The Transylvania Times -

Commissioners Unhappy At Late Notice – Brevard NC


September 6, 2018

The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners approved submitting a joint application with the Board of Education for state grants of more than $19 million in a special called meeting Friday morning, but commissioners were unhappy that the school board had not approached them earlier about applying for the grant.

The grant deadline was Friday afternoon.

At the Friday meeting, Commission Chairman Larry Chapman said he wasn’t prepared to sign the application without the rest of the commissioners’ input.

He was also concerned that the public had not had the opportunity to give its say on the application. If approved, the grants would require the county to match the amount.

County Manager Jaime Laughter said she was concerned that the commissioners had little time to consider the application and they had “limited measures” for financing.

If the school bond is approved, then the matching funds could come from it. But if the bond fails, the county would likely have to seek private financing.

Commissioner Page Lemel was particularly frustrated by having to deal with the application at the last minute. She said she could vote to apply for the grants but only because the county would have the option to turn the money down if awarded.

“We are supposed to partner on this stuff, and we cannot do that when our schools do not come to us and let us know about this opportunity,” she said to School Superintendent Jeff McDaris. “We’ve asked for joint meetings. We’ve been turned down on that because you need to focus on the bond. Here is a grant that we could have partnered on and had good conversation and really be excited for our community. But our backs are up against the wall, and I’m really frustrated by that.”

McDaris said he was sorry about Lemel’s frustration and said he would take the “blame” for the short notice. At the Board of Education meeting, Mc-Daris again said he would take responsibility for the commissioners not receiving the information sooner. Board of Education Chair Tawny McCoy, however, noted that there were mitigating factors beyond the school system’s control.

In a letter dated Thursday, Aug. 30, from McCoy to Chapman, McCoy wrote that the school board had not been notified of the grant application until after business hours on Aug. 6 and that the “applications were not available until the following week.”

That meant the school system could not begin working on the applications until the week of Aug. 13-17.

McCoy also wrote that the “Department of Public Instruction had originally indicated that Tier 2 counties would not be eligible until fiscal year 2019-2020.”

At the Friday afternoon school board meeting, both McCoy and McDaris said there were items that also needed clarification.

McCoy also wrote to Chapman that when the applications became available, “Quite a bit of information was unavailable and had to be gathered from sources and compiled to submit an accurate report that reflects our best estimate of the two projects.”

The grant applications for Brevard High and Rosman Middle schools each included a brief narrative, conceptual budgeting, timelines, funding projections and a feasibility analysis.

The feasibility analysis included eight major areas of analysis for each large structure at each school, regardless of whether that structure needs to be rebuilt.

For example, the analysis of Brevard High included 12 structures even though just three new structures would be paid for with money from the grants.

According to McDaris, the information had been gathered and most of the application had been completed by Aug. 24. Both grant applications were signed by McCoy on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

However, in her letter to Chapman, McCoy wrote “Initial direction from the Department of Public Instruction indicated formal votes by both the school board and county commissioners were optional at the local level before applying for a grant (a formal vote to accept or not if selected would have followed as a requirement). However, legal advice from the school board attorney indicates the formal voting should come at both junctures.”

McCoy also wrote that the school system “appreciates the willingness of the Transylvania County Commission to consider this proposal within a tight window of opportunity in a special called meeting” of the commissioners on Friday morning.

At the Friday afternoon school board meeting, McCoy apologized for the commissioners having to call a special meeting, but said there was never any intent of not being transparent regarding the application.

Both McCoy and Board of Education Vice Chair Ron Kiviniemi said they were very appreciative of the commissioners holding a special meeting and approving the grant application.

(Derek McKissock contributed reporting to the story.)


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