Canton town manager search drags on

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 16, 2014

Though it seemed the Canton governing board had come close to naming a town manager after narrowing the candidates to three, the process still drags on.

During a regularly scheduled Board of Aldermen meeting Thursday night, Mayor Mike Ray told those at the meeting no decision had yet been made.

"We are still in our process of the important decision of naming and getting in place a new town manager," he said. "The board has pledged to be moving as swiftly as possible with the best decision that fits our town presently and in our future. Our aldermen have been working long and hard and arduous in this task and we are well pleased with the progress that is being made."

The mayor didn't say exactly what progress has been made, whether an offer had been extended to one of the candidates or why there appears to be a delay.

The board was widely expected to announce their decision on a new town manager last week.

Canton residents were able to meet, greet and ask the final three candidates questions following their closed session interviews for the job on March 1. The final three included Interim Town Manager Jason Burrell; Seth Hendler-Voss, park planning and development manager in Asheville; and Vincent Wong, a senior budget and business systems analyst for the City of Gastonia.

The town board met in a special-called meeting Sunday, March 2.

The process of selecting a new town manager has been ongoing since January 2013 when former Town Manager Al Matthews announced he would be retiring a year later. The previous board was unable to reach a decision about hiring a town manager, so the job was left to the current board, which was elected in November.

In other news from the meeting, the board unanimously decided to keep the armory open in the morning for walkers year-round at the request of Canton resident Peggy Plemmons.

After having two knee replacements, Plemmons said it's not easy for her to walk on the sidewalk that circles the recreation park.

"It's a wonderful, safe, well-lit place and we are not prone to the issues of falls there," she said, adding several elderly people, some with canes, walk at the armory on a regular basis.

A memorandum of understanding for automatic mutual aid for the fire department was made, which will allow all local fire departments to respond to a fire. If they are not needed, they will be notified.

The board also made a unanimous decision for the town to apply for a grant from the Pigeon River Fund of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina to build wooden steps for easier river access from the recreation park.

Interim Town Manager Jason Burrell said the project would be a benefit to the middle-schoolers who use the river during the Kids in the Creek program through Haywood Waterways Association. It would also provide another access point for fishing, boating and other recreation use, he added.

Another unanimous vote was made to approve the bid contract to Haywood Grading and Excavating to replace the waterline at Pandora Circle.

The $71,000 project will be paid for with leftover grant money from the NC Rural Center that originally funded the replacement of a waterline in the upper Beaverdam area in 2010. Leftover money from that project was approved to be used for a project at the Spruce Street water reservoir.

Even more leftover funds from that project will be used toward the Pandora Circle waterline replacement.

"The existing water lines are in poor condition, are undersized and don't meet state standards. This would straighten out those lines and be a complete line replacement. We've made good use of these grant funds and got several critical needs projects taken care of," Burrell said.

Deborah Reed, president of FOCUS on Canton, also announced dates for this year's lineup of events organized by the group. To kick off the summer, they have planned another carnival that will take place June 16, currently the last day of school, through June 21.

The 11th annual Mountain Mater Fest will also come to Sorrell's Street Park Aug. 1 and 2.

Reed invited anyone interested in being a part of the Canton Farmer's Market, which opens May 8 in Sorrell's Street Park, to attend a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 18 at the Papertown Grill in downtown Canton.

FOCUS is open to anyone in the community who wishes to help bring attention to downtown Canton through events and activities. Anyone interested in becoming a part of the organization may contact Reed for more information.