The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting, as scheduled, on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at 8:30 A.M. remotely with the meeting originating in the Manager's Conference Room located in the Watauga County Administration Building, Boone, North Carolina.




John Welch, Chairman

                                                Billy Kennedy, Vice-Chairman

                                                Larry Turnbow, Commissioner

                                                Charlie Wallin, Commissioner

Perry Yates, Commissioner

Andrea Capua, County Attorney

                                                Deron Geouque, County Manager

                                                Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board


Chairman Welch called the remote electronic meeting to order at 8:34 A.M. by calling roll and having each Commissioner respond.  Chairman Welch also stated that the meeting was being recorded and the audio would be posted on the County’s website.


Commissioner Wallin opened with a prayer and Commissioner Turnbow led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Approval of Minutes

Chairman Welch called for additions and/or corrections to the March 17, 2020, regular meeting and closed session minutes.


Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to approve the March 17, 2020, regular meeting minutes as presented.


VOTE:  Aye-5



Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to approve the March 17, 2020, closed session minutes as presented.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Approval of Agenda

Chairman Welch called for additions and/or corrections to the April 7, 2020, agenda.

Commissioner Wallin, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to approve the April 7, 2020, agenda as presented.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Watauga County Board of Commissioners Electronic Meeting Policy

County Manager Geouque presented a proposed Electronic Meeting Policy to be used to navigate the meeting process during times when the County was under a State of Emergency Order such as the current COVID-19 health crisis.  County Attorney Capua stated that she had looked closely at all directives; the proposed policy was consistent with similar policies; and, therefore, was comfortable to defend it, if necessary.


Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to adopt the Electronic Meeting Policy as presented by the County Manager.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Coronavirus (COVID-19) Community Update

Ms. Jennifer Greene, AppHealthCare Director, provided an update on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  The report was for information only and, therefore, no action was required.

Request for Capital Improvement Project (CIP) Funds

Ms. Ly Marze, Watauga County School Finance Director, gave a brief update on behalf of School Superintendent, Dr. Scott Elliott, who was in another meeting.  Ms. Marze thanked the Board for continued support and funding.  Ms. Marze stated that Watauga County Schools were able to transition to remote learning easier than some counties due to the support of the County which has allowed for student laptops and other needs.  The School System continues to teach and feed children through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with fifty thousand (50,000) meals over the past three weeks including the use of vehicles and buses to deliver to doorsteps.  Ms. Marze stated that the School System hadn’t stopped moving forward and was still doing great things that couldn’t be done without the County’s support.


Ms. Marze then requested the release of $529,290 from Capital Improvement Plan funds reserved for the School System to fund the following projects:


Pavement Repair/Resurface                                160,000

Roof Maintenance                                                 45,000

Security Cameras                                                100,000

HVAC / Sewer Pump Replacements                     10,000

Repeater System                                                    19,000

Fuel Island                                                             30,000

Classroom Presentation Technology                    80,000

Facilities - Furniture/Equipment                          55,290

Facilities - Central Office Renovation                 30,000

                                                                  TOTAL:       $529,290


Ms. Marze also requested the release of $42,222 from Long Term Capital funds for the carryover of the pavement repair project funded in Fiscal Year 2019.


Discussion was held as to whether the items listed were categorized in the proper funding lines.  County Manager Geouque stated that further in depth discussions could be held during the planned upcoming budget work session with the School Board in May.  Mr. Geouque stated that the School System received Current Capital Funds (for normal yearly operations) from the County as well as two forms of Long Term Capital Funds; one for immediate capital improvement projects and the other for new school construction.  Mr. Geouque clarified that the request was not for funds designated for new school construction.  Dr. Elliott was able to join the remote meeting briefly.  He shared his appreciation for the flexibility in how the funds have been used and stated that this request was a function of their budget process.  Dr. Elliott reiterated that the funds requested were not coming from the new school construction budget line.  Mr. Geouque stated that the school also had access to NC Lottery funds but those funds had to be spent in a very specific nature.


Dr. Elliot also thanked the Board for continued support which allowed the school system to move to remote learning in a one week time period.


Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Vice-Chairman Kennedy, moved to release the $571,512 from the School’s Capital Improvement Plan balances.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Request for Funds to Upgrade and Professionalize the Doc Watson Museum at the Historic Cove Creek School

For his presentation, Mr. David Tyner read from the following statement:


“I am here to address a previous request CCP&D made for a matching grant. Ms. Karen James, who is working with the Cove Creek Preservation & Development (CCP&D), requested at a previous County Commission on Sept. 18, 2018 that she planned to apply for a grant through the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. If awarded, the funds would be used to hire a Museum Consultant to review the available space and develop a master plan to ensure the feasibility of enhancing the Doc Watson Museum in the Historic Cove Creek School. The Blue Ridge Grant required partner funds 50% of the grant award amount. Ms. James requested Watauga County partner by committing to provide $15,000. After reviewing the minute archives of that meeting a discussion was held regarding this being an appropriate request for the TDA.


