Jonesborough OKs economic council pact, addresses audit findings

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 14, 2014 at 10:46 AM

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Monday to join Johnson City and Washington County leaders in designating the Washington County Economic Development Council as the county’s sole state-recognized development board.

With the town’s approval of a joint agreement endorsed by Johnson City and Washington County late last year, the WCEDC will replace the local Economic Development Board as the county’s Public Chapter 1101 designee eligible for state grant funding for infrastructure improvements for potential investors.

The vote followed the board’s one-month deferral of the agreement for further review and the WCEDC’s discussion of the town’s request for a seat on the executive committee without an increase in its significantly discounted $7,000 membership fee.

The board approved the agreement Monday as originally proposed without further discussion.

Town Administrator Bob Browning, who recommended the agreement’s approval in December and again Monday, noted the value of the council’s assistance to the town and said “the EDC deserves $7,000 in support from Jonesborough whether we are on the executive board or not, and even if we are locked in to that amount.”

In other business, the board accepted a clean audit of the town’s 2012-13 fiscal operations with two significant deficiency findings and a recommendation to correct its funding method for unbudgeted project expenditures and equipment purchases.

Prepared by the Johnson City accounting firm Blackburn, Childers and Steagall, the audit cites the town’s use of budget amendments to cover the cost of equipment purchases and other expenditures not included in a final budget approved by the board before the end of the budget year.

In his agenda presentation on the audit finding, Browning told the board that while the town has positive balances in both its wastewater and general funds, both funds have been reduced by costs after the end of the fiscal year.

“We will be looking this spring at a way to finance project expenditures over a longer period of time and improve our cash flow,” Browning said.

For the third consecutive year, the auditors found a significant deficiency in the town’s lack of a final agreement for the repayment of Lowe’s Home Improvement for a water line installed by the company prior to the opening of its Jonesborough store more than two years ago.

Browning told the board the town is continuing to make annual payments to Lowe’s over a 10-year period, after which it will make a final balloon payment “that may require refinancing.” He said he has “held off finalizing the details” until the town completes its ongoing water and sewer expansion projects that “will likely increase its payment” to Lowe’s.

“The Town Administrator will work with Lowe’s in 2014 to clarify the remaining balance at the end of the 10-year payment period,” said a management response attached to the deficiency finding.

The board also approved bids totaling $118,915 for the purchase of playground equipment, a metal pavilion and construction materials for Golden Oak Park, a small trailhead park under construction on the new northern extension of the town’s Permission Ridge walking trail.

The playground is being funded through a $140,000 matching grant from the Local Parks and Recreation Fund.

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