WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 1999
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting on Tuesday, October 19, 1999 at 7:00 P.M. in the Cove Creek 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
Barry J. Reed, County Manager
Libby Link, Clerk to the Board
Chairman Hodges called the meeting to order at 7:00 P.M. welcoming those in attendance. In addition, Chairman Hodges voiced his appreciation for the prayers, cards and telephone calls he had received following the recent automobile accident in which he, his wife, Judy, and her sister, Linda Shoemake, were involved. He then turned the meeting over to Vice-Chairman Sweeting.
Vice-Chairman Sweeting asked County Manager Reed to introduce the Department Heads who were present at the meeting. The following Department Heads introduced themselves:
Rocky Nelson, Project on Aging Director
Sheriff James C. "Red" Lyons
Joe Furman, Planning & Inspections Director
Jim Harmon, Veterans Service Officer/Safety Director
Glenda Duncan, Data Processing Director
Bob Frye, Assistant County Manager/OSD
Larry McLean, Tax Administrator
Doris Isaacs, Finance Director
Carol Turner, Soil & Water Conservation
Robert Marsh, Maintenance Supervisor
Jane Hodges, Supervisor of Elections
Sue Counts, Cooperative Extension Director
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Vice-Chairman Sweeting suggested a change in the October 4, 1999 regular meeting minutes.
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to approve the October 4, 1999 regular meeting minutes with the amendment as discussed by Vice-Chairman Sweeting.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Vice-Chairman Sweeting called for additions or corrections to the October 19, 1999 agenda.
Commissioner Lawrence requested a change in Agenda Topic #8 (Consideration of a Citation Against Watauga Ambulance Service for Violating the Ambulance Franchise Ordinance) to include the alleged Violation of the Ambulance Franchise Ordinance. In addition, Commissioner Coffey requested an addition to the Agenda under Agenda Topic #16 (Miscellaneous Administrative Matters) to schedule a special meeting for the Board to review applications received for the County Manager position.
Chairman Hodges seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to approve the October 19, 1999 regular meeting agenda with the amendments.
PUBLIC HEARING – AMENDMENTS TO THE MANUFACTURED HOME PARK ORDINANCE AND ENACTMENT OF A NEW ORDINANCE ON MANUFACTURED HOME APPEARANCE STANDARDS
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, stated that at the Board’s September 7, 1999 regular meeting, the Board had moved to schedule this public hearing. The first consideration concerned amendments to the Manufactured Home Park ordinance with regards to density, screening and topography. Mr. Furman reviewed the current ordinance and discussed the proposed amendments.
The second issue for the Board to consider was adoption of a new ordinance "Manufactured Home Appearance Standards" which would establish appearance standards for new set-ups of manufactured homes. The standards would not apply to pre-existing manufactured homes. Mr. Furman reviewed this new ordinance stating it was not targeted for any particular communities, it was to be enforced throughout the County. In addition, each violation would subject the offender to a civil penalty in the amount of $100, however, Mr. Furman noted he would not expect any violations. Vice-Chairman Sweeting asked for public comments.
Ms. Candy Winebarger, a member of the County’s Planning Board, stated the Planning Board had discussed these ordinances at many of the Planning Board’s meetings. These were minimum ordinances that had been adopted by surrounding counties. In addition, she felt these ordinances would affect very few people.
Mr. Steve Hicks and Ms. Pamela Lunsford both spoke in opposition to the Manufactured Home Appearance Standards Ordinance.
There being no further public comment, Vice-Chairman Sweeting declared the public hearing closed at 7:30 P.M.
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to approve the amendments to the Manufactured Home Park Ordinance.
VOTE: Aye-2 (Kohles, Sweeting)
Nay-3 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence)
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to approve the Manufactured Home Appearance Standards Ordinance.
VOTE: Aye-2 (Kohles, Sweeting)
Nay-3 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence)
EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES
Dr. Clayton Dean addressed the Board regarding his concerns about the emergency medical services situation in the County. He noted there were two hospitals in the County and yet voiced his concerns that both facilities might not be capable of handling emergencies 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Vice-Chairman Sweeting asked Dr. Dean if he had contacted the Blowing Rock Board of Directors regarding this issue, and Dr. Dean stated he had not. Vice-Chairman Sweeting stated she would like Dr. Dean to address the Board of Directors at Blowing Rock Hospital regarding his concerns.
