Timing is bad, but Kerr-Tar’s benefits praised

May. 06, 2013 @ 07:12 PM

There never is a good time to ask for extra money, not when it comes to government.

For the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments, there was no choice. A money problem rooted in having a single bank account to save expenses and maximize banking returns resulted in money from an Economic Development Administration Revolving Loan Fund being inappropriately used.

Now 21 government entities making up the council are being asked to immediately chip in to solve the problem. The total cost is $311,167, or about $1.39 per person of population.

“We’ve only had one so far, and Butner approved it unanimously,” said Brian Pfohl on Monday. He’s the chairman of the board for the council and signed the letter that went to each government. In it, he explained the problem, the measures taken to be prevent a recurrence, how much each entity would contribute and a lengthy listing of the benefits of the council.

Butner acted last week.

Several entities, including the commissioners in Vance, Granville and Warren counties, had the request before them Monday night.

The EDA allowed the council through May to get the situation resolved.

“In the coming weeks, there’ll be some more meetings and I would anticipate based on the good work we’ve done, and the terrific return on the investment, everyone would be agreeable to continue,” Pfohl said.

Pfohl, and a number of supporters, don’t want to think of what might happen if the money is not granted.

“Let’s say it didn’t work,” Pfohl said. “Our interests would be thrown in with another COG. Like for example, down in Raleigh. They may whack up the different COGs or put us in with another one, and you become the smaller fish in the pond. And that makes it harder to get anything.

“You’d get merged to something else and not have much of a say.”

Diane Cox, the interim executive director, has drawn praise since being appointed last summer.

“I think it’s important to note that over time, for the assessments you put in, for every $1 you put in, you’ve receive $61 back in federal and state grants and programs in this region,” Cox said. “There’s a whole spectrum of services that we offer our member governments.”

Terry Garrison represents Vance County from the commissioners’ board and Mayor Pete O’Geary represents Henderson from the city side. O’Geary declined comment for this story. City Manager Ray Griffin and Garrison each lamented the problem, but hailed the council’s work for the region.

“For small communities like Henderson that does not have a large planning department, they help fill the gap with staff expertise for grant writing, program management and so many other things,” Griffin said. “They’re the gateway to the EDA.”

Vance County is being asked for $40,941, Henderson $21,362, Kittrell $649 and Middleburg $185.

“I would say that it is certainly an expenditure we hadn’t anticipated, and it is a sizeable amount,” Garrison said Friday. “Kerr-Tar has done an outstanding job of serving the region, and Vance County in particular has benefited. It is unfortunate.

“At the end of the day, for my fellow commissioners and sister commissioners, it will be well worth the investment. Especially the return on investment it brings.”

Granville County’s share is $50,696 and Oxford $11,761.

Warren County’s share is $26,233, with Norlina being asked for $1,554, Warrenton $1,198 and Macon $165.

Linda Worth, the Warren County manager, said early Monday she was yet to speak with commissioners about the request.

“It could not have come at a worse time, but if you saw the correspondence, they listed the provided services to our jurisdiction in Region K,” Worth said.

“It’s between a rock and hard place. You want to see it continue, you don’t want to see it fold. You have to consider it with every other request. We have to be good stewards of the public’s money.”

The council works through federal, state and local programs as an administrative and service arm. The needs and priorities come from local member governments in the five-county region of Vance, Granville, Warren, Person and Franklin.

Sixteen regional councils cover the state.

Pfohl’s letter highlighted fiscal years 2008 and 2012 for Kerr-Tar with programs and services related to aging, community development technical assistance, economic development, workforce development, transportation and land use planning, child and family services, and other initiatives.

Among them is the Triangle North collaboration, a non-profit entity whereby four counties share in tax base revenues through economic development sites.

“I think the COG has been a service to the region for quite some time,” Pfohl said. “And, Triangle North is something unique and has never been done before — four of the five counties going into the business together and share as partners. We had to get dispensation from the legislature to do that. It has never been done before.”

Griffin said it is important that each entity remembers it is the council, with representation on the board.

“From time to time, we have expenditures that we have to deal with that are part of an annual closeout,” Griffin said. “And in a sense, that is what this is.

“From the city side, we have to identify how to take money from one pocket and put it in another. And we have identified a source to do that.”

 

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.