The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting on Tuesday, December 15, 1998 at 7:00 P.M. in the Board Room of the Watauga County Courthouse.


PRESENT: Jimmy Hodges, Chairman

Sue Sweeting, Vice-Chairman

James Coffey, Commissioner

Art Kohles, Commissioner

Jack Lawrence, Sr., Commissioner

Jeff Hedrick, County Attorney

James S. Ratchford, County Manager

Libby Link, Clerk to the Board


Chairman Hodges called the meeting to order at 7:00 P.M. welcoming those in attendance.


A moment of silence was observed.




Chairman Hodges called for additions or corrections to the December 7, 1998 regular meeting minutes.


Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to approve the December 7, 1998 regular meeting minutes as presented.


VOTE: Aye-5



Chairman Hodges called for additions or corrections to the December 7, 1998 closed session minutes.


Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to approve the December 7, 1998 closed session minutes as presented.


VOTE: Aye-5






Chairman Hodges called for additions or corrections to the December 15, 1998 agenda.


County Manager Ratchford stated Fire Marshal Lisa Shoun needed to update the Board on a land dispute and burning issue in the Matney area.


Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to approve the agenda for the December 15, 1998 regular meeting with the amendment.


VOTE: Aye-5





Chairman Hodges acknowledged there was a group of citizens from the Meat Camp area who were present opposing the County Planning Board’s approval of the plan for the Poplar Creek Estates Manufactured Home Park (located on Little Creek Road (NCSR 1335). On November 16, 1998, the Planning Board had reviewed and approved the mobile home park proposal being developed by owner, Doug Ross.


Mr. Ken Winebarger and Mrs. Candy Winebarger voiced their concerns that the Planning Board did not have the necessary information to make a determination of the impact that the mobile home park would have on the site. Mr. Winebarger presented a topographical map and stated that it would be very difficult to install the road as proposed without causing soil erosion problems. Mrs. Winebarger requested that the matter be remanded back to the Planning Board for further review and complained that the developer/owner had started the project without the proper approvals. Mr. Clifford Lester also voiced his concerns opposing the proposed mobile home park.


Mr. Alan Curtis, representative for the developer, Doug Ross, stated that they had complied with all the directives from the County Planning Board and were in compliance with the County’s ordinance governing mobile home parks.


Planning & Inspections Joe Furman stated the Planning Board approved the proposed mobile home park contingent upon the Planning Board staff monitoring the development and 1) road grade not to exceed 15%, submission and approval of an erosion control plan, road be slope staked, 2) Appalachian District Health Department approve septic system for units 9-14, 3) N.C. Department of Transportation approve driveway connection permit, 4) phasing road from entrance to cul-de-sac, stabilize before grading to continue for sites 6-14. Mr. Furman added that the Erosion Control Plan had been received and was being reviewed, and the Planning & Inspections staff was monitoring the progress.


After discussion, Commissioner Kohles seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting moved to remand the mobile home park plan proposal back to the County Planning Board to have additional engineering and surveying done to ensure that this proposed mobile home park would work as proposed.


VOTE: Aye-3 (Hodges, Kohles, Sweeting)

Nay-2 (Coffey, Lawrence)




Fire Marshal Lisa Shoun informed the Board about a burning and disposal problem in the Matney area. A number of residents had complained about a Mr. Angelo Accetturo landfilling and burning building debris on his property in that area. Ms. Shoun related the response from her department, the volunteer rescue squad and the State Air, Water Quality & Solid Waste Divisions. The burning had been stopped and the pollution contained. The property owner was subject to fines from all the agencies involved.


Ms. Shoun informed the Board that the County’s burning ban had been lifted on December 14, 1998.




Mr. Steve Allen, Grier-Fripp Architects, presented a feasibility study on the Watauga Correctional Center and County Law Enforcement Center buildings. Mr. Allen discussed several options and the costs involved for the Board’s consideration. This report was for the Board’s information prior to discussions on what sort of action to be taken by March, 1999 and to ensure sufficient funds were included in next year’s budget to cover the cost of renovations.




At the Board’s December 7, 1998 regular meeting, the Board requested Sheriff James C. "Red" Lyons explore options which included what the costs would be for preparing meals in the Law Enforcement Center’s kitchen. Sheriff Lyons presented a summary of estimated costs based on serving 30,000 meals per year. It was noted that 29,800 meals were served to inmates in 1997. The estimated cost for preparing meals in the Law Enforcement Center’s kitchen was $113,400, and the estimated cost for continuing to have meals prepared by Watauga Medical Center was $107,400. This estimated cost ($107,400) lacked transport and personnel costs. In addition, Sheriff Lyons stated he had contacted Project on Aging (POA) Director Rocky Nelson to see if meals could be prepared in the POA kitchen. He added that using POA’s kitchen would not be feasible due to snow days, holidays and weekends. Sheriff Lyons noted Watauga Medical Center had done a good job providing a complete package, and special meals could be requested for specific dietary needs.


After discussion, it was the consensus of the Board to continue the contract with Watauga Medical Center for meal preparation for inmates at the Law Enforcement Center.







Mr. Bryce Holder, Holder, Copeland & Associates, P.A. presented the County audit for the 1997/1998 fiscal year. This was for the Board’s information.




