|Avery Commission; More Incubator Controversy|
|Written by Annie Rutenberg|
It was a bumpy night for the Avery County Board of Commissioners, meeting Monday night—the issue—still—the economic development project known as AC PRIDE, a business incubator at the Old Banner Elk Elementary. Architect David Patrick Moses responded by letter to Bret Gardella, stating,
"We had previously sent to you a proposal indicating that we would do this work on a time basis and gave a range of what we thought that fee would be.” He went on, saying, “To demonstrate our belief in the growth of Avery County and to help expedite the project and the Town of Banner Elk submittal process, we would be willing to donate our time through the requirements for the conditional use permit as per the following summery.” The letter went on to summarize what items would be covered in the comprehensive site plan, detailing the County's responsibilities in the process, Moses’ letter concluding, "The information … is provided as part of the conditional use permit application only. We are not providing any additional warranties for any existing conditions of the building or additional requirements for plumbing, mechanical, electrical, or building code requirements for the project, nor does it include time for any meetings with the Planning Boards or Town Council. These items would all be considered as a separate item."
Commissioner Reo Griffith addressed the expenditure of Economic Development funds and funds spent on the old Banner Elk School, saying "We do not know what it will cost the people of Avery County." He went on to say it has been 565 days since Incubator project was proposed and, “We are still waiting for inspectors, we still don't know what it will require to bring it up to code, there are no signed leases, we are waiting for an explanation of application process, criteria for businesses, how many jobs will be created, admission guidelines, projected cost revenue and when will it become self sufficient.” Griffith also questioned the status of grant money assistance, stating that, "No one can explain the public benefit to Avery County." Questions arose over the authenticity of the Architect donating their time, with accusations made that there were under the table dealings which Mr. Gardella vehemently denied and asked that he and the Commissioners not be besmirched.” Then David Patrick Moses stood, saying it was ludicrous to insinuate underhanded dealings, and when asked if he ever did work for free in the past he said, “yes.” A shouting match erupted until chairman Poteat stepped in, threatening that the meeting will be closed. Griffith then made a motion to stop the incubator and all funding. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Hicks, but failed in a 2-3 vote with Glenn Johnson, Kenny Poteat and Phyllis Forbes in favor of continuing support and funding of the incubator.
Also discussed was a proposed agreement with North Carolina Wireless, LLC regarding leasing property at Hawshaw Fire Tower to obtain reliable broadband internet access to serve the citizens of Avery County. The resolution was approved contingent upon the property owners doing more research regarding an easement on the property.
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