The Transylvania Times -

County Approves Contract With Economic Alliance


October 16, 2017

The Transylvania Economic Alliance’s contract with the county has been changed to a yearly one, with slightly different expectations and requirements.

The county’s initial contract with the Alliance, which was signed in October of 2014, was for a three-year period and included a lump sum every year, with payments every quarter.

This fiscal year, which began July 1, the county granted the Alliance a contract extension to Sept. 30, while both parties revised portions of the contract.

The goal was to make sure “that documentation and reporting requirements are clearly delineated with reasonable due dates,” according to County Manager Jaime Laughter in a memo to commissioners.

The new contract changes the prior one by:

•Establishing the term as an annual commitment to align with the county’s budget process. A program of work and funding request will be submitted during the budget process annually for consideration in the budget; and

•Establishing clearer guidelines for semi-annual and annual reports, with reasonable deadlines and identifying county staff for submission attention. The extension agreement meant the Alliance was paid $125,000 for the fiscal year’s first quarter.

Last week during their regular meeting, commissioners approved the new contract, which includes another $310,000, spread over three payments, for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2018.

The $435,000 total county funding for the year includes:

Operations and staffing ($260,000); marketing and business development ($90,000); existing business initiatives ($35,000); and implementing the greenfield analysis — product development ($50,000).

The Alliance’s other funding includes: Max Carolina grant — workforce and awareness campaign ($59,924); state grant for 60,750-square-foot light industrial project on Ecusta Road ($200,000); and investor/membership dues ($18,000).

At the meeting, Commissioner Jason Chappell thanked staff and the Alliance for their work on the contract changes, saying both should feel comfortable about what “to expect.”

The reporting, he said, will not just be for commissioners but for the general public to see what’s been done and “what they’ve been successful in.”

Commissioner Mike Hawkins characterized the contract changes as an “ongoing agreement, which either party can continually evaluate.”

“The work plan that we are approving today has growth that we can get,” he said. “As we move forward, it needs to be more data driven and we need to have some real quantitative kinds of measures that say, ‘OK, we are doing this and why we are doing this.’ It’s not good enough just to network or to have activity. We need results. It’s up to us as commissioners to provide direction on the results we are looking for. It’s easy to say jobs, but really jobs are at the end of the process. And what we are really looking at is building internal infrastructure, which (the Alliance) are working on, and doing a really good job working on, so that we can be successful.”

Commission Chairman Larry Chapman had one major concern — the lack of a financial audit from the Alliance, which has committed to providing one by the year’s end.

“With everything going on around the world and around the country, I want to make sure that this is their number one priority right now…to complete that financial audit,” he said. “I want all the transparency because this is a bunch of bucks here….We’ve gone two years now, and we need to see that financial audit.”

Chapman went on to say he “appreciated” the work of the Alliance staff and its board.

He said the county is on the brink of seeing activity “that is going to make a “major impact” on the community.

“It’s an uphill struggle across the state and the country,” Chapman said. “Again, government doesn’t create jobs, ladies and gentlemen, other than government jobs.”

He said economic development efforts in the county have not had a lot to “work with,” particularly “product” — buildings and sites that can house new businesses or help already existing ones to relocate and grow.

He hoped that things are changing and are “starting to improve.”

Laughter noted that the Alliance’s contract with the county allows it to inspect the Alliance’s financial books at any time.

In other action at last week’s meeting:

•Commissioners rejected a plan to install a fitness court beside the county library.

Carleen Dixon, the county’s parks and recreation director, presented, with the backing of the Parks and Recreation Commission, the proposal to commissioners.

The National Fitness Campaign had initially contacted Dixon about placing one of its fitness courts in the county.

The plan was to place the court in the grassy area behind the New Adventure Learning Center.

In 2016, the county had sought a grant to do something similar at the site and make improvements to South Broad Park. The grant, however, was not awarded to the county. The latest proposal would have cost $110,250 to install.

Dixon said the City of Brevard had proposed funding $15,000 toward the project, while $10,000 would be available from a Fit Radio grant —through the National Fitness Campaign — and a fundraising effort in the community would bring in another $20,000.

Dixon was seeking $65, 250 from the county for the project.

Prior to making a decision, commissioners asked several questions.

Chappell, for one, asked what would happen if the $20,000 wasn’t raised. Dixon suggested she was confident it would be raised. Staff was planning to work with Brevard High School student Kaine McAlister, who would start the fundraising campaign as his senior project.

Chappell asked if the library had concerns about the project. Dixon said library officials had concerns about parking and restrooms.

Commissioner Page Lemel said she was concerned about using funds that could be used for bigger recreation projects identified in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

She suggested she’d rather see the Parks and Recreation Commission bringing recommendations to meet the master plan’s goals.

She noted the City of Brevard didn’t receive funding for improvements to the proposed Tannery Park project and said there was perhaps a chance to partner with the city on it or explore the creation of a multi-generational recreation center.

The $65,250, she said, could “go a long way to making a mortgage payment” toward a more major development.

Dixon said the feedback from the Parks and Recreation Commission was there are a couple of big projects but they are “longer term.”

The concern, she said, is how “to meet” some of the needs in the shorter term. The fitness court would address some of the major health and wellness concerns in the community. It would be open year round and anyone could use it. It would, Dixon said, build “momentum and interest” in what the county is trying to do.

“This would be an attention getter,” she said.

Hawkins said he agreed with Lemel’s concerns, and he viewed the fitness court “as a very urban product” and not as a “destination” for county residents.

“It’s for people who live in an urban environment,” he said.

Dixon disagreed.

“I think it would become a destination for people looking for outdoor activities when the weather is nice,” she said, noting it would be available for those who can’t afford a gym membership and perhaps be a “stepping stone” for residents to be more active.

Chapman agreed with Hawkins that the fitness court was “geared toward an urban area, where there are not a lot of options.”

He asked whether there was any data for these fitness courts being “successful in a rural area.”

He also agreed with Lemel’s call to “look at the bigger picture” and was skeptical about Balsam Grove residents, for example, traveling to the city to use the fitness court. He suggested that the city should take the project on.

Chapman eventually asked for a commissioner to make a motion in support of the project. The proposal died for a lack of a motion.

•Commissioners approved applying for federal funds for public transportation needs in the county. The funds total $391,000 and will require a local $88,886 match. The funds will be used for, among other things, administrative costs of running the county’s transportation services, replacing two vehicles and allowing the expansion of services.

•A portion of Main Street in Brevard will be closed between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, for the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the courthouse gazebo.

•Commissioners approved a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Commissioners also approved a proclamation naming November as National Family Caregivers Month.

•Commissioners approved county staff to select a contractor to design, fabricate and install seven to 10 wayfinding signs throughout the county. The signs would be similar to the ones in the City of Brevard. To pay for the signs, the county received a $25,000 ARC grant and the county’s Tourism Development Authority will provide a required local match of $25,000.


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