WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1998
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting on Monday, February 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.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Chairman Coffey called for additions or corrections to the January 20, 1998 regular minutes; there being none, they were approved as presented.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Commissioner Craig, seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to approve the agenda for the February 2, 1998 regular meeting as presented.
VOTE: Aye – 5
Nay – 0
PUBLIC HEARING – COUNTY GOVERNMENT
HIGHLAND INTERNATIONAL CDBG PROJECT
Chairman Coffey opened a Public Hearing at 9:02 A.M. to close out the Highland International grant project.
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, addressed the Board and stated this had been a successful project, and the Board needed to formally close out this project. Mr. Furman stated Highland International had refinanced their loan and the outstanding loan funds had been repaid to the State.
There being no comments from the general public, Chairman Coffey declared the public hearing closed at 9:04 A.M.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Hodges, motioned to close out this project.
VOTE: Aye – 5
Nay – 0
GOVERNOR’S VOLUNTEER SUMMIT
Ms. Jennifer Herman, OASIS Director, addressed the Board and discussed a Governor’s Volunteer Summit which was held January 21-22, 1998 in Greensboro, N.C. Ms. Herman stated approximately 1500 North Carolinians attended this Summit which was declared the "Year of the Volunteer". Ms. Herman stated Vice-Chairman Lawrence served on this local committee and the County’s delegation would meet again on February 10, 1998 to start working with solving volunteerism in the community. Ms. Shirley Edwards also addressed the Board and spoke of the County’s Volunteer Outreach Center which was located in the Appalachian Enterprise Center and sponsored by the United Way. Ms. Edwards stated this Center had been in existence less than a year, and its purpose was to inform potential volunteers of different organizations within the community where individuals could offer their services. Ms. Herman stated she appreciated the Board’s support for this effort.
Mr. Roanoke Hopper addressed the Board about concerns he had regarding the Seven Devils Property Owners Association rebuilding the dam located above Mr. Hopper’s home. Mr. Hopper stated he had contacted Raleigh twice and the Army Corps of Engineers and had not discovered who had allowed this dam to be rebuilt. Mr. Hopper explained he had been evacuated from his home three times due to cracks in the dam. Mr. Hopper felt that rebuilding this dam was very dangerous for all the citizens in the Foscoe community. Mr. Hopper did not know if the Commissioners could do anything to stop the reconstruction of this dam but felt compelled to voice his concerns. Mr. Hopper presented a letter to the Board that he had written to the Governor regarding this issue, however, to date had not received a response.
Mr. Frank Aldridge, Chief of Foscoe VFD, also voiced his concerns about the dam and stated that he felt peoples’ lives were in danger.
After discussion, the Board agreed to write a letter to the State to voice their concerns about the dam reconstruction and its potential impact on the citizens in the Foscoe community. The Board also wished to discuss this issue further at the next regular meeting scheduled for February 17, 1998.
Prior to discussing the moratorium information, Chairman Coffey asked for a brief report from Fire Marshal, Lisa Shoun, regarding the State of Emergency which was declared on the evening of January 27, 1998. Ms. Shoun stated a curfew was established at 11 PM that evening through January 29, 1998 at 8:00 AM. Ms. Shoun stated the curfew was asked for by the Highway Patrol, and the curfew enabled DOT to get the roads cleared quicker which was better for everyone. Ms. Shoun stated emergency shelters were prepared, and fortunately there were no injuries or fatalities reported due to this storm. Ms. Shoun stated snow accumulations were reported to be 26-42" throughout the County. Commissioners Lawrence and Hodges stated Ms. Shoun needed to inform the citizens why a curfew was issued, and that the curfew needed to be more clarified. Ms. Shoun stated she would work with the Highway Patrol on this issue.
Commissioner Craig seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, motioned to write letters of appreciation to all the volunteers who had helped during this storm acknowledging all their hard work.
