Board approves temporary off-site fitness plan for Station 1 first responders

News

MURPHY, N.C. – The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved a temporary off-site fitness plan for on-duty emergency personnel at Station 1 at the board’s June 4 meeting.

The plan will now allow only Station 1 personnel to use nearby fitness centers at their own expense while on duty in an effort to improve health and strength of the emergency personnel and provide the best service to citizens, according to information provided by the Cherokee County Emergency Services.

As Chairman Dr. Dan Eichenbaum explained, “(The agreement) is only until they get a new facility. It has been shown this will not cause a delay in response time. Both truck workers must agree and only one truck at a time (may leave Station 1). This is to allow them because they do not have adequate space to work out in (at the station).”

Brian King, of the Cherokee County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), explained to commissioners there has been a “movement” within the department to work out and exercise to increase physical strength and improve job performance over the past five years, but limited space at Station 1 has disallowed its personnel from doing so.

According to information presented to the commissioners from EMS concerning response times for personnel at a fitness center, “Crews are very adept at being able to meet our required chute times during all situations. Any delay would no different than eating showering, using the restroom, being at the hospital, or sleeping.”

Commenting on the benefits of the plan, Commissioner Gary Westmoreland stated, “Personally, I would rather somebody healthy pick me up than somebody out of shape. And I think it’s good for them. It’s good for their morale.”

Commissioner C.B. McKinnon stated while he himself can see the benefits of the plan to the county’s emergency personnel, he is also concerned about public perception.

“I understand that we’ve been in this location for a lot of years and I don’t know what’s been done in the past … but the optics of it – the public just doesn’t understand it. We’ll have the other facility up soon, and for that reason, I’m just not willing to support it,” McKinnon explained.

Ultimately, the board approved the temporary plan 4-1, with McKinnon voting against.

The board also approved a contract with Turner & Company CPAs (certified public accountant) to conduct the county’s fiscal year 2017-18 audit in the amount of $44,900.

County Finance Officer Candy Anderson explained to the commissioners the cost of the audit is the second lowest among seven counties in western North Carolina.

“I checked with surrounding counties … and a lot of them are seeing 12 to 41 percent increases in their audit fees,” Anderson stated.

The contract was approved by the board unanimously.

A capital project ordinance for the phase 5 construction project at the Cherokee County Solid Waste facility in Marble was approved by the commissioners. The ordinance appropriates $2.5 million to the project for permitting, construction, engineering, and contingency funds. According to the ordinance, revenues from the general fund are anticipated to be available to complete the project.

The board approved a number of 2017-18 budget revisions including a revision in the total amount of $31,043 to allow the use of the restricted/designated school sales tax fund balance for various projects. The amount will cover the purchases of a generator replacement at Ranger Elementary School ($19,207), bus cameras and camera systems for five new buses ($4,925), fertilizer for Bermuda turf for the football fields at Andrews and Murphy high schools ($2,653), approximately 225 lbs. of refrigerant for a compressor at Hiwassee Dam School ($2,517), and diagnostic services from Trane ($1,741).

A budget revision in the amount of $800 was approved to transfer funds from the fund balance to the detention center trust account for legal settlements.

A budget revision in the amount of $94.14 was approved to cover half the cost of new carpeting at the Martins Creek Community Center. Previously, the board approved an amount of $261; however, actual costs for the carpeting came to $710.27, which increased the county’s half share to $355.14.

In other business, commissioners also voted to allow Lewis and Clark Circus to again use Heritage Park Sept. 22 and 23 of this year.

The board also voted to allow North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission law enforcement officers to enforce laws concerning spotlighting wildlife from the right-of-way of any public road, street, or highway.

A number of upcoming Board of Commissioners are slated for June. On June 21 and 25, the board will hold fiscal year 2018-19 budget work sessions in the boardroom of the Cherokee County Courthouse at 6:30 p.m. The Board of Commissioners next regularly scheduled meeting is set for June 18 at 6:30 p.m. In addition, the board will have a special called meeting June 28 at 6:30 p.m. to officially adopt the new county budget. All meetings are open to the public.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Commissioners’ budget talks lead to discussion over county trash sites

News

MURPHY, N.C. – Cherokee County Board of Commissioners met Wednesday, May 30, for a budget work session to review and discuss the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-19.

The budget, as recommended by County Manager Randy Wiggins, calls for a total of $44,212,558 with $38,083,967 designated for the general fund and $6,128,591 in special revenue funds.

On Wednesday, commissioners suggested further allotments to Wiggins to be added into the proposed budget. Commissioner Gary Westmoreland suggested adding $20,000 to purchase property across from the county senior center for a public-use dumpster site. This opened a discussion concerning the misuse of existing sites across the county.

