December 18, 2001

PRESENT: Joel C. Harbinson, Chairman
William L. Hammer, Vice-Chairman
David S. Odom
W. Darrell Robertson
John F. Watts
STAFF: Rick French, County Manager
Jamie Millsaps, Clerk to the Board
David Icenhour, Public Information Director
Andy Baker, Planning & Zoning Commission
Carl Bunton, Planning & Zoning Commission
Bill Chapman, Soil & Water Conservation District Board
Russell Greene, Fire Marshal
Seth Harris, Building Development Coordinator
Lloyd Jarvis, Planning & Zoning Commission
Wendell Kirkman, Planning & Zoning Commission
Tonya Mitchell, SWCD Education Coordinator
Coy Reese, Planning & Zoning Commission
Luther Stocks, Tax Administrator
Sylvia Turnmire, Director of Planning & Development


The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a work session on Tuesday, December 18, 2001 in the Agriculture Extension Learning Center in the Administration Building, Taylorsville, North Carolina.


Chairman Harbinson presented several Christmas gifts to members of the Board and staff. The gifts included a UNC Chapel Hill hat for Commissioner Watts, a Wake Forest hat for Commissioner Odom, NC State hats for Commissioners Hammer and Robertson, a Duke hat for County Manager Rick French, and a Dirt Bags hat for David Icenhour, Public Information/Human Resources Director.


Chairman Harbinson called the work session to order at 6:00 PM.


Commissioner Hammer requested the addition of discussion of the Unifour Rural Planning Organization meeting during Other Business. Rick French, County Manager, requested the addition of Solid Waste Fund discussion during Other Business as well.

Commissioner Robertson made a motion to adopt the agenda as amended. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.


Sylvia Turnmire, Director of Planning & Development, discussed the possibility of conducting a Cost of Community Service Study within Alexander County and gave the Board an overview of the study which included the following information:

A Cost of Community Services Study does the following:

    1. Analyzes demands on public services by assessing the financial contribution made by all land uses.
    2. Determines the ratio between property tax revenues and public services in a given local government.
    3. Analyzes the loss of farmland and associated costs to the community as a whole.
    4. Once completed, the study may be used as a decision-making tool by local politicians and appointed officials by giving local leaders the benefit of hindsight or a look back at the effects of past decisions.
    5. Provides a current snapshot of revenues and expenditures on land use basis, measured by demand for services.
    6. Evaluates farm, forest, and open lands as land uses worthy of respect.
    7. Gives local leaders perspective on resource uses not available from other types of studies.

A Cost of Community Services Study does not:

    1. Predict the impact of future decisions.
    2. Judge the intrinsic value of any land use.
    3. Solve fiscal imbalances or prescribe a course of action.

The Five Steps for completing the study include:

    1. Meet with local sponsors and define land use categories.
    2. Collect data.
    3. Allocate revenues by land use.
    4. Allocate expenditures by land use.
    5. Analyze data and calculate ratios.

Ms. Turnmire stated that the Planning & Zoning Commission had reviewed this information and felt that it was important to pursue the study. Ms. Turnmire also noted that the study would be a joint effort between the Planning & Zoning Commission, Board of Commissioners, Soil & Water Department, and the Agriculture Extension.

Commissioner Robertson mentioned that the Summary of Cost information provided to the Board did not include any information from North Carolina. Ms. Turnmire responded that Wake County had recently taken part in the Cost of Community Service Study but that the information was printed before the information from Wake County was available.

Wendell Kirkman, Planning & Zoning Commission, stated that the purpose of the study would be to help balance commercial, industrial, residential, and farmland areas. Mr. Kirkman also noted that it was important to save the farmland in the county because agriculture in Alexander County brought in approximately $70 million in revenue each year.

Commissioner Robertson felt that counties such as Wake, Cabarrus, or Mecklenburg would benefit from adopting a policy which would restrict residential growth and development but asked if it would be beneficial for Alexander County.