MORATORIUM INFORMATION & AIR QUALITY ISSUES REPORT
Co-President of Citizens Against Pollution, Lee Stroupe, presented information which he stated authorized the Board to declare a moratorium to stop the proposed asphalt plant (Maymead Materials, Inc.) off Roby Green Road. Mr. Stroupe stated that at the last regular Board meeting, the Board delayed making a decision about the moratorium, and the Citizens Against Pollution urged a vote on a moratorium today. Chairman Coffey stated the Board would prefer to have information provided prior to the Board meetings in order to adequately review the material. In addition to Mr. Stroupe, other citizens Pam Williamson, Ralph Grosswald and Hunter Schofield addressed the Board and spoke of their concerns.
The Board asked County Attorney, Stacy Eggers, to report on information they had requested from the prior meeting (the temporary moratorium passed by Buncombe County). County Attorney Eggers stated he had contacted Buncombe County (Joe Connelly and Keith Snyder) and received information about the temporary moratorium. Mr. Eggers stated Buncombe County’s situation was different from Watauga County’s, because they had a separate air pollution board. In addition, Mr. Eggers stated Buncombe County’s moratorium was about to expire, and they do not know what the commissioners may do upon expiration. Mr. Eggers stated he had also contacted David Owens, Institute of Government, to receive information. Mr. Eggers stated after receiving all information, he suggested the Board cooperate with the State and the Citizens Against Pollution by writing a good professional letter to the State explaining the Boards’ concerns along with the Air Quality Issues resolution that he and the County Manager had written. Mr. Eggers stated he felt this resolution adequately addressed the issues at this time.
After discussion, Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, motioned to adopt the Air Quality Issues resolution and to include a letter to the State which voiced the Boards’ concerns about the health of the County’s citizens. Commissioner Craig added that the letter to the State should specify that the State impose their own statutory requirements as conditions to ensure protection of the public health.
RESOLUTION BOOK #9, PAGE #26
A recess was declared at 10:50 A.M.
The regular meeting was resumed at 10:58 A.M.
WATAUGA AMBULANCE ANNUAL REPORT
Watauga Emergency Medical Services Director, Tim Wilson, presented the Ambulance Service’s annual report for January 1 – December 31, 1997. Mr. Wilson stated that calls had increased over the past year; the number of out of county transports had decreased, and the number of no-transports had increased.
TAX OFFICE REPORT
A. Monthly Collections Report – Tax Administrator, Larry McLean, presented the Tax Collections Report for the month of January, 1998.
B. Refunds and Releases – Tax Administrator McLean presented the following Refunds and Releases Report for January, 1998 for Board approval:
TO BE TYPED IN MINUTE BOOK
Commissioner Craig seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved to approve the Refunds and Releases Report as presented.
C. Tax Liens Report – Tax Administrator McLean requested to advertise the report of taxes that were liens on real estate in the County. Mr. McLean stated the total outstanding tax bills as of 1/30/98 was $1,148,611.90.
Commissioner Wellborn seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to advertise the outstanding liens.
D. Appraisal Software Bid – Tax Administrator McLean stated the Tax Office advertised for bids in 12/97 for new appraisal software, and only one bid was received: Cole Layer Trumble Company for $119,257. Mr. McLean stated the bid included all items requested, and the Tax Office felt comfortable with the bid. He further stated that another system, CRS, was investigated and determined to be insufficient to meet the County Tax Office needs.
Commissioner Hodges seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, motioned to accept the Cole Layer Trumble Company bid.
E. Tax Revaluation Schedule – Tax Administrator McLean stated that the next revaluation was scheduled to take effect for January 1, 2001. However, Mr. McLean stated that due to some delays in the listing and collections software vendor’s original product development schedule, Mr. McLean requested the Board approve an amended revaluation schedule calling for a seventh year revaluation to take effect on January 1, 2002. Mr. McLean stated this would allow the Tax Office to get through the installation and training on the new tax software before starting the revaluation process.
After discussion, Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved to approve the amended Tax Revaluation Schedule as presented.