Commissioner C.B. McKinnon suggested installing cameras at the Peachtree site and the Whitener Bend site in an effort to help enforce regulations at the sites and also to provide more 24-hour sites for county residents to use.

“I dare say nine of 10 times I’ve passed there (Peachtree site), there’s somebody there placing items … that’s not supposed to be there,” McKinnon said.

To this, Wiggins cautioned that opening more 24-hour sites across the county with no attendees and only security cameras to monitor activity could also encourage residents of surrounding counties to use the sites, which are supposed to be available only to Cherokee County residents. Wiggins specifically noted the Peachtree and Hiwassee Dam sites as two sites that are being misused heavily by residents from Clay County, North Carolina, and Polk County, Tennessee.

Referring to the Peachtree site, McKinnon asked, “How much garbage from Clay County is hitting the dumpsters that makes it worth inconveniencing the rest of the whole community in Cherokee County?”

Commissioner Cal Stiles stated that while he felt security cameras could help, monitoring of the footage would also be necessary to eliminate misuse at the sites. “Unless we have someone who has the time or we hire someone to actually view all this stuff to see … We really don’t know what’s going on there at two, three, four o’clock (in the morning),” Stiles said.

“I’ve never seen a group of people that fault a success so much,” McKinnon responded, referring to the existing 24-hour sites. “Usually when you have a success, you want to duplicate that success. I’ve never seen such a pushback from a success. ‘Oh, that was a success. Let’s not do another one.’ That is about a frustrating a thing that’s ever been.”

Wiggins clarified to McKinnon he was only sharing the complaints he had received concerning the sites. McKinnon suggested increasing the number of fines issued and also rotating attendants at sites.

“These are common sense things,” McKinnon added.

Additionally, Westmoreland suggested adding $80,000 to the budget for a new playground at Konahetta Park. Because the park is within the city limits of Murphy, McKinnon recommended meeting with the mayor and/or members of the city council about funding half of the cost for this.

“It’s time for the town of Murphy to step up in recreation and take the heat from the public like we take the heat from the public,” McKinnon stated.

Later, it was agreed that commissioners McKinnon and Westmoreland would meet at a future date with Mayor Rick Ramsey, of Murphy, about the town possibly funding half of a new playground at Konahetta Park.

The board also discussed the possibility of repairing the tennis and pickleball courts during the next fiscal year. According to Wiggins, the last time the courts had been resurfaced was over 20 years ago. He also stated several of the courts had received patching in August 2016, which cost the county approximately $27,000, and that the county has already received a quote in the amount of $114,825 to completely resurface the courts.

To this, McKinnon and Commissioner Roy Dickey agreed the town of Murphy should also assist with the financing of this potential project.

After Commissioner Stiles asked whether the needed repairs were a result of cosmetic issues or potential safety hazards, Wiggins stated further deterioration of the courts could pose safety hazards in the near future.

The board also discussed the budget line item for Tri-State Community College and addressed concerns over Cherokee County paying more than its fair share to the college than the counties of Clay and Graham.

The commissioners discussed the possibility of “holding the line” by not giving the college any additional funding than what the county has given in prior years.

“There’s got to be a point where you do hold your line and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,'” McKinnon stated and then asked rhetorically, “Are you going to step up and do a tax increase? Are you okay with the other counties not paying their share and going ahead and increasing the tax on your citizens because the other counties aren’t paying their share?”

After further discussion, the board agreed to review the Tri-County line item again at its next budget workshop to be held June 21 at 6:30 p.m. In addition to this meeting, the county budget is expected to be adopted at the June 28 regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Commissioners consider opiod litigation

News

MURPHY, N.C. – At its Thursday, May 10, meeting, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners heard from Garry Whitaker, a Winston-Salem attorney involved with federal litigation against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors concerning the national opiod epidemic.

Whitaker told commissioners 643 government entities nationwide are apart of the litigation seeking compensation for damages incurred from the opiod epidemic. Of those entities, Whitaker stated, 43 counties and 6 cities were in the state of North Carolina.

Of the opiod problem, Whitaker stated, “It may not be as pervasive as the plague, (but) it is very pervasive. For instance, last year, there was a 40 percent increase in the state of North Carolina in hospital emergency room admissions for overdoses related to opiods.”

According to date presented by Whitaker, since 1999, over 15,000 people have died in North Carolina as a result of opiod overdoses. In that time, 93 opiate poisoning deaths have occurred within Cherokee County alone, with double-digit spikes seen in the years of 2010 and 2011.

