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News Filing period ends with several new candidates registering

Penland named chairman as commissioners appoint planning board members

The filing period for this election season ended yesterday, and the race for three county commission seats are set. Republican commissioner Jimmy Tate, district one, will be facing challenger Steve Higdon in the primary this May. The primary race between the two candidates will determine who will be the representative of district one for the next four years, as no Democratic challenger filed to contend for the unexpired term.

Chairman of the board and district two representative, Kevin Corbin, will be squaring off against Republican challenger Vic Drummond on the May primary ballot. Like the district one race, the winner of the district two primary race will hold the commission seat for the next four years, as no Democrat filed to compete in the race. Drummond filed to run on the last filing day on Feb. 29.

The district three race will see the most competition this spring and fall. Democratic commissioner Bob Kuppers is being challenged by Democrat Ricky Snyder in the primary, and the winner of that race will take on Republican challenger Paul Higdon this November.

The 2012 field is set, as the filing deadline was yesterday at noon.

Commissioners Appoint Planning Board Members

At their Feb. 28 continuation meeting, in a 4-1 vote, Macon’s board of commissioners reappointed planning board chairman Lewis Penland to another three year term, after which he will have to take a one year hiatus from the board as a consequence of the new term limit policy approved by commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 14. Commissioner Ron Haven voted against Penland’s reappointment. Commissioner Haven has made no secret of his disapproval of Penland’s leadership abilities. His colleagues on the board disagreed.

Since there were two open seats on the planning board and three applications, commissioners had to decide on making another appointment to the planning board to fill the vacancy left by current commissioner Jimmy Tate’s absence. Tate was forced to leave the planning board after being appointed by the county’s GOP executive committee to replace former chairman Brian McClellan, following McClellan’s resignation.

Subsequently, board members went ahead and unanimously approved to appoint Chris Hanners to be the new planning board member. Hanners, who received his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Florida Atlantic University in 2001, submitted his application to serve on the planning board on Dec. 16, 2011. Board members were impressed with his extensive background in engineering, and believe Hanners’ expertise in the field will make a great addition to the planning board. On his application, Hanners stated that he has attended planning board meetings for over two years, so the new member should become acclimated with the county advisory board rather quickly. Hanners will be up for reappointment in February 2015.

Bill Frutal was the third applicant up for consideration to the planning board. Frutal, a Highlands resident and current President of the Highlands Rotary Club, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Technology from Georgia Southern University. Although Frutal was not appointed to serve on the planning board, commissioners can reconsider his application once an open seat appears on the advisory board again.

Commissioner Jimmy Tate will be working with the two newest additions to the planning board this year, as he is the liaison to the advisory board. “It will be a challenge, but I think the planning board is a useful tool for this county and our board, and if we can reach a consensus on some issues I think we will be able to get a lot done for the people of this county,” said Tate. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with the planning board again,” he said in refrence to the fact that he served on the planning board last year.

Board members also decided to task county attorney Chester Jones with devising term limits for other county advisory boards, or boards that are not controlled by state statutes. Jones will put together a list of county advisory boards and committees that are under county control so commissioners can weigh setting uniform term limits to every county advisory board. “I think you will be going into uncharted waters if you impose term limits to those advisory boards,” said county attorney Chester Jones speaking about certain boards, such as the board of equalization and review. The board will debate and likely vote on applying uniform term limits to other county advisory boards at their next regularly scheduled meeting in March.

“We can take action on it tonight or we can review it and take it back to our constituents and discuss it later,” said commission chairman Kevin Corbin. Jones gave commissioners a list of county advisory boards that are eligible for term limits earlier that day. Commissioners decided to table the discussion until next month. Commissioner Ronnie Beale remained adamant about reaffirming his position on term limits, saying the board of commissioners can reappoint or take someone off of an advisory board at any point in time if they feel like such action is warranted. County manager Jack Horton made the point to say that it would not make good sense to set term limits for some county advisory boards, suggesting that it would be extremely difficult to get people to serve on certain boards and committees; i.e., the dangerous dog board committee.

At the beginning of the continuation meeting, county manager Jack Horton gave board members an update about the Little Tennessee River Cartoogechaye Creek Sewer project. Mike Waresak, of McGill Associates, is the senior project manager of the sewer project. Waresak wrote a letter to county manager Jack Horton on Feb. 13, to propose making more change orders to the project. “This is the project that will never end,” said Horton.

The project was scheduled to be completed last year, but due to various issues, the contractor has yet to finish up the work. Waresak’s letter explained that his team would need an additional $78,431.85 to carry out the final product, an amount which will go towards financing a 36’ steel encasement to bore past the existing Duke Energy poles on the Shaw Property, another trench stone as a result of the soft subgrade for the sewer line installation, removal of debris from pipe trenches, and another compacted aggregate base course to restore the existing haul road on the Shaw Industries property.

Luckily, grant monies will ensure that the county will not have to put up more money for the change orders. However, commissioners were reluctant to approve the changes, because of the past problems associated with the project. The total contract price has increased by $377,972.40, an 8.7 percent increase in the original contract price. “As you are aware, the County secured additional grants from the North Carolina Rural Center in the amount of $250,000 to account for the anticipated quantity overruns,” wrote Waresak. That being stated, commissioner Ronnie Beale noted that this contracting out experience should be a valuable lesson for the board. “Without the grant money we would be paying for all of these overruns,” he said. “I think we need to be very careful about monitoring similar projects in the future,” Beale said.

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