WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2020
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting, as scheduled, on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 5:30 P.M. remotely with the meeting originating in the Commissioners’ Conference Room located in the Community Room of the Community Recreation Center, Boone, North Carolina.
Chairman Welch called the remote electronic meeting to order at 5:37 P.M. The following were present:
PRESENT: John Welch, Chairman
Billy Kennedy, Vice-Chairman
Charlie Wallin, Commissioner
Larry Turnbow, Commissioner
Perry Yates, Commissioner
Anthony di Santi, County Attorney
Deron Geouque, County Manager
Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board
Commissioner Wallin 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 October 6, 2020, regular meeting and closed session minutes.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to approve the October 6, 2020, regular meeting minutes as presented.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to approve the October 6, 2020, closed session minutes as presented.
Approval of Agenda
Chairman Welch called for additions and/or corrections to the October 20, 2020, agenda.
County Manager Geouque requested to add consideration of a resolution in support of “Ski Well Be Well” and a proposed Golden Leaf Foundation Grant to provide a local kill-chill facility for processing meat.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to approve the October 20, 2020, agenda as amended.
Public Hearing to Allow Citizen Comment on the Submission of an Application for 2020 Community Development Block Grant Funds for the Coronavirus Program
Two public hearings were required for the grant and the first hearing was held on October 6, 2020.
Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Vice-Chairman Kennedy, moved to call the public hearing to order at 5:41 P.M.
The NC Department of Commerce recently announced the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Program (CDBG-CV). The grant was on a first-come-first-serve basis and Watauga County was eligible for up to $900,000. Mr. Furman has been soliciting potential projects with several agencies/organizations and working with a committee including Ms. Michelle Ball, High Country Council of Government, Ms. Melissa Soto, W.A.M.Y. Community Action, and Ms. Marti Phillips, High Country United Way.
Mr. Furman stated that the proposed program for which an application for CDBG-CV funds would be submitted consists of three (3) components as follows. 1) Subsistence payments for rent, mortgage, utilities to prevent eviction, foreclosure, or service disconnection which could also include funds to establish/continue internet service, in areas where service currently exists, for a defined time period; 2) Food distribution; and 3) Mental health services. Mr. Furman stated that the program areas would address the issues caused by COVID-19 of loss of income, isolation or increased need for connectivity, and anxiety or depression, etc. Program partners would include High Country United Way, W.A.M.Y. Community Action, Hospitality House, Daymark Recovery Services, and Watauga County Project on Aging. Grant preparation and grant compliance administrative assistance would be provided by High Country Council of Governments, other administration by W.A.M.Y. Community Action, and High Country United Way.
Mr. Furman presented the following tentative budget:
Food Distribution: $200,000
Mental Health Services: $100,000
There was no public comment; however, written public comments would be accepted in regards to the public hearing through Wednesday, October 21, 2020.
Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to close the public hearing at 5:46 P.M.
[Clerk’s Note: No public comments were received by the deadline of Wednesday, October 21, 2020.]
Mr. Furman presented a proposed “Resolution for Watauga County Application for Community Development Block Grant Funding for the Watauga COVID Relief Project.” The resolution would authorize staff to submit a formal application for the grant funding.
Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Vice-Chairman Kennedy, moved to adopt the “Resolution for Watauga County Application for Community Development Block Grant Funding for the Watauga COVID Relief Project.”
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Community Update
Ms. Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare Director, provided an update on the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The report was for information only and, therefore, no action was required.
Project on Aging Annual Report
Ms. Angie Boitnotte, Project on Aging Director, presented the Fiscal Year 2020 annual comprehensive evaluation of the agency’s operations and policies as required by the NC Division of Health Service Regulation.
Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to accept the Project on Aging’s Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report as presented.
A. Monthly Collections Report
Tax Administrator, Mr. Larry Warren, presented the Tax Collections Report for the month of September 2020. The report was presented for information only and, therefore, no action was required.
B. Refunds and Releases
Mr. Warren presented the Refunds and Releases Report for September 2020 for Board approval:
TO BE TYPED IN MINUTE BOOK
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to approve the Refunds and Releases Report for September 2020 as presented.
Proposed Inmate Catastrophic Insurance Contract
County Manager Geouque, on behalf of Ms. Misty Watson, Finance Director, presented the contract renewal with Insurance Management Consultants for catastrophic insurance. The insurance shields the County from large medical claims that occur while inmates are being housed in the Watauga County Jail. Mr. Geouque stated that rates were based on inmate population which was reduced during the past year due to COVID-19. The proposed contract with Insurance Management Consultants, Inc. for catastrophic insurance coverage was in the amount of $36,896, which was a $5,494 decrease from the previous year, with a $10,000 deductible. Adequate funds are available to cover the contracted cost.
Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to renew the contract with Insurance Management Consultants, Inc. for catastrophic insurance coverage in the amount of $36,896 with a $10,000 deductible.
proposed Golden Leaf Foundation Grant to Provide A Local Kill-Chill Facility for Processing Meat
County Manager Geouque presented a proposed project for the Golden Leaf Northwest Sector Community Based Grant Initiative program to create and construct new facilities for livestock slaughter and processing in Watauga County. The goal of the project was for Watauga County to provide the location for a local “kill-chill” facility as well as leveraged funding for the construction of a USDA certified facility to meet the demand of local and regional producers. Mr. Geouque stated that the County had already been considering working with Cooperative Extension to construct a kill floor near the County’s Sanitation Department. Having the facility located at the Sanitation Department would also help with long-term composting recycling needs.
The County Manager stated that the County planned to partner with the Town of Boone if grant funds were received as water and sewer would be required for the “kill-chill” facility.
Commissioner Yates, seconded by Vice-Chairman Kennedy, moved to direct the County Manager to proceed with the proposal and grant application as presented.
Miscellaneous Administrative Matters
A. Proposed Resolution in Support of “Ski Well Be Well”
The County Manager presented a proposed resolution in support of the “Ski Well Be Well” model which will provide the best safety practices for local Ski Resorts to open and operate in a safe and responsible manner during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner Wallin, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to adopt the resolution as presented.
B. New Community Recreation Center Update
The County Manager Geouque presented an update regarding the new Community Recreation Center (CRC). Mr. Geouque stated that the County was disappointed that the CRC hadn’t yet opened due to COVID-19 restrictions, including the Governor’s Statewide Phase III restriction of thirty percent (30%) occupancy. Mr. Geouque stated that staff was considering a phased opening and Parks and Recreation had already brought back soccer and pickleball. Mr. Geouque stated that the swimming pool would most likely be the last to open as it would cost the most to operate and had the most risks involved. The facility would have to be staffed correctly as well.
Mr. Geouque stated that the County began running ads to hire staff in February and had to stop due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though there were no major issues with the building, punch list items needed to be completed. Staff has planned to move into the facility on October 23. Mr. Geouque stated that it would take approximately two months to open once the hiring process began which would allow time for running ads, hiring, and training new employees. With it being a new facility, not established prior to COVID-19, staff has been cautious when making the decision to open. Also, Ms. Jennifer Greene, the Director of AppHealthCare, and Ms. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, had expressed concerns.
Representatives of local swim teams had recently sent several emails to the Board (as listed on the County’s website under public comments) requesting to use the pool for practice only; not meets at this time. Lengthy discussion was held in regards to opening the pool only for swim team practices.
After discussion, the Board agreed, by consensus, to direct the County Manager to get more information from and continue conversations with Ms. Jennifer Greene and to determine the staffing needs required to bring the swim team in for practices.
C. Boards and Commissions
County Manager Geouque presented the following for consideration:
Board of Adjustment
The terms of Alyson Browett (Valle Crucis Historic District), current Chair; John Prickett (Howard’s Creek Watershed), current Vice-Chair; Emily Bish (Foscoe Grandfather Community), Alternate, were set to expire in November. All were willing to continue to serve for an additional three (3) year term. New General Statute NCGS 160D for planning makes no mention of representation of each zoned/regulated area; however, Mr. Joe Furman, Planning and Inspections Director, had indicated that would probably be a good idea when possible or “practicable” per the former statute.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to waive the second reading and reappoint Ms. Alyson Browett, Mr. John Prickett, and Ms. Emily Bish to three (3) year terms on the Watauga County Board of Adjustment.
County Manager Geouque announced that, due to the Commissioners’ Board Room being an official polling site on Election Day, the November 3, 2020, regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners had been cancelled. The next regular meeting of the Board would be on Tuesday, November 17, 2020, at 5:30 P.M.
The Board agreed, by consensus, to hold the meeting remotely, through Zoom, with the Board of Commissioners meeting in person at the Community Recreation Center.
Chairman Welch stated that written comments were made, submitted, and made available to view on the County’s website and at the County Manager’s Office.
[Clerk’s Note: Written comments were received by the 5:00 P.M. deadline on October 19, 2020, from the following: Ms. Anne Ward, Mr. Chip Williamson, Mr. Witold Kosmala, Ms. Mary Sheryl Horine, Ms. Jami Kent, and Mr. John Whitehead.]
At 7:03 P.M., Commissioner Wallin, seconded by Vice-Chairman Kennedy, moved to enter Closed Session to discuss Attorney/Client Matters, per G. S. 143-318.11(a)(3) and Personnel Matters, per G. S. 143-318.11(a)(6).
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to resume the open meeting at 7:51 P.M.
Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:51 P.M.
John Welch, Chairman
Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board