Old Fort Board of Alderman reviews town audit, discusses building reuse grant

This year’s town audit and a public hearing for a building reuse grant were discussed during Monday’s Board of Alderman meeting

DUSTIN CHANDLER/MCDOWELL NEWS

The Old Fort Board of Aldermen took a look at this year’s town audit and held a public hearing for a building reuse grant for an incoming business on Monday.

Carol Avery of Lowdermilk Church & Company, LLP presented the board with the town’s financial highlights of the fiscal 2018 year.

According to Avery, total cash and investments in the General Fund were estimated at $1.9 million at the end of the year, with an increase of approximately $85,000. The fund balance was listed as $1,903,166 with an increase of $61,000. Total revenue was $956,120 with a slight decrease in ad valorem taxes, a sales tax increase of $7,600 and state and federal grants of approximately $100,000. Total expenditures were listed as $895,000 with an increase of $38,000. According to Avery, the town had appropriated to use $11,451 of the fund balance, but did not use any part of the fund balance and instead saw the increase of $61,000, a $33,000 increase from the year before.

“You did a good job of controlling your costs this year,” said Avery.

Percent of taxes collected this year was reported at 99.09 percent, slightly higher than the year before. State average for all towns is 99.08 percent and state average based on town size and collection rate is 96.45 percent, with the Town of Old Fort exceeding the state average on both ends.

In the Enterprise Fund (water and sewer operations), cash and investments were listed at $866,791, with an increase of about $86,000. Total assets at the end of the year were listed at $6,972,000, with a majority coming from fixed assets and a decrease of approximately $131,861. Fund equity was reported at $6,118,160, a decrease of $139,937. Operating revenue was down slightly at $520,709. Operating expenses were up at $719,833.

“A substantial amount of repairs this year contributed to the majority of the increase,” said Avery.

Net income loss for the year is $139,937, about $100,000 more than the previous year’s loss. Accounts receivable at the end of the year was $71,002. Investment income was listed at $2,000 and day’s sales in accounts receivable was listed at 65.4 percent, virtually the same as the prior year.

Following Avery’s audit review, the board held a public hearing for a building reuse grant to be used in collaboration with an unspecified business and the Town of Old Fort.

“There’s a business – I’m not at liberty to say yet – coming to town that’s going to provide about 12 full-time jobs,” said Mayor Rick Hensley. “There’s going to be money spent in reusing this building to refurbish it and bring it up to code. The Town of Old Fort’s part is to work with the county, MEDA (McDowell Economic Development Association) and everyone else involved to get this grant approved. The town put up $6,000. This is just pennies compared to 12 jobs and bringing another business in town.”

“Which building are you talking about?” asked resident Henry Snypes during the hearing.

“Not at liberty to say right now,” replied Alderman Andrew Carlton. “We’ll have to wait for the state to announce it before anything can be made public.”

The Building Reuse Grant, under the Rural Grants/Programs Section of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, provides grants to local governments with three categories of funding available for: 1) the renovation of vacant buildings; 2) the renovation or expansion of a building occupied by an existing North Carolina company wishing to expand in their current location; and 3) the renovation, expansion or construction of health care entities that will lead to the creation of new, full-time jobs.

According to MEDA Executive Director Chuck Abernathy, the state program would allow for $5,000 per job, with a total of $60,000 from the state between all 12 jobs, then the combination of the owner (the company) and the entity submitting the grant (Town of Old Fort) would match that. Of this, the town contributed five percent, the $6,000, and the company would contribute 45 percent.

“Mr. Carlton has been real involved and [Financial Officer] Renee Taylor was just unbelievably helpful with helping get all this together,” said Abernathy. “We’ve done a lot of manufacturing building reuse grant and been pretty successful with those. We did one for Ethan Allen earlier this year and those were $12,000 a job. But it’s very exciting; it’s an entity that people know, it’s almost a household name of a company, at least in Marion, so it’s pretty exciting.”

According to Abernathy, the company has to create the 12 jobs in order for the funds to be released, along with clawback provisions where if the funds are received and the jobs aren’t retained for a period of time, the company will have to pay those back.

With no other comments, the board made a motion to approve the resolution.

In other business:

• During public comments, Hensley congratulated the Old Fort Chamber of Commerce for moving into the available office space at the Depot.

• The Old Fort Christmas Lighting ceremony will be held Saturday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Depot. Old Fort Church of God will be performing for the event. Popcorn, coffee, hot chocolate and other refreshments will be available. According to Hensley, should weather permit a change of location, the ceremony will be moved to the Rocket Building.

• The town’s Christmas parade will be held Saturday, Dec. 1, with lineup starting at 5 p.m. in the parking lot of Old Fort Elementary and will begin moving at 6 p.m. Pending bad weather, the makeup date for the parade will be Dec. 8.

• Ole Mountain Christmas is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center.

• In old business, Hensley stressed that compliance for the town’s water backflow ordinance is Dec. 31, with subsequent fines to occur the next day for businesses that do not comply.

• Under new business, the board made a motion to approve an ordinance to shut down the street for the lighting ceremony from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

There will be no aldermen meeting in December. A tentative date for next year’s Board of Alderman meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. Subsequent changes to this date will be provided upon notice.

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