WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1999
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting on Tuesday, November 16, 1999 at 7:00 P.M. in the Bethel Elementary School cafeteria.
PRESENT: Jimmy Hodges, Chairman
Sue Sweeting, Vice-Chairman
James Coffey, Commissioner
Art Kohles, Commissioner
Jack Lawrence, Sr., Commissioner
Jeff Hedrick, County Attorney
Libby Link, Clerk to the Board
Chairman Hodges called the meeting to order at 7:00 P.M. welcoming those in attendance.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Chairman Hodges called for additions or corrections to the November 1, 1999 regular and closed session meeting minutes as well as the November 10 and 11, 1999 special meeting minutes.
Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to approve the November 1, 1999 regular and closed session meeting minutes and the November 10 and 11, 1999 special meeting minutes as presented.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Chairman Hodges called for additions or corrections to the November 16, 1999 agenda.
Commissioner Coffey requested consideration of appointments to the Watauga Medical Center Board of Trustees and the Northwestern Regional Housing Authority Board to be discussed under Agenda Topic #10 (Miscellaneous Administrative Matters). In addition, Commissioner Coffey requested a closed session following the Board’s regular meeting to discuss: Personnel Matters – G.S. 143-318.11(a)(6).
Vice-Chairman Sweeting noted the current members’ terms on the Watauga Medical Center Board of Trustees did not expire until December 31, 1999, therefore, she requested tabling discussion until the Board’s regular meeting to be scheduled in December, 1999.
It was the consensus of the Board to concur with Vice-Chairman Sweeting’s request and to approve the November 16, 1999 regular meeting agenda with the amendments.
Chairman Hodges asked the following County Department Heads to introduce themselves:
Larry McLean, Tax Administrator
Mary Vivona, Computer Programmer/Analyst (Data Processing)
Sheriff James C. "Red" Lyons
Rocky Nelson, Project on Aging Director
Joe Furman, Planning & Inspections Director
Deb Wynne, Parks & Recreation Director
Jim Harmon, Veterans Service Officer/Safety Director
Jim Atkinson, Social Services Director
Doris Isaacs, Finance Director
Donna Harmon, Administrative Assistant (Soil & Water Conservation)
Chairman Hodges stated this was the sixth and last Board meeting to be held in various communities throughout the County during the past year. He felt the community meetings enabled individuals to voice their concerns and hoped the Board would continue conducting community meetings next Spring.
SOCCER FIELD PROPOSAL
Mr. Chip Callahan representing the High Country Soccer Association (HCSA) addressed the Board stating the HCSA had a plan to purchase property to be used for soccer in the County. He added that Mr. Joe Mertes, President of the HCSA had spoken with Parks & Recreation Director, Deb Wynne, regarding this venture. In order to receive funding for this purpose, the HCSA wished to apply for a grant from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) for up to $250,000. Mr. Callahan noted that approximately 1,000 children participated in soccer events. He requested the Board write a letter of support to the USSF stating the following: 1) The County’s Parks and Recreation Department and the HCSA have worked well together, and at some point in the future, the HCSA would be considered to take over the recreation soccer program if the County decided that was the course it would like to take; 2) The County understood that recreation players would use the field and would work together for scheduling recreation practices and games; and 3) The County and the HCSA would work very closely in the future in the preparation and maintenance of current fields. The HCSA was not asking for a financial commitment from the County for this grant, but requested a letter of support for this project.
Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to write a letter of support to the United States Soccer Federation listing the three considerations as indicated.
WATAUGA COUNTY EMERGENCY RESCUE SQUAD EQUIPMENT REQUEST
Mr. Randy Collins, Chief of the Watauga County Emergency Rescue Squad (WCERS), addressed the Board requesting $60,000 to replace its 21-year-old ambulance and $12,000 for a defibrillator. Mr. Collins explained that the company that manufactured this ambulance was no longer in business, and therefore, he felt the ambulance was no longer worth repairing. Mr. Collins added the County had budgeted $24,000 to the WCERS for the current fiscal year. In addition, the WCERS had recently purchased a used 1986 Mack truck for its crash truck and had financed $70,000 to pay for it. Due to this recent purchase, the WCERS needed assistance to pay for the ambulance.
Commissioner Kohles made a motion to appropriate $60,000 for an ambulance and $12,000 for a defibrillator to the Watauga County Emergency Rescue Squad.
Prior to the vote, several Commissioners voiced their concerns that if this request was approved that the County’s other volunteer fire departments might address the Board for additional funding. Mr. Collins stated the WCERS covered 85% of the County and received $24,000 County funding. In addition, the WCERS conducted fundraisers each year to supplement its budget. Mr. Collins stated the WCERS had requested additional funding from the Town of Boone but its requests were always declined. He reiterated the need for this additional funding so that the WCERS would be able to provide service to County residents.
The following vote was then made on Commissioner Kohles’ motion:
VOTE: Aye-2 (Kohles, Sweeting)
Nay-3 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence)
Chairman Hodges seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to appropriate $48,000 to the Watauga County Emergency Rescue Squad contingent on the Town of Boone’s appropriation of $24,000.