Finance Director Doris Isaacs addressed the Board regarding the County’s health insurance coverage for employees for the next calendar year. Notification of the renewal rates from January 1, 1999 was received the second week in November, 1998. Due to the substantial increase (approximately 60%) in renewal rates with the current insurance company, Trustmark, proposals were solicited from the following agencies:


Company Contact



BC/BS – NCACC Plan Bruce Hill

Carolina Insurance & Financial Services Evelyn Greene & Janet Hanks

Corporate Benefits Service Clay Gaist

BB&T Joy Coffey

Insurance Plus Paul Huffman


Ms. Isaacs stated the only response received for the health insurance coverage was from BC/BS. She noted several companies refused to quote explaining that they could not submit a competitive bid. One company could not respond within the requested time frame, and one company never responded. Ms. Isaacs indicated the County’s insurance committee had met to review the proposals received. It was the consensus of the committee to cancel the County’s coverage with Trustmark Insurance Company effective December 31, 1998 and recommended the Board approve the BC/BS proposal for health insurance coverage effective January 1, 1999. Ms. Isaacs stated the BC/BS proposal provided similar coverage to the County’s current medical plan and was considerably less expensive than Trustmark’s renewal rates. In addition, she requested approval of the following companies:


Company Type of Coverage



Ameritus Life Ins. Plan Dental Insurance

American United Life Ins. Co. Life, Accidental Death and Dismemberment and Dependent Life Insurance


Ms. Isaacs noted the proposed rates would require an additional $28,000 to fund the premium increase from January 1, 1999 through June 30, 1999. She noted employees with dependent health insurance coverage would also experience an increase in cost for their dependent coverage. County Manager Ratchford stated the Board should review the dependent coverage cost at budget time in order to make the dependent coverage more affordable for employees.


Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to approve the insurance coverage proposal submitted by Blue Cross/Blue Shield as presented and the budget amendment to cover the additional costs.


VOTE: Aye-5





Project on Aging Director Rocky Nelson stated notification was received that each of the County’s two senior centers was eligible to receive $13,245 through an appropriation from the 1998 General Assembly. The total of $26,490 required a local match of $2,944 which was present in the agency’s existing budget. Mr. Nelson stated the funds would be allocated as follows:


L.E. Harrill Senior Center



Wooden Safety Rails $ 1,000

Computer with Printer $ 2,400

Stereo Tuner $ 200

Grease Trap and Plumbing $ 2,500

Supplies and Operating Expense $ 8,617


(Included Programming, Instructors, and Supplies)



Western Watauga Community Center



Replace Sign $ 600

Replace Planters (Landscape Ties) $ 1,350

Replace Trees and Shrubs $ 1,200

Wooden Safety Rails $ 900

Repair Sub-Floor, Install New Carpet and Base Board $ 2,600

Treadmill $ 1,600

Supplies and Operating Expense $ 6,467


(Included Programming, Instructors, and Supplies)



Account # Description Debit Credit



103586-391000 State Sen. Ctr. Funding 26,490

105550-458000 Cap. Outlay-Bldg. 4,400

105550-435201 R & M – Bldg. 5,750

105550-455000 Equipment 4,000

105550-429200 Supplies 3,340

105550-469514 Contracted Ser.-Instructors 9,000


Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence moved to approve the grant application and the budget amendment with the funds to be used as stated.


VOTE: Aye-5





A. Medical Center Board Appointments – Chairman Hodges stated a question was raised at the Board’s last regular meeting regarding appointments made to the Watauga Medical Center Board of Trustees and asked County Attorney Hedrick for clarification. Mr. Hedrick stated he had reviewed the Bylaws, and found no significant cause for concern for the appointments that were made at the November 17, 1998 meeting. However, if the new members’ terms had not begun, the nominations could be rescinded at the discretion of the Board of Commissioners. Following discussion, it was decided not to pursue the matter further since the appointment letters had gone out, and the new members had already attended a hospital board meeting.


B. AppalCart Public Hearing Date – Chairman Hodges stated a public hearing was necessary to review the AppalCart grant funding proposal for next fiscal year.


Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to schedule this public hearing for the January 4, 1999 regular meeting.


VOTE: Aye-5



C. EMS Committee Status – County Manager Ratchford stated this committee was originally established in July, 1995 as an ad-hoc committee with a 2-year sunset clause. The purpose of this committee was to review problems which arose in the delivery of emergency medical services throughout the County. Since the time frame had elapsed, the Board needed to review the need for this committee and decide if it was still needed.


Mr. Lawrence Caples from the Meat Camp community suggested this committee broaden its purpose by considering appointing members of the public at large, requesting audits from medical service providers, working with Region D Council of Governments to consider the procedures for billing Medicare, and to review the County providing its own medical services.


It was noted that Mr. Caples’ suggestion was not what this committee was designed for. After discussion, it was the consensus of the Board for County Attorney Hedrick and County Manager Ratchford to review options for reestablishing this committee and perhaps form a new committee to review medical services provided for County residents.


D. Announcements – County Manager Ratchford reminded the Board of the employee Christmas luncheon scheduled for December 17, 1998 from noon until 2:00 P.M. at the Dan’l Boone Inn.


A recess was declared at 9:24 P.M.




Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to enter closed session at 9:31 P.M. to discuss: Attorney/Client Matters – G.S. 143-318.11(a)(3), Landfill Litigation.


VOTE: Aye-5


Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to resume the regular meeting at 10:28 P.M.


VOTE: Aye-5





Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to adjourn the meeting at 10:28 P.M.


VOTE: Aye-5






Jimmy Hodges








Elizabeth H. Link

Clerk to the Board