Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell gave a “state of the county” address at the 2013 Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Tuesday at West Jefferson United Methodist Church, giving an overview of her fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, and speaking on local government’s role in community progress.
“I believe Ashe County is a great place to be,” Mitchell said to the luncheon’s approximately 90 attendees.
“Local government, I believe, has an important role in ensuring a community is progressive, and one of Mr. Webster’s definitions for ‘progressive’ is moving forward,” she said. “A community, and its citizens, is who create that sense of community, and I believe every person and organization in this room has a hand in that, and a hand in moving forward.”
Highlighting infrastructure expenditures in the county’s $33.3 million budget, Mitchell called the spending plan a “statement of policy.”
“We are currently paying debt service on the high school, Westwood Elementary, the library expansion and renovation, the law enforcement center and jail, and the landfill,” she said.
Ashe also spends in the “fun department,” she said, with proposed funding for Parks and Recreation of $667, 147, and $1.5 million — some of it grant money — invested in the Family Central sports complex. “The commissioners and I have talked over the past year that recruiting tournament league games to those fields will bring additional folks into the county,” she said
Mitchell said that while showing visitors the county and its infrastructure she had received comments like “looks like a community.” “One of the visitors referred to it ‘as a sign of a progressive community’ when you see infrastructure as they had seen,” she said.
“All those facilities are paid for and managed with your money,” she said.
Proposed funding for Parks and Recreation of $667, 147, with $1.5 million invested in the Family Central ball field,
The budget was proposed without tax increases, she said, and uses almost $3 million from the county’s fund balance. But, she said, “In revenues, we see a slight increase in sales tax dollars and a slight increase in out permit fees (in building inspections and planning), both signs of a slightly improving economy.”
“I believe that the leadership…from our elected Board of Commissioners has been progressive over the years,” she said. “I believe the board takes an honest look at what’s best for the community and what are those priorities that will keep us moving forward.”
In a question and answer session following her address, Mitchell took a silver-lining view of layoffs in Ashe’s industrial sector in recent years. Asked to give a five-10 year outlook on Ashe’s economic development, she said, “I certainly don’t mean to imply that folks have not suffered through this recession…(but) we have fared much better than a lot of communities.”
“We have a good industrial base,” she said, citing General Electric, Leviton, AEV, Gates and United Chemi-con. “There are many, many communities across the state that would like to have just one of those.”
Chamber Vice Chair Scott Ballard announced that Gwen Hoover was elected as the new chamber board member, filling the seat of Betsy Woodruff, who had rotated out.