May 22, 2001

PRESENT: David S. Odom, Chairman
Joel C. Harbinson, Vice-Chairman
William L. Hammer
W. Darrell Robertson
John F. Watts
STAFF: Rick French, County Manager
Terry Foxx, Emergency Management Director
Russell Greeene, Fire Marshal
Jamie Millsaps, Clerk to the Board
Jim Riley, Human Resources Director
CHARTER: Tom Tierney, Charter Communications
Mike Mullins, Charter Communications


The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a work session on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 at 6:00 PM in the Agriculture Extension Learning Center in the Administration Building, Taylorsville, North Carolina.


Tom Tierney and Mike Mullins, Charter Communications, attended the work session to give an update on projects in Alexander County and to provide any information requested by the Board. During the update, Mr. Tierney informed the Board that Charter was currently testing "Video on Demand" service for cable television. The "Video on Demand" service would allow a cable television customer to choose a program, show, or movie and have it saved from 7:00 AM on the day chosen until midnight the next night, allowing them to watch the program at any time they may choose. The program could also be stopped at any time, rewound, or fast forwarded.

At this time, the Board asked many questions which included the following:

    1. Chairman Odom asked why some channels were clearer than others. Mr. Tierney responded that some channels had satellite reception in analog format which was not as clear as digital format.
    2. Commissioner Harbinson asked if the local radio station (B86 Apple City Broadcasting) was going to remain broadcasting on the Alexander County Government Channel or if Charter had made any plans to provide WACB with their own cable channel. Commissioner Harbinson stated that the county planned on broadcasting sporting events, community events, etc. that would cut into the radio play time. Mr. Tierney responded Charter had made no plans to provide B86 Apple City Broadcasting with their own channel and would remain on the Government Channel. Commissioner Harbinson asked what steps would need to be taken to have something such as a sporting event, a church or community event broadcast on the Government Channel. Mr. Tierney responded that a tape of the event would need to be delivered to Charter.
    3. Rick French, County Manager, expressed his concerns with the Government Channel by stating that some information that had been sent in to be placed on the channel had not been broadcast while other information had remained on the channel after it was no longer current. Mr. Tierney responded he would to speak to Richard Eller, Charter Communications, regarding that matter.
    4. Commissioner Watts mentioned Karl Lenz, resident of County Home Road, who had requested cable television service from Charter on several occasions. Mr. Mullins stated that he had spoken with Mr. Lenz today and plans had been made to have cable installed along County Home Road next week. Commissioner Watts also asked about negotiation between Charter and Arnold Richey. Mr. Tierney stated that he had spoken with Mr. Richey on several occasions and that Charter had determined that they were within the NCDOT right-of-way when installing the cable and felt that nothing further could be done.
    5. Commissioner Watts asked how Charter determined where to start new projects. Mr. Tierney stated that Charter determined potential new projects by doing inspections of areas or when potential customers call them requesting cable service. Mr. Tierney noted that 70 % could be hooked up right away after the initial call requesting service. In the 30 % remaining that cannot be hooked up immediately, 2/3 are usually close to meeting the requirements for installation.
    6. Mr. Tierney stated that Charter currently required 20 homes per mile to quality for installation but would sometimes install cable for a fast growing mobile home park or would consider 7 or 8 homes per mile in some cases. Mr. Tierney stated that if Charter determined that it would not be feasible to build along a certain road or requirements were not met, staff would respond to the potential customers by letter informing them that Charter would pay for the cost of installation if the residents would pay for the remaining costs.

    7. Commissioner Watts asked if Charter was in contact with the Alexander County Planning & Development Office in order to get information on new development and construction in the county. Mr. Tierney responded developers usually called them but that there wasn’t much Charter could do until a project was completed.
    8. Commissioner Hammer asked if Charter would provide cable service to rental property or mobile home parks. Mr. Tierney responded Charter would install cable to these type of properties as well. Commissioner Hammer noted rental property along Alspaugh Dam Road owned by Hal Teague. Commissioner Hammer also stated that complaints had been received regarding the covering of the trenches dug when installing cable lines. Some trenches had not been covered, had sunk in after being covered, or had washed out when it rained. Commissioner Hammer asked that Charter follow-up on projects more closely.
    9. Commissioner Robertson discussed the cable installation schedule and stated that he couldn’t tell from the schedule what projects had been completed and what had not. Mr. Tierney responded that all projects prior to May had been completed. Commissioner Robertson requested a schedule that showed where the project was located, when it was to be completed, and what type on project it would be (installation, extension, etc.)
    10. Commissioner Harbinson mentioned the scrolling advertisements at the bottom of the screen on the Government Channel and asked if Charter had a policy or restrictions on what could be advertised on the Government Channel. Mr. Tierney stated that it was entirely up to county staff what type of information would be placed on the Government Channel. Commissioner Harbinson asked if the county could sell advertisements spots on the channel. Mr. Tierney responded that they could not.

