Bill O'ConnorCity - County Gov.

Why an ABC Board at all?


By Bill O’Connor –

The first discussion item on the Commission’s April Fool’s Day meeting was the budget for the ABC Board (ABC). In reply to the ABC chairman Beau Waddell’s request for $9,000 for a study to determine if another county liquor store is justified and where to put it to serve the most citizens, which was changed in the previous meeting to a request for a complete budget, The County Manager, Steve Wyatt proposed a simple 3 item plan; consisting of twelve thousand for board members expenses, ten thousand for store determination, and three thousand for administration items, for a total of $25,000. This budget is meant to reflect the full 2013 budget year ending this coming June 30. The Commissioners accepted the budget, with a couple of milestones, as a further reduction in the fund balance 4-1 (Four Shame). Hawkins was the dissenter, and expressed an intent to continue funding the ABC effort until a store is profitable and pays back the county’s informal loan.

Milestone one is a determination whether any new store is economically feasible. There is a huge feasibility difference depending on whether existing space is leased or property is acquired and renovated or built upon. Neither the Commission nor the ABC has indicated a priority to decide on feasibility criteria. These criteria should be independent of a study by anyone. Second, is it feasible to rent or build? Signing an annual lease for $15,000 is of a whole different scale than for a land contract and store building on the order of half a million dollars or so. I can’t help thinking of the ABC expense money and any other paid boards in our county as a disagreeable kind of middle-class welfare. When I have served on non-profit boards, I was always embarrassed for them, when invariably some were so anxious to get on the dole for trivial expenses.

The largest part of our lives is spent on getting; we must get in order to earn our way. But all along and especially in the later part of life we need to set aside time for giving; giving our time and maybe, if we can, absorb a little in the way of expenses to contribute to our neighbors. A time for getting and a time for giving provide us a balance, and not a little satisfaction, in helping the whole neighborhood.

There is nothing for the ABC to do now except the store determination. There seems little to do afterwards. If, as seems certain, ABC intends to let a contract for this work, of what real use is ABC? Henderson County is blessed with a staff of financial, business and construction management experienced people capable of judging a consultant report with the best of them. The only future work for ABC is financial and facility management, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of which they already do. If the law requires an ABC Board, why not, for this preliminary work and future quarterly reviews, appoint 4 county staffers with a Commissioner for oversight? An annual outside audit should wrap things up. Budget – near zero.

We trust that Martin-McGill will consider the economics of the other stores, like Fletcher’s which reported that for fiscal year 2012, on revenue of $1.7 million they made a bare 3% profit of $58,822; bad enough, but because of mandated distributions for alcohol education among others, they netted just $7,502, or less than one half of one percent. This doesn’t seem like much of a business model; though we suggest that, strictly as a matter of business, any reported results from rival store owners should be checked carefully.

ABC Update

The ABC met at their scheduled first Wednesday meeting, 2:00pm in the Community room at the Historic Courthouse. The four members present unanimously decided, at least for the time being, to not take any fees for their service. Cary McClelland, the County Finance Director, said that the Commission authorized a $150 per meeting stipend. I did not hear that at the Commission meeting. The $12,000 budgeted to represent their 2013 allocation for the service of the 5 of them in 12 monthly meetings would be $200 per meeting. Either way, for the time being, they are to be commended for their willing public service. That and authorizing the Chairman to give Martin-McGill a go ahead on the estimated $9,000, 60 day study was the total of the 9 minute or so meeting.

Dead man’s Curve! In Horse Shoe?

By a 5-0 vote, the Commissioners quick-kicked a rezoning request, by Roger Gagnon of the Broadway Group, to change the existing Residential Two Rural (R2R) to Community Commercial Conditional (CC-CD) to accommodate a retail establishment, unless and until a comprehensive traffic study was paid for and submitted by the petitioner. The condition in “Conditional” seems to allow only small retail establishments attracting less than a thousand cars per day. The property is located near the end of, and inside a roughly 40 degree curve on the downhill side of an incline of 7 or 8 degrees on US64 less than 200 feet west of the signal controlled connection with Banner Farm Rd which rises up near blindly from its French Broad River crossing. I have used the intersection daily myself for over fifteen years and remember at least two very serious and dozens of minor accidents due to limited sightlines from two of the three directions at the spot. Sightlines are considerably more limited at the property.

Eight area residents signed up to speak against the rezoning including all adjoining property owners; the Horse Shoe Baptist Church and three private residences. They stated that while traffic from the right is fairly easy to see; vehicles coming from the left down the hill in the shade of tall trees on both sides appear from behind the roadside vegetation suddenly and close. Keeping her plantings which separate her property from the subject land was the prime concern of the western neighbor. All claimed that because of the traffic and terrain reality, this property is perhaps the least suitable for a business in the vicinity. The Horse Shoe Baptist Pastor and a Deacon also were worried that any retail store could choose to sell beer and wine right next to their church. The rest was pretty much routine.

If you have private concerns on county issues including school security, that need to be aired publicly, contact me with complete confidence in our respect for your privacy at: Bill@tribunepapers.comor or call 828 890-0412.

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