West Jefferson Aldermen have busy monthly meeting

Cliff Clark

May 12, 2014

West Jefferson’s Town Aldermen approved a zoning regulation variance, approved the purchase of the old rescue squad building, and consented to an agreement between the town, Ashe County and the owner of the Hotel of West Jefferson, which was formerly Hampton Inn, over unpaid occupancy taxes, during their meeting Monday, May 5.

According to the consent order agreed to by all the parties, Trimurthi Land Holdings and High Country of Ashe, which is the corporate name of the former Hampton Inn now operating as the Hotel of West Jefferson, the Town of West Jefferson and the County of Ashe were awarded $44,370 and $83,769, respectively, in a ruling handed down on April 28, 2014, in Ashe County Superior Court.

The consent order says, Trimurthi agreed to deliver by May 15, 2014, to West Jefferson and Ashe County $10,000, each. However, according to the order, if Trimurthi was unable to make the individual payments of $10,000, each by May 15, a payment of at least $5,000 was ordered with the balance of the $10,000 due by June 16, 2014.

For the remaining $34,370 owed to West Jefferson, the court ordered Trimurthi to pay 36 equal monthly installments of $954.73 beginning on July 1, 2014. Trimurthi will begin paying monthly installments of $2,049.05, also on July 1, to Ashe County.

West Jefferson Town Manager Brantley Price announced at the aldermen meeting Monday that Trimurthi had made the required first payment of $5,000.

The consent order also required Trimurthi to file “timely” occupancy tax returns and to “timely” pay any taxes owed to West Jefferson or Ashe County. Failure to follow this requirement, according to the order, would result in a default of the consent order.

If the obligations of the consent order are followed, the unpaid occupancy tax debt accrued prior to Dec. 31, 2014, of Trimurthi to Ashe County and West Jefferson will be fully settled.

In other town business, the aldermen agreed to the purchase of the old rescue squad building, which is located on Buck Mountain Road, for $125,000. The town agreed to pay $100,000 of the cost, of which $50,000 of the town’s fund balance was used. The West Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department supplied $25,000 of the $125,000 purchase price.

In April, the aldermen tabled a proposal to create a variance, or conditional use, in the zoning regulations that would have allowed a beauty salon to open Ridge Avenue.

During last week’s meeting, the aldermen, with no discussion, agreed to the variance, but placed the three conditions on the variance, including that no vehicles associated with the business shall block any street or driveway and if the property is sold, the conditional use will not transfer to the new owner.

In other town business:

• ABC Board Chairman Haskill McGuire reported sales for the store were up 2.9 percent in the first quarter of the year against last year’s sales, with sales of $296,084 in 2013 and $304,773 in 2014.

The quarterly $10,000 payment to West Jefferson was made, he said.

He also said several capital projects were needed at the store, including the installation of a new HVAC system, the replacement of the store’s front doors, and a new inventory and cash register system. The estimated costs of the capital projects was approximately $36,320.

“We’ve built in some capital reserves into our budget,” said McGuire. “We should be able to handle it.”

• Ashe County Art Council Jane Lonon reported on the upcoming annual Christmas in July festival. The aldermen approved her request for the needed street closings on the festival’s date, July 5.

• The alderman also approved a request from the Ashe County Public Library to have a sundial built in the town park. The library is seeking a grant to cover the cost of the estimated $5,000 for construction.

• Police Chief Jeff Rose reported 235 calls dispatched for April, with 16 auto collisions, and 15 arrests on charges including DWI, larceny, assault and drug-related crimes.

• Public Works Director Charles Call updated the aldermen on the recent break-in at the wastewater treatment plant and said all the required maintenance at the plant had been completed to meet state compliance standards.

• Price reported the state had authorized the last of the downtown’s streetscape projects and letters of intent would go out for bids on May 16. Price also reported the town had collected approximately $990,000 of its annual tax levy, or approximately 96 percent.

Cliff Clark can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @cliffcclark.