March 5, 2002
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 5, 2002 in the Commissioners Room of the Alexander County Courthouse, Taylorsville, North Carolina.
No citizens asked to speak at the Peoples Agenda. Therefore, Chairman Harbinson recognized the Boys Scouts of America Troop #275 from Bethlehem who was present at the meeting. Chairman Harbinson called the members by name and asked them to stand. The members included:
Fred Lackey, who served as a county commissioner from 1992-1996, explained that the troop was working toward their Citizenship in the Community merit badge. There are several requirements that must be met before this merit badge can be obtained which include:
Commissioner Hammer encouraged the Boy Scouts members to work hard to become an Eagle Scout because it would mean a lot to them in the future.
The Board thanked the Boy Scouts of America Troop #275 for attending the meeting.
The following information was discussed during the Chairmans Report:
Commissioner Robertson stated that the bypass was constructed in Alexander County to make up for the previous 30 years that no projects were completed in the county.
Commissioner Watts stated that a light was also needed at Bethlehem School on Highway 127.
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Harbinson called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
INVOCATION & PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Rev. Sam Vallini, Pastor of Freedom Baptist Church, gave the invocation and Charlie Adcock, a student at Bethlehem Elementary School, led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
CITIZEN OF THE MONTH
Commissioner Odom presented the Citizen of the Month Award to Hillary Harper for her love and care shown to others and for her interest in helping those with special needs. Hillary lives in Hiddenite and is in the 6th grade at East Alexander Middle School where she is an honor student. Kathy Harper is Hillarys mom. Hillary is in the chorus and is a member of Freedom Baptist Church.
Commissioner Odom explained that Hillary had befriended a special person named Christina Little. Christina, daughter of Bobby and Rose Little, is a special needs child. Christina says that Hillary is her guardian angel. Christina and her family wanted to thank Hillary for all that she has done for Christina.
Jack Hoke, Alexander County Schools Superintendent, stated that he also appreciated what Hillary had done and the example that she had set. Mr. Hoke encouraged her to keep up the good work.
ADOPTION OF AGENDA
Rick French, County Manager, requested discussion of a joint meeting with the Town of Taylorsville as Item 10C during Other Business and also discussion of a meeting with the EnergyUnited Board of Directors as Item 10D during Other Business. Mr. French stated that a Special Called Meeting would need to be scheduled by the Board as well during Other Business.
Commissioner Watts made a motion to adopt the agenda as amended. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
CONSIDERATION OF REZONING CASES
Chairman Harbinson stated that rezoning cases were the least favorite item of business for the Board. Chairman Harbinson noted that the Board would not be able to please both sides but would strive to do what was best for the Alexander County.
Ed Hedrick, County Attorney, stated that the NC Supreme Court defined spot zoning as "a zoning ordinance or amendment which singles out and reclassifies a relatively small tract owned by a single person and surrounded by a much larger area uniformly zoned, so as to impose upon the small tract greater restrictions than those imposed upon the larger tract, or as to relieve the small tract from restrictions to which the rest of the area is subjected." Mr. Hedrick stated that spot zoning was not necessarily invalid or illegal; however, to be valid, the Board must clearly show that there is a reasonable basis for treating the singled out property differently from adjacent land. Mr. Hedrick presented the following conditions to determine if there was a reasonable basis to spot zone:
Mr. Hedrick distributed portions of 4 cases involving spot zoning for the Board to review.
Rezoning Case 02-1 (Icenhour)
One of the neighbors to this property was present at the meeting and asked the Board if the property would be monitored to insure that Mr. Steffey cleaned up the property. Chairman Harbinson replied that the Board would do everything the law required the Board to do.
PUBLIC HEARING: APPROVAL OF ROAD NAMES
Lisa Harrington, 911 Addressing Coordinator, conducted the public hearing for approval of the following road names:
Ms. Harrington stated that all road names had been advertised and checked for duplication and sound indexing.
There being no public comment, Commissioner Robertson made a motion to close the public hearing. Commissioner Watts seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Commissioner Watts made a motion to approve the road names as presented. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
REPORT ON FARM DISTRICTS AND ESTABLISHING LOCAL COMMITTEE
Bill Chapman, Dairy Farmer and Vice-Chairman of the Alexander County Soil & Water Conservation District Board, presented the Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program Ordinance. Mr. Chapman explained that in 1986, the NC General Assembly passed the Enabling Act for the Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program. The purpose of the program is to promote health, safety, rural agricultural values, and general welfare of the county, increase identity and pride in the agricultural community and its way of life, encourage the economic and financial health of farming, increase protection from undesirable, non-farm development, and increase the protection of farms from nuisance suits and other negative impacts on properly managed farms.
Mr. Chapman informed the Board that North Carolina was losing farmland at a rate of 93,500 acres each year due to farmland and forests being converted to development. Mr. Chapman also noted that agriculture brought in $75 million in revenues each year in Alexander County.
Mr. Chapman stated that the program would establish voluntary agriculture districts which would include areas where agriculture is encouraged. To be eligible to participate in an agriculture district and participate in the Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program, the farm must be a bona fide farm, must be value taxation exempt, must have $1,000 income per year, must be owned for at least 4 years, must be certified by NRCS high quality soils erosion control, and must include 10 acres or more. Mr. Chapman explained that the program consisted of a 10-year voluntary agreement for the farm owner. If the farm owner revokes his agreement, the farm owner will no longer be eligible to participate and cannot reapply.
