The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting, as scheduled, on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, at 5:30 P.M. in the Commissioners' Board Room of the Watauga County Administration Building, Boone, North Carolina.


                        PRESENT:      John Welch, Chairman

Billy Kennedy, Vice-Chairman

Larry Turnbow, Commissioner

                                                Charlie Wallin, Commissioner

                                                Perry Yates, Commissioner

                                                Anthony di Santi, County Attorney

                                                Deron Geouque, County Manager

                                                Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board


Chairman Welch called the meeting to order at 5:32 P.M.


Commissioner Yates opened with a prayer and Vice-Commissioner Kennedy led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Approval of Minutes

Chairman Welch called for additions and/or corrections to the October 1, 2019, regular meeting, closed session, and special meeting minutes.


Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to approve the October 1, 2019, regular meeting minutes as presented.


VOTE:  Aye-5



Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to approve the October 1, 2019, closed session minutes as presented.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Approval of Agenda

Chairman Welch called for additions and/or corrections to the October 15, 2019, agenda.


County Manager Geouque requested to add a presentation prior to the public hearing by Ms. Susan Sweet regarding the creation of a quilted wall hanging for the new Community Recreation Center.


Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to approve the October 15, 2019, agenda as amended.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Presentation of Quilted Wall Hanging for the New Community Recreation Center

Ms. Susan Sweet shared information regarding the quilted wall hanging Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild is making for the new Community Recreation Center.  Ms. Sweet shared that the two center squares of the quilt will feature the Watauga County seal and the Parks and Recreation Seal.  The surrounding squares will feature the following areas of the County based on Zip Code and Fire Departments:


Beech Mountain

Blowing Rock


Deep Gap

Foscoe (includes Seven Devils & Hawksnest)

Meat Camp

Sugar Grove (includes Cove Creek)


Triplett (includes Stewart Simmons)

Valle Crucis




Vice-Chairman Kennedy stated that Bethel was missing.  Commissioner Yates suggested adding Shawneehaw to the Valle Crucis square.  Ms. Sweet also asked about the Aho area.  Since she had two squares unspoken for, Ms. Sweet stated that she would place Aho and Bethel in those squares.  Vice-Chairman Kennedy volunteered to make a chestnut frame for the quilt.


County Manager Geouque stated that the Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild volunteered to make the quilt for the wall hanging.  The quilters working on the project are:  Susan Sweet, Patty Blanton, Kathy Hill, Georgia McKenzie, Pat Miller, Jill Sanders, Charlene Wilson, Gail Brandt, Adrienne Sherrow, Melinda Wright, Barbara Piquet, Susan Payne, Colleen Eskridge, and Jacki Ratledge.

Public Hearing to Allow Citizen Comment on Proposed Changes to the Valle Crucis Historic District Ordinance

Chairman Welch stated that a public hearing was scheduled to allow citizen comment on proposed amendments to the Valle Crucis Historic District Ordinance.


Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to call the public hearing to order at 5:41 P.M.

VOTE:  Aye-5



Mr. Joe Furman, Planning and Inspections Director, gave the following information regarding the proposed amendments:


The Board of Commissioners requested a text amendment be made to the Valle Crucis Historic District Ordinance.  The Planning Board had thirty days to review the proposed amendment and determine if it is consistent with the Citizens' Plan for Watauga and provided a written recommendation addressing plan consistency in accordance with NCGS§1 53A-344.  The Planning Board provided the Plan Consistency Statement to the Board of Commissioners prior to the Public Hearing in accordance to NCGS§1 53A-341.


Mr. Furman stated that the proposed amendments do not mention a specific location.


The Valle Crucis Historic Commission also had thirty days to review the proposed amendments.  The Commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the proposed amendment not be adopted. The primary reasons for this action included: 1) that amending the ordinance to exempt public schools from the area, height, placement, and performance standards of the ordinance would set a precedent for future similar amendments for other uses; 2) that schools should be held to the same standards as other uses to which several of those in attendance, including some Commission members, had been held in the past; 3) that the ordinance to date has effectively preserved the Historic District as described in Section 1.1 (Purposes) of the ordinance, and that adoption of the proposed amendment would undermine those purposes to accommodate construction of a large, new, modern building within the District; and 4) since the local District is also a National Register of Historic Places District, the proposed amendment will not serve it well.


Prior to adopting or rejecting any proposed amendment, the Board of Commissioners is required to adopt a Statement of Plan Consistency and explain why the Board considers the action taken to be reasonable and in the public interest.  The plan consistency statement is required by NCGS §153A-341.  