APPALACHIAN/BRIAN ESTATES’ REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL ASSISTED LIVING UNITS
Dr. Dan Meyer, Executive Director of Appalachian/Brian Estates (A/BE), requested approval to convert 32 apartments into assisted living units which would accommodate up to 48 assisted living residents in private and semi-private accommodations. He added A/BE would invest up to $100,000 in its current facility and expand its payroll by $100,000 providing new and upgraded jobs to the community. Dr. Meyer stated the average age of residents at A/BE had increased from 77 years of age to 84 years of age and many of those individuals required additional services. He noted the State had passed a moratorium on new assisted living beds until September 30, 2000 unless a Board of Commissioners requested an exemption to meet a substantial need. Dr. Meyer requested Board approval.
Ms. Sarah Massey spoke on behalf of Glenstone Health Care who opposed Dr. Meyer’s request. She noted there were two facilities in the County (one facility had 60 beds with 50%
occupancy, and the other facility had 36 beds with 30% occupancy). Ms. Massey felt that if this request was approved, it would affect the other County’s rest home facilities currently in existence.
Dr. Meyer stated those 96 beds were for a special clientele and that A/BE wanted to allow a private pay resident to remain at A/BE by providing a special facility for these individuals.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Chairman Hodges, moved to table further discussion on this request until the Board’s next regular meeting scheduled for November 1, 1999.
ADOPTION OF A MORATORIUM ON CERTAIN POLLUTING INDUSTRIES
Mr. Steve Byerly, representing Citizens Against Pollution (CAP) requested the Board adopt a County-wide moratorium on certain polluting industries in the County. The industries addressed in the proposed moratorium were asphalt plants, chip mills and diesel generating plants. Mr. Byerly stated CAP was comprised of newcomers to the area as well as people whose families had resided in the community for generations. He requested adoption of a moratorium presently for reasons including that there had been rumors of another asphalt plant locating in the western part of the County. Mr. Byerly mentioned the issue of a diesel generating plant proposed in the Deep Gap area that began in 1989. In addition, he voiced his concerns about the possibility of chip mills locating in the County particularly because there was a chip mill currently operating in Rutherford County.
Chairman Hodges asked Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, to explain what was entailed in the proposed moratorium. Mr. Furman stated the keys in the moratorium were they be for a set duration (usually 6-12 months), they must be adopted for good reasons (i.e. a threat to health and/or environment) and they could not be for a delay (there should be a contemplated end product, such as an ordinance or regulations). Although there had never been a moratorium against polluting industries, Mr. Furman felt that the Blue Ribbon Commission on Growth Issues would express their concerns about environmental issues, water quality, etc. Mr. Furman stated the Commission’s report would be presented to the Board within the next 6 weeks.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to impose a moratorium on asphalt plants, chip mills and diesel generating plants for a 6-month period.
CITATION AGAINST WATAUGA AMBULANCE SERVICE FOR THE ALLEGED VIOLATION OF THE AMBULANCE FRANCHISE ORDINANCE
Vice-Chairman Sweeting turned the meeting over to County Attorney Hedrick to proceed with questioning County Manager Reed with regards to the citation dated October 8, 1999 that had been issued to Watauga Ambulance Service, Inc.
County Manager Reed reviewed the ambulance service rates that had been approved by the Board which were documented in the Board of Commissioners’ Minutes dated January 3, 1995, April 18, 1995 and May 21, 1996. This documentation reflected an approved base rate of $115 as well as a mileage rate of $3.50 effective January 1, 1997. There was no further documentation in the Minutes of the County ever considering any additional rate increases. Mr. Reed testified that in reviewing the accounts receivable reports on Watauga Ambulance Service’s computers he had noted individuals had been charged a base rate of $145. Mr. Reed stated this increased base rate had started on August 27, 1997 and involved approximately 2,660 bills. When Mr. Reed discussed this charge with Tim Wilson, the President of Watauga Ambulance Service, Inc. Mr. Wilson had agreed to lower the base rate to $115, which was done on July 27, 1999. Mr. Reed answered questions from County Attorney Hedrick and Mr. Wilson’s attorney, R. Thomas Speed.