“This is a serious problem,” Whitaker stressed.

According to Whitaker, for every 100 persons in Cherokee County, 125 prescriptions were issued in 2016. Whitaker stated the national average for this statistic is 66 prescriptions per 100 persons.

Whitaker explained the litigation group consists of a consortium of six legal teams and firms from throughout the country.

“It is our contention that (pharmaceutical manufacturers) have oversold the benefits and undersold or trivialized the risks (of opiods),” Whitaker stated.

Giving a brief history of opiods and legislative control of the drugs, Whitaker stated in the past opiods were prescribed mainly to cancer and surgery patients and not for chronic pain but that a shift in thought from pharmaceutical companies has contributed to the opiod epidemic.

Whitaker further explained the suit is intended to go after pharmaceutical companies only and not individual doctors or pharmacies, saying that this prospect is simply not feasible.

After a series of questions about the suit from County Attorney Darryl Brown, no decision was made by the commission whether or not to move forward with joining the litigation.

Cherokee County Tax Assessor Eddie Allen presented commissioners with bids for the county’s 2020 property revaluation. According to Allen, the revaluation will fulfill the state mandate that all counties update appraisals for all parcels within the county every eight years. Cherokee County contains approximately 33,000 parcels  of property, Allen added.

Allen told the commissioners bid proposals were sent to all 15 appraisal firms except one that are approved by the North Carolina Department of Revenue. Of those, only two firms – C.B. Ferriss, Inc. and Tanner Valuation Group, LLC – submitted bids to the county. A third firm submitted a bid but withdrew that bid from consideration.

Allen recommended C.B. Ferriss for overseeing and managing the revaluation, saying if he had to hand-pick one of the 15 state-approved firms beforehand, it would have been C.B. Ferriss. The C.B. Ferriss bid of $220,000 would include appraisal of commercial and industrial properties, assistance to the county through the appeal process, training of the Cherokee County Tax Assesssor staff, and continual reports to the county manager.

Allen stated it was important to train staff, so that the county could save money with an in-house revaluation in the future. Commissioners unanimously awarded the project to C.B. Ferriss.

Captain Mark Patterson, of the Cherokee County Detention Center, presented a capital items request to use revenues in the amount of $279,650 for a number items to be used by the detention center.

Prior to Patterson explaining the request to the board, Eichenbaum stated, “I think this should be tabled to part of the (2018-19 fiscal year) budget discussions, and I also feel it should part of the Sheriff’s Office budget discussions.”

“I think we ought to hear him out and see what the request is,” Commissioner Roy Dickey said.

According to Patterson, the request covers the purchase of two 2018 Chevrolet Tahoes and equipment, a new transport van and equipment, a new transport car and equipment, a road crew truck, a fingerprint machine, a kitchen fryer and steamer, radios, 14 bulletproof vests, 14 Glock pistols and holsters, ammunition, a Fort Knox gun safe, and HVAC units. Patterson also told commissioners the detention center is over its projected revenue of $750,000 for the year and stated by the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year, revenues should be close to $1.2 million.

When the board asked Patterson what were the most critical items within the request, Patterson stated the fingerprint machine ($21,000), the bulletproof vests ($8,100), the weapons ($6,800), and the ammunition ($3,300) were the most critical.

“My personal opinion is we ought to do it all tonight,” Dickey said. “We’ve got the revenue here.”

After further discussion, Commissioner C.B. McKinnon then made a request to purchase only those four line items of the request so as to allow more time to research the request further, particularly the vehicle purchases, which accounted for the bulk of the request. After a second from Eichenbaum, the motion failed 2-3 with Eichenbaum and McKinnon voting in favor.

“And I guess we need to state why (the motion failed),” Commissioner Cal Stiles said. “I think maybe we need to look at it more in its entirety … We just keep picking out individual items here, and I think they do need those items.”

After a motion by Dickey to approve the entire request and a second by Commissioner Gary Westmoreland, the request was approved 4-1 with McKinnon voting against.

In his county manager report, Wiggins presented a proposal of the 2018-19 budget to commissioners. According to the recommended proposed budget, the total county budget would be $44,212,558.00, which would include a general fund balance of $38,083,967 and a special revenue fund of $6,128,591. Wiggins stated the county would continue with a budget work session Wednesday, May 30, at 5 p.m. and a public hearing on the budget during the regular commissioners meeting Monday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m.

Copies of the budget, Wiggins said, will be posted at both libraries in Murphy and Andrews, at the county manager’s office, and on the county website.

