Board secures $1.5 million loan for upgrade.
During a brief meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, August 14, commissioners voted to finance the new computers that will bring the school system's technology up-to-date.
Originally commissioners were going to pay for the $1.5 million upgrade out of the county's fund balance for this fiscal year, but after county attorney Chester Jones and finance director Lori Hall explored financing options, commissioners decided to break the payments up over two fiscal years.
According to Hall, the county contacted six financial institutions regarding the financing of the computers, and of the six, four responded. Although PNC Equipment Finance offered Macon County the lowest interest rate (1.31 percent) for the 54-month term of the lease, the bank required $250 in banking fees as well as a two percent penalty in the event the county wanted to pre-pay on the loan. “Because I understood from previous comments from the commissioners that this board would like to pay the loan off early when possible, we decided to go with the second lowest bid, which was BB&T Governmental Finance.”
Hall explained that BB&T provided the county with a quote to finance the computer equipment for a term of 54 months at an interest rate of 1.44 percent with no bank fees and no penalties in the event the county decided to prepay.
“I agree with our county attorney and finance director because I would like to see us pay this off over a two-year period if financially possible,” said Commissioner Chairman Kevin Corbin. “The penalties required by the institution that offered the lowest interest rate would end up costing more than the interest rate of BB&T.”
Hall explained that the $1.5 million would immediately be placed in an escrow account at BB&T and as schools have computer equipment requests, the county would review and approve the request before providing the funding.
Commissioner Bobby Kuppers clarified that although the county will be financing the computer equipment, the loan will still be paid for out of the fund balance. “I just want to make it clear that although we are looking to pay this over two years, we will still be paying for it out of the county's fund balance,” said Kuppers. “This computer equipment will not come with a tax increase of any kind for the citizens of Macon County.”
Commissioner Ron Haven noted that if the county waited out the 54- month term of the lease, the county will have to pay $48,000 in accumulated interest. Corbin reminded Haven that the county planned to pay the loan off early, ideally in two years, which would be around $20,000.
Haven said that although he understood the county had other capital needs of significant size on the table for later this year, he didn't believe the county should spend money paying interest when they could pay it in one sum this budget year, like originally planned.
Despite Haven's reservations and his vote against the financing option, the board approved a resolution to finance through BB&T. Hall informed the board that she anticipated closing with the bank later this month.
The Macon County Commissioners unanimously voted to reappoint Gary Shields to Southwestern Community College's Board of Trustees. Last year, Shields was appointed to the Board to fill out the remaining term of the seat after it was vacated by Charlie Leatherman. Commissioners noted Shields’ dedication to education and service to Macon County as examples of his outstanding commitment and ability to continue serving the Board of Trustees.
On Tuesday, August 21, The Macon County Board of Commissioners reconvened to finish out the agenda.
Macon youth preserving heritage
During the meeting, Andrew Baldwin went before the board to give a presentation asking for the board's help in preserving New Hope Cemetery.
“I am a Life Scout in Boy Scout Troop 202 and I am preparing to work on an Eagle Scout project,” explained Baldwin. “I have come to ask for your help. The idea for my project is to improve an abandoned African American cemetery called New Hope. It is located on a ridge near Hemlock Hills and Brookwood Subdivision.”
According to Baldwin, New Hope Church was founded in 1885, more than 135 years ago. The church closed in 1940 and later burned down, which left the cemetery and its seven marked graves and 34 unmarked graves, to go unmaintained and forgotten by most people.
"I am requesting that the Board of Commissioners vote to designate New Hope Cemetery as an abandoned and neglected public cemetery as described in Article 12 of North Carolina's General Statutes. This will give the county authority to take proper care of and beautify the cemetery," said Baldwin. "This action will add to the history and heritage of Macon County and that is my goal as I work toward becoming an Eagle Scout."
As part of his project, Baldwin informed commissioners that he wanted to work alongside them to maintain and preserve the cemetery. "I would like to help with the effort to restore New Hope Cemetery by properly cleaning the seven marked grave stones in the cemetery and helping to install a historical sign at the property," said Baldwin. "Since there isn't easy access to the ridge where the abandoned cemetery is located, I would also like to help obtain necessary consents or easements to gain access to the cemetery."
Commissioner Chairman Kevin Corbin informed the board that he had received a letter from Josephine Burgess, who was born in 1920, identifying herself as the last living person who attended New Hope Church in Franklin. Burgess informed the board that Baldwin had been in contact with her and that she wholeheartedly supported Baldwin's plan in restoring the property.
"The real thanks needs to go to Drew Baldwin," said Commissioner Ronnie Beale. "Not only is this an Eagle Scout project, but this is part of the preservation of Macon County that would have probably been long forgotten if not for him."
Commissioners unanimously voted to deem the property commercial and abandoned, opening it up for Baldwin to begin his work on preserving the cemetery.