Maggie hires Asheville lawyer

Board agrees to festival grounds fees
By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Apr 16, 2014

Though the vote wasn’t unanimous, Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen approved hiring Craig Justus with the Van Winkle Law Firm in Asheville to serve as its new town attorney until May 2015.

This was a major change for the town after Chuck Dickson of Waynesville served as the town’s attorney for 29 years. But Mayor Ron DeSimone made a statement before the board took a vote on the issue.

He said the board’s decision was more about moving the town in a new direction and didn’t reflect a poor performance on Dickson’s part. He thanked Dickson for his years of service and guidance, but Dickson wasn’t present at the meeting.

Alderman Phillip Wight was the only board member opposed to hiring Justus because his hourly fee is $300 plus travel while Dickson’s fee was $150 an hour.

“I have concerns regarding the cost and hiring outside of Haywood County, but I’ll support the majority decision to move in this direction,” DeSimone said.

The board received five proposals from lawyers interested in serving as town attorney, including Justus, Dickson and other local lawyers Hunter Murphy, Michael McConnell and Scott Taylor.

Justus’ application states that he has 20 years of experience with municipal law and has served as town attorney for Maggie Valley and Biltmore Forest in the past.


Festival grounds fees

After months of holding workshops and discussing the future of the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds, the board adopted a new set of guidelines and fees that will go into effect for the 2015 festival season. For-profits and nonprofits will now pay the same fees, which will help the town recoup event expenses like electricity, water, Internet and cleaning.

Both for-profits and nonprofits will pay a $1,500 refundable deposit, $500 for a one-day event, $1,000 for a two-day event, $1,500 for a three-day event and $2,000 for a four-day event.

At an agenda-setting meeting last week, Wight said he wasn’t sure if he agreed with the proposed structure because it didn’t give nonprofits a lower rate, which might scare off smaller events.

Since Wight had changed his mind on the fees, DeSimone said he planned to propose increased fees at Monday night’s meeting that would give more incentive to multiple-day events.

“I’d like to change it to reflect our actual costs and favor longer events,” he said.

Alderman Mike Eveland made a motion to accept the fees as presented.

While the fees won’t create any profit for the town, Alderman Janet Banks said the new fees were a first step toward recovering the costs associated with the festival grounds so the taxpayers aren’t subsidizing the venue.

Wight said he thought the fees should be cut it half to ensure that the festival grounds continues to have events booked every weekend.

“I’ve seen fees low and high… the give away approach seems to be working,” he said.  “I’m inclined to think a three to four-day event should be closer to free instead of up to $2,000.”

“I feel like these fees are fair. A majority of people here this year will be able to come back next year…” Eveland said. “We’ve done a lot of work to put this package together and should be excited about our opportunities here.”

His motion to accept the new fees passed unanimously, but then Wight asked to change his vote to no. The motion passed 3-1.

In other business, the board;

Voted to donate to several community causes. The town is contributing up to $1,000 worth of materials for the Maggie Valley community garden effort, $500 to the Commission for a Clean County and $500 to pay for half of Hugh Neff’s expenses to visit Jonathan Valley Elementary for an educational program.

Approved holding a “throwback” Fourth of July celebration at the festival grounds where residents are encouraged to bring their own picnics and entertainment to the event to enjoy the fireworks.

Approved purchasing about $16,000 worth of winter woods lighting displays throughout town.

Approved spending about $20,000 for a new computer server and service contract for the police department.