Ms. Turnmire stated that farmland paid for itself before residential property and felt that the study should be discussed to determine if it would be beneficial.

Andy Baker, Planning & Zoning Commission, felt that Alexander County was not at the point where residential growth needed to be restricted. Mr. Baker also noted that there are families that live on farms which would provide the need for residential buildings on the farm.

Commissioner Robertson stated that he did not want to see farmland turned into residential developments but that he also did not want to restrict residential growth either.

Commissioner Harbinson discussed a committee consisting of several county departments to study the issue. Commissioner Harbinson suggested that Commissioners Odom and Hammer serve on the committee as well as 2 members of the Planning & Zoning Commission, Sylvia Turnmire, Tonya Mitchell, and one person from Agriculture Extension. Commissioner Harbinson asked that the committee study the issue and come back to the Board with a recommendation at the January 8, 2002 Commissioners’ Meeting.

Commissioner Robertson suggested having a farmer or someone involved in construction on the committee as well. Commissioner Watts suggested someone from the Chamber of Commerce for the committee. Ms. Turnmire stated that she would take the suggestions for the committee into consideration.


Tonya Mitchell, Soil & Water Conservation District Education Coordinator/Technician, distributed a draft copy of the Alexander County Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program Ordinance and presented the Farm Conservation District Report Power Point slide show.

The Power Point slide show included the following information:

              Why Preserve Farmland?

    1. North Carolina is rapidly losing farmland at a rate of 93,500 acres each year due to farmland and forest being converted to development. This rate also includes 20,000 farmers each year.
    2. Agriculture is the number one economic engine for NC bringing in $7.4 billion in revenues last year according to the NC Department of Agriculture.
    3. There is approximately 168,538 acres in Alexander County, 59,826 acres of which is farmland. This means that Alexander County’s acreage is 35% farmland. Alexander County brings in $75 million in revenue each year leaving us 35th in the State. Alexander is also the number one producer of nectarines.
    4. Farmland costs less to maintain than residential development.
    5. There are many environmental benefits to the preservation of farmland.

History of the Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program

    1. In 1986, the NC General Assembly passed the Enabling Act for the Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program, Chapter 106 Article 6.
    2. Since 1986, 24 counties in NC have adopted the Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program.

Overview of Program

    1. The program will establish voluntary agriculture districts.
    2. The program will also establish an Agriculture Advisory Board.
    3. The program may include the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (not included in Alexander County’s draft ordinance).

Agriculture Advisory Board

    1. The Agriculture Advisory Board will consist of county residents.
    2. There will be 7 members, 5 of which will be farmers.
    3. The 6th member will be someone with special interest or expertise such as a member of the Planning & Zoning Commission or Agriculture Extension.
    4. Each agriculture district will be represented on the Agriculture Advisory Board.
    5. The Agriculture Advisory Board will oversee the program, review applications, hold public hearings, oversee condemnations in districts, and provide a yearly report to the Board of Commissioners.

                Agriculture Districts

    1. Agriculture districts will include areas where agriculture is encouraged (1, 2, or more farms in area).
    2. To be eligible to participate in an agriculture district and participate in the Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program the farm must meet the requirements which include: the farm must be a bona fide farm, value taxation exempt, $1,000 income per year, owned for at least 4 years, certified by NRCS high quality soils erosion control, have 10 or more acres, and be well managed.
    3. The program consists of a voluntary 10-year agreement for the farm owner.
    4. If a farm owner revokes his agreement, the farm owner will no longer be eligible to participate but the farm may re-apply in case of a different owner.
    5. Participating farms will post signs on their property which will cost $5 and be supplied by Farm Credit Supply.
    6. Maps of agriculture districts will be placed in several county offices including the Register of Deeds Office, Tax Office, and Soil & Water Office.
    7. Notices will sent if someone purchases property within a mile from an agriculture district. The property owner must read and sign the notice stating that he or she has noted the proximity of the agriculture district to their property.

