Deal struck between commissioners, FVW

Dec. 03, 2013 @ 06:03 PM

The Vance County board of commissioners Monday night advanced a deal with Franklin-Vance-Warren Opportunity Inc. that will reduce the county’s inventory of vacant, federally subsidized houses.

The board also avoided a hefty reimbursement payment because the properties are unoccupied.

Commissioners at their regular monthly meeting voted to transfer ownership of five of 11 houses to FVW, whose board is expected to act on the deal on Thursday and then offer the houses for rent. The five are located on Cross, Poplar and Horner streets.

The county faced a Jan. 31 deadline to find renters for the five or it would be held liable for the cost of the houses. According to Jerry Ayscue, the county manager, the cost would have been about $400,000.

The houses were built in 2010 and funded under a federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a component of a Community Development Block Grant. The houses have been on the market for more than a year. The prices of 10 of the 11 were reduced earlier this year, some more than 50 percent of the original price, but they haven’t sold.

“There’s a much worse economic situation here than I realized,” Commissioner Gordon Wilder said.

The board’s planning and economic committee recommended the transfer of ownership after it learned FVW doesn’t have a real estate broker’s license, a requirement for property managers. The committee had met earlier with FVW to arrange an agreement for the agency to serve as property manager and rent or sell the houses.

Commissioner Eddie Wright said he knows people who will rent the properties because they’re living in substandard houses. Some of the reluctance to purchase the houses is that they’re not located in the best neighborhoods, he said.

Commissioners face another deadline. The remaining six houses must be sold by mid-September 2014. Any that are unsold at that time must be converted to rental and rented out by Dec. 31, 2014, the committee said in a report to the board.

In another matter, commissioners needed two votes to approve purchase of turnout gear for the fire and EMS department.

The board’s public safety committee recommended purchasing 20 sets of the gear at a cost of $48,720 and explained in its report that federal grant funding for the purchase has been denied for the past two years. The report said 40 sets need to be replaced. The 20 sets would equip the county’s 15 full-time firefighters and provide five sets for part-time employees. Another grant application will be submitted for the other 20 sets, according to the report.

If it is denied, the gear could be purchased by the county over two fiscal years. The committee said that the condition of the turnout gear is a “safety concern.”

Consideration of the request, though, bogged down before and after the first vote in a discussion about how many sets are needed and how much life is left in the sets in use.

Commissioner Tommy Hester said he opposed both motions based on not knowing “how many we need.”

Commissioner Dan Brummitt, a member of the committee, said three part-time employees have no gear and can’t respond to calls. The request, he said, would provide 15 sets for full-time employees, outfit the three that have no gear and leave two in reserve.

Fire and EMS Chief Harold Henrich explained that some personnel are full-time firefighters in other jurisdictions and are not allowed to use their gear for part-time service in Vance.

“We need to provide turnout gear for the part-time personnel we have hired to cover the volunteer stations during the week,” Henrich wrote earlier in a letter to the board. “Their concern is if their gear receives damage while they are on duty with our agency, who is going to replace the gear?”

Henrich also pointed out that an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would find several unserviceable sets of gear and the county would be fined for not replacing the gear. He also wrote that the gear in use is six or more years old.

Commissioner Archie Taylor Jr. wondered if there was not some number of sets that would “get us out of harm’s way.” He also asked if anyone had been to the fire stations to look at the gear.

Unconvinced, commissioners first voted 4-3 to deny the request, with Hester, Terry Garrison, Eddie Wright and Taylor opposed and Brummitt, Deborah Brown and Gordon Wilder, who made the motion, in favor.

Another vote, on a motion by Garrison to approve, followed comments by Brown, the board chairman, that the job of the commissioners was not to micromanage because they have a chief for that.

“I haven’t been to any fire station, and I don’t plan to go,” she said.

Garrison said he was eventually convinced the purchase was “something that was really needed” to protect fire department personnel.

“At the time, I was interested in getting some sense about the urgency,” Garrison said.

The request was approved 5-2 on the second vote, with Hester and Taylor still opposed.

In other business, the board appointed nine members to an Animal Control Advisory Committee and approved guidelines for the committee’s role. Rudy Abate, Lisa Brewer, Ruth Jones, Peggy Mason and Jerry Sparks will serve as citizens at-large. Others include Jamie Janke of the Humane Society, Lisa Harrison of the health department, Alan Hedgepeth of the Ruin Creek Animal Protection Society and veterinarian David Conde.

Sitting as the water district board, commissioners approved a 50-year easement agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will enable the district to bore across Kerr Lake along N.C. 39 North as it constructs phase 2B of its water project. The county will make a payment to the Corps not to exceed $17,550 as well as $2,900 for administrative costs.


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