Possible plans to purchase the “Bottle House” on N. Main Street and a rumored plan by Hillsville Town Council to extend the contracts of the Town Manager and Chief of Police dominated Council’s Monday meeting.
Both topics were brought up by Nancy Beasley during the Citizens’ Time section of the meeting. Beasley started by addressing the property on 1551 N. Main Street owned by John and Ella Fulcher, who are both deceased. The topic was first brought up by citizen Jody Early during the Town’s April 23 meeting, as he said at the time that he’d heard the Town was interested in making an offer of up to $275,000 for the Bottle House to turn it into a tourist attraction.
Beasley came to protest the purchase of the Fulcher Property. She had five questions for council as to why the Town would want to make such a purchase except for turning the property into a tourist attraction. What other purpose would this property serve, she asked, and what would be the return of investment? She also wanted to know how the Town would pay for this purchase, would the Town have to have hearings for re-zoning, and what would be done with the main house on the residence?
“It is my opinion this purchase is frivolous for the use of taxpayers’ money. Also, there would be no rate of return in such investment,” Beasley said. “Safety issues would have to be addressed such as another entrance and exits, codes to meet the American Disabilities Act. I am sure there would be many more issues to be addressed. I don’t know when the Main House was built, but I’m sure it is full of asbestos. Would you want to go through that cost?”
Beasley said the property is residential and should be kept as such. She also wanted to know who was the real estate agent negotiating this sale and purchase. If it was a member of council, she said that would constitute a conflict of interest. She said she had heard that Council Member Greg Yonce (who is also a real estate agent) would abstain from voting on the subject.
“But, here is my problem. No one on this Council should be involved in any such deal for financial gain, meaning the commission earned on such property. This is still a conflict of interest,” Beasley said. “I beg of this council to forgo this real estate deal. This is frivolous spending of taxpayers’ money and a complete waste. The citizens of the Town of Hillsville cannot afford to have their taxes raised to cover such wasteful spending. The money the town is considering on spending could be put to better use.”
Beasley then moved on to her other issue. She said she’s heard rumors that the current Mayor and Town Council are trying to change the Town’s Code to permit the issuance of employment contracts for an extended period.
“This is a ploy to protect the jobs of the town manager and the chief of police through golden parachutes. For example, if a contract is negotiated for an extended period of time and if Council wishes to replace personnel, these contracts would have to be bought out,” Beasley said. “This could run into a substantial amount of money. If employees are doing a good job, they should have no worry about job security. This action is unethical and underhanded by this lame duck council and mayor.”
Beasley said she was worried that awarding contracts and purchasing real estate would bankrupt the Town of Hillsville. She said the town manager and chief of police should be working at the pleasure of the mayor and council, not the other way around.
“In closing, on the day of Town election I was one of the election officers. In past elections voter turnout was very low, but on this day voter turnout was almost 600; 1,805 voters were listed on the poll book, meaning 33 percent of voters came out that day,” Beasley said. “That should send a message to you; that the voters have spoken.”
Hillsville Mayor-elect Greg Crowder followed Beasley with his own comments on the subject. He said he felt the Town should talk publically if it’s looking to make a large purchase. He also said Town Council should allow the incoming Mayor and Town Council to make major decisions and major purchases. As far as the rumored contract extensions, Crowder said he’d read an e-mail from the Town Attorney on the subject.
“I see there are councilmen asking questions about it. I am just not going to go into how unethical that would be. Not to mention taking money away from the citizens, it’s just another wasteful tactic that nobody needs here in this building but a couple of people,” Crowder said. “And I think the Council and the Mayor should be able to make up who they want working for them because we’ve been voted in by 33 percent of the total vote.”
The Town Council went into closed session at the end of the meeting. After the closed session, Mayor Bill Tate said the Town took no action on either subject.