Mr. Furman stated that the Board of Commissioners may take one of the following actions after the public hearing:  approve the application; approve a modified version of the application; deny approval of the application; or take no action.


By the request of the Board, Mr. Furman stated that comments during the public hearing should be held to the proposed text amendments and not the proposed location for a new Valle Crucis School.


The following shared comments on the proposed amendments to the Valle Crucis Historic District Ordinance:


Tuesdae Rice

Audra Thompson

Kelli Mayhew

Mitch Mayhew

Francis Pressley

Ron Henries

Lyle Schoenfeldt

Todd Rice

Frank Barry

Bill Pressley

Mason Heistand

Amber Cooper

Jill Flood

John Barry

Charles Clement

Catherine Barry

Erin Kiser

Mary Jane Major Klingeman

Molly Barry

Susan Misili

Kelli Crymes

Davis Crymes

Dr. Matt Goodrich

Ron Goodrich

Susan Hazlewood

Mark Read

Liz Lanham

Bob Gates

Matt Duval

Ben Jones

Emily Schefield


Anna Goodrich

J. D. Dulley

Eddie Mio


Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to close the public hearing at 6:47 P.M.


VOTE:  Aye-5



After comments from members of the Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Turnbow moved to table consideration of the amendments until a future meeting to allow time to review comments.  The motion died due to a lack of a second.


Chairman Welch tabled consideration of the amendments until the next meeting which has been rescheduled, due to the Election, from Tuesday, November 5, to Wednesday, November 6, at 8:30 A.M.


Chairman Welch also encouraged the public to attend the Board of Education’s public meeting on Tuesday, October 22, at 6:00 P.M. at Valle Crucis Gym at which time public comment on the new Valle Crucis School will be welcome.


Chairman Welch recessed the meeting at 6:55 P.M. for a short break.  Chairman Welch reconvened the meeting at 7:05 P.M.

National Weather Service Presentation

Mr. Phil Hysell, NWS Blacksburg Warning Coordination Meteorologist, gave a presentation celebrating Watauga County as a StormReady County.


Mr. Hysell gave background information on the StormReady program which began in an effort to promote severe weather preparedness in 1999.  Since then, over 2,300 counties, communities, universities, tribal nations, commercial enterprises, government offices and military installations have been recognized.


Eligibility guidelines are based on population and include the following:  establishing a 24-hour Warning Point (WP) and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) with redundant methods of receiving warnings and relaying them to the public; ensuring hazardous weather is addressed in Emergency Response Plans; providing education and outreach about hazardous weather; maintaining a strong working relationship between the emergency manager and the local National Weather Service Forecast Office; and ensuring EOC/WP is able to monitor local weather observation data for hazardous conditions. 

Mr. Hysell encouraged citizens to get NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radios to keep informed of severe weather events.


Mr. Hysell presented Emergency Services Director, Mr. Will Holt, with a StormReady Community certification on behalf of Watauga County officially becoming a StormReady County on September 4, 2019.  Mr. Hysell stated that it has been a privilege to work with Mr. Holt.

Sheriff’s Office Radio Purchase Request

County Manager Geouque stated that the Sheriff’s Office had requested to purchase eight (8) new radios for patrol vehicles.  The radios were to be placed in newly purchased vehicles for the current fiscal year.  The cost per radio is $5,273.56 for a total cost of $42,188.50.  Adequate funds were included in the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget to cover the expenditure. 


Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to approve the purchase of the eight (8) new radios in the amount of $42,188.50 as requested.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Project on Aging Matters

A.  Annual Report


Ms. Angie Boitnotte, Project on Aging Director, presented the Fiscal Year 2019 annual comprehensive evaluation of the agency’s operations and policies as required by the NC Division of Health Service Regulation.


Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to accept the Project on Aging’s Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report as presented.


VOTE:  Aye-5



B.  Request to Accept FY 2020 Senior’s Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) Grant/Contract


Ms. Angie Boitnotte, Director of Project on Aging (POA), presented the FY 2020 grant/contract for the Senior's Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP).  The grant is in the amount of $4,722 and requires no County funds.  The funds are used to provide assistance and outreach to low-income citizens.


Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to accept the Senior's Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) grant in the amount of $4,722.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Tax Matters

A.  Monthly Collections Report


Tax Administrator, Mr. Larry Warren, presented the Tax Collections Report for the month of September 2019.  The report was presented for information only and, therefore, no action was required.


B.  Refunds and Releases


Mr. Warren presented the Refunds and Releases Report for September 2019 for Board approval:




Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to approve the Refunds and Releases Report for September 2019 as presented.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Proposed Bank Services Renewal

Ms. Misty Watson, Finance Director, presented a three-year contract renewal with First National Bank which included no major changes.  Ms. Watson stated that the County has received excellent service from First National Bank through Ms. Mary Louise Roberts.


