City council receives request for funding of wellness center

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MURPHY, N.C. – A request for funding was made by the Hiwassee Valley Recreation Foundation to the Murphy City Council at the council’s Monday, April 2, meeting.

Representing the Foundation was Dr. Brian Mitchell and Ralph Robinson, director and operator of the Hiwassee Valley Pool and Wellness Center. Mitchell requested an annual financial subsidy in the amount of $45,000 from the city of Murphy to support operations at the wellness center.

According to Mitchell, operation costs for the wellness center is between $350,000 and $400,000 each year and the foundation has contributed over $150,000 since 2015 to support operations for the center.

Mitchell also said currently, the foundation’s fund balance stands at $35,000.

“(That amount) is likely to fund operations through the end of this fiscal year but not much further,” Mitchell stated. “Our board cannot to continue to raise funds for operations. It needs the support of the town of Murphy.”

Mayor Rick Ramsey questioned Robinson of membership numbers. Robinson told the council, “When we first took over the fitness center, which would have been the year 2015, our membership was running around 426 members.”

Since then, Robinson stated membership had spiked as high as 1,200 and now stands at around 1,000. Robinson also stated some members had told him that they had moved to the Murphy area because of the accessibility of the wellness center.

“Speaking for myself, it’s a great – it’s an awesome – asset,” Ramsey said.

“And having that kind of facility in rural Appalachia, where we are, is really a great asset for our area,” Robinson agreed.

Robinson stated additional programs and amenities are being added to the center or will be added in the near future. He also said the center’s goal for membership is 2,000. Robinson said the center is currently offering 40 percent off of one-year memberships in celebration of the reopening of the pool.

During the discussion, the mayor and council offered several advertising ideas for the wellness center, including utilizing a large exterior wall space on the center itself to hang an advertising banner to attract motorists on Valley River Avenue.

Mayor Ramsey suggested to Robinson a possible advertising campaign to attract out-of-town fitness enthusiasts visiting the area who might need a place to maintain daily exercise routines.

City Manager Chad Simons reminded the council that the city departments had been working on their budgets for the past three weeks. “We (the city) do have somewhat of a spending problem. I’m not afraid to say publicly, we have to bring in some of our spending,” Simons said. “It’s no secret.”

Ultimately, the council made no decision and told Mitchell and Robinson the council would consider the funding request.

A resolution was passed by the council to proceed with steps to make the city council non-partisan in elections in time for the November general election. Councilman Barry McClure explained the Murphy City Council is one of only eight remaining partisan city councils out of 533 in the state of North Carolina. McClure also stated the majority of registered voters in the town of Murphy are non-partisan (415) as opposed to 392 registered Democrats and 389 registered Republicans.

According to McClure, a non-partisan council would save the county a considerable amount of money by eliminating the need for a primary election. After the resolution passed, City Attorney Ronald Cowan explained the resolution schedules a public hearing at next month’s meeting for citizens to voice any concerns about or to contest the potential change.

Several representatives from the Murphy Business Association were on hand to request a downtown street closure to accommodate the upcoming Murphy Spring Festival to be held Saturday, May 5. The closure, which the council unanimously approved, will close a portion of Tennessee Street from Valley River Avenue to Depot Street to vehicles between the hours of 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the day of the festival.

A speed limit ordinance was also approved for a small portion of state Route 1556 (Martins Creek Road) from beginning of the city limits to the intersection with Hiwassee Street. The ordinance sets the speed limit at 25 mph.

A budget amendment to purchase a new police vehicle was approved. Simons explained the new purchase will not add a vehicle to the city police fleet but will instead replace a vehicle that was lost in a previous accident. According to Simons, the amendment is an $11,000 increase to the miscellaneous line item appropriation and a $21,300 increase to general fund balance appropriation.

Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Ramsey made a brief statement to the council concerning his first 100 days in office. “It’s been a real interesting experience for me,” the mayor stated. “I said at the beginning the glass is over half-full. It’s way more full than that. It really is. This is a great town and a great community … We have got such dedicated people that work for the town of Murphy, across the board. They care about our town.”

 

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.

Courthouse dome lantern plans discussed at commissioners meeting

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MURPHY, N.C. – Restoration plans for the Cherokee County Courthouse lantern were discussed at length by the Board of Commissioners during their Tuesday, Feb. 19 meeting.

Specific action was approved by the board to move the lantern from the Western Carolina Regional Airport to the former Cherokee Well Drilling property located off of U.S. 64.

Of the restoration plans, Commissioner C.B. McKinnon stated, “In the quotes we got, there’s a lot of elaborate work on (the lantern) which is never seen. Nobody knows it’s there. The only people that’s seen it is if you’re brave enough to go up in a basket on the crane … Those decorative items, in my opinion, is what drives the cost up … So, I think this is a nice compromise to get the lantern back on the courthouse and aesthetically looking like it’s always looked.”

