Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Watauga County Commission 1/4/11

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.

For example:

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.

Farmland Preservation
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.)

Epic Fail
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.


finally something fiscally sound said...

I believe your problem is that you are having to deal with a new term. This term is called fiscal responsibility.

Thank You County Commissioners! said...

I'm not sure but it looks like you are complaining because our county commission is concerned with costs?

I, for one, hope that they will continue to be prudent with expenditures. And Chairman Nathan Miller, THANK YOU for asking why the county should donate it's resources without charge to a profit making organization like the Watauga Farmers Market. I am a supporter of the market, but see no reason why they deserve a county subsidy to compete with the independent grocery stores and produce markets in this county who are paying retail rents and who also are buying their produce from local farmers.

Do you think it is fair to Bare Essentials, or Jim's Produce, or any of them to have to compete with sellers who are having their overhead paid for by the taxpayers?

Frank said...

Thanks, Jerry, for going to these meetings and keeping us updated since there is little, if any, coverage in the local papers. (The information that IS in the papers reads as though it is written by someone who never attended.)

I, too, have watched a bit of the new Board of Commissioners in action. They are extremely dumb and out-of-touch, regardless of their political leanings. They haven't a clue what they are doing, they have no vision at all for a long-term Watauga County, and Blust apparently doesn't even review the materials before taking his seat.

Gable is flying by the seat of his pants, and Miller is trying to be the leader of a bunch of bumbling idiots without any leadership skills. At least he's motivated, although for what, I'm not sure.

We have keystone cops for County Commissioners, scared to take a step or consider a project unless the local Tea Party approves of it first. I'm betting they'll vote to repair the pool again to the tune of around $400,000, which will last around 8 years or so and then be out of commission again. But we'll see.

I don't call throwing good money after bad money fiscal responsibility. I call it dumb as mud.

And I don't call refusing to use our tax money for the good of all Watauga citizens, their children, and their families fiscal responsibility. I call it narrow minded and stupid.

So that's where we are, but then, there's another election right around the corner.

Henery said...

Frank, yes another election is just around the corner, but unfortunately, only Gable (among the Repubs) will have to defend his record. The other two seats up in 2012 are the two Dems, and I hear that both of them won't run again ... possibly a good thing.

Someone is a sore loser said...

Frank, you lost. Get over it to quote Williamson when Obama was elected.

Frank said...

Hey, sore loser. Why don't you just "get over" my right to point out that the commissioners are jackasses?

Neutral Party said...

As much fun as it is to watch this flame-fest, I have a serious question.

Should the county commission provide free rent to a for profit organization?

If so, how should they determine who should get this advantage? Just farmers? Used car dealers too? Who?

Henery said...

The new editor of the Watauga Democrat had a pretty interesting take on this: http://www2.wataugademocrat.com/editorial.

The main point is that the new commissioners are getting wrapped around their own axle of "money, money, money," without noticing apparently that it's good "community stuff" like the Farmers Market that actually drives the economy, or at least helps drive the economy.

It remains true that the Farmers Market will have to build up a cash reserve in order to buy property & construct a permanent market, which will in turn help the economy. Isn't that what Republicans are supposed to be in favor of?

Give'em a break on rental of county property! Show a little vision!

(The next crisis will be the loss of customers at the Social Services parking lot, because it's on the wrong side of Boone)

Neutral Party said...

So then you would be in favor of the county giving the Farmers Market free rent?

If so, would you also give this benefit to any other organizations? Retailers?

Just wondering.

Neutral Party said...

Judging from the responses so far, I would have to conclude that Henery is moderately in favor of the county providing space for the market (thank you for your response Henery) and that most people really don't seem to have much interest one way or the other.

Does anyone else have an opinion on how the county uses it's resources?

Brushfire said...

I think the Farmer's Market is a huge asset to this community. It supports the small farmers, attracts tourists, and provides healthy foods and a social atmosphere for residents. As such it is a good investment to nurture and support the Farmer's Market.