Lake, town merger headed down the hometown stretch
Waynesville and Lake Junaluska have not agreed to marry, but a pre-nuptial agreement will be drafted next week just in case.
Mayor Gavin Brown's marriage analogy continued Tuesday night as Waynesville hosted a public input session to hear comments about the possibility of formally joining the Lake Junaluska community with Waynesville. The idea originated with Lake Junaluska a year ago and is one of three options being explored by Junaluska. The other two are forming its own town or remaining an unincorporated area.
"We may marry somebody else and Lake Junaluska may marry somebody else," Brown said Tuesday. "But we're in a time crunch now and we need to give our staff guidance about what to do next."
That guidance was in the form of a unanimous vote to prepare as soon as possible, in coordination with Lake Junaluska Assembly staff, a draft bill to the North Carolina General Assembly's Legislative drafting office proposing a merger between the Town of Waynesville and the Lake Junaluska service area. The measure faces a March 13 deadline to introduce local bills in the N.C. Senate.
"This vote doesn't commit us to anything, does it?" asked Alderman Wells Greeley.
Brown assured the board that it does not. Wording on the bill can be changed up until the last minute, or the two entities can decide to withdraw the bill completely. Sen. Jim Davis, (R) Macon County, has said he will introduce any bill that both parties agree to. Brown made it clear a year ago that he would not ask for a bill unless Lake Junaluska wants it.
Before the audience weighed in with comments, Waynesville Town Manager Marcy Onieal gave a preview of the Martin-McGill feasibility study. The study, paid for in part with a grant from the N. C. Rural Center, will be unveiled in its entirety Feb. 22 at the town board's annual retreat.
The consulting firm concluded that despite higher projected capital costs for Lake Junaluska Assembly's water, sewer and streets than had previously been estimated, merger still appears financially feasible for both entities.
Four property owners from Lake Junaluska spoke, including Dr. Jack Ewing, executive director of Lake Junaluska Assembly who thanked Waynesville for its willingness to assist in exploring the consolidation option. All four speakers favored the merger.
Retired Waynesville town manager Lee Galloway was appointed last year by Waynesville's governing board to serve on the Lake Junaluska Municipal Study Task Force and made a report to the mayor and aldermen.
"I don't see where Waynesville will be hurt at all by this merger," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of information available which substantiates that it won't."
Former longtime Waynesville mayor Henry Foy was invited by Brown to share his thoughts. Foy's remark as he approached the podium was met by laughter from the 20 or so property owners in attendance from predominently Methodist Lake Junaluska: "Yes, I think you need a Baptist tonight," he said.
Foy reminded the board of the importance of Lake Junaluska to Waynesville through the years.
"Back about 1960, when Dayco and Wellco were going full-tilt, Lake Junaluska Assembly decided to operate year-round. That was a real boon to Waynesville. It was like another industry. Now Dayco and Wellco are gone, and Lake Junaluska is still here," said Foy.
The Lake Junaluska Municipal Study Task Force sent surveys last week to its property owners for the purpose of providing feedback to the LJA Board of Directors, the Waynesville governing board and elected representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly. All minutes and documents from the Task Force's ten meetings beginning in April 2012 are available at www.lakejunaluska.com/community-plans.
Input from property owners was requested on three items:
1) Were you aware of the work of the task force?
2) Please identify any ways you have learned about the work of the task force.
3) After reviewing the enclosed documents, I am comfortable with:
A) Remaining an unincorporated community
B) Pursuing incorporation as a stand-alone municipality
C) Pursuing voluntary annexation with the Town of Waynesville
Task Force chairman Ron Clauser said Tuesday night that results from surveys will be announced Feb. 28 at the task force's final meeting, at which time the task force will vote to make a recommendation to the assembly's community council, an elected body which monitors the residential portion of Junaluska grounds and provides recommendations to the Lake Junaluska Assembly Board of Directors.
Brown said it didn't matter who voted and signed first.
"We both have to vote and sign before anything is firm," he said. Waynesville will take up the matter at its retreat Feb. 22.
Onieal said Waynesville's vote is simpler than Junaluska's.
"They have several groups which must sign off on theirs," she said.
Aldermen Gary Caldwell, Julia Freeman, Wells Greeley and Leroy Roberson affirmed their approval of the process that got the two entities to this point.
"I'm extremely pleased with the process," said Greeley. "It started last year in April and it's been transparent from the beginning on everybody's part. If people don't know about it, it's their own fault."
In other business, the board approved SunTrust Bank as the lowest bidder for financing of the $441,450 fire truck already on order. SunTrust offered a term of ten years at 1.835 percent interest with annual payments of $48,721. The truck will be housed at Station No. 2 in Hazelwood.
A request from the Tourism Development Authority to support an additional two percent occupancy tax was tabled until the next meeting.
Waynesville's governing board meets the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at 7 p.m.in the Town Hall unless otherwise advertised. Its annual retreat will be held in the same room Feb. 22 beginning at 9 a.m. The board will interrupt its retreat at 11 in order to hold another public input session on the Lake Junaluska issue. All meetings are open to the public.