Commissioners decry vote to change tax collector status

By Vicki Hyatt | Mar 08, 2017

Waynesville — On Monday the Haywood County Board of Commissioners discussed their disappointment that the local legislative delegation didn’t intend to honor the board’s wishes regarding the tax collector status.

While the legislators agreed to introduce a local bill, which is the only way to change the county tax collector from elected to appointed as is the case in the 99 other counties in the state, legislators are demanding a referendum be held first. That would postpone any possible change for six years.

County Commission Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick asked the board if they still wanted to proceed given the constrictions.

“I almost think we might wait and see if we can get some more representatives,” Kirkpatrick said, referencing the upcoming legislative elections in two years.

“I wonder if they realize what we’re trying to do is get quality people in place,” said Commissioner Michael Sorrels. “I’m not sure any of the 99 counties that have done this went through a referendum.”

County Manager Ira Dove said the Mitchell County change involved a referendum. Commissioner Bill Upton said the state association of county commissioners helps lobby for county interests, and suggested informing them about the county’s dilemma, which the board thought was a good idea.

Kirkpatrick emphasized that Sen. Jim Davis would be willing to introduce a bill without the referendum component, but said Reps. Mike Clampitt and Michele Presnell wouldn’t be on board, something that is essential for a local bill to pass the N.C. General Assembly.

“It’s extreme perplexing to me that a board of five of us voting unanimously — three Democrats and two Republicans — are asking for something done for 99 counties out of 100, and that our representatives will not present that to the state,” Kirkpatrick said. “Basically, it feels like Haywood doesn’t have any representation.”

Davis is from Franklin; Presnell is from Burnsville; and Clampitt is from Swain County. All are Republicans.

Commissioner Kevin Ensley, one of the Republican commissioners on the board, emphasized that the nation’s system of governance isn’t a democracy where every issue is put to a vote of the people, but a constitutional Republic where the people elect representatives they believe are capable of weighing the facts and making decisions for the good of the people.

He said Haywood’s legislative delegation should uphold their constitutional duty and make the decision by upholding local control. He said he has had an overwhelming response from taxpayers asking that the tax collector’s position become appointed “for reasons that have become very obvious.”

The board ultimately agreed to let the local bill process continue.

 

In other business, the board:

— Set a public hearing for Monday, April 17, regarding creating five additional fire service districts in the Waynesville area;

— Passed a budget amendment allowing for the use of a $20,000 donation to the Friends of the Haywood County Animal Shelter for sound panels at the shelter;

• Agreed to reorganize the Department of Social Services legal department to do away with the 400 or so hours of contract labor used each year; reduce a legal aid position to part-time, (done at the request of the employee); and hire a second attorney to help with the case load;

• Donate land in the Pigeon community for the use of a park. The Waynesville Board of Aldermen agreed to demolish a building on the property that has been used as a drug house and hide-away; develop a park and build a picnic facility;

• Approved a $320,000 contract with WNC Paving to build a solid waste convenience center on property near the old Crabtree School;

• Approved a budget amendment for $401,637 for the N.C. 209 convenience center with funds coming from the solid waste special revenue fund;

• Appointed Angie Leatherwood and Tina Masciarelli to the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) 28785/28786 1% Zip Code Subcommittee;

• Appointed Dr. Elizabeth Ferguson to the Health and Human Services Board of Directors.