WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
WEDNESDAY, JULY 13, 2011
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on Wednesday, July 13, 2011, at 4:00 P.M. in the Commissioners' Conference Room of the Watauga County Administration Building, Boone, North Carolina.
PRESENT: Nathan A. Miller, Chairman
David Blust, Vice-Chairman (arrived @ 4:26 P.M.)
Jim Deal, Commissioner
Vince Gable, Commissioner
Deron Geouque, County Manager
Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board
Chairman Miller called the meeting to order at 4:06 P.M.
Chairman Miller announced that Commissioner Futrelle was absent due to family matters.
County Manager Geouque stated that the long-range plan for County space needs was the construction of an approximately 20,000 square foot facility to be located between the Human Services Center and the Health Department Building. The plan is to house County offices in the facility, potentially including the Register of Deeds, Tax, Planning and Inspections, Veteran's Services, and Board of Elections Offices.
In the meantime, discussion had been held regarding moving the License Plate Agency (LPA) to the East Annex, thereby eliminating the need to lease space for that office. The County Manager stated that the North Carolina Department of Transportation had given preliminary approval for the relocation. The LPA relocation required the consolidation of office space for the Planning and Inspections Department which was justified by the reduction of inspectors currently employed due to the downturn in the economy.
The County Manager stated that, with the LPA moving to the East Annex and the Child Support Enforcement Office relocating to the Department of Social Services, the County would no longer be leasing office space. At that time, the County would save approximately $70,000 annually on leased office space.
The County Manager stated that, in addition to the aforementioned relocations, the Sheriff had requested to move his Civil Division to assist in Courthouse security. The proposed space for the Civil Division is currently occupied by the Board of Elections.
Commissioner Gable stated that moving the North Carolina Highway Patrol Officers along with the Civil Division would allow for expansion of the Telecommunications Department when/if consolidated dispatch was implemented.
County Manager Geouque stated that displacing the Board of Elections would potentially require the use of office space at the Appalachian Enterprise Center (AEC) with the most likely scenario including the Board of Elections moving into the East Annex and Planning and Inspections moving into AEC space. The AEC was next to the Health Department which would allow more convenience for citizens acquiring building, septic, and well permits. However, the potential obligation to pay back a portion of an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant used to fund renovations to the AEC for economic development space could hinder this option.
The County Manager stated that renovations, in the amount of approximately $25,000, were planned for the East Annex to allow for the relocation of the LPA and Planning and Inspections offices. However, if the Planning and Inspections Department were to move to the AEC and Board of Elections to the East Annex, then the renovations to the East Annex needed to be discontinued and revised in order to meet needs as necessary. Another consideration was to not move the Sheriff's Civil Division at this time, thus renovations could be continued as currently planned with the only changes involving the LPA and Planning and Inspections. This would allow time to make long-term decisions regarding the needs of all County Departments including the future construction of a new facility.
During discussion, the possibility of utilizing the conference room, break room, and copier space in the East Annex to house the Sheriff's Office Civil Division and the North Carolina Highway Patrol Office was considered. This would leave the offices in the East Annex without a conference room; however, the conference room in the Administration Building could be utilized as available.
After discussions involving several possibilities, the Board, by consensus, directed County Manager Geouque to move forward with the renovations as planned for the License Plate Agency and Planning and Inspections, in the approximate amount of $25,000. In addition, discussions were to take place with those currently located in the East Annex and for the Sheriff to seek input on the Civil Division and Highway Patrol relocating to the East Annex.
Chairman Miller stated that, at the July 12, 2011, regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners, a motion was tabled regarding a counter offer, in the amount of $20,000,000 with no contingencies, to both Lincoln Harris Investments, LLC, and Miller Properties, Inc. The motion was tabled to allow for Vice-Chairman Blust and Commissioner Futrelle, who were not present during the discussion, to share their comments.
Commissioner Deal stated that he agreed with making a counter offer but was concerned that the amount of the counter offer would establish a value for the property in a down economic time.
Vice-Chairman Blust stated that he was okay with the $20,000,000 offer and added that Town of Boone actions regarding steep slope development and view shed regulations had hurt the value of the property as well.
Commissioner Gable stated that the property, if sold, would generate property and sales tax revenues which would benefit the County and Town of Boone. Commissioner Gable also stated that statistics on the offset between waiting to sell the property (when the economy is restored) and selling it now to allow for economic development and the creation of new jobs would be helpful.
After discussion, the Clerk to the Board read the following motion as tabled at the July 12, 2011, regular meeting:
Commissioner Gable, seconded by Chairman Miller, moved to counter both offers to purchase the old high school property (from Lincoln Harris Investments, LLC, and Miller Properties, Inc.) with $20,000,000, including no contingencies, and to direct the County Attorney to prepare the appropriate documents.
Prior to the vote, additional discussion was held including:
Commissioner Deal stated that he was not opposed to making a counter offer; however, he felt the amount should be $25,000,000, to allow for negotiation.
Commissioner Gable stated that $25,000,000 gave the property an excessive value in today's market.
Vice-Chairman Blust stated that the Town of Boone zoning regulations had also hurt the value to the point that $25,000,000 was not a viable amount.
After discussion, the following vote was taken:
VOTE: Aye-3(Miller, Blust, Gable)
Chairman Miller adjourned the meeting at 5:18 P.M.
Nathan A. Miller, Chairman
Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board