WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2019
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting, as scheduled, on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at 8:30 A.M. in the Commissioners' Board Room of the Watauga County Administration Building, Boone, North Carolina.
PRESENT: John Welch, Chairman
Billy Kennedy, Vice-Chairman
Larry Turnbow, Commissioner
Charlie Wallin, Commissioner
Perry Yates, Commissioner
Andrea Capua, County Attorney
Deron Geouque, County Manager
Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board
Chairman Welch called the meeting to order at 8:35 A.M.
Commissioner Yates opened with a prayer and Vice-Chairman Kennedy led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Approval of Minutes
Chairman Welch called for additions and/or corrections to the February 19, 2019, regular meeting and closed session minutes.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to approve the February 19, 2019, regular meeting minutes as presented.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to approve the February 19, 2019, closed session minutes as presented.
Approval of Agenda
Chairman Welch called for additions and/or corrections to the March 5, 2019, agenda.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to approve the March 5, 2019, agenda as presented.
SRO Agreement with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute (CCC&TI)
Sheriff Len Hagaman and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute (CCC&TI) Vice-President of Operations, Mr. Donnie Bassinger, presented a proposed agreement for the Sheriff’s Office to provide a Student Resource Officer for the Watauga Campus of CCC&TI. CCC&TI will pay the salary and benefits for the position and the County will pay for the vehicle, uniform, training, and equipment. Sheriff Hagaman stated that existing funds are in the current budget to cover the costs associated with the agreement.
County Attorney Capua asked about insurance liability. County Manager Geouque stated that the County would be liable as the situation would be the same as when officers where working off-duty special events. County Attorney Capua requested wording be added to the agreement to clarify insurance liability.
Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to approve the Student Resource Officer Agreement between the Sheriff’s Office and Caldwell Community College contingent upon County Attorney review and clarification of insurance responsibilities.
Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative Report
Ms. Denise Presnell and Ms. Candis Walker updated the Board on the Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative (WCCI) Conference which is scheduled for Saturday, May 4, 2019, from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. at Watauga High School. The mission of the collaborative is to promote health and resiliency in our community and to effectively prevent, recognize and treat trauma by
creating safe, stable, nurturing environments and relationships. There will be classes throughout the day for community members, service providers and educators that will focus on trauma prevention and treatment, promoting health and resiliency, and creating safe and nurturing spaces and relationships. The deadline to register for the Conference is Thursday, March 14, 2019.
This report was for information only and, therefore, no action was required.
High Country Food Hub Update
Ms. Courtney Baines, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Women In Agriculture, gave an update on the High Country Food Hub. Ms. Baines stated that Economic Development Commission support has allowed for great growth including the installation of a new freezer and a root crop storage area. The total online market sales for 2019 are $23,000. The total online market sales for 2018 totaled $103,130. There have been 74 new customers so far in 2019. The High Country Food Hub was named “Start Up Business of the Year” by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Baines stated that a Farm-to-Plate Dinner Series was ongoing with the upcoming dates of March 24 at the Gamekeeper, April 18 at Reid’s Café and Catering, and May 19 at Gideon Ridge Inn.
Mr. Jim Hamilton, Cooperative Extension Director, stated there was proposed plans for skin products that include CBD oil. Mr. Hamilton wanted to make the County aware since the products may smell and test like marijuana. Mr. Hamilton stated that hemp production is a legal and viable crop for this area and the Cooperative Extension was applying for a permit to grow a few plants at the Cooperative Extension Building. A lot of interest has been generated since the crop recently became legal to grow and the potential is here for hemp/CBD production to be a new economic driver for agriculture in Watauga County.
This report was for information only and, therefore, no action was required.
Middle Fork Greenway Naming Opportunities
Mr. Joe Furman, Planning and Inspections Director, presented a proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that, if approved, would waive the County’s current Facility, Property, and Space Naming Policy to allow the Blue Ridge Conservancy the authority to name different aspects of the Middle Fork Greenway in order to raise funds for the project. The policy does have a provision for the Board to waive or modify any requirement of this policy as it deems appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Most of the land associated with the Middle Fork Greenway will be owned by the County. Mr. Furman stated that both agency attorneys have reviewed the MOA.
Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Vice-Chairman Kennedy, moved to approve the Memorandum of Agreement as presented.
Parks and Recreation Out-of-State Travel Request
Mr. Stephen Poulos, Parks and Recreation Director, requested approval of out-of-state travel for Ms. Keron Poteat, Recreation Specialist II. Ms. Poteat plans to take seniors to the Barter Theater in Abingdon, VA, on April 11, 2019.
Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to approve out-of-State travel for Ms. Keron Poteat as presented by Mr. Stephen Poulos.
Board of Equalization and Review Schedule
Mr. Larry Warren, Tax Administrator, discussed the scheduling of the FY 2019 Board of Equalization and Review (E&R). Mr. Warren stated that the Board may create a special Board of Equalization and Review or, as in previous years, the Board of Commissioners may serve as the Board of Equalization and Review and include the County Manager to serve as an alternate member. The County Manager would only serve if a quorum could not be met otherwise.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, resolved to establish the Board of Equalization and Review as follows:
· Shall consist of the 5 member County Commissioners, each having one vote.
· Three members shall constitute a quorum.
· One alternate shall be appointed consisting of the County Manager.
· The alternate shall only serve to meet a quorum of the Board for a scheduled Board of Equalization and Review meeting.
POWERS AND DUTIES:
The powers and duties of this Board shall be as specified in NCGS 105-328 and Article 21 of the Machinery Act.