McKinnon later described the decorative items in question as a “drapery” base that is nearly flat after Commissioner Cal Stiles expressed concerns over replicating the original design.

“There’s no physical way to see it from the ground,” McKinnon added.

Chairman Dr. Dan Eichenbaum pointed out that welding students from Tri-County Community College (TCCC) would be  assisting with the project, and Vice Chairman Gary Westmoreland stated Charles Carry, welding instructor at TCCC would be overseeing the copper work restoration. Westmoreland further explained that Carry is “one of the best coppermen in western North Carolina.”

Currently, the estimated cost of the restoration work is projected to be around $50,000.

Sheriff Derrick Palmer presented the board with a proposal for legal services for the sheriff’s office. According to Palmer, the legal consultation service, Smith Rodgers PLLC, would be hired at a flat rate of $10,642 a year and the one-year contract would be begin July 1.

County Manager Randy Wiggins explained the service would be used as an enhancement to the county’s own attorney, giving the sheriff’s office 24/7 legal consultation.

“This group does not come out and represent the sheriff’s office in legal suits and things of that nature,” Palmer stated. “That’s for the county attorney. What they do is give that expert consultation when we need an answer right then and we’re calling, writing a search warrant or getting ready to go into someone’s home, we can call and say, ‘This is what we’ve got. What’s your expert opinion on this?'”

Commissioner Stiles explained he believed the service will save the county money in the long run stating, “In all probability, it’s going to cost us $10,000 if we’re having to pay our county attorney, at that point,to give you advice. That would eat into this cost.”

Of the expert consultation, Eichenbaum said, “Any consultation with them is much more efficient because they’ve dealt with it over and over and over again.”

The commissioners unanimously approved Palmer’s proposal with the caveat that Palmer approach Smith Rodgers about a pro-rated contract to take effect immediately until the July 1 contract begins. According to Maria Hass, BOC clerk and assistant county manager, after Palmer contacted Smith Rodgers later in the week, an arrangement was made for legal consultation services to begin Monday, Feb. 26, under a pro-rated contract for the amount of $3,645.

A new Caterpillar D6N dozer tractor for use at the Cherokee County Landfill was purchased by the board for the amount of $323,391.78 from Carolina Caterpillar of Charlotte. Commissioner McKinnon explained plans were previously made to repair the landfill’s existing dozer tractor for an estimated cost of $60,000. After agreements with the repair company fell through, however, the county studied the possibility of purchasing of a used tractor.

“That used tractor had 2,000 hours and it was (around $290,000),” McKinnon said, “and it didn’t have the landfill package on it. So, the used tractor was going to be a lot more than the new tractor by the time you put the landfill package (on it) that keeps the sprockets clear of the garbage and the safety things that go on it. So, that’s how we ended up at a new dozer tractor.”

McKinnon stated the new tractor comes with a five-year warranty. The board unanimously approved the purchase and agreed a future discussion would come as to what to do with the old dozer tractor.

The board approved an agreement for Ralph Robinson, lessee of the Hiwassee Valley Pool and Wellness Center LLC, to reimburse the county for electric and propane costs until the end of the fiscal year (June 30). After that, Robinson will have to negotiate his own contract for these utility services. Currently, the contracts for electric and propane remain with the county for the center.

Commissioners also approved a budget revision for use of the school Half-Cent Sales Tax in the amount of $41,672. The amount, approved by the Board of Education at their Feb. 8 meeting, will fund maintenance and repair costs at Hiwassee Dam, Murphy and Martin’s Creek elementary schools, The Oaks Academy, Andrews Middle School and Murphy High School.

The purchase of a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe was approved by the board for the sheriff’s office after the department lost the use of a patrol car due to engine failure. The cost of the Tahoe is $31,500 and the funds will be drawn from Sheriff’s Designated Fund balance.

The board approved a budget revision in the amount of $2,619 to purchase 10 animal waste receptacles and supplies for use at the Connahetta Park and Riverwalk area as well as the Andrews Recreation Park. The expenditure is funded from revenue from a North Carolina Community Conservation Assistance Program grant.

A proclamation declaring the 11th Annual Cherokee County Senior Games and Silver Arts Program to take place in Cherokee County April 28 through May 19 was issued by the Board of Commissioners. According to the proclamation, over one-third of the county’s full-time residents are 50 years of age or older, which puts Cherokee as one of the leading counties in the state in this category. The Senior Games and Silver Arts Program are “designed to inspire, motivate, and educate all citizens about their potential for good health and involvement throughout their lives.”

 

[Featured image:  Chairman Dr. Dan Eichenbaum, left, and Commissioners C.B. McKinnon and Cal Stiles vote to accept the agenda for the Monday, Feb. 19, Cherokee County Board of Commissioners meeting as County Manager Randy Wiggins looks on. Not pictured: Commissioners Ray Dickey and Gary Westmoreland.]

 

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.

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