Chairman Odom asked that Charter look into cable installation along Warren Road and Lee Matheson Road.

Commissioner Harbinson commended Charter on their home internet services.

Mr. Tierney stated that since 1997, Charter had completed 108 projects, run cable to 1,126 homes and along 156 miles in Alexander County.


Terry Foxx, Emergency Services Director, presented the first draft of the Alexander County Animal Protection Plan. Mr. Foxx informed the Board that he had received an email from the State Emergency Management requesting that this plan be drafted and submitted to the Board by June 1, 2001 for consideration and then placed on the county web site as public information. Most counties are using Wake County’s plan as a sample. Mr. Foxx stated that the first draft had been reviewed by members of the Alexander County Animal Protection Team including Allison Johnson Brown, Agriculture Extension Agent; Joey Williams, Wildlife Enforcement Officer; and Larry Smith, Animal Control Officer. Mr. Foxx mentioned that changes would be made to the signature page to include the Chairman and Manager’s signatures. Mr. Foxx asked that the Board review the plan and email any suggestions or changes to him.

Commissioner Robertson asked if the plan would be annexed into the Emergency Operations Plan. Mr. Foxx responded that it would be labeled Annex P.

Mr. Foxx discussed the housed animal chart and stated that the plan would provide identification of animals in the case of a disaster or quarantine so that they may be returned to their owners. Commissioner Hammer discussed chickens being a related hazard and the 6-mile quarantine requirement was discussed.

Mr. Foxx stated that the Board could make appointments to the Animal Response Team/Steering Committee if they wished.

Commissioner Hammer suggested that the plan be brought before the Board at the July Commissioners’ Meeting to allow more time to review the plan. Chairman Odom agreed.

Commissioner Robertson suggested advertising the plan and making them available at all county offices to the public to view.


Rick French, County Manager, discussed the 2001-2002 budget with the Board and stated that the public hearing had been scheduled for June 5, 2001. It has been requested that the Board hold a second meeting in June to adopt the budget ordinance and some budget amendments.

Mr. French informed the Board that plans for the animal shelter had not been received but noted that he wanted to begin the bidding process when the plans were delivered. Commissioner Robertson stated that he had spoken with Wayland Plaster, Northwest Associates Architect, who informed him that plans would be delivered soon. Mr. French stated that the bidding process could possibly begin before July.

Mr. French reviewed the proposed 2001-2002 budget information with the Board which included the following :

