In Pilot Mountain’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting on September 14, 2015, I was surprised when a motion was made to go into closed session at the beginning of the meeting for personnel reasons. After coming out of closed session, the board voted 3 to 2 to fire Manager Amanda Reid with Commissioner Cordie Armstrong and myself opposing. We are not allowed to discuss what is discussed in closed session. I am writing this letter to the editor to express what Ms. Reid has done for this community.
Ms. Reid gave us 100 percent. Our problems became her full commitment the day she walked in the door. She had to start under the gun because of our financial situation, and it took most of her focus and attention. She has helped us improve and I think we should have given her more time to continue to improve our finances and allow her to branch out into other areas where she could contribute.
Here is a list of accomplishments I have witnessed since taking office in January 2015.
· Almost doubled our fund balance in one fiscal year. Our fund balance has been dangerously low as evidenced by the state letters we have received for several previous years.
· Removed the block scale rate system on water bills. By doing so, water users pay for what they use instead of giving high end users a discount. This lowered bills for the lower users. The most important part is that the block scale system disqualified us from being eligible for grants for water/sewer.
· First year out of 10 that Pilot Mountain did not have any budget violations.
· Pass through items removed from the town’s budget. These are revenues collected on behalf of some other party. The town would collect the revenue and pass them through to the intended recipient. Examples include the fire tax that now goes directly to the Fire Department which ensures faster distribution to them and saves Pilot Mountain on the fee associated with the pass through. Other examples are the distributions from the trust funds established for the library. Those funds will now go directly to the Library.
· Changed health insurance policies for employees making medical care more affordable for the staff.
· Renegotiated the waste and recycling contract to reduce the total costs of the contract and added additional service of providing waste and recycling pickup to commercial businesses.
· Analyzed all towns’ equipment with historical data, compiled costs to get equipment up to code and prioritized what is needed the most. Most of the town’s equipment including the backhoe and police cars is in much need of repairs or replacement. Not to mention the infrastructure water / sewer lines and pump stations.
· Found property to annex (property in the town’s name) that will increase revenues that are based on square mileage or roads.
· Cleaned up policies such as whistleblower, code enforcement and procurement policies.
· Worked with Surry County commissioner to forgive 2 years debt payments on the Pilot Center.
· Worked with Surry County commissioners to assist funding Pilot Mountain with infrastructure capital asset plan.
· Worked with the state to find funding to repair Depot Street.
· Added legal protection to the town by having a lawyer present at all board meetings.
· Found free assistance for leak detection in our water lines.
· Secured free equipment for the town (office equipment, utility equipment, police equipment).
· Secured raises to town employees making under $15/hour. This is the first raise in over 6 years.
· Discovered and collected over $18,000 in water billing errors that had occurred for many years.
· Discovered the water tower contracts had not been upheld for years and enforced the contracts to become complaint with internal cleaning of the tanks and painting the outside of the tanks
· Found double billings on internet, street lights.
· Found cost savings on phone system that town has been renting, paper shredding services, office supplies.
· Transitioned internal records into electronic format and restructured the filing system to find records in a timely fashion.
· Painted most of town hall on her personal time (without pay) to save the town the cost of painting services.
· Participated in the community by serving in the PMABA, Civic Club, TDA Secretary as well as attending many other meetings in town. She attended the Mayfest and Cruise Ins. She volunteered for the dunking booth for the National Night Out. She hand delivered water bills to Main Street business owners to get to know the community.
Ms. Reid inherited urgent and difficult financial problems when she came to work for Pilot Mountain a year and half ago. She has worked very hard to get us on the right path. When she shared the extent of our challenges with the board, it was not welcome news and tough decisions have been made. But our budget is now realistic, transparent and prudent. She has been able to negotiate new arrangements and contracts with other agencies and providers to help save costs for the town and our citizens. But most of all, she told us what we needed to hear instead of what we wanted to hear. Even though that approach is often unappreciated in politics, I will always admire and appreciate her for doing it.
I think sometimes people focus on perceived weaknesses instead of strengths, and in doing so become blind to the progress that is made. I want to thank Amanda for all the progress that we have made and the support she has shown the town’s employees. We are in a better position because of her work.
Commissioner, Town of Pilot Mountain