Later in April of 2019 CCP&D was awarded the grant for $10,000 from Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. The expenses eligible for reimbursement included services of a museum consultant, project coordination, and other project expenses approved by the Blue Ridge staff. Ms. James began working with Nancy Watson daughter of Doc Watson in the spring of 2019 for advice on the museum. Nancy being the heir and legal owner of Doc Watson name and all things related to the museum had to be approved by her.


In June of 2019 the museum upgrade project ran into problems beyond our control. First Ms. James resigned from the project due to family illness. I attempted to pick up where she left off working with Nancy Watson. Then Nancy became very ill as she already suffers with ongoing health problems. Without her being able to give advice and blessings on our moving forward we had no choice but wait on her health to improve which in the last couple of months her health has improved. She has been able to give us limited assistance with the Watson family history and memorabilia for the museum.


We were very fortunate that Jeff Futch, Regional Supervisor, of the Western Office of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources came to us to help. In January he visited our museum and in February he brought employees from two other museums to consult us and give us professional advice on how we need to proceed with the museum upgrades and improvements. Jesse Bricker, exhibit designer and coordinator of Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center gave us valuable advice and designs how to precede that pleased Nancy’s request to make the museum improvements that Doc and Merle Watson would be proud of. Jesse has a Master’s degree in Public History. Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort NC is a regional branch of the NC Museum of History, part of the Division of the state History Museums in the Office of Archives and History in the NC Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources. Their mission is to preserve and interpret the culture, traditions, and history of Carolina’s mountains and foothills. Their exhibit outreach for the 39 counties of Western NC is to provide support in Museum quality exhibit planning, consultation, design, and fabrication assistance. This service was provided as a service by the NC Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources. Also present that day to give us more valuable advice was Zach Dressel, Curatorial Assistant at the Blowing Rock Museum. Zack has a Master’s Degree in Museum Studies.


With one problem solved, we still faced one more obstacle. Our Blue Ridge grant has an end date of April 2020. The original grant gave us one year to complete our upgrades. With only two months left before our grant expired I wrote letter to Rob Bell, Senior Director of Programs for Blue Ridge National Heritage Area requesting a grant change and extension to complete the museum upgrades. I had to submit revised Grant Budget Forms, line item budget time lines and people and organizations who would be involved with the project, as well as estimates on work to be done. A lot of work involved in a short time to hopefully save our grant.

I received the good news from Rob on March 16th that the BRNHA board approved the extension request and change of scope. It is conditional upon two things. First is confirmation of matching funds from the TDA and/or another source. The second is the blessing of the State Historic Preservation Office since the building is listed on the National Register. Rob helped us out by already submitting our project to the State Historic Preservation Office system.

The CCP&D request today is that the County Commission approve the matching funds of $10,000 with the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area for the Doc and Merle Watson Folk Art Museum upgrades and improvements. Our goal today and for over a year was to have these upgrades and improvements completed by the 20th anniversary of the Doc and Rosa Lee Music Fest in Sugar Grove on July 18th.


With the ongoing covid-19 pandemic in our country it appears we may have to postpone our music event until next year, but we will continue to make the museum upgrades/improvements to hopefully be completed by the end of July. Regardless of this request outcome and when it is safe to visit, we would like to invite our county commissioners and TDA board members to view the museum as soon as the upgrades and improvements are completed before we open to the public. These upgrades are going to be a surprise with the amount of Doc Watson memorabilia that will be on display that has never been displayed before.


Thank you once more for your consideration of this second request for the matching funds.”


Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to authorize the $10,000 match for the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area grant as requested with funding to come from the County if not available from the Tourism Development Authority.


County Manager Geouque stated that, due to the potential financial impact of the COVID-19 health emergency, staff recommended approving the request only if the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) was to provide the match.


After discussion, the following vote was taken on Commissioner Yates’ motion:


VOTE:  Aye-5


Request for NC Cooperative Extension to Partner with Appalachian State University on Grant Project for Veteran Farmers

Mr. Jim Hamilton, Cooperative Extension Director, presented a proposal for Watauga County Cooperative Extension and Watauga County to support Appalachian State University’s proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture) entitled “Going Whole Hog: Sustainable Livestock and Agroforestry Training for Military Veterans.”


The Watauga County Extension, through Watauga County, would enter into a subcontract for the performance period of September 15, 2020, to September 14, 2023.  Mr. Eddy Labus, Livestock Extension Agent who is also a veteran, would serve as the main contact for the proposal.  The work performed for the project would be to create learning modules for veterans entering into agriculture; primarily pig production.  The estimated cost was not to exceed $25,000.  Grant monies would be reimbursed to Watauga County to cover Mr. Labus’ portion of salary and benefits over the three years for his efforts on the project.  The proposal was submitted to the USDA in March and confirmation of award would come in a few months.


Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to commit $25,000 for the proposed subcontract as presented by Mr. Hamilton.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Economic Development Commission (EDC) Allocation Recommendation to High Country Food Hub

Mr. Joe Furman, Economic Development Director, stated that the Economic Development Commission (EDC) approved a request from Blue Ridge Women In Agriculture (BRWIA) for help in funding the purchase of a cooler.  The cost of the cooler was $18,000.  The Food Hub planned to reallocate $8,158.45 from their “Serving Target Customers” line to cover a portion of the cost.  The EDC approved to allocate the remaining amount of $9,841.55 for the walk-in cooler and shelving units.  The EDC requested approval of an allocation of $9,841.55 from the Economic Development Capital Reserve Account.


Commissioner Yates, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to approve the allocation of $9,841.55 from the Economic Development Capital Reserve Account to the High Country Food Hub for the purchase of a cooler.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Bid Award Request for the Completion of the Guy Ford Road Paddle Access

Mr. Joe Furman, Planning and Inspections Director, recently received the following bids for completion of the Guy Ford Road paddle access:


Bidder's Name

Lump Sum Bid

Additional Item #1

Additional Item #2


Items  1-15

Remove and replace unsuitable material

Bid Cost per CY

BX-11Geogrid (Installed)

Bid Cost per SY





Moretz Paving




Tri County Paving




PADCO Excavating





The low bid, from Tri-County Paving, Inc., out of West Jefferson, was $117,697.48.  Current funding available from Tourism Development Authority (TDA) was $110,000.  Mr. Furman presented two options which would allow for the project to move forward:  1) work with the low bidder to reduce the bid to the current funds available or, 2) request additional funds from the TDA.  Mr. Furman stated that the handrails for the top of the retaining wall specified in the bid from Tri County Paving were very expensive and he felt that a different railing could be used to get the costs below the amount available from the TDA.


Commissioner Yates moved to award the contract to Tri-County Paving, in the amount of $117,697.48, contingent upon the amount being reduced to the current funds available from the Tourism Development Authority (TDA).  Commissioner Turnbow seconded the motion with the caveat that, in the event costs could not be reduced to under the TDA’s $110,000; Mr. Furman was to let the County Manager know.


VOTE:  Aye-5


Miscellaneous Administrative Matters

A.  Watauga County Humane Society Request to Apply for Small Business Loan Under the Recently Enacted CARE Act


County Manager Geouque stated that the Watauga Humane Society had requested permission, as required by the terms of their loan document with the County, to apply for a Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan under the recently enacted CARE Act.


Per the provisions of the Act, specifically the Paycheck Protection Program, it was the Humane Society’s understanding that 501(c)3 organizations were eligible to apply for a loan equal to 2½ times their monthly payroll.  The proceeds from the loans would be forgiven if used to pay employees’ salaries, the organizations’ utility costs, and interest on indebtedness over a period of the next eight weeks.  It was the Humane Society’s intent to use the loan proceeds for these purposes and the estimated amount was projected to be around $50,000.


The County Manager stated that the loan application was due on Friday, April 3, 2020, and, therefore, authorization was given by staff to submit the application with the understanding that should the Commissioners not support the request it would be withdrawn from consideration.


Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Vice-Chairman Kennedy, moved to authorize the Humane Society to proceed with the Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan Application under the CARE Act as requested.


VOTE:  Aye-5





B.  Vehicle Purchase


County Manager Geouque stated that Sheriff Hagaman’s vehicle was totaled in February 2020.  The insurance paid $12,947 for the total loss of the vehicle.  The Sheriff’s office requested to utilize the insurance payment along with excess funds in the vehicle capital outlay budget line to purchase one (1) new 2020 Dodge Durango SUV from Ilderton Dodge in the amount of $30,109.81, including tax and tag.


Vice-Chairman Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner Turnbow, moved to approve the purchase of one (1) new 2020 Dodge Durango SUV from Ilderton Dodge for $30,109.81, including tax and tag.


VOTE:  Aye-5



C.  Announcements


County Manager Geouque announced the following:


·       The Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute Building Dedication and Open House scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at 5:30 P.M. has been cancelled.


·       The Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative 2020 Conference was scheduled to be held on Saturday, May 16, 2020, from 8:00 A.M. to 3:15 P.M. at Watauga High School.  The County Manager anticipated that the event dates may change due to the coronavirus pandemic and would keep the Board informed of any such changes.

Public Comment

There was no public comment.

Closed Session

At 10:11 A.M., Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Commissioner Wallin, moved to enter Closed Session to discuss Attorney/Client Matters, per G. S. 143-318.11(a)(3).


The following lawsuits were included in discussion during closed session: 


Town of Boone Lawsuit Regarding Sales Tax Distribution

Robert H. Johnson, Plaintiff, vs. Keri L. Triplett and Beth Berry, Defendants


VOTE:  Aye-5



Commissioner Turnbow, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to resume the open meeting at 11:26 A.M.


VOTE:  Aye-5



Chairman Welch adjourned the meeting at 11:26 A.M.


VOTE:  Aye-5




John Welch, Chairman



Anita J. Fogle, Clerk to the Board