The Watauga County Board of Commissioners attended a special meeting on Monday, September 28, 2009, in the Helen Powers South Room at Broyhill Inn, ASU, Boone, NC. Those present were: Chairman Deal, Vice-Chairman Winkler, Commissioner Cooper, Commissioner Futrelle, County Manager Nelson, Deputy County Manager Geouque, Clerk to the Board Fogle, and Parks and Recreation Director Poulos. Others present were as follows:
  • Blowing Rock: Town Manager Scott Hildebran; Council Members Keith Tester, Albert Yount, Tommy Klutz, and Phil Pickett; Town Clerk Sharon Greene; Emergency Services Director Kent Graham; and Planning Director Kevin Rothrock
  • Appalachian State University: Dr. Lorin Baumhover, Mr. Greg Lovins, and John Cooper
  • Town of Boone: Mayor Loretta Clawson; Mayor Pro Tem Lynne Mason; Council Members Janet Pepin, Jamie Leigh, Rennie Brantz and Stephen Phillips; Town Manager Greg Young; Town Attorney Sam Furgiuele; Interim Director of Development Services Jim Byrne; Public Works Director Blake Brown; and Deputy Town Clerk Kim Brown
  • High Country Council of Governments: Phil Trew, Planning Director and Kelly Coffey, Senior Planner
  • Town of Beech Mountain: Town Manager Randy Feierabend and Recreation Director Eric Jelinski
  • Town of Seven Devils: Town Manager Ed Evans
  • Others: Eric Woolridge with the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority and Melanie Marshall with the Watauga Democrat
The joint meeting was called to order at 5:10 P.M.
            Mr. Phil Trew, High Country Council of Governments, welcomed everyone and called for introductions.
Healthcare Systems in Watauga County
            Appalachian Regional Healthcare System
Mr. Richard Sparks, President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, reviewed their corporate structure which included a service area covered by Watauga Medical Center, Blowing Rock Hospital, and Cannon Memorial Hospital. Mr. Sparks stated that over the next two years the System strived to be financially healthy, provide extraordinary care, and provide opportunities for all members to excel.
Mr. Sparks reviewed the System’s strategic goals for 2010-2011 which included the major initiatives of expanding the Behavioral Healthcare System at Cannon Memorial Hospital and replacing the Blowing Rock Hospital facility. The new Blowing Rock Hospital was planned with a clinic which was to house on-site physicians and serve as an urgent care facility.
Dr. Godwin, Chief Medical Officer, stated that there were currently 85 patients at Blowing Rock Hospital.
Mr. Sparks gave a briefing on healthcare reform.
            Appalachian State University Nursing Program
            Dr. Lorin Baumhover gave an overview of Appalachian State University’s Nursing Program and Health Services Curriculum plans. He stated that 15,000 applications were received for the current year with 2,775 freshmen slots available. The University had 950 transfer students and almost 2,000 graduate students. The University was working toward student on-campus student housing which was currently available to 34% of the population. The overall student population boasted an average GPA of 3.9 and SAT of 1163 and stated that the University was the third highest in the UNC System. The instate population was at 86% with 22% of enrollees being first generation college students.
            The University’s Nursing Program began in 2006 and now has a chairman, 5 faculty members, and a number of part-time staff. The Program has had 60 graduates with 2 having been recognized in the top 100 nurses in North Carolina and one out of five continuing with graduate school. The second phase of the program was to be a BSN program and the third, a MSN program. 
            The future College of Health Sciences was to include the second and third phases and the University was in the process of hiring the founding Dean for the College. The College was also to include social work; food and nutrition; healthcare management; communication disorder; and health and exercise.
            Dr. Baumhover stated that the University and Appalachian Regional Healthcare System had an outstanding working relationship.
            Mr. Greg Lovins stated that, in the spring of 2008, the General Assembly approved $4,200,000 for the College of Health Sciences building; however, by the fall of 2008 the University learned that the funding had been withdrawn. A committee was working on a preliminary plan for the facility.
Recreation Projects/Programs
            Open Discussion
            There was no open discussion at this time.
            Watauga County Tourism Development Authority
            Mr. Eric Woolridge, Outdoor Recreation Specialist with the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority (TDA), gave a presentation on the TDA’s current activities. Mr. Woolridge stated that the Watauga County TDA, which was governed by a six-member Board, was currently developing a ten year plan with several outdoor recreational activities to be a focus. The plan’s objectives included diversity; connectivity; partnering; event quality and quantity; and the development of unified signage and infrastructure design at recreational activity locations within the County. Mr. Woolridge stated that the TDA’s recreational initiatives included mountain biking, multi use greenways; road cycling; paddle trails; rock climbing; fishing; hiking and backpacking; equestrian pursuits; and disc golf.
            Town of Boone
            Mr. Blake Brown, Public Works Director with the Town of Boone, stated that the Town operated four parks and the Town of Boone Greenway. Mr. Brown gave a history on the Greenway Trail which currently included 4.8 miles of trail. The Town owned 80+ acres dedicated to green space and leased 20 acres to Watauga County for active recreational activities. The Town was also working on a “Walk Boone” mapping initiative.
            Town of Blowing Rock
            Mr. Scott Hildebran, Town Manager of Blowing Rock, stated that Blowing Rock was currently focusing on the replacement of its current pool which was 50 years old. Mr. Hildebran stated that, through various funding sources including a $500,000 PARTF grant, the Town anticipated the completion of the new pool by the summer of 2010. The new pool was to feature a zero entrance, deck area, and public restrooms.
            Town of Seven Devils
            Mr. Ed Evans, Town Manager of Seven Devils, reviewed the recreational activities available within Seven Devils. Mr. Evans stated that the Bear Paw State Natural Area Conservatory was recently created, part of which was located within the Town limits, however, due to budgetary shortfalls, no final plans had been made by the State for development or access to the area. Mr. Evans stated that the Town hoped to have trails to access the area from Seven Devils soon. Mr. Evans stated that the Town’s Recreation Committee had marked and mapped walking routes along Town streets which were rated by how strenuous they were. The Town had also acquired two tennis courts which were renovated and currently being utilized. Mr. Evans also reviewed the privately-run recreational activities that were offered by Hawksnest which included snow tubing, ziplines, and spectator viewing of downhill biking and cyclocross events.
            Town of Beech Mountain
            Mr. Eric Jelinski, Recreation Director for the Town of Beech Mountain, stated that Beech Mountain wanted to enhance recreation through people, parks, and play. Mr. Jelinski stated that Beech Mountain operated the Buckeye Recreation Center, four parks, 22 miles of hiking trails, a sledding hill for which man-made snow was produced, picnic shelters, and fishing docks. The Town of Beech Mountain had raised $40,000+ through fund raisers for the construction of a new playground as well. Mr. Jelinski also stated that program guides had been developed for advertising purposes. 
            The meeting was adjourned at 7:05 P.M.
Jim Deal, Chairman
Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board