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County splits on paying for farmer’s market jobs

Staff Writer

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners split Monday night when it came to funding two part-time farmers market positions, ultimately deciding to chip in partially on the expenditure.
Extension Director Kevin Starr’s request for an estimated $8,500 for the next fiscal year to cover the cost of the positions resulted in a 3-2 vote to contribute half of the funding, with Commissioner Jim Klein and Commissioner Carl Robinson opposed. Vendors will most likely have to make up the difference through raised fees.
Starr told the board that he really only needed to fill the part-time position for the Denver Farmers Market at this point, which, at a salary of $10 an hour, would result in an annual cost of $3,500. Meanwhile, the Lincolnton Farmers Market position, which would eventually require a $5,000 yearly cost, is currently not needed due to volunteer participation.
However, Starr warned that without paid managers to operate the recently introduced Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card readers, it would be much harder for the markets to function. While he said they had been “exceptionally fortunate with our volunteers,” he wasn’t sure how much longer they could continue relying solely on them.
Nonetheless, Klein said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to use taxpayer money to pay for the positions, while Robinson noted that they should try to make the markets self-sufficient and that the county shouldn’t subsidize them.
Commissioner Carrol Mitchem, who made the motion to fund half of the cost, questioned whether any Cooperative Extension employees could do the work, but Starr said he didn’t have the staff to do that.
Also at Monday’s meeting, commissioners tabled a decision on the long-discussed proposal to build a $1.8 million speculative building to help lure industries to the area. As the Times-News previously reported, a private developer has now expressed interest in constructing the facility, with “possible negotiations” under way.
County Manager George Wood recommended delaying taking action on the item pending the outcome of those discussions.
In other Board of Commission action at Monday’s meeting:
Commissioners unanimously approved of awarding a more than $1.5 million contract for construction of the sewer project for the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Regional Airport to Monroe Roadways Contractors.
Commissioners unanimously approved a 2013-2014 LSTA EZ Literacy and Lifelong Learning Grant application for the Lincoln County Public Library. If received, the funds would go toward a mobile laptop lab, in addition to other technology.
Commissioners unanimously signed off on a resolution to request state legislation to exempt certain records of the Sheriff’s Office from the Public Records Act. Specifically, the requested legislation would exempt handgun-purchase permits and concealed-carry permits from being accessible by the public.
Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution approving the North Carolina Department of Transportation Lincoln County Secondary Roads Construction Program 2012-2013 Paving Priority.
Commissioners appointed a committee to review certain Human Resource Department policies regarding employee benefits. Robinson and Commissioner Cecelia Martin will serve on the committee.
Commissioners approved a contract to audit accounts with Martin Starnes & Associates. This is the second year of a three-year contract.

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