James, Stiles clash over N-Focus
Before the fate of Andrews was determined at the June 27 budget presentation, many citizens decided to point fingers at the previous administration.
During the public hearing, local business owner Jenny Pike said no matter what happens to the town, she hopes people don’t accuse the current board of aldermen for Andrews’ poor financial state.
“The shame and blame belong wholeheartedly to the previous board,” she said.
Pike added that former alderman Gary James was exempt from her criticism.
James stood before the crowd, reminding everyone of the full-page political advertisement in the Andrews Journal that portrayed him in a negative light.
“They made the statement that I voted no 64 times during my term as alderman,” James said. “If I were to sit on the aldermen board for four more years and this foolishness that took place, took place, I would vote no 64 more times.”
James said he felt that while the current board doesn’t deserve any blame, some of the blame should fall on Cherokee County Commissioner Cal Stiles of Andrews, marking the first political shots of the campaign between them for the seat in District 1 in the Nov. 6 general election.
James added that Stiles waved “pom-poms” and supported the board while they paid nearly $300,000 for NFocus to tell them they needed better infrastructure, more jobs and some people didn’t like the town board.
He said other members of the previous board continued to spend Beaver Creek money, which contributed to the current state of the budget.
After the meeting, Stiles clarified that he did not vote to hire NFocus, and he was not exposed to the financial side of the matter. When he backed the previous board’s decision to take on the company, Stiles added that he assumed they had the financial means to do it without falling in debt.
“My thought process about NFocus at the time was that the town was interested in coming up with a good comprehensive plan, reworking ordinances in zoning and trying to move the town forward,” he said. “I thought it was a good idea.”
Stiles said he inquired with some people in Raleigh who reported back, saying NFocus has a great reputation. When reflecting on the circumstances that led the town to its financial state, it is been difficult to pinpoint the leading cause or issue.
After James finished speaking during the public hearing, Mayor James Reid stepped in, asking people to refrain from personally attacking others at meetings.
Reid said blame shouldn’t matter, and that the community needs to work together to find solutions. Having served on the board for 12 years, Reid said during that time he thinks the aldermen voted to raise taxes and water rates only once.
“You’re not doing your job if you’re not re-evaluating and seeing what you need to do to make the town a functioning town,” he said.
“I think that’s what we need to look at as a whole. Do I agree with what the previous board did? No. But, I also don’t agree with what we did the previous 12 years before that.”