Carroll County Supervisor Joshua Hendrick says county board members and administrators may be spreading themselves too thin in the wake of the Carroll County Public Service Authority (PSA) having to repay $266,167 in federal grant dollars.
The Carroll County PSA is appealing the decision by federal funding agency Rural Development after the Authority was ordered to repay $266,167 in federal grant money used to fund the $4.3 million Fancy Gap sewer project after a letter from a concerned citizen about a sewer line extension that may have been installed in and around the Joy Ranch Road area of the county.
“At that time, a full review was made of the matter and it was determined that Rural Development funding for the Fancy Gap Project had been incorrectly used for the Joy Ranch Road extension,” Vernon Orrell of USDA Rural Development said.
Full payment was received by Rural Development on October 23. Carroll County PSA Chairman Dr. Tom Littrell said Rural Development and the PSA found that an environmental assessment had not been conducted on a portion of the project, and that Rural Development required the PSA to pay the construction cost for the line cost until a future ruling could be made.
During the December 9 PSA meeting, Authority Executive Director Gary Larrowe said the PSA has been notified of appeal rights with regard to Fancy Gap sewer and has 30 days to appeal to the national office.
“Mr. Chairman, I think we need to follow those up with whatever actions we need to do to do that and if you need a motion I would make a motion that we follow up with our appeal as outlined by Rural Development to the national level,” PSA member David Hutchins said.
Authority member Sam Dickson seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
Hendrick revisited the issue during Carroll Supervisors’ Dec. 9 meeting. He said the latest callback from the PSA brought up some questions he wanted to pose to the board and the PSA.
“We have a lot of folks that wear a lot of different hats and Gary is a perfect example of that,” Hendrick said, referring to County Administrator Gary Larrowe, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Carroll PSA and the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority. “He does a little bit of everything and I have had questions ever since I have been on the board with folks trying to be in so many places at one time. Do we stretch some of our resources thin? And I know sometimes we do, not because we want to, but because we have to, and those resources include people, whether they be on the board of supervisors or on the PSA, or administration or PSA administration.”
Having to repay over $260,000 is “a pretty good chunk of change” over an environmental assessment, Hendrick said. The Laurel Fork District Supervisor said he’s made it known before that he didn’t agree with supervisors also being on the Carroll PSA.
“No more than one board member in my opinion needs to sit on the PSA. That doesn’t mean I don’t think anybody on this board is not qualified to sit on the PSA board,” Hendrick said, “but I know my schedule and I don’t know anybody else’s schedule. I’ve got enough stuff to do on my own and enough stuff to do on this board that I know I don’t want to handle all the PSA stuff either because I think I would be doing an injustice to those folks on the PSA side of things with my attention. So I would just ask the board and PSA if they would consider looking at, including the administrator, to limiting the number of board members on the PSA.”
Supervisor Sam Dickson, who also serves on the Carroll PSA, didn’t agree with the assessment of Hendrick, who does not serve on the PSA. At the beginning of Hendrick’s board tenure, he appointed James Light to fill the Laurel Fork District seat on the PSA.
Dickson said six years ago, many of the board members at that time were appointed to the PSA. Before that, he said the PSA didn’t have many board of supervisor members. Very little water and sewer lines were also being completed at that time, he said.
“In the past six years we have practically doubled the amount of lines, mileage and footage that we had. We almost tripled our customers, so there has been a huge increase and that is the reason I wanted to be on it,” Dickson said of the PSA. “I wanted to be the one that pushed it. I wasn’t so sure the board before us was pushing water and sewer as much as we needed. You can’t have much economic development if you don’t have water and sewer.”
Dickson said the county only had water and sewer at one of the four Interstate 77 intersections in Carroll County six years ago. Now it has water and sewer at all four I-77 interchanges.
“I’m sure other people can do it. I was on a committee that worked with Hillsville to put both of these together and make one water and sewer authority and not appoint any council members or any board of supervisor members, and I was totally in favor of it,” Dickson said. “We thought we had the people to do it and the next day it changed.”
Hutchins also weighed in on the matter.
“I don’t know, when he ran, how much time he thought he would spend doing this, but I think most of us are on several committees, and when I ran I knew it would take a lot of time. I made that commitment to do whatever I needed to serve on those committees and the community, and that’s where we need to be,” Hutchins said.
No action was taken on Hendrick’s thoughts.