Commissioner Wallin, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to approve the bank services contract renewal to First National Bank for a three-year term to expire June 30, 2022.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Proposed Resolution Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of The Passage of The Nineteenth Amendment to The Constitution of The United States and Founding of The League of Women Voters

Chairman Welch presented a resolution, as requested by the League of Women Voters, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.


Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to adopt the resolution as presented.


VOTE:  Aye-5



Chairman Welch requested the adopted resolution be forwarded to the League of Women Voters.

Miscellaneous Administrative Matters

A.  Recommended Contract Awards for Employee Medical, Dental, and Life Insurance


County Manager Geouque stated that renewal rates have been received for medical, dental, and life insurance benefits.  The initial renewal rate received from CIGNA for medical insurance was a 21.58% increase.  Further negotiations and analysis of additional claims was provided allowing for a 10.61% reduction.  Staff received quotes from MedCost and Blue Cross Blue Shield.  United HealthCare declined to quote.  The final and lowest rate received by the County was from CIGNA with a 10.97% increase.


The initial renewal rate submitted by CIGNA for dental insurance was a 10% increase.  Ameritas Dental provided a 3% rate reduction.  Life insurance premiums through Symetra Financial will remain unchanged due to the current rate lock.


County Manager Geouque stated that staff recommended CIGNA’s Level Funding plan for the County’s medical insurance plan with a 10.97% increase and for the County to fund $1,000 into each employee’s HSA account.  Staff further recommends Ameritas Dental with a three percent (3%) rate reduction.


Adequate funds have been budgeted to cover the renewal rates.


Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to:


·       approve CIGNA’s Level Funding medical plan with a 10.97% increase; and

·       fund $1,000 into each employee’s Health Savings Account (HSA); and

·       approve Ameritas Dental with a 3% reduction for dental.


VOTE:  Aye-5



B.  Boards and Commissions


County Manager Geouque shared the following for consider:


Board of Adjustment

The terms of David Hill, current Chairman, and Chuck Phillips, current Vice-Chairman, are set to expire in November.  Both are willing to continue to serve for an additional three (3) year term.  Both are at-large appointees.  The Board is in the process of scheduling a meeting for the first or second week in December. In the event appointments have not been made by that time, Mr. Hill and Mr. Phillips would continue to serve until re-appointed or replaced.


Volunteer applications have been received from Mr. Hill as well as Mr. Lee Stroupe and Ms. Edith Tugman, both of whom are also interested in serving.  Mr. Stroupe and Ms. Tugman are first readings.  Mr. Hill and Mr. Phillips are both second readings.


Consideration was tabled for further review.


C.  Announcements


County Manager Geouque announced the following:


·       Due to the Commissioners’ Board Room being an official polling site on Election Day, the November 5, 2019, regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners has been rescheduled to Wednesday, November 6, 2019, at 8:30 A.M. in the Commissioners’ Board Room.


·       The Watauga County Board of Education will hold a work session at 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, in the Gymnasium of Valle Crucis Elementary School.  The Board will hear presentations from their attorney and architect regarding the due diligence evaluation of property currently under contract by the Board for the construction of a new school in Valle Crucis.

The Board of Education invites the public to attend and encourages citizens to participate in the public comment portion of the meeting.  This is an informational meeting only and no action will be taken.


Chairman Welch stated that the public work session was a Board of Education event.

Public Comment

The following spoke during public comment:


Tuesdae Rice

Audra Thompson

Todd Rice

Kelly Mayhew

Eddie Mayo

Mason Clement Eason

Bob Gates

Lyle Schoenfeldt


Kathryn Barry

Charles Clement

Erin Kiser

Frank Barry

Susan M

Bill Pressley

Ben Jones

Chairman Welch stated that it was an exciting time as this will be the first elementary school built in twenty-six years and stated that everyone can come together to make an incredible impact.  Chairman Welch encouraged citizens to be a part of the process by sending emails, calling, even by stopping Board members in the grocery store, and by attending the upcoming Board of Education public meeting on October 22.

Closed Session

At 8:22 P.M., Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Wallin,  moved to enter Closed Session to discuss Attorney/Client Matters, per G. S. 143-318.11(a)(3) and Land Acquisition, per G. S. 143-318.11(a)(5)(i).


VOTE:  Aye-5



Commissioner Wallin, seconded by Vice-Chairman Kennedy, moved to resume the open meeting at 8:47 P.M.

VOTE:  Aye-5



Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:47 P.M.


VOTE:  Aye-5



John Welch, Chairman



Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board