Waynesville finances in fine shape

By Mary Ann Enloe | Dec 12, 2012

Waynesville's long-time town clerk, Phyllis McClure, is retiring in January. The job has already been advertised and a retirement party is being planned for the popular clerk who is often referred to as "Mayor Phyllis" by Mayor Gavin Brown.

"We'll be talking a lot more about that a little later," Town Manager Marcy Onieal said at Tuesday night's regular governing board meeting.  McClure's last day is Jan.30.

Charles McDarris concluded a year-long application process when the board awarded him accolades along with Local Historic designations he had requested for his Walnut Street properties, which old-timers remember as the Stringfield houses.

McDarris inherited the two stately homes upon the death of his parents, the late District Court Judge Charles "Mac" McDarris and Ethel Hayes McDarris.

"This is one of those things we like to do," said Brown.

Former mayor Henry Foy was the sole speaker at a state-required public hearing.

"I'm quite proud of you, Charles, and I'm sure your parents would be proud of you," said Foy before addressing the board with a bit of history about the property.  It is known on old town plats as the 'Temple lot' which alludes to its ownership in the late 1800's by the Women's Christian Temperance Union who planned to build its headquarters there.

A sizeable cornerstone of the never-completed facility stands today under a maple tree between the two homes, on which is chiseled "W.C.T.U. 1892  Love."

The Love reference is to earlier owner and Waynesville founder Robert Love.

"Workers wanted to move it when I was having the houses renovated," said McDarris.  "I don't pitch a fit about many things, but I pitched a fit about that.  I told them it stayed."

In other business, planning board chairman Patrick McDowell gave an annual overview of planning board activities.  Coming up are several items such as revisiting the town's 10-year old Land Development Plan and adjustment of extra-territorial boundaries to follow property lines.

The governing board was assured by the town's auditors that town finances are in 'great shape.'  Bruce Kingshill of Ray, Bumgarner, Kingshill and Associates, PA brought the good news in a recap of the recently completed FY2012 audit. Net assets increased by 1.62 percent.

Property inside city limits is valued at more than $1 billion and the town levied $4.6 million in taxes with a collection rate of 96.68 percent.

Building permits and inspection fees increased 65 percent over the previous year. When Brown asked finance officer Eddie Caldwell where he could find the net investment earnings in the 82-page document, Caldwell replied with a chuckle, "Bank fees ate it.  It was a wash."

Caldwell gave a brief update on investment strategies. The town routinely subsidizes its general fund with revenue from its electric fund.    Fiscal 2012's transfer was $1,456,630 which Kingshill pointed out would equate to a 10 percent increase in tax rates if that transfer had not been made.    The town currently has a healthy available fund balance of 43.04 percent.

"So can I still say that if I need to write a $10 million check, it will clear?" Brown asked Kingshill, who answered yes.

Former longtime alderman Libba Feichter, sitting in the audience, shook her finger at the mayor and said, "You better not."

The audit carries an unqualified opinion, which means everything checked out as it should.

The town formally accepted a $30,000 planning grant from the NC Rural Center to help fund a consolidation feasibility study between Waynesville and unincorporated Lake Junaluska, which has indicated an interest in becoming part of the town.

The study, to be conducted by Martin-McGill, will assess Lake Junaluska infrastructure and provide a financial analysis of the impact of such a consolidation.  The target date for completion is late January.

Onieal reported that she believes it is the intent of the task force evaluating the issue to craft preliminary wording for a bill to go before the General Assembly in January.

"We're not going to throw the citizens of Waynesville under the bus just to accommodate Lake Junaluska," Brown said when addressing the importance of the feasibility study.  "We'll wait and see what the study says."

The governing board will not have a second meeting in December.  Its next meeting will be Tuesday Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall, unless otherwise advertised.