    1. The county debt totals $12 million which includes $7.3 million for schools, $2.7 million for water, $300,000 for the transfer station, and $1.6 million for the General Fund. These will be paid from different funds and revenues. The cent sales tax monies will pay for school projects and water district rates will pay for water projects.
    2. There is an increase of $400,000 between the 2000-2001 and the proposed 2001-2002 budgets due to an increased tax base. It was stated at an earlier work session that there would be 4 % growth this year. This number was changed to 5.6 %. The proposed budget includes a 2-cent tax decrease and 2 less employees. Approximately $247,765 will be added to the General Fund for public school capital funds for Ellendale and $1,622,000 for Alexander Central High School. Only $618,721 will be taken out of fund balance in the proposed budget.
    3. At the joint work session held on May 15, 2001, the Board asked the Board of Education to consider partially funding the Soil & Water Technician position currently filled by Tonya Mitchell. The Board of Education has responded that funding will not be available for the position in 2001-2002. However, Dan McClure informed Mr. French that the State may have a one-time fund which will be used to fund 5 or 6 of these State positions. Mr. French stated that if the position is not State funded, Ms. Mitchell had made plans to work part-time for the county and part-time at another business. She will not be eligible for retirement or insurance. There has been no change in the Agriculture Extension clerical position currently filled by Julie Campbell. Mr. French again noted that Brenda Sharpe would be cutting back her hours in the Planning & Development Office and suggested allowing Ms. Campbell to work there as well as the Agriculture Extension Office.
    4. There has been no change in the water district budgets. Mr. French presented a map which illustrated where each water district was located in the county. Mr. French stated that Sugarloaf water district had 363 customers, Highway16 South had 920 customers, Bethlehem and Interconnect had 1,700 customers and there are currently 55 sewer customers.
    5. The City of Hickory will be increasing their rates by 3.4 % effective July 1, 2001. This is stated in the contract between Alexander County and the City of Hickory.
    6. There will be no increases in the Fire District budgets. The highest budget request is Bethlehem Fire Department which is approximately $138,000 and the lowest request is Vashti Fire Department which is approximately $35,000.
    7. Included in the proposed budget is $196,892 for revaluation. At an earlier meeting, it was suggested that the county have a shorter cycle which would require less staff. There has been an additional data collection position requested but the position is not recommended. A work session has been scheduled for July 24, 2001 for the scheduling of values.
    8. Fund 72 is the Capital Improvements fund which includes cent sales tax monies. Mr. French stated that he had discovered some errors in this fund and made corrections which were $40,000 to our favor. Included in the capital improvements fund is $150,000 for tax maps and GIS costs including extending the GIS contract with the WPCOG for 1 more year. Mr. French also stated that a computer fund would be put in the Information Technology budget for all computer purchases instead of having a line item in each departmental budget for these types of purchases. Also included in the Capital Improvements fund is $50,000 for Dusty Ridge and $15,000 for a voting machine for the Board of Elections.
    9. The county may contract services at the landfill. BFI currently charges $34.51 per ton to haul and transport trash from the transfer station. Mr. French informed the Board that he had spoken with Linda Ashendorf who felt that BFI could offer Alexander County a better price. Mr. French is working on RFPs (Request for Proposals) for the contracting of landfill services. Commissioner Robertson suggested looking at other qualified agencies other than BFI and GDS to encourage competition. Mr. French stated that the current contract with BFI was for 1 year but wanted the next contract for several years. Commissioner Robertson suggested a 4-year contract that could be extended for another 4 years. The contracting would be on a lease basis and the county would retain ownership.
    10. Mr. French stated that 2 imaging systems needed to be purchased. One is needed for DSS and one for the Health Department and Planning & Development Office to share. This will save time and space for their records. Each machine costs $24,000 a year for 5 years which will total $120,000 per year for 5 years. This is a lease/purchase agreement. Mr. French stated that this was currently not included in the budget but could be worked in.

Mr. French stated that he was also comparing county rates for travel reimbursement increases. The State rate is currently 34 cents per mile. Nan Campbell, Director of Social Services, is researching rates from other counties.

Commissioner Watts asked if all counties were fulfilling the NCACC request to include the inventory tax reimbursements in their budgets. Mr. French responded that most NC counties were including the inventory tax reimbursements.

Chairman Odom stated that he would possibly like to put the county garage off until next year and suggested doing RFPs to independent garages for labor rates. Commissioner Harbinson agreed that our monies should be placed into the Contingency line item. Commissioner Hammer suggested checking to determine if the current county vehicle expenses would outway the costs of a county garage. Terry Foxx, Emergency Services Director, mentioned that the Transportation Department bid oil change services and now gets oil changes for about $10 less than normal price (around $21.00).


After discussion, the Board agreed to hold the second June meeting on Thursday, June 21, 2001 to adopt the budget ordinance and budget amendments.

Commissioner Robertson requested holding another work session to discuss the budget after the public hearing to be held on June 5, 2001.

Commissioner Harbinson discussed some recent conflicts with the hiring of the Public Information Officer. Commissioner Harbinson stated that he had been made aware that some members of the Board had questioned the legality of the procedure in hiring David Icenhour as the Public Information Officer and therefore asked Mr. French to contact Jim Blackburn, Chief Legal Counsel of the NC Association of County Commissioners, regarding the legality of the hire.

Commissioner Harbinson also discussed the disclosure of confidential closed session material on the radio by a fellow commissioner and asked that Mr. French contact Mr. Blackburn as to whether such disclosure was ethical or legal. Commissioner Harbinson suggested that all closed sessions be taped from now on in case there is a question as to what exactly was said during a closed session. Chairman Odom agreed. Commissioner Watts stated that he had no objections to taping closed sessions. Commissioners Robertson and Hammer did not verbalize or indicate any objections.

Commissioner Watts noted that he, along with Dr. Josephine Foster, would be sworn into membership of the Catawba Valley Board of Trustees on Thursday, May 24, 2001 at 4:00 PM.

The Board conveyed their appreciation to Mr. French and Finance staff for their hard work on the 2001-2002 budget.


There being no further business, the work session was adjourned at 8:00 PM.



  David S. Odom, Chairman           Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board