote on approving the contract.
“There are people inside and outside this community who believe we don’t deserve an emergency services center or an ag center,” said Commission Chair Anna Baucom, “but I say again, if we don’t invest in ourselves, no one else will.”
In other business, Gatewood gave the commissioners an update on the county’s ongoing renovation projects at the courthouse and Belk building.
Director of buildings maintenance and parks and recreation Jeff Waisner reported to the board that interior renovations continue on schedule. Waisner said the courthouse’s drainage problems had been fixed and extra storage space has been opened up for the clerk of court’s office.
The Belk building is also “about 90 percent done,” Waisner said. A color coating has been added to the front of the building, which will protect the facade for years to come. Waisner added that some of the building’s employees have complained that the front lobby is a bit drafty. He said that once the awnings on the front windows are completed, that problem should be alleviated. The new awnings will be a burgundy color.
Ansonville BB&T to close
During the commissioner concerns portion of the meeting, Commissioner Bobby Sikes called Ansonville Mayor Lyndell Ingram forward to address the closure of the BB&T in town.
Ingram said the BB&T will close at the end of March, and though he and other townspeople have tried to convince the bank to stay in town, “they’ve got their minds made up.”
He said that Ansonville will soon be getting a dollar store, and he foresees the town growing. “We are encouraging other financial institutions to come to Ansonville,” he said. “I told BB&T they will lose out on lots of senior citizens and lots of businesses, mainly Premiere Fibers.”
The bank has been in Ansonville for 37 years. “We will do what we have to do to survive,” Ingram said.
Commissioner Vancine Sturdivant pointed out that when BB&T left Lilesville, the town was able to take over the building for its town hall. Ingram said that was a possibility but he hopes another bank will locate in the town.
“They’re talking about closing several of our post offices in Anson County,” Sturdivant said. “If we don’t have a bank, a post office and a school, we ain’t got a town.”
In other business at Monday night’s meeting:
-Commissioner Sikes clarified a misunderstanding from last month’s meeting regarding Anson Rescue and the county’s emergency services. “It’s important to be sure the public knows that $135,000 a year for Anson Rescue comes from patient money; it’s not taxpayer dollars.”
-The commissioners discussed a budget planning retreat, which will be held March 2. -Tim Fadul with Waste Connections spoke about the county landfill no longer accepted waste oil from county residents. He is working with Gatewood and the county staff to come up with a solution so that residents can begin dropping off waste oil again. He said he expected a solution within 30 days.
-Deaneal Bennett with J.B. Watson & Co. gave the commissioners a report on the 2012 audit. She said it was “a clean audit,” and that the county is in great financial shape. “You have no outstanding bonds as of June 30, 2012,” she told the board. “Your debt is fine.”
-Cooperative Extension director Janine Rywak told the commissioners about a $10,000 grant from N.C. A&T University that will help Anson County establish its Farm Fresh program at the farmer’s market. The grant money is being used to make improvements at the farmer’s market, and Rywak said the Farm Fresh project should get under way this spring. Farm Fresh is a five-county program in which residents will purchase boxes of local produce for $25 a month. More information about Farm Fresh will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, she said.
-The commissioners unanimously approved a system safety program plan for ACTS, an airport transportation improvement plan and an airport safety maintenance agreement.
-The commissioners went into closed session at 8:20 p.m. to discuss economic development and personnel.