New organization seeks rejected TDA grant
by Kellen Short
A $75,000 grant rejected by the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority and then pursued by the Green Valley Community Park may have a new suitor once again.
The grant is intended for two New River canoe/kayak launches at the Pine Run Road bridge and Green Valley Community Park, as well as additional parking, informational kiosks and a walking loop at the park.
The TDA board voted in August, with some board members absent, to decline the grant, which requires an $18,750 match. Executive Director Wright Tilley said board members were concerned about the required match and about the TDA being obligated for long-term site maintenance.
When the TDA refused the money, representatives of Green Valley Community Park stepped forward with interest in taking on the grant, getting the go-ahead from the TDA and county commissioners.
But when the Green Valley Park Board of Directors met Sept. 23, they decided it was not in their best interest to pursue the grant after all, President Tim Hagaman wrote in a letter to the county.
Board member Janice Carroll said Monday that the contract was too full of language that referred to the TDA.
"The more we read and saw, there was too much drama that we could see was going to occur, so we rejected it," Carroll said.
Now, High Country Pathways, another local nonprofit, wants to accept the grant and take responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the paddle accesses.
High Country Pathways President John
Lanman expressed the group's interest in a letter hand-delivered to Tilley on
"From the materials you provided, we will be able to meet all the requirements and obligations mentioned in the contract and attachments," Lanman wrote.
The TDA board discussed the recent changes at its meeting Tuesday, raising no objections to allowing High Country Pathways to take on the grant.
Tilley said the TDA will now ask the grant agency to substitute High Country Pathways' name instead of Green Valley Park.
The TDA board also discussed Tuesday occupancy tax revenues and its 2012-13 audit, which was reviewed by county Finance Director Margaret Pierce. She said the only point of concern for the auditor, Martin Starnes & Associates, was that the small size of the agency meant that it had overlap between those who handle its finances and those who oversee the finances. She said it was a common concern for small agencies and unlikely to be resolved unless the TDA hired a full-time financial staff member.
The board also met for an hour in closed session Tuesday for an annual performance evaluation for Tilley and discussion of his three-year employment agreement, which expires at the end of December.
The board tabled a request, seeking more information, from Boone Area Cyclists for $1,000 to help create a large map of countywide road cycling routes and of Rocky Knob Park. The board voted to provide $500 to Mountain Home Music for its two holiday concerts, which are promoted as part of choose-and-cut season.
They also approved a one-year extension of the TDA's King Street office lease at a rate of $1,545 per month. Tilley said he has sought other locations but found none downtown suitable at a similar price.
The TDA board also discussed ongoing infrastructure projects, including paving and bathroom construction at Rocky Knob Park, and marketing efforts geared toward choose-and-cut tree season.