The Watauga County Board of Commissioners attended a special meeting on Tuesday, September 28, 2010, in the Broyhill Room at Broyhill Inn, ASU, Boone, NC.  Those present were:  Vice-Chairman Winkler, Commissioner Cooper, Commissioner Futrelle, Commissioner Kinsey, County Manager Nelson, Deputy County Manager Geouque, Clerk to the Board Fogle, and Planning & Inspections Director Furman.  Others present were as follows:


  • Appalachian State University:  Board of Trustees member John Cooper (also a County Commissioner); Interim VC for Business Affairs Greg Lovins; Director of External Affairs, Susan McCraken; Physical Plant Director Michael O’Connor; and Ed Miller
  • Town of Beech Mountain:  Mayor Rick Owen and Council Member Rick Miller
  • Town of Blowing Rock:  Mayor J. B. Lawrence; Council Members Doug Matheson, Jim Steele, and Phil Pickett; Town Manager Scott Hildebran; Town Clerk Sharon Greene; Planning Director Kevin Rothrock; and Doug Chapman
  • Town of Boone:  Mayor Loretta Clawson; Mayor Pro Tem Lynne Mason; Council Members Andy Ball, Jamie Leigh, and Rennie Brantz; Town Manager Greg Young; Public Works Director Blake Brown; Public Utilities Director Rick Miller; Town Attorney Sam Furgiuele; and Deputy Town Clerk Kim Brown
  • Town of Seven Devils:  Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Copley and Council Members Richard DeMott and David Ehmig; and Town Manager Ed Evans
  • High Country Council of Governments:  Planning Director Phil Trew
  • Others:  Frank Gioscio, North Carolina Department of Transportation; Dr. Marty Hemric, Watauga County Superintendant of Schools; Dr. Lee Warren, Watauga County Board of Education Member; and Mr. Scott Nicholson with the Watauga Democrat


The joint meeting was called to order at 5:37 P.M.


            Mr. Phil Trew, High Country Council of Governments, welcomed everyone and called for introductions.


Update on North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Projects


Mr. Frank Gioscio, NCDOT Boone Resident Engineer, gave an update on various DOT road construction projects in the County as follows:


Current projects


The US 321 widening project between Blowing Rock and Lenoir began in 2005 with an original completion date scheduled for August 2008.  The new estimated completion date for this 6.5 mile approximately $65,000,000 project is November 2011.


The King Street widening project began in July 2009 and has an estimated completion date of July 15, 2011.  The approximate $15,000,000 project was currently on schedule.


The NC 194 reconditioning project from Valle Crucis to the Avery County line was to begin in October 2010.  The approximate $7,400,000 project was to bring safety improvements to the highway.


Various bridge replacement projects were scheduled including the replacement of three bridges on Hwy 194 in Vilas at an approximate cost of $881,000. 


Approximately $3,500,000 was budgeted for various resurfacing projects including West King Street and US 221 near Blowing Rock.


Future Projects


The 4.5 mile widening project of US 321 from the Shoppes on the Parkway to Blackberry was scheduled to begin in March 2011.  The project was estimated to cost between $50,000,000 and $60,000,000 and completion was scheduled to take approximately three years with right-of-way acquisitions currently underway.


A widening project for US 221 from Deep Gap to Jefferson was scheduled to begin in 2013 and was to be completed in several phases with the first to be from US 421 to Idlewild Road.


A Federal Aid program was to fund several systematic bridge replacements throughout the State.


At the conclusion of Mr. Gioscio’s report, Mr. Trew announced that the first meeting of the Committee formed (as a result of direction at the last Intergovernmental Retreat) to develop a Comprehensive Transportation Plan overseen by the High Country Council of Governments was scheduled for October 7, 2010. 


Watauga High School Initiatives


Dr. Marty Hemric, Watauga County School Superintendant, gave an update on the County’s School System.  Dr. Hemric reported that seven of the County’s eight elementary schools earned recognition as Schools of Distinction and Blowing Rock Elementary School earned recognition as the number one elementary school in the State and as a School of Excellence for the school year of 2009-2010.  Dr. Hemric reported that students did an excellent job at Watauga High School where a composite score for the 2009-2010 school year of 88.7 was accomplished.  This was all accomplished during a school year that boasted 26 snow days and 5 less calendar days than originally scheduled.


