The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held special meetings on Friday, February 2, 2001 and Saturday, February 3, 2001 in order to conduct a retreat to review goals and objectives for the County. The meetings were held in the Embers Room, Chetola Resort, Blowing Rock, N.C.
PRESENT:  James Coffey, Vice-Chairman
                   Jack Lawrence, Sr., Commissioner
                   Sue Sweeting, Commissioner
                   Pat Wilkie, Commissioner
                   Jeff Hedrick, County Attorney
                   Robert E. Nelson, Jr., County Manager
                   Doris Isaacs, Finance Director
                   Libby Link, Clerk to the Board
Chairman Hodges was unable to attend the meeting due to serious illness in the family.
Vice-Chairman Coffey called the meeting to order on Friday, February 2, 2001 at 6:00 P.M. welcoming those in attendance.
Tax Administrator, Larry McLean, introduced Kelvin Byrd, the County’s Appraisal Director/Revaluation Coordinator, as well as Ron McCarthy, the County’s reappraisal consultant, and briefly reviewed the status of the current revaluation process. Mr. McLean stated that the majority of smaller counties used consulting firms to establish the schedule of values of real property. Mr. McCarthy noted that pursuant to N.C. G.S. 105-317, it was the responsibility of the Tax Administrator to develop a schedule. He requested meeting individually with the Commissioners in early-mid April to conduct a work session. Commissioners Sweeting and Wilkie scheduled a work session for April 10, 2001 at 5:30 P.M., and Commissioners Coffey and Lawrence scheduled a work session for April 10, 2001 at 1:00 P.M. (to be held in the Administrative Conference Room). In addition, it was the consensus of the Board to receive a presentation at its March 5, 2001 regular meeting from a consulting firm who would offer to conduct a business personal property audit. Mr. Kelvin Byrd briefly discussed the revaluation process. He stated the process should be completed by July 1, 2001.
The following individuals presented the final report regarding the planning and feasibility of constructing a $9.5 million recreation center: Dr. Bill Horn, Mr. Dave Robertson, Mr. Brian Crutchfield, Mr. Pat Considine and Mr. Ron Branch. They presented a slide presentation and reviewed the proposed facility and potential new programs. In addition, they discussed possible ways to fund the project. This item was for the Board’s information, and no action was taken.
The following individuals were present from the Watauga County Board of Education: School Board Members, Mr. Andy Reese, Mr. Lowell Younce, Mr. Steve Combs, Dr. Lee Warren, Mr. Joe Isaacs, Superintendent, Dr. Dick Jones, Associate Superintendent, Ms. Carol Diehl, and Finance Officer, Ms. Leta Councill. The Boards reviewed the total number of students currently enrolled (4,879) and noted there were 1,519 currently enrolled at the high school. Dr. Jones thanked the Board of Commissioners for the allotment the Board of Education received in fiscal year 2000/2001. Both Boards noted it was important to work together to ensure the best quality of education for the County’s students. In addition, one goal for the Board of Commissioners’ next year’s retreat was to have the County’s representatives from the State Legislature to attend the retreat and meet jointly with the Board of Commissioners and School Board members.
A recess was declared at 8:07 P.M., and the meeting resumed at 8:20 P.M.
1) Planning Board Report on Zoning Issues - Mr. Ric Mattar, Chairman of the Watauga County Planning Board, and Mr. Joe Furman, Planning & Inspections Director, reviewed the work that the Planning Board had done following the Board of Commissioners’ December 18, 2000 special meeting. The four issues that the Planning Board had studied were: performance zoning, corridor zoning (including highways and the New River), identifying industrial areas, and community councils. They reviewed an outline for a development ordinance and potential high impact uses. In addition, Mr. Mattar and Mr. Furman discussed the current guidelines for forming community councils.
Following discussion, it was the consensus of the Board for the Planning Board to proceed with a draft development ordinance based on the outline as discussed and an interim ordinance addressing some or all of the high impact uses as discussed.
2) Discussion of Existing Ordinances - Mr. Furman also reviewed the County’s current Ordinance to Regulate Junkyards and Junked or Abandoned Motor Vehicles. He stated that staff did enforce this Ordinance and responded to each complaint. Mr. Furman explained how staff investigated complaints. He noted there were delays sometimes in getting junked/abandoned vehicles removed. Mr. Furman felt that staff worked hard to enforce the County’s ordinances.
Following discussion, it was the consensus of the Board to review the County’s current Ordinance to Regulate Junkyards and Junked or Abandoned Motor Vehicles at a future meeting.