Commissioners approved four budget revisions Thursday including a $722,884 budget revision to purchase a new CAT compactor for the county landfill. Chairman Dr. Dan Eichenbaum explained that the county had put aside $578,584 over the past few years in a designated fund in anticipation of the purchase. The compactor, according to County Manager Randy Wiggins, comes with included servicing and a five-year warranty.

A budget revision for $68,295 was also approved for the purchase of new scales for the county landfill. Wiggins explained the current scales at the landfill can no longer be calibrated and the new scales are expected to be installed sometime before the end of June and on a weekend. With the request, an additional amount of $12,500 was approved in the case that the county has to use rental scales while the new scales are being installed.

A budget revision for $16,755 was approved to purchase a used 2014 Dodge Charger for the Sheriff’s Office. Finance Director Candy Anderson explained the vehicle will replace another vehicle that was damaged in a recent chase and the $16,755 is money the county received from insurance claims.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Rep. Meadows moves on to November, Palmer to remain sheriff

Election 2018, News

MURPHY, N.C. – Tuesday’s primary election yielded two tight local races and decided several other local races with no Democratic opposition moving into the November general election, according to unofficial results from the county Board of Elections.

Nationally, incumbent Mark Meadows won in a landslide over challenger Chuck Archerd both at the county level and district-wide in the Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives District 11. In Cherokee County, Meadows took 3,221 votes for 88.17 percent compared to Archerd’s 432 for 11.83 percent. Across the 16-county district, Meadows took 86.35 percent of the votes for a total of 35,438 votes while Archerd took 13.65 percent for 5,600 votes.

In the Democratic primary U.S. House District 11, Phillip G. Price edged out candidates Steve Woodsmall and D. Scott Donaldson. Within the district, Price garnered 13,403 votes for 40.58 percent while Woodsmall and Donaldson took 10,286 votes (31.14 percent) and 9,342 votes (28.29 percent), respectively. In Cherokee County, Price won with 204 votes (39.84 percent) compared to Woodsmall’s 162 (31.64 percent) and Donaldson’s 146 (28.52 percent). Price will go on to face Meadows in the November general.

With no Democratic opposition coming in the fall election, the sheriff’s race was decided last night as Republican incumbent Derrick Palmer defeated challenger Dan Sherrill. Sheriff Palmer received 2,732 votes for 71.50 percent while Sherrill picked up 1,089 votes for 28.50 percent.

The two closest races of the night were both for Cherokee County Board of Commissioners seats. Republican incumbent Dr. Dan Eichenbaum narrowly defeated Winfield Clonts by 40 votes for the Board of Commissioners District 4 primary. Commission Chairman Eichenbaum took a total of 1,919 votes for 50.53 percent while Clonts received 1,879 for 49.47 percent. No Democrat qualified to run the November election; therefore, Eichenbaum will retain his seat on the Board of Commissioners.

Another close commissioners race was for the District 1 seat. Republican incumbent Cal Stiles edged out challenger Tim West 1,938-1,863 (50.99 percent to 49.01 percent). Stiles will face Democrat challenger Gary James, who ran unopposed in the primary, in November’s general election.

The District 3 Board of Commissioners seat was also on the ballot last night as Republican incumbent Gary “Hippie” Westmoreland faced challenger Corey V. Bailey. Westmoreland won with 2,686 votes for 72.52 percent while Bailey took 1,018 votes for 27.48 percent. Westmoreland will also retain his seat on the board as there is no Democratic opposition in November.

Four seats on the Cherokee County Board of Education were also on the primary ballot. An At-large race featuring Republican candidates Keesha Curtis and Tylor J. Dockery saw Curtis win with 1,707 votes (51.59 percent) to Dockery’s 1,602 (48.41 percent). Curtis will face Democrat incumbent Tim Coffey, who ran unopposed in the primary, in the general election for the At-large seat on the board.

The District 3 Board of Education Republican primary saw three candidates vying for two seats from the district. In this race, the top two candidates received seats on the board. Overall, Joe Wood received the most votes with 2,481 and 42.47 percent while Mark Patterson took second with 1,767 votes and 30.25 percent. Incumbent Paul H. Brown lost his re-election bid as he finished with 1,594 votes and 27.29 percent. No Democrats qualified to run in the November general election; therefore, Wood and Patterson will assume seats on the Board of Education.

Rounding out the Board of Education races, Jeff Martin defeated Jeannie Gaddis in the Republican primary 2,397-1,175 (67.11 percent to 32.89 percent) in the District 2 race. Martin has no Democratic opponent in the general election and will take the District 2 seat on the board.

