WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
MONDAY, MARCH 2, 1998
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting on Monday, March 2, 1998 at 9:00 A.M. in the Board Room of the Watauga County Courthouse.
PRESENT: James Coffey, Chairman
Jack D. Lawrence, Sr., Vice-Chairman
Linda S. Craig, Commissioner
Jimmy Hodges, Commissioner
Jack Wellborn, Commissioner
Stacy C. Eggers, Jr., County Attorney
James S. Ratchford, County Manager
Libby Link, Clerk to the Board
Chairman Coffey called the meeting to order at 9:00 A.M. welcoming those in attendance.
A moment of silence was observed.
Chairman Coffey called for additions or corrections to the February 17, 1998 regular and/or closed session minutes; there being none, they were approved as presented.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to approve the agenda for the March 2, 1998 regular meeting as presented.
Prior to discussing the AppalCart Report, Chairman Coffey asked Debra Wynne, Parks & Recreation Director, to address the Board regarding Della Critcher, a Parks & Recreation employee, who had received a Girls and Women in Sports Day Award of Excellence from the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health in February, 1998. Of the more than 300 honorees, 16 individuals received this Award. Ms. Wynne stated that Ms. Critcher had been a secretary at Parks & Recreation for the past eight years and was a wonderful employee. In addition, she noted that Ms. Critcher was a medal winner in both the High Country Senior Games and the N.C. Senior Games and had volunteered for many programs in the community. The Board congratulated Ms. Critcher and thanked her for her contributions. Ms. Critcher addressed the Board and stated she would not have received this Award if she had not been an employee at Parks & Recreation. She thanked the Board, County Manager, and Ms. Wynne for their support.
Mr. Chris Turner, AppalCart Director, presented a report of services as well as a budget proposal for fiscal year 1998/1999. Mr. Turner noted that AppalCart had had a good year. Due to many requests, a new route was proposed which would include the new Caldwell Community College campus, and a handout was presented indicating the destinations on this new route. In addition, AppalCart was proposing an increase in starting wages from $6.00/hour to $6.50/hour for part time drivers. Mr. Turner stated this information was provided this date in order to give the Board sufficient time to review this budget proposal.
Mr. Jerry Bennett, a representative from FrontierVision, addressed the Board concerning recent cable service problems due to the snowstorm in January, 1998. Mr. Bennett stated FrontierVision’s biggest problem was that they were not able to get sufficient personnel (from other cable companies) to assist with restoring service to County residents. The Board noted that there were some citizens who still had not had their cable service restored. In addition, there had been numerous complaints before the snowstorm of poor picture quality as well as service deficiencies. They stated that it appeared that FrontierVision did not take their job seriously. The Board asked Mr. Bennett why FrontierVision had not maintained a local office in the County and reminded him that the local office issue was specifically addressed before approval of the transfer from SRW to FrontierVision in August, 1997. Mr. Bennett stated FrontierVision had a local office but no local phone number. He added that he did not recall any request to maintain a local office but reiterated there was a local office that fulfilled the contract’s requirement. County Resident, Carolyn Adams, voiced her concerns about FrontierVision’s continued poor service to the Board. Mr. Bennett stated that he did not have the authority to make any decisions before the Board this date but would voice these concerns to his superiors. Veterans Service Officer/Safety Director, Jim Harmon, informed the Board that the FCC required 90 days to terminate the contract and no change in service could be made prior to June 2, 1998.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to write FrontierVision to express the Board’s very strong concerns about the poor service and that FrontierVision had 90 days to improve overall service and maintain a local office consistent with the FCC consumer protection service standards and the County’s cable television ordinance.
A. Growth Issues Recommendations – Rick Mattar, Chair, County Planning Board, addressed the Board regarding the study the Board had requested the Planning Board conduct in September 1997 on the possibility of regulating polluting industries in the County. Mr. Mattar stated the Planning Board had reviewed ordinances from Lee, Rutherford, Richmond, Anson, and Orange Counties as well as counties which the Citizens Against Pollution indicated had ordinances. He added that after reviewing these referenced ordinances, that they did not address the County’s situation. The Planning Board recommended that the Board establish a "Blue Ribbon Commission". This Commission would go out in the community and talk to individuals to ascertain what residents want. This Commission should be comprised of citizens in the community (approximately 25) including one or two commissioners and one member from the Planning Board. Several citizens (Don Butler, Gayl Knox and David Lassiter) gave input to whom should serve on this Commission. It was the consensus of the Board that the Planning Board should recommend groups to be represented, and the Commission should include several community districts, the Towns, ASU, etc.