Mr. Craig Sullivan, Owner of Watauga Medics, Inc., (WMI) addressed the Board regarding a proposed rate increase as related to new Medicare guidelines. He reviewed a fee schedule noting clients were currently charged $115 per call. Mr. Sullivan felt that, if approved, the rate increase would be sufficient for WMI to add an additional unit. This would assist the County’s rescue squads who were being placed on standby more frequently placing a heavy burden on their volunteers.
Following discussion, it was the consensus of the Board for County Manager Nelson to meet with Finance Director Isaacs and Mr. Sullivan to review the proposed rate increase to ensure there would be sufficient funds for an additional unit rather than requiring an increase to the County’s subsidy. After the staff review, Mr. Sullivan will present a formal request for a rate increase to the Board.
A recess was declared at 10:00 P.M.
The meeting reconvened on Saturday, February 3, 2001 at 8:00 A.M.
Mr. Mike Wagoner, President of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Grant Wainscott, Director of Economic Development, addressed the Board to discuss economic prosperity and a plan of action to recruit industries/companies to the County. He briefly reviewed information contained in Economic Development’s website. Mr. Wainscott discussed three grant proposals and required funding with the Board.
Following discussion, it was the consensus of the Board for Mr. Wainscott to formalize plans for the grant projects and to make a presentation at the Board’s February 20, 2001 regular meeting.
Mr. Mike Hall and Mr. Mike Wagoner, members of the Transportation Task Force, presented the final report on the work of the task force regarding the proposed Daniel Boone Parkway. Mr. Hall briefly discussed the various routes being considered. He noted this project would be part of the N.C. Intrastate System. This item was for the Board’s information, and no action was taken.
County Manager Nelson briefly reviewed the County’s current travel policy for County employees and the Board. It was the consensus of the Board to discuss further during the budget process. In addition, Finance Director Isaacs stated the current travel policy was old and should be amended. She agreed to review the current policy and present recommended revisions to the Board in the future.
County Manager Nelson reviewed the County’s current building use policies for the following facilities: Courthouse, LE Harrill Senior Center, Western Watauga Community Center, Cove Creek Gym, and the Agricultural Extension Conference Center. Although political parties (any party registered with the State) were allowed to use all of the County’s facilities, the Board discussed whether individual candidates should be allowed to use the facilities for fundraising purposes. Commissioner Wilkie requested a public hearing at a future meeting since the Board could not come to a consensus on use of County buildings for political fundraisers. In addition, Commissioner Sweeting requested County Attorney Hedrick to define for-profit and not-for-profit fundraising.
A recess was declared at 10:00 A.M., and the meeting resumed at 10:07 A.M.
County Manager Nelson reviewed a status report of items discussed during the Board’s March 17-18, 2000 retreat. In addition, Mr. Nelson stated that Maintenance Supervisor, Robert Marsh, would present a report (at a future meeting) on the consolidation of Parks & Recreation Maintenance staff with the Maintenance Department.
Finance Director Isaacs reviewed a variety of budget issues including a report on the status of this fiscal year’s revenues and expenditures, fund balance, capital reserve, debt service and other matters of interest relating to the budget. In addition, Ms. Isaacs reviewed the proposed budget schedule for fiscal year 2001-2002. These items were for the Board’s information, and no action was taken.
County Manager Nelson reviewed the current capital improvement program/plan and discussed current projects as well as anticipated and requested projects. Mr. Nelson addressed how to best utilize space at the Jail, the Human Services Building (old Revco space), the Hannah Building and the Ginn House.
Following discussion, it was the consensus of the Board for County Manager Nelson to make a recommendation as to which County Departments or non-profit agencies should occupy the Ginn House and to request from the consultant who completed the 1998 feasibility study for a new Jail facility to determine the costs involved in moving the Highway Patrol office and Emergency Management including Communications & Dispatch functions to the proposed new Jail site occupied by the Watauga Correctional Center.
Following brief discussion, it was the consensus of the Board to conduct a work session on March 22, 2001 at 1:00 P.M. in the Administrative Conference Room, Courthouse, to further review goals and objectives for the County based on a 1-year plan, 5-year plan and 10-year plan.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Wilkie, moved to adjourn the meeting at 12:30 P.M.
VOTE: Aye-4
Absent-1 (Hodges)
James Coffey, Vice-Chairman
Elizabeth H. Link, Clerk to the Board