As Long As It Doesn't Cost Any Money
At the Watauga County Commission meeting this morning, the mantra among those presenting proposals for approval became "and this isn't going to cost the county any money."
That was because the new Republican majority was trying hard to assert its perceived mandate for "budget hawk-ism." But after much discussion, every vote still went 5-0, with the Republican newbies going along with the essentially "progressive" stream already flowing. As long as it doesn't cost any money.
How can new projects for bettering infrastructure and enhancing environmental quality of life not cost more money? Through grants. There are still agencies, private and public, giving away money to local governments for worthy projects.
1. Extending the greenway another 1.4 miles north from Brookshire Park on the New River. The Tourism Development Authority asked for permission to spend some of its fund (collected from the county-wide occupancy tax), which will be matched on approximately a $4-for-every-$1 by the NC Clean Water Trust Fund, to acquire easements to make the extension possible. Ultimately (one hopes), the greenway might extend all the way to Todd and connect to the Boone Greenway under the Hwy 421 bridge and connect to the new Rocky Knob bike park being built now.
There is, of course, a slight burden on the county ... for maintenance and upkeep. The new commissioners expressed concern about that. Rob Holton, as chair of the Tourism Development Authority, crystalized the fundamental question: Is the benefit greater than the cost? (If you know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, you're an economist and not a leader with vision.)
2. The commissioners also granted Economic Development Director Joe Furman permission to seek grant money to fund a local Natural Products Conference in March, to encourage local entrepreneurial development.
At its first meeting in December, the new Republican majority, on a motion by Mr. Vince Gable, voted to "accept" the new "Watauga County Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Plan." That language in Mr. Gable's motion -- "accept" rather than "adopt" or "approve" -- created a major snag. To get reimbursed (by the grant from the NC Dept. of Agriculture) for its $18,000 cost in producing the plan, the Commission must explicitly "adopt" or "approve." On a motion by Mr. Jim Deal, the commission this morning voted 5-0 to amend its minutes from December 6 to reflect that they had "approved" the plan. (I have a copy of this highly detailed roadmap for enhancing sustainable agriculture and the local foods movement and plan to write more about it in the future.)
The leash agreement worked out between the old Democratic Board majority and the Watauga County Farmer's Market, for Saturday use of the social services bldg. parking lot off the Poplar Grove Rd. Extension, which was up for final approval ... suddenly crashed, as Chair Nathan Miller wanted to know why the County could allow that use for a measly dollar a year (plus costs of supplying county staff to keep the Social Services bldg. open on those Saturdays), when the Farmer's Market had been paying some $10,000 per annum to Horn in the West.
One might almost conclude that the new commissioners have dollar signs for eyes.