Ms. Mitchell stated that the Alexander County Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program Ordinance was simply for the Board’s review and could be voted upon at a later date.

Commissioner Harbinson asked if there had been any opposition to the program by the farmers. Bill Chapman, Soil & Water Conservation District Board, stated that he had not received any opposition so far.

Lloyd Jarvis, Planning & Zoning Commission, asked if the program was renewable after the 10-year agreement had expired. Ms. Mitchell replied that the agreements would be renewable and would remain completely voluntary.

Commissioner Robertson suggested that the 7th member of the Agriculture Advisory Board be a commissioner or a commissioner designee. Commissioner Robertson also discussed water and sewer assessments for farms and stated that it could possibly be a requirement that farms hook onto county water lines if the line passed by. Commissioner Robertson suggested allowing the Water Task Force members look into the matter as well as the County Manager and County Attorney.

The Board agreed to allow the Water Task Force to discuss the issue at their February 4, 2002 Meeting and to have discussion by the Board at the March 5, 2002 Commissioners’ Meeting.


Luther Stocks, Tax Administrator, reported that during the 1997 General Assembly session, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and the NC League of Municipalities enacted a legislative goal enabling counties and cities to participate in the state’s income tax debt setoff program. Mr. Stocks explained that the program would permit counties and cities to submit any outstanding delinquent debt ($50 or more) through a local government clearinghouse to the NC Department of Revenue to attempt to match these debts against individual income tax refunds. The local government clearinghouse is also charged with disbursing offset funds back to the receiving county or city.

Mr. Stocks stated that 60 days must lapse after government labels the debt as delinquent before the debt can be submitted to clearinghouse. The county must provide the full name and social security number of each debtor.

Commissioner Robertson asked if there would be a cost for this program. Mr. Stocks replied that there would be a cost of $15 for each successful match of debt against an individual’s debtor’s tax refund and that the fee must be paid by the county.

Mr. Stocks informed the Board that the contract for this program is with Five Star Computing, Inc. of Columbia SC who will administer the program and receive, process, and submit consolidated debts to NC Department of Revenue. Successful matches will go through Capital Management of the Carolinas. Mr. Stocks also noted that a debtor who contests a proposed setoff will be required to file a written request for a hearing with the county within 30 days after the date the county mails a notice of the proposed action to the debtor. The governing body or person designated must hold the hearing. If the debtor disagrees with the decision rendered, the debtor can file a petition within 30 days after the decision.

Commissioner Hammer discussed hardship cases and suggested that the Board develop some guidelines to use in case a hardship issue was addressed. Mr. Stocks stated that if it was proven that there was a case of hardship, the debtor’s name would not be submitted.

Mr. Stocks stated that if the county wanted to participate, the Board would need to sign the Memorandum of Understanding and Agreement. The Board agreed to discuss the program further at the January 8, 2002 Commissioners’ Meeting.


Rick French, County Manager, stated that Alexander County had received the original Quit Claim Deed for the former property of the Department of Transportation and Correction as approved by the Council of State on November 6, 2001. Mr. French noted that the property was to be utilized for governmental uses only.

Commissioner Robertson asked if there had been an inspection by the architect on the road construction. Mr. French stated that Ray Warren, Alexander County Sheriff, would have a copy of the inspection.

Mr. French also stated that the county had requested that the remaining approximately 6 acres near the 64/90 bypass also be conveyed to the county. The property is currently owned by the Department of Transportation.


The following issues were discussed during Other Business:

Community Grants

Commissioner Watts discussed the community grants system and noted that the list of criteria submitted by Commissioner Robertson did not assign a point system to grade each request similarly. Commissioner Watts felt that a point system needed to be assigned to avoid the possibility of someone using a 10 point scale while another uses a 100 point scale.

Commissioner Watts stated that the grants would be worth $1,000 per community and that the recipients of the grants could be announced by March or April of 2002. Staff will be researching each community to determine which communities would receive the grants.