Overall, for the county, 4,391 out of 22,959 potential ballots were cast for a voter turnout of 19.13 percent.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Andrews soccer field discussed by commissioners, Mayor Reid

News

MURPHY, N.C. – Grant money for a new soccer field located at Heritage Park in Andrews was discussed by the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners along with Andrews Mayor James Reid at the April 23 county commissioners meeting.

“Previously, the board had approved the soccer club to use and construct a field at Heritage Park,” Commissioner C.B. McKinnon explained. “In conversation, maybe … Andrews is willing to take the lead of that because there’s some possibility of applying for some grant money to help with that. It looks like we got about $30,000 now roughly to work with and so if we could compound that with a grant, it would mean a lot.”

Reid stated the goal of the proposed soccer field is for it to be open for use not only for the local soccer league but also for the entire community.

“We do have someone that’s ready to break ground on it pretty quick,” Reid said. “We also have that PARTF (Parks and Recreation Trust Fund) grant that we could go after. If the county decided to do something with that, we could do it in (the county’s) name or (the town of Andrews’) name … but we’d just like to go ahead and try to move forward to try to get that grant money secured if at all possible.”

Also, Reid added the town’s long-term goal is to eventually construct three soccer fields but for now, the initial plan is to construct one field. Concerning the potential PARTF grant, Reid stated the application deadline was May 1. To this, Commissioner Cal Stiles suggested to Reid to consult with Russ Harris, a grant writer with Southwestern Commission, for assistance with the grant application process.

After further discussion, commissioners approved for the town of Andrews to take the lead in planning and in the construction for the soccer field.

“So between now and maybe even the next meeting, let’s see if we can develop that plan and be ready and we’ll present it and we’ll all be on board with the same process so there’s no confusion,” McKinnon told Reid.

Gary Chamberlain, of the North Carolina Litter Free Coalition, proposed a proclamation to the board to declare May 19 an America the Beautiful Event Day in Cherokee County during which residents are encouraged to pick up litter along roadways of their choosing within the county. Of the event, Chamberlain spoke of the importance of leaving the orange bags of trash collected from county roadways for three days as a reminder to citizens of the impact of littering. After three days, participating residents are encouraged to call the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) at 828-837-2742 to have the NCDOT pick up the collected bags of trash.

Commissioner McKinnon stated while he supported the proclamation, he was concerned about the prospect of leaving bags on the side of roadways for three days.

“The three-day deal, with the garbage on the road, I know its purpose is to show people that you’re out there picking the garbage up,” McKinnon said, “but they (NCDOT) like to get that as quick as they can and they really don’t like leaving it three days for a number of reasons. One being is they get a little criticism over that … That’s the only part of (the proclamation) I’d like to leave out, so they can go ahead and pick it up when they can or as soon as they can.”

To this, Chamberlain told McKinnon leaving the bags on the side of roads for three days has a “very positive value” and “sends a message.” After some further discussion, commissioners passed the proclamation as presented 4-1 with McKinnon voting against.

“Mr. Chamberlain, I can agree with you that it does make an impact when you drive down the road and you see those bags out there,” Commissioner Stiles said of the event.

The board approved a number of budget revisions during the meeting. A $5,000 budget increase was approved for the Emergency Management department to purchase an accountability system to use to track personnel of the county’s volunteer fire departments. According to the revision, Emergency Management received $17,722 in additional grant money from an Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) and the funds for the purchase were approved to be taken from this grant money.

A budget revision to repair a Jeep Cherokee used by the Department of Social Services (DSS) in the amount of $2,844 was approved. The vehicle, according to Finance Director Candy Anderson, had been in two accidents and the county received insurance proceeds in the amount $1,879.

Commissioners also approved Cherokee County Schools to use $44,658 from the half-cent school sales tax to cover replacements of two fire alarm systems at the Andrews High School band building and shop building in the amount of $11,540 each, a $20,939 expenditure for Microsoft Office upgrades and licensing expenses for the school system, and a $639 match with the county to replace bleachers at Peachtree Elementary School.

A $25,000 revision for a school system match to expand the Murphy River Walk Trail near Konahetta Park was tabled after County Manager Randy Wiggins told the board issues involving the flood plain of Valley River were still be researched.

Oscar Valdes, an 86-year-old Korean War veteran, spoke to commissioners about changing the sign at Konahetta Park to read “Konahetta Veterans Park” and to add a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme to the proposed new sign. Valdes stated the new sign would cost $898.80 to erect, of which $58.80 of the estimate from Curtis Sign Shop is sales tax and would not not be charged to the county. Valdes said he would like to see the sign installed sometime before Memorial Day. Because the park lies within the city limits of Murphy, the board tabled its decision to allow more time to consult with the city of Murphy about a joint venture regarding the sign and to review draft of the sign’s design.

