By Tim Gardner
Promoting a police officer to full-time duties was the most noted action taken during the Newland Board of Aldermen’s last regular monthly meeting February 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: Finance Officer Lisa Meinhardt; Town Attorney Joe Seegers; and Town Clerk and Board of Aldermen secretary Tammy Gardner. Town Administrator Keith Hoilman was absent attending the National Rural Water Convention in Washington, DC on behalf of the town.
Police Chief Byron Clawson asked the Board for permission to hire Matthew Potter as a full-time police officer. Potter had already worked part-time for the Town. The Board of Aldermen agreed by consensus (no vote taken) to let Clawson hire Potter.
Clawson also told the aldermen that he is working on obtaining an equipment grant from the Governor’s Crime Department in the amount of $23,832.77. If awarded, Clawson said it will be used to purchase new computers, mobile radios and body cameras for his department. Clawson added that the grant request is in review and he will know in approximately two months if it is awarded to the Town.
Johnson added that it is a no match grant with no monetary costs to the Town.
Additionally, Clawson informed the Board of Aldermen that four people were arrested in Newland and were charged with possession of methamphetamine (meth) and maintaining a dwelling in conjunction with the police department attempting to make controlled buys of narcotics in different locations.
He added the police department has several other investigations underway.
The police chief also asked the Board’s advice about what to do with some surplus property. The aldermen tabled discussion about the topic until another meeting.
The Board addressed the Town’s policies for employees sick, comp and vacation time. Some of the Town’s personnel do not receive vacation time off until after one year of employment and they have to work six months until their sick leave time may be taken. Johnson and Wise stated they think that is too long for employees to wait until earning vacation time. Wise added that six months is the standard for most companies of allowing employees vacation time.
Johnson said he wants research done to determine if Town personnel paid by salary can earn comp time. He added that any changes to that policy would not affect employees not paid by salary.
Turbyfill said she does not believe the Town should fill Danny Ray Cole’s position with the Maintenance and Works Department until a budget is adopted for the 2018-19 fiscal year due to financial concerns. Cole resigned last week. But Jaynes said that funds for the position have already been budgeted. Jaynes added that two of the Town’s employees can retire and the Board should also consider that it will likely have to fill those positions.
Turbyfill asked how much money the Town would save if Hoilman went back to his previous job as Maintenance and Works Director. Turbyfill added that she is only considering financial numbers. Besides serving as Town Administrator, Hoilman also still serves as the Town’s Maintenance and Works Director.
Johnson said Turbyfill is trying to save the Town money and that’s the priority of all aldermen.
Wise asked Meinhardt to explain how overtime and comp time is applied to the Maintenance and Works Department employees. Meinhardt explained that when they work on an hourly basis, any hours they work more than forty hours is considered overtime. Meinhardt added that those employees receive comp time when they are on call and cannot leave the area.
Meinhardt also said if employees still have comp time remaining after they leave employment with the Town, they will still be paid for any comp time they have remaining.
Town resident Clara Dickson encouraged the Board of Aldermen and other town officials to search for small businesses to operate in the Town to help bring in tax revenues. Johnson told Dickson that Avery County has an economic development team that works closely with the Town. Johnson added that a new factory will be located in the old IRC building in Newland, which will provide 40 new jobs.
The Board tabled discussion about sick, comp and vacation policies as well as about other personnel issue until a later meeting.
Shelby Winstead of Serv-Line also spoke to the Board of Aldermen about a new proposal for the Town’s water and sewer insurance rates and explained its coverage and cost options.
Winstead noted that she has new data and since 2017 insurance rates generally have been higher. However, she said Serv-Line decided to maintain its same rates. Winstead said Hoilman had suggested the company’s Option 2 ($1000.00 at $3.20) because he thought it would cover more services. Winstead told the aldermen that currently the Town only has the water/sewer leak covered and that is what would be adjusted off the Town’s bill if takes out the insurance. She added that the Town’s water bill is covered with the current rates. She noted that customers would have to contact Serv-Line to get any additional coverage added.
Winstead also told the Board of Aldermen that Serv-Line is an “A” rated company and she could provide the Town with references.
The Board tabled further discussion about the rates until a future meeting.
In other business:
*Turbyfill presented an application for various Town Planning Board and Events Committee appointments. She said applicants for those posts should put their application in a sealed envelope and sign their name on the seal so it cannot be tampered with. The Board voted unanimously to open those sealed applications at its next regular monthly meeting March 6.
*Motor Vehicles Tag Officer Supervisor Crystal Hicks requested that her office be allowed to keep $100.00 in petty cash so daily deposits and monetary change can be made. The Board unanimously (5-0) approved Hicks’ request.
*The Board also voted unanimously to advertise closed bids for the Town’s audit in the county’s newspapers and on the Town’s web site.