PILOT MOUNTAIN — The Local Government Commission, the division of the State Treasurer’s Office that oversees finances statewide for local governments, will be doing a site visit and providing a report to the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners in the next couple of months.
Town Manager Amanda Reid informed the commissioners of the upcoming visit by the LGC officials Monday during the board’s monthly meeting, noting that the LGC was particularly concerned that the town board had no appointed finance officer, which is a state-mandated appointment.
Reid had included the hiring of a part-time finance officer in her proposed budget, but the town board voted 3-2 to do away with that budgeted $32,000 position, leaving the town with no finance officer.
Prior to the budget season, Town Clerk Holly Utt had filled that role, which was supposed to be temporary, for a year, but due to the nature of the role requiring the person to be held personally liable for the town finances and not having the training and qualifications, Utt resigned that role during the budget process, retaining her town clerk hat.
“They have concerns, one is the lack of a finance officer and making sure you all understand what that means,” Reid told the board.
She said the LGC staff will do a site visit with the staff during the day and then make a report to the board during the evening commissioners’ meeting the same day. Originally the visit was been set for Aug. 10, but due to two of the town commissioners being out of town that day, the commissioners rescheduled their meeting for Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. Mayor Dwight Atkins asked Reid to see if the LGC could reschedule its visit for the Sept. 14 meeting of the board.
When asked by Atkins if Reid had contacted the LGC, she said she did not, that the LGC staff had left a message for her and she returned their call.
Atkins asked if Reid had been assigning finance officer duties in-house, to which she explained, “Some things get done and some are not, and I’m working on that.”
Town Attorney Ed Woltz noted his concern is the state statute requiring each entity to have an appointed finance officer, which needs to be a formal appointment.
Looking for a temporary solution to the lack of a finance officer until the board can find a permanent answer, initially the board suggested appointing one of the commissioners to that role, but Reid said that is not allowed.
They also asked Reid about serving in the position, but Reid said, “If you appoint me budget manager and finance officer, then you have no internal controls.”
Commissioner Kim Quinn said the town “needs two different people for checks and balances.”
Woltz also said, “Companies shouldn’t have the same person writing checks and making deposits.”
“It seems with the staff we have now we can have an appointment for someone to do those duties,” Atkins said.
“Our issues have been asking someone to do something outside their comfort zone. The finance officer is personally liable for unauthorized expenditures,” said Reid.
Prior to Utt filling the role and since the town fired its last finance officer who worked under Town Manager Blair Knox, another town employee was doing that work, but due to mistakes there were a number of penalties the town had to pay.
Before Knox was named town manager, the person in the town manager role served as both the budget manager and the finance officer.
Quinn suggested appointing a staff person from within in a temporary role, giving the board time to find a long-term solution.
The commissioners asked Utt if she’d be willing to serve as finance officer, and she agreed to do that for 90 days. The appointment was made in the form of a motion by Commissioner Gary Bell, seconded by Commissioner Linda Needham and passed unanimously, with Commissioner Cordie Armstrong absent due to work obligations.
In other business:
• Town resident Doug Brannon spoke during the public forum time, requesting information about the debt service and rental/condo agreements with Pilot Center tenants. He learned that the town makes $4,200 each year from use of the facility, but pays out about $25,000 in contracted services, and that the debt service for the next two years was forgiven by the county commissioners, saving the town $22,500 annually for those fiscal years.
• Town resident Frank Nichols also spoke during the public forum time. He wanted to make sure the town would keep the two new pieces of large equipment being purchased — a backhoe being one — on a maintenance schedule and verifying whose responsibility that would be.
He also suggested an administrative fee be added to the police and public works department for the organizers of the Mayfest and Hot Nights Hot Cars cruise-ins for the set-up and scheduling time it takes the department heads to organize town resources for that rather than just charging for man-power hours.
Commissioner Linda Needham responded to his suggestion that “we’ve got to give to get. The people that belong to those clubs volunteer and don’t get a dime, and the car show brings a lot of people in town.”
• The ABC Board reported that the sales at the town’s ABC Store were up 6.7 percent at $67, 028.20 in June 2015 over June 2014.
• Tourism Development Authority (TDA) Chairman Scott Needham gave a report on the group’s accomplishments during the 2014-15 fiscal year, including advertising on two billboards — one at I-74/U.S. 52 traveling south and another northbound on U.S. 52 at exit 134; hiring a new attendant to work the visitors center on Saturdays and do administrative duties including website updates; creating a town brochure, which will be in a second printing soon; providing the Town Hall Christmas tree and new town flags for the poles at Town Hall and The Pilot Center (smaller flags are available for purchase by the public at the visitors center); helping fund marketing for Mayfest and the monthly cruise-ins; participating in an ad in Our State magazine; updating the Walk Pilot Tours held the second Saturday of each month at 6 p.m.; rearranging the visitors center to look more conducive to visitors; creating an interactive map for the website; providing a scavenger hunt. He said new ideas the board is discussing are packages for tourists and possibly restarting the downtown window decoration contests.
Later in the meeting Reid noted that there has been talk about merging the town’s TDA with the county TDA due to less funding coming to the town.
• Police Chief Darryl Bottoms reported the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program has awarded the police department a grant to fund six printers to go with the computers in the patrol cars.
• The board will revisit appointments to the TDA and the ABC Board at its August meeting after learning that both boards have a vacancy. Applications are being accepted by town residents for those seats.
• The commissioners discussed a procurement policy for the town to help regulate finances, but did not vote on the policy. Instead Reid and Woltz are going to take the policy based on state statutes and adjust the wording to separate the thresh-holds for construction and repair contracts and bring it back for review again. The policy also will add a stipulation that a vendor report be provided to the board on any informal bids gained by town staff for purchases or services that meet a certain thresh-hold and require a budget amendment.
• The North Carolina Rural Water Center will be in town July 22 and 23 to assist in leak detection in town. Reid said the town has 35 percent water loss, and is trying to determine if it is within the system, in overflows at tanks or in customers not getting billed.
• The town’s new website, being coordinated by town intern Anna Joyce, should go live at the end of July. This new site will provide $2,000 to $3,000 in savings to the town and allow for staff to make updates to the site without having to send information to an IT provider for that.
• Work on Depot Street did not make the July meeting of the North Carolina Board of Transportation, but it should be on the August agenda, Reid reported. If approved, DOT will handle the repairs in-house and should be done as soon as it can get on the schedule.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.