The board set 4:30 p.m. as a daily deadline for all land recordings submitted to the register of deeds office. Last month, Daphne Dockery, register of deeds, petitioned to the board to set an earlier time for a deadline for recordings in an effort to manage overtime for employees within the county register of deeds office.

Southwestern Commission was approved by the commissioners to continue as lead agency to coordinate the preparation of the county Home and Community Care Block Grant (HCCBG) program for Aging Services for fiscal year 2018-19. The board also approved the committee structure for the HCCBG five-member committee to be the Cherokee County Senior Center director, the county transit director, the director of DSS, the county manager and county finance director, or designees of the aforementioned positions.

Also, commissioners set a budget work session for May 30 at 5 p.m.

Following an executive session, two decisions were approved by the board. Commissioners unanimously approved a grant resolution for The Mining Store, a cryptocurrency mining data storage center that will be occupying the former Emerson building in Peachtree, North Carolina, and will create 25 jobs with an average pay of $40,000 annually. According to the resolution, the county Board of Commissioners is providing $30,000 in Incentive Funding to the project to be paid over a three-year period and $15,000 for a 5 percent match for a Building Reuse Grant. The county is expected to be reimbursed by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

The board unanimously approved revisions to a five-year airport ground lease with MedTrans. County Manager Wiggins read the changes to the contract to include a $30 per month fair-market lease price, to eliminate one clause concerning the lessee’s right to erect, maintain and alter buildings or structures upon the premises, to change the wording in the arbitration clause to read “Cherokee County, North Carolina” instead of “American Arbitration Association”, and “for (the county attorney) to add language to (the lease) that should at any time the FFA (Federal Aviation Administration) find the agreement to be incompatible with their rules and regulations that the lease would be terminated at that time and a new lease would be developed.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

State recommends three additional positions for child welfare services

News

MURPHY, N.C. – At the April 23 Cherokee County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, Michael Becketts, assistant secretary for North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), updated the board on the status of the Department of Social Services (DSS), and specifically child welfare services, in Cherokee.

Becketts told commissioners the DHHS had conducted on-site reviews of all programs from April 2 through 6, including child welfare services, at DSS.

“I’m happy to report that, by policy, the other parts of social services appear to be in substantial compliance,” Becketts stated. “I think that’s really good news for Cherokee County, and I do appreciate the effort and that was done not alone – the department (DHHS) doesn’t have the authority to just really come in and do that – but in consultation with Mr. (Randy) Wiggins, county manager, we did that review.”

Becketts explained to the board that Cindy Palmer, director of DSS, had submitted a budget request to the BOC to expand the child welfare staff of the DSS by three positions during the 2018-19 fiscal year. According to Becketts, Palmer proposed one program manager and two child welfare social workers.

While DHHS agreed with the need for three additional positions, Becketts stated after a recent examination of the organizational structure of the child welfare department of DSS in regard to the current workload, DHHS recommended a slight modification to the job specifications of the positions.

Instead of one program manager and two social workers, DHHS recommends one assistant director for child welfare services, one child welfare quality assurance specialist, and one foster care social worker.

“Your child welfare services has grown and needs more executive leadership within the department,” Becketts said of the assistant director and quality assurance specialist positions. “There are a number of federal changes that are happening to child welfare.”

According to information from DHHS, the annual salaries for the three proposed positions are $48,842 for the assistant director, $36,776 for the quality assurance specialist and $31,811 for the foster care social worker. Becketts recommended to the commissioners to approve a budget amendment for the 2017-18 fiscal year to allow DSS to begin recruiting qualified candidates instead of waiting until the beginning of the fiscal year, which begins July 1, to fill these positions.

“These three positions are critical to the continued success of child welfare in Cherokee County,” Becketts stated.

County Finance Director Candy Anderson explained that a pro-rated amount of $18,447 would cover the salaries for the three positions for the six weeks leading up to the beginning of the 2018-19 fiscal year. She also added $3,422 would account for office supplies and technology costs for the additional positions. The county would later receive an approximate 60 percent reimbursement from the state for salaries, which would leave county’s pro-rated cost at $8,748 for salaries.

For the 2018-19 fiscal year, the county could expect to pay $65,935 in salaries and benefits for the three positions after the state reimbursement, according to Anderson.

“I understand what you’re saying,” Commissioner C.B. McKinnon told Becketts. “In considering a budget, there’s lots of things to consider, so until we know what we’re doing with our complete budget it’s hard to make a decision on an individual position and going ahead and bumping that into this year.”