Commissioner Craig seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved that the Planning Board recommend representative groups to serve on the "Blue Ribbon Commission" and report to the Board at the regular meeting scheduled for May 4, 1998.
B. Subdivision Ordinance Amendment Proposal – Mr. Mattar presented the County’s subdivision regulations with proposed amendments included which the Planning Board had studied and endorsed. The Planning Board held a public hearing on February 16, 1998, and there were no comments from the public. The Board must hold a public hearing before approval of this amendment.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved to schedule this public hearing for the March 17, 1998 regular meeting.
C. Cove Creek Community Plan – Leo Mast, Chair, Cove Creek Community Council presented the Cove Creek Community Plan which included a statement of goals as well as a strategy and implementation phase for their community. Mr. Mast stated the Council had received input from the community and felt this was a good plan. Ms. Bricca Sweet, Vice-Chair, Cove Creek Community Council, also addressed the Board and noted that the Council had worked very hard to ensure the community (approximately 400 households) was aware of this plan. She added that three mailings were mailed to all landowners in the area, and the last one included a draft copy of the plan. The plan was approved unanimously by the Cove Creek Community Council and received support from area residents. She stated the Council had not received any negative comments from the public. The Board noted it appeared the Council had worked very hard on this plan.
Commissioner Wellborn seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to approve the Cove Creek Community Council Plan as presented.
Danny Staley, Health Department Director, addressed the Board about the proposed renovations at the Health Department. Mr. Staley stated that when New River Mental Health vacated the building, it made additional space available for the Health Department. Mr. Staley added that he, Architect, Glen Reynolds, and David Triplett, Chairman, Appalachian District Health Department Board, had all worked very hard to devise plans that would best accomplish the department’s needs. Mr. Staley noted that the Health Department was very proud of the services offered but added that over crowding was a big problem. Mr. Triplett stated he was at the meeting in support of this proposal. Mr. Staley introduced Architect, Glen Reynolds, and asked Mr. Reynolds to review the proposed plans with the Board. Mr. Reynolds addressed the Board and stated that he and Mr. Staley had worked hard to keep the renovation costs down. The Health Department would need an additional 3,000 square feet and would have just over 19,000 total square feet at the end of the project. Mr. Reynolds reviewed the plans with the Board as well as the cost estimate. He noted that the additional space would be used to add additional examining rooms, bathrooms, offices, and enlarging the waiting area. He added that an elevator would be installed and additional staff entrances would be made available for the physically impaired. The 2nd floor would include multi-purpose rooms (used for training, etc.) and additional space could be used for storage. Mr. Reynolds indicated that a 15% contingency was included in the cost estimate which he felt was sufficient to cover any unanticipated costs. County Manager Ratchford stated the County would need to finance this construction project.
After discussion, Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, directed the staff to proceed with the project and moved to approve the Reynolds Architects, Inc. proposal for the architectural services for this project.
A. Additional Service Funds – Project On Aging Director, Rocky Nelson, addressed the Board and requested approval to submit a Home and Community Care Block Grant proposal for an additional $12,354 during this fiscal year which would be used to provide home delivered meals and health screenings to older adults. He added that approximately 500 hours of Level I in-home aide service would be switched to Level II to ensure all available funds could be utilized. Mr. Nelson noted that this request would require a local match of $1,483 which was present in Project On Aging’s existing budget.
Commissioner Craig seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to approve this request.
B. HCCBG Appointments – Mr. Nelson presented a list of individuals for Board approval as representatives on the Home and Community Care Block Grant Advisory Board. He noted the only change was Jim Atkinson, Social Services Director, who replaced former Director, Curlee Joyce. All members were willing to serve.
Commissioner Craig seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to approve the list as presented.
Tax Administrator, Larry McLean, presented the Tax Collections Report for the month of February, 1998.
Mr. McLean presented the following Refunds and Releases Report for February, 1998 for Board approval:
TO BE TYPED IN MINUTE BOOK
Commissioner Wellborn seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to approve the Refunds and Releases Report as presented.
