Normally a retreat implies running away from something, but on Wednesday and Thursday Mount Airy officials will meet several key issues head-on during an annual city government planning retreat.
While a variety of topics is scheduled to be discussed, one stands out in particular: economic development.
“One of my biggest goals is to continue to watch Mount Airy grow jobs,” Commissioner Shirley Brinkley said Monday in outlining an ongoing objective for city government which she hopes this week’s retreat will further.
“That’s what we need, is economic development,” Brinkley said of additional growth on top of recent gains including a decision by Awesome Products Inc. to locate a cleaning products plant in the former Bassett Furniture plant.
She believes local officials are on the right track, including the efforts of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership (EDP).
“I think Todd Tucker (EDP president) and his staff are really beating the bushes,” Brinkley added.
During the first day of the retreat, a nearly four-hour segment is devoted to the subject of economic development, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. It will include discussion of a core committee for development, public-private partnerships and ways to help existing businesses with expansion and job creation.
Wednesday’s discussion will be led by Tyler Mulligan and Jonathan Morgan, professors at the School of Government of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who specialize in community development.
The annual retreat will be held in a conference room at Bank of America on Independence Boulevard, beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday and lasting until the late afternoon both days.
Among other highlights during Wednesday’s session will be a presentation regarding capital (equipment- and building-related) needs by heads of municipal departments, and an update on city finances.
A full day also is scheduled when the retreat continues Thursday, with a three-hour discussion planned from 9 a.m. to noon on an ongoing concern.
It will address minimum housing standards, condemnation of dilapidated buildings and demolition and grants for renovation of distressed properties.
That discussion will be led by members of the city planning department.
An update on health-care reform also will be given Thursday by individuals including Julie Hall, director of health programs for the N.C. League of Municipalities, and John W. Phillips, vice president of business development for Medcost.
Medcost is an independent health management company.
A topic Thursday will explore how Mount Airy can benefit from Surry County’s tax system, foreclosure processes and other cooperative endeavors.
Foreclosures are among the various methods available to collect delinquent taxes on real estate.
As of Jan. 16, there were 44 parcels in Mount Airy with outstanding delinquencies five or more years old, according to a city government memorandum.
Thursday’s discussion is expected to include the process involved with trying to collect such taxes through foreclosure and how the municipality works with Surry County to accomplish this.
It will include input by city Finance Officer John Overton, Tax Collector Tamara Dawson and Michael Hartgrove, county tax collector.
“There’s a lot that we’re going to be discussing,” Brinkley said Monday. “Of course, there is a learning time.”
However, one thing she is especially looking forward to is the stating of goals and objectives by the board of commissioners for the next year.
Brinkley not only is interested in having those goals expressed, but exploring ways to ensure that they will be followed through with, she said.
Thursday’s retreat session also will include:
• A review of budget priorities by Mayor Deborah Cochran and the commissioners, and the identifying of related directives to City Manager Barbara Jones;
• An update of the city’s curbside-recycling program that was launched one year ago;
• The Ararat River restoration project;
• An update on property at the corner of Main and West Oak streets downtown, where a “mini-park” is planned;
• A discussion of the possible ending of the early voting program for municipal elections as a cost-cutting measure. “I’m looking forward to that, too,” Brinkley said of a concern she raised recently, regarding the low turnout involved;
• The revisiting of a discussion from last year’s retreat regarding the development of a mission statement for the city of Mount Airy.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.