FOSTER CARE COMMITTEE UPDATE
At the Board’s April 12, 1999 meeting, the Board requested DSS Director, Jim Atkinson, to report to the Board in six months regarding the formation of a task force to explore possible solutions relative to the County’s foster care concerns. Mr. Atkinson introduced Ms. Peri Struss, Chair, Foster Care Task Force, and reviewed a progress report (dates the committee had met, members of the task force as well as a summary of discussions and issues to date). Mr. Atkinson added the committee had reviewed the resolution drawn by the League of Women Voters. He stated the resolution and recommended changes would be discussed when the task force gave its final report to the Board. Mr. Atkinson added this Task Force had been very productive and would continue to meet in an effort to provide a good foster care program for County residents.
COMPUTER NETWORK SYSTEM PROPOSAL
DSS Director, Jim Atkinson, had addressed the Board at its November 1, 1999 regular meeting regarding this proposal, and he reviewed additional information with the Board (the current computer assets and needs at DSS). Mr. Atkinson felt the proposal which was received from the N.C. Department of Commerce Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) was the most efficient and cost effective way to proceed. He added this system would be capable of expanding to network all County departments. Mr. Atkinson noted that ITS was a State agency and not a "for profit agency". He stated there were sufficient funds in the DSS budget to cover the current year cost of the proposal ($49,357.80 first year total) and ($48,468.80 each year after the first year) for a three year lease. Mr. Atkinson explained that training and additional technical support costs were estimated at $7,200-$14,040 annually.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to approve this request for a three year lease.
Prior to the vote, discussion occurred regarding the costs for a one year or two year lease rather than a three year lease. Mr. Atkinson stated he felt the three year lease was the most cost efficient. Chairman Hodges asked Mr. Atkinson if the County approved a new computer system County-wide, if ITS would offer a more attractive rate. Mr. Atkinson had not reviewed that possibility with ITS, however, stated he needed to get a system in place at DSS as soon as possible. He added, the equipment would be Y2K compliant and requested the Board’s approval. Chairman Hodges requested Mr. Atkinson contact ITS before this proposal was finalized to see if ITS would offer the County a lower price if the proposal included all County departments. Ms. Mary Vivona, Data Processing Computer Programmer/Analyst, stated she felt that request would have to be approved by the new County Manager. Ms. Vivona added the County currently owned 130 computers being maintained by herself and the Data Processing Director. She felt that installing a new County-wide system was not possible at this time.
The following vote was then made on Commissioner Lawrence’s motion.
BOND RATING UPGRADE
Finance Director, Doris Isaacs, addressed the Board concerning the County’s Bond rating upgrade. Ms. Isaacs had been notified that Moody’s had upgraded the rating on the outstanding general obligation debt of the County to A1 from A2 which affected approximately $23 million in debt securities. The rating, which carried a stable outlook, reflected the County’s strong economic base anchored by Appalachian State University and a growing tourist-based economy, consistently strong financial performance, and modest debt levels. This item was for the Board’s information.
BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION ON GROWTH ISSUES REPORT DATE
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, stated the Blue Ribbon Commission on Growth Issues had completed its work and requested the Board schedule a date in December or January for a 15 minute presentation to be made by members of this Committee. It was the consensus of the Board to delay scheduling a date for this presentation until the Board’s December meeting (date to be determined).
SUBDIVISION PERFORMANCE GUARANTEE
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, stated the Planning Board had approved a final plat for PCL Properties. He reviewed a Standby Irrevocable Letter of Credit in the amount of $144,000 issued by High Country Bank which enabled PCL Properties to assure that the paving and graveling of the roads at Timber Creek in Blowing Rock were completed. Mr. Furman added County Attorney Hedrick had reviewed the Letter of Credit, and Mr. Furman requested the Board’s approval.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to approve the Standby Irrevocable Letter of Credit for PCL Properties.
AMBULANCE SERVICE FRANCHISE AGREEMENT DISCUSSION
Vice-Chairman Sweeting asked County Attorney Hedrick the status on the items he had requested from Mr. Craig Sullivan and Mr. Lee Estep to finalize the ambulance service franchise agreement. The items due from the Franchisee were 1) The bond, letter of credit, or other "undertaking" (performance and indemnity bonds or, on a temporary basis, a deed of trust); 2) Audited financial statements of the applicants; 3) Copies of certifications for the ambulances to be used; 4) Name and address of owners of ambulances and equipment to be used; 5) Franchisee’s "fiscal year"; 6) Sample liability and umbrella insurance policies. Mr. Hedrick stated he had received a letter from High Country Bank indicating an Irrevocable Letter of Credit (as the guarantee required by the franchise agreement) would be issued to Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Estep (hopefully by November 19, 1999). In addition, he reviewed the items which were due from the Franchisee in order to finalize the contract. Mr. Hedrick stated he had written letters and spoken to Mr. Sullivan’s and Mr. Estep’s attorney, John Kilby, and it appeared that the contract that Mr. Hedrick had drafted was acceptable. Mr. Hedrick stated he did not anticipate any problems with its finalization by December 3, 1999.