McKinnon also stated he was uncomfortable with modification of the positions from DHHS. “I’d like more input from Director Palmer before we consider that,” McKinnon stated. “We normally will go through and the director will give us the need for these positions and justify these positions.”

Later, when McKinnon reiterated his opposition to the modifications, Becketts explained the quality assurance specialist is the only position seeing any major change to that initially requested by Palmer.

Commissioner Cal Stiles endorsed the positions and the recommendations from the state saying, “I’d like to see us move forward with it. I know Director Palmer has mentioned several times about the staff shortage … With that $8,700 to finish out this year, I think for that amount of money it’d be a good investment to go ahead and try to work with you (Becketts) and then work with Director Palmer to get what she needs out there to get it back up to the level of service that we need for our children here in the county. So, I’d recommend it.”

After further discussion, the proposal to add the three DSS positions and the budget revision was approved 4-1 with McKinnon voting against.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Darryl Brown hired as county attorney

Business, News

[Featured image: Judge Tessa Sellers congratulates Murphy attorney Darryl Brown after being sworn in as the new Cherokee County attorney Tuesday, April 3. (Photo courtesy of Maria Hass)]

MURPHY, N.C. – After an extended executive session at Monday night’s meeting, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners reconvened to hire Darryl Brown as county attorney.

County Finance Director Candy Anderson explained the parameters of the hire would be for the remainder of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which ends June 30, and the amount paid to Brown for that period would not exceed $12,500.

The board unanimously approved the parameters of the contract and then unanimously approved the hiring of Brown.

During the executive session, the board met and interviewed both Brown and attorney David Sawyer, who were the two candidates for the open position.

Murphy attorney Darryl Brown, left, takes the oath of office to serve as county attorney from Judge Tessa Sellers Tuesday, April 3. (Photo courtesy of Maria Hass)

Cherokee County has been without a county attorney since the Feb. 5 commissioners meeting when the Board of Commissioners voted to dismiss former county attorney Scott Lindsay. In that decision, commissioners Dr. Dan Eichenbaum, C.B. McKinnon and Gary Westmoreland voted in favor of Lindsay’s removal while commissioners Roy Dickey and Cal Stiles voted against the move.

According to the terms of Brown’s appointment, he will receive a $5000 annual retainer fee, due upon hiring and again at the beginning of each fiscal year (July 1). Brown’s monthly fee is $2,500 a month, which is $250 an hour for a guaranteed minimum of 10 hours per month. Any time over 10 hours in a month will be charged a $175 hourly fee. Brown will also receive a $500 allocation for books relevant to county representation and a $12,000 annual fee for on-call counsel for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, half of which is to be paid at the beginning of the fiscal year (July 1) and the other half to be paid at the beginning of the calendar year. Also, the county will cover the cost of travel and training for the annual county attorney conference and annual sheriff’s conference.

 

According his website, Brown is criminal defense attorney and native of Cherokee County. Brown received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 1989. In 1992, Brown received his Juris Doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was admitted to practice law by the North Carolina state bar.

From 1993 to 1996, Brown served as assistant district attorney for the 29th Prosecutorial District of North Carolina, which encompasses Henderson, McDowell, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties, and from 1996 to 2004, he served as assistant district attorney for the 30th Prosecutorial District of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. In 2004, Brown transitioned into private practice criminal defense in Murphy where he continues his practice to this day.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Commissioners hear road name dispute, tell of DC visit

News, Politics

MURPHY, N.C. – A dispute over the name of a road was presented to the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners during their Monday, March 19, meeting.

On the agenda was Anthony McCray, who is a 25-year resident of Lambert Road in Marble. McCray told the commissioners the road had formerly been known as Lower Vengeance Creek Road until the change to Lambert Road during a 911 addressing process in 2014 and he would like to see it restored to its previous name.

County Manager Randy Wiggins explained he was told that the road never had an official name according to 911 addressing records prior to the name of Lambert Road, which was named after one of the four property owners on the road, Ronald Lambert. Wiggins also stated no file of the name change petition from the four property owners could be found on record with the county.

In his complaint, McCray stated, “I just don’t think a road name should be in a surname when there’s different families living on the same road.” McCray also spoke directly to Lambert, who was in attendance at the meeting, and said he always considered him to be “a good neighbor” and whatever the outcome of the issue, his opinion of Lambert would remain the same.

Marble resident Ronald Lambert addresses the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners about a dispute over the name change of Lambert Road where he resides.