Mr. Warren recommended the convening date for the Board of Equalization and Review be scheduled for Wednesday April 17, 2019, at 4:00 P.M. and the adjournment of the Board be scheduled for Thursday April 25, 2019, at 5:00 P.M. The Board discussed other meeting dates as well.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to set the following dates for the Board of Equalization and Review:
· Convene on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, at 4:00 P.M.
· Meet on Thursday, April 18, 2019, from 4:00 – 7:00 P.M.
· Adjourn on Thursday, April 25, 2019, from 5:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M.
The Board of Equalization and Review has been compensated $75 per meeting in the past.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to establish the compensation rate for the Board of Equalization and Review at $75.00 per meeting.
Miscellaneous Administrative Matters
A. Proposed Agreement for Storage of Bodies with Watauga Medical Center, Inc.
County Manager Geouque stated that due to recent changes regarding the storage of dead bodies, the County has been working with the Health Department and Watauga Medical Center for a suitable location. The Medical Center has graciously agreed to serve as the facility. Enclosed is a copy of the agreement between the County and the Medical Center to serve as the facility for the storage of bodies. A future budget request will be forthcoming to outfit the space with coolers to house the bodies and other potential ancillary equipment.
Board action is required to approve the agreement with the Watauga Medical Center to serve as the location for the storage of bodies in the County.
Commissioner Wallin, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to approve the agreement with Watauga Medical Center for the storage of bodies.
B. Watauga Solar Lease Amendment
County Manager Geouque stated that staff was directed at the Annual Pre-Budget Retreat in February to include the proposed Watauga Solar lease on a future agenda for Board approval. As discussed, Watauga Solar wants to secure a lease with as long of a term as possible. NCGS does allow for an exception regarding the treatment of a property that is to be leased for more than ten (10) years if that property is to be leased for a solar project. Property used for solar projects can be leased for a twenty-five (25) year term.
County Manager Geouque stated that there was a potential issue in the proposed amendment as options to renew the lease exists but at the same rate of $1,000.00 per acre/per year. The County Manager stated that the County would want to renegotiate the rates at the end of the initial twenty-five year lease.
Mr. Derek Moretz and Mr. Ged Moody, with Watauga Solar, shared that the life of the equipment is greater than twenty-five years and that is why they wanted the option to renew. Mr. Moretz proposed the amount for the renewals be changed to either $1,500 per acre or $250 extra per acre for the extension terms.
Mr. Moretz stated that there would be a separate contract that would define the County’s electricity rates being lowered as a result of solar power generated by the project. The County Manager stated that it would be hard to move forward with an agreement if the electricity generated by the project was not purchased.
By consensus, the Board agreed to keep the project moving forward by directing staff to address the issue of the extended term rates in the proposed lease as well as defining the impact with Blue Ridge Energy and reduced electricity rates for the County. Staff is to bring an amended proposed lease along with a resolution to adopt and then publicize the intended lease with Watauga Solar, LLC. as required by Statutes.
C. Boards and Commissions
County Manager Geouque stated that each Commissioner nominates a representative to the Boone Rural Fire Protection Service District Board whose terms run concurrent with the term of the appointing Commissioner. Boone Rural Fire Service District Board members must own property and reside within that Fire Service District.
County Manager Geouque announced the following:
· Senior Center will host “Coffee with Commissioners” from 10:00 A.M. – 11:00 A.M. on Friday, March 29, 2019, at the Lois E. Harrell Senior Center to allow seniors the opportunity to meet the Commissioners and ask any questions they may have.
· The Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative Conference 2019 will be held from 8:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. on Saturday, May 4, 2019, at Watauga High School.
The following spoke during public comment:
Mr. David Freireich with Harmony Lanes, a group started by his family advocating for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, requested the Board of Commissioners contact the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and show support to include provisions for walkers and bikers in the proposed plans for making improvements to the Bamboo/Wilson Ridge Road area. Mr. Freireich proposed that this would be a great time to consider starting an East Boone Connector for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Mr. Freireich stated that NCDOT had indicated that NCDOT would cover 80% of the cost with the remainder to be funded by the County and the Town of Boone. Mr. Freireich stated that he was not asking for funds at this time; however, it would save money in the future if such a project was incorporated in the planned improvements.
Mr. Jeremy Bouman with Hatchet Coffee stated that he witnesses many, including high school students, walking on the road daily. Mr. Bouman also advocated for safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Mr. Tim Herdklotz with Boone Shine Brewing Company also advocated for an East Boone Connector focusing on safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
County Manager Geouque stated that at a recent NCDOT meeting it was indicated that NCDOT did not have funds available for bike/pedestrian lanes and, if wanted, the County and Town would have to fund them. Mr. Geouque agreed that if they were incorporated now, they would cost less than to add later. Mr. Geouque stated that he would call Mr. Mike Pettyjohn with NCDOT to check on funding. Commissioner Wallin stated while at the public portion of the NCDOT meeting on the proposed improvements to the Bamboo/Wilson Ridge area, four NCDOT people said that NCDOT would cover the costs to build bike/pedestrian lanes if the County would maintain them. Mr. Freireich stated that Representative Ray Russell is looking for funding. It was mentioned that Mr. Cullie Tarleton, NCDOT representative for Watauga County, should be contacted as well.
After discussion and by consensus the Board directed the County Manager to submit a letter to NCDOT commenting on the proposed improvements to the Bamboo/Wilson Ridge area by the deadline date of March 8, 2019, to begin conversations including bike/pedestrian lanes to the proposed improvement plans.
At 9:40 A.M., Commissioner Wallin, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to enter Closed Session to discuss Attorney/Client Matters, per G. S. 143-318.11(a)(3).
Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to resume the open meeting at 11:43 A.M.
Commissioner Wallin, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to adjourn the meeting at 11:43 A.M.
John Welch, Chairman
Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board