Last updated: August 26. 2014 1:06AM - 607 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

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The retirement committee is dead — long live the retirement committee, could describe recent action by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners to continue efforts aimed at luring older persons here.

Board members voted unanimously during a meeting Thursday night to dissolve a group known as the Retirement Community Designation Committee which was formed in 2012, and to create the Relocation/Retirement Committee in its place.

And though he ultimately voted in favor of that, Commissioner Steve Yokeley expressed concerns about possible conflicts of interest arising in the future based on the representation on the committee.

The role of the Retirement Community Designation Committee essentially has run its course, with the group successfully working for Mount Airy to become a certified retirement community of the N.C. Department of Commerce.

That designation mirrors a belief among local leaders that Mount Airy will benefit by actively recruiting older persons to make this community their retirement destination, due to factors including their extra purchasing power.

Applying to become a certified retirement community required the municipality to pay a $10,000 fee and develop a long-range plan outlining how it would serve the target population through various resources. The benefits include organized marketing efforts by the state on Mount Airy’s behalf.

At the time the city applied, only two others, Lumberton and Asheboro, were involved in the state retirement community certification program, which began in 2008. That number since has grown to nine, including Eden, Marion, Pittsboro, Sanford, Edenton and Tarboro, in addition to Mount Airy.

Conflict Of Interest?

The new Relocation/Retirement Committee will pick up where the previous group left off, with eight members appointed to staggered terms expiring in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

They represent the tourism, commercial development, health care, businesses and real estate segments, and retirees, with two ex-officio members also appointed from the board of commissioners, Jim Armbrister and Dean Brown.

However, in joining fellow board members in forming the new group, Commissioner Yokeley said he is concerned about possible problems with the arrangement.

“I can see some potential for conflict of interest,” he said.

In elaborating on that position Monday, Yokeley said his concerns stem from the committee makeup.

“It wasn’t the people that were appointed, just a potential that two or three of the positions could have a conflict of interest,” he said, specifically mentioning the business and realty communities.

“I can see a potential for conflict of interest if they got leads from people that were relocating or retiring here,” Yokeley added. “I just didn’t think it would be fair for those in those professions.”

Yokeley stressed repeatedly that he is not concerned about any of the individuals now on the committee, “just for what might happen in the future” when others come on board. He said those presently appointed are fine people who’ll do a great job.

“If I had any concerns about any of them, I would not have voted for it,” Yokeley said of the committee membership.

Commissioner Shirley Brinkley also wondered at last week’s meeting if forming the new group will require paying another $10,000 fee, for which no clear answer emerged.

But when Mount Airy first got involved, it was noted that this sum would be paid every five years to maintain the city’s participation in the certified retirement community program.

Among the functions of the new group will be:

• Representing the city at various events or organizing special events to promote Mount Airy as a desirable relocation area;

• Developing a system to identify retired individuals and relocation prospects;

• Identifying and promoting relocation opportunities and benefits unique to Mount Airy;

• Working with city departments on ongoing tourism efforts;

• Developing and creating promotional and marketing materials, including a web presence, social media and designation signage.

“This is a very important committee,” Mayor Deborah Cochran said.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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