By Tim Gardner
Adopting new sick leave, vacation and pay policies for Town employees and receiving bids for a 2018 audit were among the key topics at the Newland Boa.rd of Aldermen’s regular monthly meeting March 6.
All Aldermen (Town Council members) Kenny Caraway, Lauren Turbyfill, Joleta Wise, Jamey Johnson and Greg Seiz were present, as was Mayor Valerie Jaynes. Other town officials attending included: Town Administrator Keith Hoilman; Finance Officer Lisa Meinhardt; Town Attorney Joe Seegers; and Town Clerk and Board of Aldermen secretary Tammy Gardner.
The Aldermen voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that will allow the Town’s employees sick leave time after 90 days of employment and vacation time after six months of employment
The Town’s policies for employees sick and vacation time also had been discussed at previous meetings and town officials’ workshops. Some of the Town’s personnel had previously not received vacation time off until after one year of employment and six months until their sick leave time could be used.
The Aldermen also voted unanimously voted to change the payroll period for the Town’s employees from each Thursday to the following Wednesday each week. The employees will receive the two days pay they would miss before the pay period change during a later pay cycle.
Additionally, Police Chief Byron Clawson asked the Board of Aldermen for permission to hire Dominic Parker of Roan Mountain, TN as a full-time police officer. The Aldermen voted unanimously (5-0) to let Clawson employ Parker.
The Aldermen again tabled further discussion and another possible vote about whether to give the Town’s residents and businesses using its water and sewer system the opportunity to purchase insurance for them after two voting motions failed Tuesday.
Seiz made a motion to approve having the insurance at monthly rates of $4.00 for residential; $6.00 for commercial; and $11 for multi-units. Those using the insurance would have it charged on their monthly water bill from the Town. But Seiz’ motion died from a lack of a second by any of the other Aldermen. Turbyfill later made a motion to adopt the same rates on a one-year probation period. Her motion was seconded by Seiz. However, Caraway, Wise and Johnson voted against, causing that motion to fail by a 3-2 tally.
The Aldermen also had discussed the water and sewer insurance at previous meetings and workshops.
Serv-Line spokesperson Mrs. Shelby Winstead had told the Board of Aldermen about water and sewer insurance rates and explained the company’s coverage and options.
Mrs. Winstead noted that since 2017 insurance rates generally have been higher. However, she said Serv-Line decided to maintain its same rates. Mrs. Winstead told the Aldermen that currently the Town only has water/sewer leaks covered and from the town to the customer’s meter box. She added that customers would have to contact Serv-Line to get any additional coverage such as from the meter box to inside their homes or businesses.
In another water issue, Town resident Judy Johnson appeared before the Aldermen concerning her last water bill being higher than normal and asked if she could only be charged for the gallons of water actually used. The Aldermen took no action about Mrs. Johnson’s request.
Tiffany Moon asked the Aldermen about beginning a Community Watch program for the Town, similar to the one it had years ago. Clawson said he would favor such a program as he and the Town’s other police officers need the help of the Town’s citizens and its business owners and their employees to help deter crime in Newland.
The Aldermen were receptive to such a plan and agreed to get the proper information to re-start the Community Watch program in the Town.
Mayor Jaynes opened letters with bids from four Certified Public Accounting Firms about conducting the Town’s 2018 audit. The auditors and their bids were: Misty Watson of Boone (not to exceed $14,000); Young, Miller and Gillespie of Spruce Pine ($21,500.00); Wilson Reyes and Associates of Charlotte ($14,000); and Cynthia Randolph of West Jefferson ($12,000). Some of the bids involved additional costs such as for expenses and years of services rendered.
Meinhardt advised the Aldermen that they had several months to review the bids before they would need to hire an accountant to conduct this year’s audit.
Watson conducted last year’s Town audit.
Jimmie Daniels also appeared before the Aldermen to request a section of the Riverwalk Gardens in the Town be named in honor of its late resident, Jake Owens. Mrs. Daniels gave the Aldermen a list of Owens’ contributions to the Town and she added that “many others he made to Newland will never be known.”
The Aldermen were receptive to Daniels’ suggestion and said they would discuss it further at future meetings. Caraway and Wise told Daniels that they would volunteer their time to help in any ways needed such as building flower beds, benches, planting of plants and flowers and fundraising with the gardens.
Regina Hoilman of the Avery County Humane Society also addressed the Aldermen to give general details about the services the Human Society provides to the Town and Avery County. Mrs. Hoilman noted that the Humane Society is open seven days a week and has a staff of twenty employees, all of whom are part-time except one. She said it costs $720,000.00 a year to operate the Humane Society with costs of approximately $400.00 per animal that it houses or takes in. Mrs. Hoilman added that the Humane Society receives no funding from the Town and operates primarily with monies obtained through grants, fundraisers and from Avery County.
The next regular monthly meeting of the Newland Aldermen will be Tuesday, April 3, beginning at 6:00 p.m. in Town Hall.