By Jesse Wood
May 31, 2013. During Friday morning of Boone’s budget retreat, Town Manager Greg Young spoke briefly about upcoming expenses to lobbyists.
Young said the town still has three lobbyists that it pays “at least month to month” or either has a contract with to the end of the calendar year.
In the previous and current year, the town paid lobbyists out of the General Fund Balance and Water and Sewer Fund. However this year, the entire $168,000 that is budgeted for the upcoming year is allocated in the Water and Sewer Fund.
Young said those expenses would be shifted out of the General Fund Balance because all of the lobbying expenses pertain to the proposed water intake system along the New River near Ashe County for which the that the town has already invested $2.4 million.
Substantial discussion recently between the Boone Town Council and the town’s Water Use Committee has revolved around potential legislative action that could derail the planned intake system or have it taken over by regional authorities once completed.
“My position in regards to lobbyists is as long as we have the water project active, we need to have lobbyists,” Young said.
According to figures in the budgets, the Town of Boone spent $138,000 on lobbyists in fiscal year 2010-11 with no funds coming from the Water and Sewer Fund.
In 2011-12 and 2012-13, the Town of Boone spent $168,000 with $50,000 of that total coming from the Water and Sewer Fund both fiscal years.
In the upcoming fiscal year’s proposed budget, the entire $168,000 has been shifted in to the Water and Sewer Fund. Aside from a clarification of that shift from Council Member Jamie Leigh and Young’s explanations described above, the council members didn’t discuss the issue any further on Friday morning.
According to meeting minutes of Boone Town Council meetings, the council has met in the past with Jenkins Hill Consulting and John Metcalf of the Policy Group.
In one particular special meeting on May 31, 2010, those present discussed the recent legislative sessions and other town priorities in addition to the intake system along the New River.
For example, discussions took place about changes to the occupancy tax; appropriations for fire trucks; a pedestrian planning grant; a N.C. Rural Center grant for water and sewer project along U.S. 421; funding for repairs to the Horn in the West Powderhorn Theatre and renovations to the Downtown Boone Post Office; internet sweepstakes and more.