David Icenhour, Public Information/Human Resources Director, stated that there are 12 communities within Alexander County. Commissioner Harbinson noted that there is $12,000 budgeted for the grants.

The Board agreed to discuss the issue further at the Annual Retreat to be held on February 1-2, 2002.

Unifour Rural Planning Organization Meeting

Commissioner Hammer reported on the Unifour Rural Planning Organization Meeting and stated that voting procedures were discussed during the meeting. The members are proposing to change the voting procedures so that only one town in each county would have voting rights on the committee. Commissioner Hammer noted that the change would not affect Alexander County since we only have one town. Commissioner Hammer stated that a final decision would be made on the issue in February 2002.

Commissioner Hammer stated that road projects were also discussed at the meeting and reported that the State has little planned for Alexander County in the future. Commissioner Hammer stated that some counties had 2 pages full of future projects and that Alexander County only had of a page. Some of the projects planned for Alexander County were bridge replacements and culverts, some of which were not planned until 2008. State officials stated that this was due to the construction of the new 64/90 bypass. Commissioner Hammer felt that some projects could be thrown out to make room for much needed projects including the Liledoun Curve and stated that he would discuss the matter with Lynn Marshall with the NCDOT.

Additions to DSS

Rick French, County Manager, stated that he and Nan Campbell, Director of Social Services, had taken part in 3 good architectural interviews on December 12, 2001. The interviews were with Stan Winstead, CBSA Architects, and ADW Architects. Mr. French stated that proposals are to be submitted by December 19, 2001 at 5:00 PM and that a decision would be made later in the month.

Solid Waste

Rick French, County Manager, discussed the Solid Waste fund and noted that the fund were in the red in January 2001 and had been up and down since then. Mr. French distributed information regarding the Solid Waste fund for the Board to review which is hereby made a part of these minutes.

The Board discussed contracting the landfill, transfer station, and convenience sites. Mr. French noted that he had been in contact with BFI and GDS regarding the contract. Commissioner Robertson felt that a formal bid process was not necessary and suggested that Mr. French schedule a meeting for BFI and GDS to bring their proposal in a sealed envelope.

Commissioner Hammer discussed the disposal of old tires and stated that US Tire Recycling in Concord, NC charged for the tire pickup as well as the trailer rental. Commissioner Hammer suggested that the issue be discussed with US Tire Recycling.

Commissioner Robertson suggested setting up a capital reserve fund to replace wall panels and such. Commissioner Hammer agreed and suggested using the capital reserve fund to replace equipment as well.

Mr. French stated that he would update the Board at the second meeting in January 2002.

Rehabilitation of Ruby Crisp Home

Rick French, County Manager, distributed a copy of a memo from Nancy Coley, WPCOG Community Development Administrator, regarding the property of Ruby Crisp. Mr. French explained that Mrs. Crisp had received assistance in the amount of $15,220 in 1998 from a CDBG Scattered Site Program. Before her death, Mrs. Crisp moved into her daughter Rachel Stevenson’s home. Mrs. Stevenson, who is now in bad health, recently contacted Jamie Sales of DSS about the deed of trust on Mrs. Crisp’s home. Ms. Sales contacted Ms. Coley and informed her that Mrs. Stevenson wished to sell her and Mrs. Crisp’s home to liquidate her assets so that she may enter into Grace Ridge in Morganton. Mrs. Stevenson is requesting that Alexander County cancel the deed of trust on Mrs. Crisp home on 619A Boston Road. The length of the deed of trust is 5 years and the date of the automatic cancellation is December 30, 2003. After December 30, 2003, the amount owed will be $6,088.

The Board agreed to cancel the deed of trust according to Mrs. Stevenson’s request.


Commissioner Watts made a motion to enter into Closed Session at 7:43 PM to discuss contractual matters pursuant to N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5). Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.


There being no further business, Commissioner Hammer made a motion to adjourn at 8:05 PM. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.



  Joel C. Harbinson, Chairman           Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board