Vice-Chairman Sweeting stated she would prefer the contract be finalized within 48 hours. In addition, she asked Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Estep if they would be able to run the service by December 3, 1999 and they stated yes.
Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Estep stated they had been in constant contact with County Attorney Hedrick in order to get the contract finalized. In addition, they presented Articles of Incorporation under the name of Watauga Medics, Inc. and requested the Board’s approval of the name change (the bid proposal was submitted under the names of Craig J. Sullivan and Lee M. Estep). Vice-Chairman Sweeting agreed to the name change if the contract could be finalized within 48 hours. She voiced her concerns that the County needed to provide ambulance service to residents no later than December 3, 1999. Vice-Chairman Sweeting requested the Board conduct a special meeting on Friday, November 19, 1999 at 7:00 A.M. in the Commissioners’ Board Meeting Room in order to finalize the contract.
Commissioner Kohles asked Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, how long it would take for the County to operate the ambulance service. Mr. Furman estimated it would take the County eight weeks to operate at paramedic level (if all went well), because it would be necessary for the County to get the licenses to dispense drugs (at paramedic level).
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to approve the name change to Watauga Medics, Inc. and assignment approval to be effective on County Attorney Hedrick’s receipt of assurances and certifications satisfied to him of ownership and control of the corporation established exclusively by Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Estep with further contingency that Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Estep would remain personally liable until a Bond or Letter of Credit was in place to cover the liability.
VOTE: Aye-4 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence, Sweeting)
Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to schedule a special meeting for November 19, 1999 at 7:00 A.M. in the Commissioners’ Board Meeting Room, County Courthouse, to finalize the ambulance franchise agreement.
Prior to the vote, Commissioner Lawrence stated he had a prior commitment and would not be able to attend the meeting.
VOTE: Aye-4 (Coffey, Hodges, Kohles, Sweeting)
BOARDS & COMMISSIONS
James D. Wilcox’s term expired December 12, 1999 on the Northwestern Regional Housing Authority Board, and an appointment needed to be made prior to the expiration date.
Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to appoint Carl Roten to the Northwestern Regional Housing Authority Board effective December 12, 1999.
VOTE: Aye-2 (Kohles, Sweeting)
Nay-3 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence)
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Chairman Hodges, moved to appoint Billy Martin to the Northwestern Regional Housing Authority Board effective December 12, 1999.
VOTE: Aye-3 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence)
Nay-2 (Kohles, Sweeting)
The following members terms expired in November, 1999 on the Watauga County Board of Adjustment: Bill Ragan (Howard’s Creek Watershed), Carolyn Aldridge (Foscoe/Grandfather) and Allen Dale Mast (Valle Crucis). Chairman Hodges called for nominations to fill these positions. Since these individuals did not wish to be re-appointed and no nominations had been received, the Board agreed to discuss at a future meeting. Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, stated these terms expired in November, 1999 and requested the Board extend these terms until new appointments were made.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to extend the terms of Bill Ragan, Carolyn Aldridge and Allen Dale Mast to the Watauga County Board of Adjustment until new appointments were made.
DECEMBER BOARD MEETING DATE(S)
In some years past, the Board had cancelled one of its regular meetings in December due to conflicts with the holidays.
Following discussion, Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to cancel the Board’s December 6, 1999 regular meeting and to conduct its December meeting on December 21, 1999 at 7:00 P.M. in the Commissioners’ Board Room, County Courthouse.
REGION D COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS FUNDING RESOLUTION
Region D Council of Governments (COG) requested approval of a resolution which, if approved, would release State funds ($10,302.84) to Region D COG for economic development assistance to local governments.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to approve this resolution.
RESOLUTION BOOK #10, PAGE #10
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD
Mr. Randy Collins (who had addressed the Board earlier in the meeting) asked the Board if they would commit to the $48,000 County appropriation (as previously discussed) regardless if the Town of Boone approved the $24,000 appropriation to the Watauga County Emergency Rescue Squad (WCERS). Mr. Collins asked the Board to amend the motion that if the WCERS could raise the additional $24,000 that the Board would commit to the $48,000 appropriation.
Chairman Hodges seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to approve this amendment to the motion as requested.
Mr. Sil Main addressed the Board regarding the EMS Advisory Council. He felt this Council should be represented by individuals throughout the County – not just the Blowing Rock Hospital and Watauga Medical Center.
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to enter Closed Session at 8:30 P.M. to discuss: Personnel Matters, Discussion Concerning Hiring a New County Manager – G.S. 143-318.11(a)(6). Following a brief recess, the Board entered Closed Session at 8:37 P.M.
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting moved to resume the regular meeting at 8:50 P.M.
Prior to adjournment, Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to grant a 2% merit increase to Clerk to the Board, Libby Link, and Personnel Assistant, Darcy Moore, retroactive to July 1, 1999.
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:52 P.M.
Elizabeth H. Link
Clerk to the Board