Mr. Wilson testified that he had located a memo dated April 9, 1996 (addressed to former County Manager, James Ratchford, and the Board of Commissioners). This memo requested a base rate increase of $30 for disposal supplies in order to get reimbursed by Medicare. Mr. Wilson indicated in the Memo that he would appear before the Board of Commissioners if so desired. Mr. Wilson testified that he never heard from Mr. Ratchford about appearing before the Board, so he thought it was alright to increase the base rate to $145. In addition, Mr. Wilson stated he discussed this rate increase with each of the Commissioners individually (who served on the Board at that time), and therefore, did not feel it was necessary to appear before the Board requesting approval of this rate increase. Mr. Wilson agreed that the County had not approved the increase in writing and that the Ambulance Service had been charging the $145 base rate from August 27, 1997 to July 27, 1999, with 2,660 bills issued during that period for an undetermined number of transports, in excess of 2,660.
Former Commissioners James Wilcox and Jack Wellborn testified that they felt the $30 base rate increase had been approved by consensus of the Board at a Board meeting held in 1996.
Commissioner Lawrence requested approval to address the Board. He stated that for the last 18 months, the Board had ruined the reputation of a person who had provided a good service. He added that Mr. Wilson had not misused County funds, and any rate discrepancies were between Watauga Ambulance Service and its clientele.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to ask Mr. Wilson to place advertisements in the local media during the next 30 days advising former clients that they could recoup any overcharges issued during the period of August 27, 1997 through July 27, 1999 from Watauga Ambulance Service, Inc. and that the Board pledge its commitment to be more attentive in the future with regard to the County’s ordinances and regulations.
Following brief discussion, Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to table further consideration of the citation against Watauga Ambulance Service.
WATAUGA MEDICAL CENTER CONTRACT RENEWAL FOR INMATE MEALS
Sheriff James C. "Red" Lyons stated the current contract with Watauga Medical Center (WMC) for providing inmate meals at the jail expired November 30, 1999. In addition, Sheriff Lyons stated he had received information from Correctional Foodservice Management (CFM) who would like to bid on this service, however, their current contract with Caldwell County expired May 19, 2000 and might not be renewed. In addition, CFM would only provide inmates with two hot meals per day. Sheriff Lyons wanted to bring this to the Board’s attention adding the information was available for review. Sheriff Lyons highly recommended renewing the contract with WMC. He added the inmates were satisfied with the meals, and there was no change in the prices for the meals provided daily. ($2.25 for breakfast, $4.25 for lunch, $4.25 for supper). Vice-Chairman Sweeting requested a change in the contract that any modified diets could be requested by a health care provider rather than by a physician. Sheriff Lyons stated he would amend the contract to reflect this request.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Chairman Hodges, moved to renew the contract with Watauga Medical Center for the meal provision to inmates at the County Jail commencing December 1, 1999 through November 30, 2000.
Vice-Chairman Sweeting declared a recess at 9:35 P.M.
The meeting resumed at 9:43 P.M.
SEWER LINE EASEMENT
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, requested the Board’s approval to grant an easement to the Town of Boone for an eighty (80) foot length of eight (8) inch line to be located on County property (for the sewer line across from the Hannah Building). Mr. Furman stated this was a formality and required Board approval to record the easement.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to approve this request.
REQUEST TO REMOVE ASBESTOS FROM THE OLD COVE CREEK SCHOOL
County Manager Reed stated the Board had amended the Cove Creek Preservation & Development, Inc.’s lease to include the cafeteria building since the Board of Education was no longer using the cafeteria. (This occurred at the Board’s July 12, 1999 regular meeting). Mr. Reed stated that when the CCP&D began work to repair the roof, they discovered asbestos. The CCP&D committee had requested the County pay for removal of the asbestos. Mr. Reed added that upon removal, the Board of Education had agreed to fix the roof. A quote was received from E. Luke Greene Company, Inc. which would cost $9,700 for the entire building or $6,200 just for the cafeteria. Maintenance Supervisor, Robert Marsh, stated the County did not know if the rest of the school had asbestos.
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to appropriate $9,700 from the contingency fund for removal of asbestos at the old Cove Creek School.
PARKS & RECREATION PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FUNDS APPROPRIATION
Mr. Stephen Poulos, Parks & Recreation Assistant Athletic Director, stated that at the Board’s October 4, 1999 regular meeting, the Board authorized Parks & Recreation Director, Deb Wynne, to apply for a Parks & Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) Grant. He requested the Board transfer $25,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund in order to get appraisals and site plans prepared for the grant application. Mr. Poulos added that if the County was awarded this PARTF grant, the County would be reimbursed for half of these planning costs if the amount spent did not exceed 15% of the park developmental cost.
