The Transylvania Times -

By Eric Crews
Staff Writer 

New Machining Lab Given More Funding - Brevard NC


Construction costs for a project to convert an existing picnic shelter at Blue Ridge Community College into a 1,200-square-foot machining lab exceeded estimates by around $50,000.

The commissioners previously authorized the use of $150,000 in capital reserve funds to be used for the project.

After receiving a total of six bids for the project, Dr. Molly Parkhill, president of Blue Ridge Community College, said that the costs for the project were higher than expected due in part to the city’s requirement that separate water and sewer lines be added to meet city code.

The college is currently working with engineers to ascertain costs of that change.

During Monday’s regular commissioner meeting, Parkhill asked for an additional $100,000 to be used in the project. County Manager Artie Wilson explained that it would not require any additional funds from the county, but it would allow BRCC to use the funds that have already been allocated to them.

“This is a project that has been on a really fast stream, and we need to allow them to proceed with this project,” Wilson said. “They are looking for a startup date for early January for this program.”

The program, which is a joint initiative between Blue Ridge Community College and the Transylvania County Board of Education, will offer machining, mechatronics and welding courses at Brevard High School through the Career and College Promise program.

The purchase of some of the equipment to be used in the program was made possible through funding from Golden Leaf grants.

Commissioner Larry Chapman asked why the project was so far off the initial estimates.

Parkhill told the commissioners that the highest bid came in at $50,000 more than anticipated.

“We are hoping the project will stay at $200,000,” she said.

Chapman said that he believes technical education should be one of the highest priorities for the county’s education programs.

Commissioner Page Lemel asked what projects would not be accomplished this year because of the unforeseen cost increases.

Parkhill said the college would defer several planned projects, including paving a parking lot and installing new doors and other renovations. A project to complete the library has already been completed.

“These are things that we can defer, and we agree that our first priority is to be able to have this advanced manufacturing training available to our students,” she said.

In other action:

• Human Resources Director Sheila Cozart provided commissioners with an update on the county employee wellness center that opened Sept. 4. The clinic is operated through a contract with Blue Mountain Medicine.

Cozart said the wellness center is meeting all of the goals commissioners set for it when they approved the wellness center in March.

“Our goal, of course, was to within the first three to four months have all of the employees who participated in our health screen last year to come through the clinic and have their first appointment,” Cozart said. “So far, it’s been very successful.”

The total number of visits for September and October were 171 wellness visits and 130 episodic visits.

Of those, the clinic has saved more than $82,000 over what would have been submitted in insurance claims. Cozart said there are a number of success stories already pouring in from people who’ve been able to get timely care at critical times.

Among the most notable visits was one person who had blood clots in their lung who had been resistant to visit the doctor, but ultimately visited the wellness clinic where the clots were identified.

Another individual reported that he hadn’t visited the doctor in more than 20 years but went to the wellness clinic and reported that the visit most likely saved his life, Cozart said.

Cozart said she would be able to provide further information as they continue to gather data and begin to compare it to years past.

The wellness center cost $114,00 to operate during its first year. Around $10,000 of that was used to renovate the building where the wellness center is located.

Lemel commended the staff for their efforts in recovering the program costs, noting they were well on their way to recouping the year’s expense.

Commissioner Daryle Hogsed said that after hearing the numerous examples of success at the program the only mistake that was made was that the program wasn’t started earlier.

“What we find that is happening at the clinic is that you are saving our employees money, you are saving the county and thus taxpayers’ money, and, most importantly, in a physician’s opinion, that another life was saved because of action taken at the clinic,” he said. “It was well worth the investment. The only shame in this is that we didn’t do it a year earlier.”

Chapman encouraged staff at the wellness center to work to identify any further needs in equipment, staff, or other items that would add to and enhance the capabilities of the clinic ahead of next year’s budget discussion.

Commission Chairman Mike Hawkins thanked Cozart and staff for their dedication to pushing for the clinic’s creation.

“It’s cost-effectiveness, but it’s also changing lives,” he said. “I would hope that we as commissioners as we go into this budget process look at taking this to the next level. What we’re doing now is reactive, treating the problems. But we’ve also talked about a proactive approach to really look at wellness issues. Thank you for the work that you’ve done because it is a success story.”

• In response to ongoing usage of “electronic tobacco products” at the county courthouse, commissioners voted to approve an amendment to the county’s smoking ordinance that changed the definition of smoking to include “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying of any lighted cigar, lighted cigarette, or any lighted tobacco product, or electronic tobacco and/or vapor product in any manner or in any form.”

Violation of the ordinance could result in a written citation, which would result in a $50 fine.

• After a recent noise complaint in the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), county staff was made aware that the city of Brevard’s noise ordinance does not apply in the ETJ.

To have the noise ordinance apply to the city’s ETJ, county staff recommended modifying the existing noise ordinance to include that area. Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the change, with Chappell voting against.

The revised ordinance now reads that the ordinance “shall apply to all areas of Transylvania County located outside the boundaries of any incorporated city or town.”

“I think this is very important because we basically had an area that was no man’s land,” Chapman said. “I think it is great that we get whatever ordinances that we have to cover the whole county in which we, as a county, have jurisdiction over.”

Chappell said he did not support the passage of the noise ordinance in the past and he would not vote for the expansion of the ordinance now.

Fair Housing Plan

Commissioners voted to approve a revision to the Transylvania County Fair Housing Plan that would extend that plan through June 2014, so that the county could remain in compliance with its current Community Development Block Grant. The grant was expected to be completed by the end of 2013, but due to several factors the grant was extended into 2014. To continue to qualify for the grant an updated housing plan was required.

New Board of Directors for Smoky Mountain Managed Care Organization Approved

After the merger of the Smoky Mountain MCO and the Western Highlands MCO the formation of a new board of directors was required. A requirement of N.C. Senate Bill 191 is the new board of directors can not have more than 21 members. The bill also requires that 12 of the members be representatives of specific occupations or groups. It is no longer possible for each county to maintain a seat on the board of directors, which was the case with the Western Highlands MCO.

While Wilson said he opposed the requirements that limit the board size, he said the county was required to appoint a new board of directors to meet the law’s requirements.

“It makes it very difficult for any one county to have full representation,” Wilson said. “When the bottom line comes down, it is you as the board of commissioners that would have to meet the financial needs, so it is felt that you as a board should have representation on this board.”

The commissioners also voted to approve a resolution calling on the governor to allow each county that is a member of the MCO to have representation on the board.


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