NCLM Southern City, Volume 73, Issue 4 2023

The legal assistance program is operated through NCLM’s partner law firm Parker Poe. Black Mountain’s Angela Reece, Project and Facilities Manager for the town, notes that the lawyers at Parker Poe were more than simply a help with the process. They were a necessity. “We could not have done these projects without this assistance from Parker Poe,” said Reece. “They are a super impressive law firm. They have been so professional and timely and thorough. I can’t speak highly enough of them.” Customer service is a critical element of Parker Poe’s services as well. Given the scope of projects and the approaching deadlines, legal guidance needs to be quick and immediately helpful. This service, as Reece notes, hits that mark as well. “It’s not like you’re waiting. You’re not asking a question and waiting for someone to say, ‘Oh, I have to find the answer.’ They know the answer immediately,” Reece said. “Through the guidance and advice of Parker Poe, the town is confident that our project will be successful and will meet all the ARPA and state requirements. We sincerely appreciate NCLM’s guidance and leadership during this process as well and are grateful for the financial support to facilitate this partnership.” MUNICIPAL ACCOUNTING SERVICES One offering of the ARP Service Line stands out among the rest: the Municipal Accounting Services (MAS) program. MAS is a first-of-its-kind assistance program, designed to promote better financial accountability and reliability for smaller governments. It addresses a persistent problem facing small towns across North Carolina. Due to the hurdles of cost and access to expertise, many smaller local governments are unable to adopt up-to-date financial systems, and instead must operate inadequate software, making them susceptible to accounting and audit errors. This service is provided at no cost to participating towns through the American Rescue Plan grant period, ending in in 2026. The program’s full suite of services includes software for fund accounting, payroll, utility billing, taxes, and very important hands-on expert assistance. “Financial responsibilities are among the most important for a municipality, but also among the most challenging,” said Nida. “Our smaller towns fulfill this responsibility with very limited resources. The MAS program helps them achieve better financial management both today and for many years into the future.” The League employs accounting specialists to assist the converting towns throughout the entire process. Following the successful implementation of the Black Mountain Software, the League dedicates a point-of-contact on our staff to continue assisting towns with further questions and problems that arise. The League will pay all member costs associated with participation in the MAS Program, including the software licensing and implementation fees and the League’s accounting assistance efforts, for the first three years. The first “pilot” towns of the MAS Program were the Town of Pikeville and the Town of Jonesville. They each received demo versions of the Black Mountain Software and configured the system to their needs. The League provided various forms of support, such as contracting CPA help and sending League IT personnel to identify new technology needs in addition to expert staff helping on the ground. “MAS holds tremendous potential for the cities and towns of North Carolina, as our local governments prove time and again that when they receive needed support, they get the job done. We are exceptionally fortunate to be able to partner with the Towns of Jonesville and Pikeville as our first participants,” said NCLM Executive Director Rose Vaughn Williams. In addition to the accounting services and consultation, MAS also features an offering that tackles one of the most pressing issues facing our towns’ financial wellbeing: cybersecurity. NCLM’s in-house staff is already out across the state providing cybersecurity assessments, guidance, and consultation services. Read more about the Town of Pikeville’s success story with the MAS Program in this issue. FUTURE By the end of 2024, all American Rescue Plan dollars will be obligated, and by the end of 2026, they’ll have been spent. Three years may be a long time period in many arenas, but in the scope of public investment projects, that is a quick turnaround— hence, the flurry of activity now. Though the dollars will be spent, the impact will only just be beginning. The examples above, of Ramseur, Black Mountain, Jonesville, and Pikeville, provide some insight into what our state can expect, as do many other cases around North Carolina. In Sylva, public space downtown is being renovated not just to create an attractive area for residents, but to also improve the town’s stormwater capacity and make it more resilient in the decades ahead. In Havelock, investments are underway to address aging water and sewer infrastructure, improve the town’s economic development outlook, and support the community’s most important stakeholder, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. In Lewisville, ARP money won’t be evident in just one or even two large projects, but rather will be seen throughout a slew of new and ongoing projects, all of which strategically fit within the town’s comprehensive vision. These include roadway enhancements, sidewalk extensions, and investments into public parks and programs at the town’s centerpiece facility, Shallowford Square. In Waynesville, ARP dollars allowed the town to continue on a strategic path already in progress—and to continue on at a quicker pace. These investments touch nearly every area of town: public safety, homelessness, sanitation and recycling, parks and greenways, town staffing and, most notably, infrastructure. And in hundreds of other towns—large and small, urban and rural, mountainous and coastal—the same story is being written. It’s a tale we know well, and that is proven true time and again: when cities get support, they get the job done. Through the large network of support that has been created at the League and that now exists in communities all across our state, that story will only become more frequent in the coming years. Support is now entrenched. Learn more about our ARP efforts and stay up to date on guidance and news at continued from page 25 SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 4 2023 26