Board approves Building Reuse Grant funding for Ashe Medics

Wil Petty

April 10, 2014

In a 3-1 vote, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution for a grant to the Ashe Medics Facility, which if approved by the state, will provide $80,000 to insure the business’ new facility meets building code requirements.

Commissioners Gerald Price, Gary Roark and William Sands voted for the resolution while Larry Rhodes voted against it.

According to the resolution, the N.C. Department of Commerce is considering Ashe County for grant funding of its building reuse program for $80,000. The building reuse program is part of the DOC’s rural grants and programs section.

If the funds are committed by the DOC, Ashe County will then have to provide matching funds of 5 percent (or $4,000) to the project.

While the Board voted on the resolution Monday, April 7, a letter sent to the DOC dated March 27, 2014 stated Ashe County would agree to “Act as the applicant and physical agent of the project. Ashe County will provide a cash match of 5 percent of the grant amount for the Ashe Medics Building Reuse Project.”

Rhodes expressed concerns about the letter and it being sent before the resolution was approved.

“We’re voting today on this, but this letter dated March 27 says we already agreed,” he said.

County Manager Sam Yearick then responded about why the letter was sent before the meeting, since the letter was due to the DOC by the end of the month.

“This needed to be submitted by the end of the month, so the only way to do that was to sign this letter saying basically we will do it, if (the resolution) passes the Board,” he said. “If the rest of the board members approve of the resolution, then the state is good with that.”

The grant provides $10,000 for each job that will be created by a business moving into a formerly-used building for renovations to bring it up to code. Ashe Medics is moving into the former location of Blue Ridge Energy Membership Corporation off Mount Jefferson Road, and it is expected Ashe Medics will bring eight new jobs to the county.

In a previous meeting of the Board of Commissioners, they requested in the contract that Ashe Medics add a third ambulance, which would add eight additional people to the force.

Rhodes also brought up a letter sent to the Board of Commissioners from Ashe Medics owner Craig Sullivan said that of the 18 ambulance staff that were previously hired by Blue Ridge Medical Transport, he would be rehiring all but two of those positions.

Yearick said Ashe Medics is not up and running yet, and that may be why those jobs have not yet been added.

Commission Chair Gary Roark asked for clarification on how many ambulances will be within the county. There will be three main ambulances, as well as three back up ambulances, according to Yearick.

Rhodes said the numbers were not “adding up,” mentioning they are paying the provider $4,961 more than the other bidder and the reuse grant would require an additional $4,000 from the county. He then asked who would be responsible for repaying the grant back if it did not work out.

“Are we going to sign this grant application if it’s not fulfilled and those jobs are not filled in the length of time,” he said. “Are we responsible as the cosigner of the bill?”

Yearick said there would be a “clawback” if the grant was given but the plans did not work themselves out.

In other action by the board:

• The Board was updated by Curt Hazelbaker, president and CEO of the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina on the potential of having a YMCA being constructed in Ashe County.

• Approved the first reading of a solid waste franchise approval for J&C Trash Pickup

• Approved the first presentation for an appointment to the Volunteer Advisory Board

• In attendance were: Chair Gary Roark, Gerald Price, Larry Rhodes and William Sands. Vice Chair Judy Porter Poe was not in attendance. The next meeting of the Board will take place Monday, April 21.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.