Recent alleged financial irregularities and other problems surrounding a non-profit corporation that operates a variety of senior citizen, preschool and additional programs in Surry are prompting the county board of commissioners to end that involvement.
“I think it’s time for Surry County to take a new look at YVEDDI,” Commissioner Paul Johnson said of the acronym for the organization with the full name of Yadkin Valley Economic Development District Inc., headquartered in Boonville.
Johnson’s comments came during a Monday night meeting of the county board held at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. A discussion of YVEDDI wasn’t on the agenda, but emerged during a part of the meeting when individual commissioners could make general comments or announcements.
“I just think that it’s time for us to get out,” Johnson, the board’s vice chairman, said of the county’s relationship with YVEDDI, which was formed in 1965. It is described as a local community action agency that administers human services and community development programs funded through federal, state and county governments; the United Fund; and other sources.
Included are local Head Start centers, senior citizen centers, Meals on Wheels, transportation services and more. YVEDDI is the clearinghouse for millions of dollars that are funneled annually into Surry and three other counties — Davie, Stokes and Yadkin — for the various programs.
“Things aren’t going as they should,” Johnson said of the YVEDDI operation.
Johnson charged that funds controlled by YVEDDI recently have been misused, which led to the agency’s director being fired. The Westfield commissioner said, in his opinion, this individual also should have faced criminal prosecution, but implied that the YVEDDI governing board has mishandled that situation and seems to be operating in the dark overall.
“And I really don’t want to be a part of that anymore,” said Johnson, who added that Surry County commissioners serving on the YVEDDI board of directors, including him, have resigned as a result.
“If I thought that things would smooth out and get better, I wouldn’t be talking about it tonight,” Johnson said.
Jack G. Koontz, a Mocksville resident who chairs the YVEDDI board, could not be reached later Monday night for his reaction to Johnson’s claims, or how Surry County’s stance could affect the organization’s future.
Discussion among the Surry commissioners Monday was that federal and other programs now being operated by YVEDDI could be handled by the county government or contracted to other entities. Johnson said the goal would be having better controls on where the money channeled through YVEDDI is going.
“I’m not here to criticize YVEDDI,” Johnson said. “But there’s been a problem — and their board doesn’t want to deal with it.”
Eddie Harris of Elkin, chairman of the commissioners, specifically asked about the fate of Head Start programs in the county, with the discussion indicating that Head Start money could be redirected to the county, Mount Airy and Elkin for their operation.
“The Head Start that’s being provided right now, I hate to say it, it’s a glorified baby-sitting service,” Johnson remarked.
With the other commissioners seemingly on board with Johnson regarding ending YVEDDI’s involvement, the question of when to begin the new direction was posed Monday night.
“Chris, is this something that could happen before June 30?” Harris asked County Manager Chris Knopf in reference to budget preparations for the start of Surry’s next fiscal year on July 1.
Knopf said the process of severing ties with YVEDDI likely would take six to nine months.
“We need to start the conversation anyway,” Harris responded.
“We don’t want to do anything to hurt the senior citizens of Surry County,” Johnson said. He pointed out that this age group had suffered enough already due to factors including the federal budget sequestration. Among the programs under the YVEDDI umbrella is the Family Resource Center in Mount Airy, which has hosted various services for seniors.
However, Johnson said he believes the county could do a better job with the various programs.
The transportation arm of YVEDDI, which serves people without vehicles of their own, was called “a bright spot” of the organization Monday night.
Roof Contract OK’d
In other action, the county commissioners voted to award a contract for a roof-replacement project at White Plains Elementary School to a Kernersville company.
AAR of North Carolina had submitted the lowest base bid of $398,996 for the project, from among seven firms offering proposals, as well as a bid alternate for a standing seam metal roof at $259,200. That made the total $658,196.
Also approved was another $58,000 for architect design fees.
Related discussion Monday night indicated that the effort to replace the roof has been a protracted process, which included having to rebid the project. Commissioners also offered harsh criticism for delays linked to the unnamed firm handling the design, saying that entity would have been “fired” had it been a county employee.
Board members also lamented the absence of local companies vying for the roofing job at White Plains.
Lottery proceeds from the state will cover the costs of the project, it was noted Monday.
Museum Request Tabled
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History — which was hosting Monday’s county commissioners meeting for only the second time ever, as part of efforts to hold sessions at various parts of Surry — wasn’t as lucky regarding the purse strings.
The commissioners were scheduled to vote on a request for a special appropriation to the museum to help cover the cost of a failed HVAC unit servicing the museum’s main floor. While the museum replaced the unit months ago, it sought funds from both Mount Airy and Surry County to offset the money spent.
On Feb. 7, the city board of commissioners voted to approve a one-time request of $5,000 toward the $20,558 replacement cost of the failed HVAC unit, and the county board was considering chipping in some Monday.
However, action on the museum request was tabled — as a direct result of the fact the commissioners were meeting there. The board had toured the facility before convening.
Commissioner Larry Phillips moved that the matter be delayed to avoid what he called “a bad precedent.” He explained that by meeting at the museum there might have been an expectation that the commissioners would later provide money to the facility, which should not occur.
“If that’s the case,” Phillips said, “a lot of citizens would probably invite us to their living rooms.”
The museum request instead will be addressed during county budget deliberations this spring.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.