Account # Description Debit Credit
109800-498021 Transfer to Capital Reserve 25,000
106125-469199 Cont. Services – Prof. Services 25,000
213980-398100 Transfer from Gen. Fund 25,000
219930-461200 Recreation Facilities 25,000
To recognize the transfer of funds from the Capital Reserve Fund to the Recreation Department budget for site plans and two appraisals to be performed as a requirement for the PARTF grant application process.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to approve this request.
CONSIDERATION OF RE-SCHEDULING THE BOARD’S JANUARY 3, 2000 REGULAR MEETING
At the Board’s October 4, 1999 regular meeting, the Board had voted to observe Monday, January 3, 2000 as the County’s New Year’s holiday. Therefore, County Manager Reed stated the Board needed to re-schedule its first meeting in January, 2000.
It was the consensus of the Board to change the meeting date to Tuesday, January 4, 1999 at 9:00 A.M. to be held in the Commissioners’ Board Meeting Room.
NEW AMBULANCE SERVICE CONTRACT AWARD
County Manager Reed stated the County received six bids for a new ambulance service contract. Mr. Reed added the Board needed to make a decision which contract to award, after which, County Attorney Hedrick would complete a franchise agreement. Vice-Chairman Sweeting asked Mr. Reed to give a synopsis of the bids that were received:
(Clerk’s note for clarification: Each bidder was asked to submit bids on three scenarios:
Scenario #1: The required County subsidy if only a $115 base rate was charged, $3.50 per mile, one way outside the County, and $25/hour waiting time after the first hour.
Scenario #2: The required County subsidy if the same charges were kept plus other fees and charges imposed by the holder of the franchise.
Scenario #3: The required subsidy and rates if the County did not regulate rates, fees and charges.)
Quality Care Ambulance Service
Scenario #1: Charges as specified - $730,800
Scenario #2: Same as #1
Scenario #3: $601,200 - This involved a 60-40 split with the County on fees over $400,000
Watauga Emergency Medical Services, Inc.
Scenario #1: Charges as specified - $697,474.44
Scenario #2: Base Charge $115 - $646,950.44
ALS Charge $200
Scenario #3: Base Charge $200 - $545,250.44
ALS Charge $300
Scenario #1: Charges as specified - $628,850
Scenario #2: $115 + $50 fee - $569,850
Scenario #3: $325 + $50 fee - $349,850
Johnson County Rescue Squad
Scenario #1: Charges as specified - $600,000
Scenario #2: $115 + fees - $600,000
Scenario #3: $550,000
Craig Sullivan & Lee Estep (employees of the current provider)
Scenario #1: Charges as specified – (A) $654,030
Scenario #2: $115 + fees – (A) $608,980
Scenario #3: $145 + fees – (A) $595,435
Note: (A) Two 24-Hour Crews
(B) Two 24-Hour Crews and a M-F Crew
Scenario #1: Charges as specified - $656,715 (plus $470,000 for start-up expenses)
Scenario #2: $175 - $578,703 (plus $470,000 for start-up expenses)
Scenario #3: $675 - $398,603 (start-up, the service broke even)
County Manager Reed noted the low bidder was the County but not if one considered the $470,000 start-up expenses. However, the County did have sufficient funds in the fund balance to cover these one-time expenses.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to award the new ambulance service contract to Sullivan and Estep for Two 24-Hour Crews plus an additional 9-Hour per day Crew.
Prior to the vote, the Board discussed the pros and cons of the County providing the ambulance service for County residents.
The following vote was then made on Commissioner Lawrence’s motion:
VOTE: Aye-3 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence)
Nay-2 (Kohles, Sweeting)
County Manager Reed stated a letter had been received from Region D Council of Governments that requested Judith Wesson’s re-appointment to the Watauga County Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee for a three-year term.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to re-appoint Judith Wesson to the Watauga County Nursing Home Community Advisory Committee as requested.
MISCELLANEOUS ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS
County Manager Reed had distributed a number of miscellaneous administrative matters for the Board’s information. None of these items required Board action. In addition, it was the consensus of the Board to conduct a special meeting (to be held in Closed Session) on October 27, 1999 at 7:00 P.M. to review applications received for the County Manager’s position. The meeting would be held in the Administrative Conference Room, County Courthouse.
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD
Mr. Council Main addressed the Board regarding the ambulance service issue. He felt the Board was trying to provide the very best ambulance service at the best price for County residents.
Mr. Sil Main asked the Board to explain the process for hiring a new County Manager. He voiced his concerns that County Manager Reed had resigned his position after serving for 9 months.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to adjourn the meeting at 10:24 P.M.
Elizabeth H. Link
Clerk to the Board