Mr. McLean noted in accordance with NCGS 105-322, the Board could appoint a special Board of Equalization and Review or the Board could continue to serve as the County’s Board of Equalization and Review.
Commissioner Hodges seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved that the Board of County Commissioners continue to serve as the County’s Board of Equalization and Review for 1998.
Mr. McLean noted that the schedule and compensation for the 1998 Board of Equalization and Review needed to be determined. The following schedule was set:
Monday, April 6, 1998 – 1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 8, 1998 – 8:30 a.m. – Noon; and 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 9, 1998 – 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Commissioner Hodges seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to approve these dates for the Board of Equalization and Review.
Commissioner Wellborn seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to continue the current fee schedule ($75.00 per session).
Mr. McLean added that he had received a late application for exempt status for Holy Community Lutheran Church and asked the Board to approve the late filing application for exempt status. Mr. McLean noted this was just approval of late filing and not exempt status.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved to approve this request.
In addition, the Spiritual Center of America had submitted 27 separate late applications for exempt status, and Mr. McLean requested the Board approve the late filing on these applications for exempt status.
Commissioner Wellborn seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to approve this request.
Social Services Director, Jim Atkinson, presented the standard monthly report for that Department. This report was for the Board’s information.
A. Electric Service Deregulation – Assistant County Manager/OSD, Bob Frye, informed the Board of a meeting he attended recently concerning electric service deregulation. Mr. Frye stated there were quite a few issues the Board would have to address if deregulation was approved. Theoretically, every citizen could choose a different power company to provide services. He added that there were still unanswered questions that had not been addressed to date. A study commission had been formed to address issues, and a meeting was scheduled for April 9, 1998 at ASU. After discussion, the Board recommended that Mr. Ratchford or Mr. Frye attend the meeting and voice the Board’s opposition on deregulation.
B. Todd Community Meeting – Mr. Frye stated he attended a community meeting in Ashe County (Todd) on February 17, 1998. He added that Ashe County was starting a land use process and this meeting was one of such meetings scheduled to receive comments from the public. Mr. Frye noted over 100 people from both Ashe and Watauga County attended the meeting.
C. Boards & Commissions – Chairman Coffey noted the following board members terms had expired: Mr. John Rauls and Mrs. Zeb Shook, Watauga County Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee. Both had agreed to continue to serve.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to reappoint Mr. John Rauls and Mrs. Zeb Shook to the Watauga County Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee.
D. Sales Tax Legislation – County Manager Ratchford stated the N.C. Association of County Commissioners was requesting positive statements from counties for a statewide local option sales tax bill in 1998. Mr. Ratchford added that the Board may wish to decline making a decision on this until after the capital projects planning work session scheduled for the afternoon. After some discussion, the Board agreed not to make a decision on this issue until after the scheduled work session.
E. Announcements – County Manager Ratchford informed the Board that January 27, 1999 was the County’s sesquicentennial. In addition, 1999 was ASU’s and the Boone Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary. Mr. Ratchford and Vice-Chairman Lawrence had met with a small group to discuss preparations, and it was recommended that a special committee be formed with volunteers represented throughout the County. He added that this committee should have a coordinator to work with volunteers and plan activities. One suggestion was a County-wide art contest in the schools to have students create a County logo. A prize would be awarded to the winner. Mr. Ratchford stated he would present a budget estimate at the next regular meeting scheduled for March 17, 1998. It was the consensus of the Board to proceed with the logo and the formation of the County-wide committee.
A recess was declared at 11:45 A.M.
Commissioners Craig and Wellborn departed after the regular business session. Chairman Coffey, Vice-Chairman Lawrence and Commissioner Hodges went to the Report to the People Luncheon sponsored by the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. After the luncheon, Commissioner Hodges stated that he could not attend the capital projects planning work session scheduled for the afternoon. Discussion was made to defer the work session until 5:00 P.M. on March 17, 1998 (prior to the regular meeting).
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to adjourn the meeting at 1:10 P.M.
VOTE: Aye-3 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence)
Absent-2 (Craig, Wellborn)
Elizabeth H. Link
Clerk to the Board
MISCELLANEOUS ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS
AGING SERVICES MATTERS
HANNAH BUILDING PROJECT
FRONTIERVISION CABLE SERVICES
APPALCART REPORT & BUDGET PROPOSAL
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
APPROVAL OF MINUTES