Lambert spoke after McCray saying, “The reason the road needed a name is because I’m a North Carolina licensed foster parent (and) once a year, the fire marshal comes out to my house to inspect my house. He said since there’s more than three residences on the road, the road must have a name. He looked at me and said, ‘You own two of residences, the other one is up for sale, I going to name it Lambert Road.'”

Lambert also said he did not know whether or not there was ever a petition among the residents to change the road. He further explained McCray does not receive his mail on Lambert Road but rather on Pisgah Road in Andrews. Ultimately, Lambert stated he wished for the road to remain Lambert Road, citing that changing his foster licensing to reflect a new address through the state would be troublesome and costly to him. Lambert also stated McCray is the only resident on the road that has an issue with the name.

Commissioner C.B. McKinnon stated that because no paperwork of the name change seems to exist on record, the road could rightfully revert back to Lower Vengeance Creek Road. However, he also said changing the name back to this would be pointless since a majority of the residents are content with its current name: “It looks to me like (the other residents) are going to change it right back to Lambert Road.”

McKinnon asked McCray and Lambert to try to settle the dispute themselves and the item was tabled by the board.

Earlier in the meeeting, John Higdon, executive director of facilities for Cherokee County Schools, presented the board with a budget amendment to use the half-cent school sales tax fund for a lump sum purchase in the amount of $367,707 for a number of maintenance expenditures at various schools throughout the system. The expenditures are a result of the findings of a finance subcommittee of the Board of Education organized to address needs of the school system. 

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners hears a budget amendment request from John Hidgon, not pictured, to use the half-cent school sales tax fund. Pictured are, from left to right, Commissioner Gary Westmoreland, Chairman Dr. Dan Eichenbaum, Commissioner C.B. McKinnon, Commissioner Cal Stiles and County Manager Randy Wiggins.

The amount will cover six maintenance and repair projects, including a $343,900 project to replace the roof of Andrews High School gymnasium and cafeteria, a $1,537 expenditure to cover half the cost for a new scoreboard at the softball field at the recreation park, a $2,485 purchase for new stools at the Murphy Middle School cafeteria, a $6,500 storage building for Hiwassee Dam School, a $9,973 sprinkler system upgrade for the Murphy High School football field, and a $3,312 infield upgrade at the baseball field at Hiwassee Dam High School.

The budget amendment was approved unanimously.

A ground lease for a Med-Trans air medical transport modular office unit at Western Carolina Regional Airport was discussed by the commissioners. The commissioners reviewed a draft of the lease and Commissioner McKinnon pointed out three issues with which he noted concerns with the lease draft. It was also mentioned that the price of the lease, which would exist through Nov. 30, 2022, should be set at a fair market value instead of $1 per year.

Approval of the lease was tabled until changes to the draft could be made.

A pro-rated contract for legal services from Smith Rodgers, PLLC to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office was approved. The contract in the amount of $3,645 provides legal consultation services from Feb. 26 through June 30, 2018. At the Feb. 19 commissioners meeting, the board approved for the Sheriff’s Office to enter into a one-year agreement with Smith Rodgers beginning July 1 and approach the legal service with the prospect of establishing a pro-rated contract with Smith Rodgers until the lease takes effect this summer.

Two purchase requests from the Cherokee County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) were approved for the total amount of $6,225. The requests included a purchase of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rescue trailer that would transport a patient and a rescuer from a remote location to a waiting ambulance and a purchase of further equipment for the trailer that would allow for better immobilization of a patient placed in the trailer.

Commissioners Gary Westmoreland, pictured, and C.B. McKinnon recently took a trip to Washington D.C. and met with officials at the White House concerning rural infrastructure. (Photo courtesy of Gary Westmoreland)

Commissioners Gary Westmoreland and McKinnon told of their recent trip to Washington D.C. and the White House. Westmoreland said he and McKinnon met Vice President Mike Pence, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. The commissioners also participated in a meeting involving other North Carolina commissioners concerning infrastructure.

“President (Donald) Trump is going to have – I think – $260 billion in infrastructure money and $50 billion that’s dedicated to rural infrastructure,” Westmoreland said.

In that meeting, the commissioners were told to have a countywide plan for local infrastructure improvements in place by May.

“And this is something that’s new,” Westmoreland said of the meeting. “(Previously) the president’s office would never work with local government. This is something that (Trump) wants to do.”

McKinnon stated he was appreciative of the opportunity saying, “It was a once in a lifetime trip.”

Two upcoming commissioners meeting dates were changed during this week’s meeting. The April 16 meeting was changed to April 23 and the May 7 meeting was rescheduled to May 10 in an effort to accommodate the May 8 primary election and to allow for an evenly balanced meeting schedule, according County Manager Wiggins.

 

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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