MISCELLANEOUS ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS
A. New Procurement Rules – County Manager, Jim Ratchford, stated the State Legislature had enacted new laws amending the procurement rules for local governments. The new rules allow greater flexibility in purchasing apparatus, supplies and materials and in some cases, disposal of public property. The following was staff’s recommendations for the Board’s consideration.
NEW PROCUREMENT RULES
Formal Bidding of apparatus, supplies,
materials & equipment $30,000 (or more) Bd. Approval
Informal Bidding of above $ 2,500-$30,000 w/Bd. Approval
Construction/Repair Contracts – No Change--------------------------------------------------
General Provisions Piggybacking Allowed
Informal Disposal of Property Up to $5,000
Bid Bonds Required Waivers allowed for motor vehicle
Commissioner Hodges seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved to adopt the new procurement rules as recommended by staff.
B. Boards and Commissions – Chairman Coffey noted the following board member term had expired: Joe Robinson, III, Watauga County Parks & Recreation Commission. Two names were submitted from the Town of Boone: Joe Robinson, III and Butch Cook.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wellborn moved to re-appoint Joe Robinson, III to the Watauga County Parks & Recreation Commission.
C. Budget Amendments – Finance Director, Doris Isaacs, presented the following budget amendments for Board approval:
Account # Description Debit Credit
103991-399101 Fund Bal. Approp. New $3,248
103586-384000 Misc.-Donations 125
105550-451000 Cap. Outlay-Equip. $3,373
To reappropriate funds donated to the Watauga County Project on Aging to acquire program equipment for the new Senior Center. These funds were not expended during the previous fiscal year and rolled to the June 30, 1997 fund balance. Additional donations of $125.00 have been received since July 1, 1997.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved to approve the above budget amendments as presented.
D. Interim Chief ACO – Assistant County Manager/OSD, Bob Frye, addressed the Board and stated that the Chief Animal Control Officer, Jon Townsend, had been on sick leave since the first of this year and would remain out of work for an indefinite period of time.
Mr. Frye recommended the Board appoint Dave Simpkins as interim Chief Animal Control Officer until Mr. Townsend returned to work. Mr. Frye stated Mr. Simpkins had done an outstanding job and recommended he receive a 5% increase in salary while performing the increased duties.
Commissioner Wellborn seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to approve this request.
E. Announcements – County Manager Ratchford noted that the N.C. Association of County Commissioners’ District Meeting would be April 30, 1998 from 9:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. in Statesville, N.C.
Mr. Ratchford also noted that a capital improvement planning session would be conducted at the next regular Monday morning meeting similar to what was done last year.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved to enter closed session at 11:37 A.M. to discuss: Personnel matters – G.S. 143-318.11(a) (6).
Dr. Ron Jarrett, Director of Extension’s West Piedmont District, addressed the Board and stated three candidates were interviewed on January 7, 1998 to fill the Cooperative Extension Director position vacated by Gene Brewer. Dr. Jarrett recommended that the Board hire Ms. Sue Counts based on her qualifications and presentation. Dr. Jarrett stated that the Extension Service was also recommending the Board hire a new experienced Christmas tree agent. Dr. Jarrett stated that although there was a hiring freeze in the Extension Service, he planned to discuss this situation with his supervisor to hire a Christmas tree agent as soon as possible. Due to the personnel changes, there should be sufficient funds to hire an agent to provide services for Christmas tree growers.
After discussion, Dr. Jarrett introduced Ms. Sue Counts to the Board. Ms. Counts introduced herself to the Board and stated that she was real excited about accepting this position and looked forward to serving the community. Ms. Counts answered several questions from the Board.
Commissioner Wellborn seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence moved to resume the regular meeting at 12:05 P.M.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Craig, moved to approve hiring Sue Counts as the Cooperative Extension Director.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Craig, moved to adjourn the meeting at 12:08 P.M.
Elizabeth H. Link
Clerk to the Board