Dr. Hemric stated that innovative skills, arts education, and physical education were among skills that were highly valued by Watauga County as well.  Every K-8 classroom now had a Smartboard and every Watauga High School student now had a laptop issued to them throughout their high school career.  The High School had wi-fi on the entire campus and several area businesses were also onboard by posting “Pioneer IT” signs where wi-fi was available for students.


The “Pioneer IT” program was part of the global learning design in the Watauga County School System that also allowed a Green Valley Elementary School class to interact and work on a project with students in Chile while Hardin Park and Mabel Elementary School students worked on local projects together within the County.


Dr. Hemric stated that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction received a “Race to the Top” grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which centered on improving teaching effectiveness, increasing the graduation rate, and improving low-performing schools.  Watauga County was to receive $80,000/year for four years through the Race to the Top grant program to fund professional development to meet the goals of the grant.  Watauga High School's graduation rate was currently 82% which was a 13% increase over the past two years but still was not good enough.


Report on the Appalachian State University (ASU) College of Education Building


Mr. Greg Lovins, ASU Vice-Chancellor for Business Affairs, reported that construction on the new College of Education building was expected to be completed in the summer of 2011.  The 124,000 square foot building was located at the corner of East Howard and College Streets.  Hickory Construction was the general contractor for the $35,000,000 project.  The new building was to house offices and classrooms for the College of Education and was to offer wi-fi along with three computer labs.  Approximately 2,800 students were enrolled in teacher education programs at ASU.


ASU/Boone Water System Interconnect


 Mr. Lovins also reported on the ASU/Town of Boone Water Interconnect Project which was mandated by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to improve water security.  ASU had a 360 million gallon reservoir off Rainbow Trail and a 2,000,000 gallon per day water treatment plant which underwent state-of-the-art upgrades in 2006.  ASU also had a 500,000 gallon tank on Howard’s Knob.  Mr. Lovins stated that the average demand at ASU was 400,000 gallons of water per day.  The interconnect which was located on Hardin Street near the entrance to ASU cost $310,000 which was split evenly between ASU and the Town of Boone.  The interconnect held the capacity to exchange 1,000 gallons of water per minute between the two systems in case of an emergency, thereby providing security to both systems.


Boone/Blowing Rock Water System Interconnect


 Mr. Scott Hildebran, Blowing Rock Town Manager, stated that the Town started looking for an additional water supply source in 1998, met with the Town of Boone in 2004 to discuss an Interconnect System and entered into an Interlocal Agreement with the Town of Boone in 2008.  The project included a 24,800 liter line which consisted of 5 miles of 12 inch pipe; a pumping station on ASU property adjacent to Payne Branch; and improvements to the fire hydrant system.  The approximate $3,600,000 project included funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Rural Center, Town of Blowing Rock, Watauga County and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The interconnect, which was to be used for emergency purposes only, had an anticipated completion date of November 1, 2010.


Town of Boone New Water Intake Project


Mr. Greg Young, Boone Town Manager, and Mr. Rick Miller, Boone Public Utilities Director, gave a report on the Town’s new Water Intake Project.  Mr. Miller stated that the Town began a water study and began looking for an additional water supply source in 2004.  Several options were studied with an intake on the New River near the Watauga and Ashe County lines deemed the most feasible.  The Town purchased 10 acres along the river for the intake which was to be located underneath the river bed so as not to interfere with wildlife, boats, and the recreational use of the river.  A $25,000,000 bond referendum was approved by Boone voters in 2009 for the project.  The project was to include intake, 15 miles of transmission pipe, and upgrades to the existing water treatment plant. 


Mr. Young reviewed funding for the project which included a $450,000 Rural Center grant, a $1,800,000 USDA grant, and $2,388,000 in the form of a USDA loan with interest at 3.25% and a term of 40 years.  The Town had to prepare an environmental assessment in order to qualify for USDA funding but recently received notice that funding was awarded.  Mr. Young stated that the Town has also systematically been increasing water rates to afford debt service for the general obligation bonds.  The next step involved was to have the New River reclassified by DENR to allow for water withdrawal, a process which could take two years; however, at this time the project is moving forward.


Discussion on Future Retreat Topics


            Mr. Trew stated that the next Intergovernmental Retreat was scheduled for March 2011; however, a meeting could be called if needed prior to that time.


            The meeting was adjourned at 7:13 P.M.


Jim Deal, Chairman




Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board