Participating farms will post signs on their property. Maps of agriculture districts will be placed in the Register of Deeds Office, Tax Office, and the Soil & Water Office. Notices will be sent if someone purchases property within a half 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.
Mr. Chapman also noted that the program would also establish an Agriculture Advisory Board which would consist of 7 members, 5 of which would be farmers. The Board will oversee the program, review applications, hold public hearings, oversee condemnations in districts, and provide a yearly report to the Board of Commissioners.
Commissioner Robertson asked how many dairy farms were operative in North Carolina. Mr. Chapman stated that the number of dairy farms used to be in the thousands but had been reduced to approximately 400.
Chairman Harbinson asked Mr. Chapman to introduce all those present at the meeting. Those individuals included:
Commissioner Robertson discussed the water and sewer assessment waivers included in the program and stated that it may be a possible requirement that farms hook onto county water lines if the line passed by their property. Commissioner Robertson stated that he wasnt aware that it had been a problem in the past but didnt know how it would work if water lines were extended.
Chairman Harbinson stated that he appreciated the effort put forth by the Soil & Water staff and the Soil & Water Conservation District Board and thanked them for their hard work. Chairman Harbinson also asked that they return to the April 2, 2002 Commissioners Meeting with recommendations for the Agriculture Advisory Board.
ALEXANDER DAY REPORTING FUNDING REQUEST
Rick French, County Manager, presented a request from the Alexander Day Reporting Center to submit an application for continuation of implementation funding to the Criminal Justice Partnership Program. The application requests the amount of $60,323 for the 2002-2003 fiscal year for the Alexander Day Reporting Center for continuation of funding.
Commissioner Watts made a motion to allow the Alexander Day Reporting Center to submit the application for continuation of implementation funding to the Criminal Justice Partnership Program. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
CONSIDERATION OF "SCHOOL PRAYER" RESOLUTION
Chairman Harbinson presented and read aloud the Resolution Supporting an Amendment to the US Constitution Restoring the Peoples Right to Pray in Public Schools.
The resolution supports the House Joint Resolution 81 introduced in the 107th Congress, 1st Session of December 20, 2001 which would not establish any official religion, but would allow people to pray and recognize their religious beliefs on public property, including schools. If the necessary votes are obtained, and amendment to the constitution would be made.
Chairman Harbinson noted that the resolution would not establish any individual prayer. Commissioner Watts noted that the resolution also gave people the right to participate or not and would not mandate any "school-lead" prayer.
Chairman Harbinson made a motion to adopt the Resolution Supporting an Amendment to the US Constitution Restoring the Peoples Right to Pray in Public Schools. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Rick French, County Manager, discussed the Governors decision to take the inventory tax reimbursements and reported that Alexander County would lose $328,000. Mr. French also reported that the Medicaid increases would affect the county by at least $200,000.
Mr. French informed the Board that he had asked all departments to target a 5% reduction in their budgets. All departments have done so and have cut $448,977. Mr. French reported on some actions taken by other counties. Catawba County has targeted a 4% department budget cut and Iredell County has delayed a $2 million project.
Mr. French discussed the half-cent local option sales tax that will be available to county beginning July 1, 2003. This will replace the inventory tax reimbursements. Mr. French stated that many counties were already passing resolutions to possibly send the State a message that this money is needed before July 2003. Mr. French suggested the Board pass this resolution at next meeting. Mr. French also presented a Resolution Requesting the Governor of NC to Restore Full Funding of State Reimbursements of Repealed Taxes to Local Governments.
Mr. French stated that he was trying to make reductions without impacting services and noted that if counties did not get the half-cent local option sales tax that it would impact counties in a negative way. Mr. French also noted that counties probably would not know anything until they are deep into the budget process.
Chairman Harbinson noted that counties were required to have a balanced budget but noted that the State had almost a $1 billion deficit. Mr. French noted that the State had an unrealistic budget this year that included a 4% growth projection. The current projected growth rate is at 0%. Mr. French noted that the State would not have any place to obtain funds in the near future because they had taken so much from all of their other resources.
Chairman Harbinson stated that this could result in property tax rates being higher than planned. Mr. French stated that Medicaid costs alone would likely result in an increase of 3 or 4 cents in the tax rate and noted that the county would have no control over the increase as these funds are State mandated.
Mr. French also reported that some counties were already having layoffs, cutting services, and reducing operating offices. Some are even taking funding from the schools to pressure the State.
Commissioner Robertson made a motion to adopt the Resolution Requesting the Governor of NC to Restore Full Funding of State Reimbursements of Repealed Taxes to Local Governments. Commissioner Watts seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
CONSIDERATION OF TRANSPORTATION AND DISPOSAL AGREEMENT
Rick French, County Manager, discussed the current Transportation and Disposal Agreement with BFI which expires at the end of March 2002. Mr. French stated that he had looked into the cost of providing services and noted that the new contract should be awarded to GDS.
Mr. French informed the Board that BFIs contract was based on 28,000 tons per year and GDSs contract is based on actual tonnage. Mr. French also stated that BFI charged $34.50 per ton and GDS charged $31.00 per ton. The GDS contract will begin April 1, 2002 and expire December 31, 2003. There is a 1-year renewal.
Mr. French stated that the county would save $8,700 per month and $105,000 per year with the GDS contract.
Mr. French did note that the county might have to raise the tipping fee from $40.30 to $44.30 in order to maintain the $31.00 per ton fee. Mr. French recommended approval of the contract pending final legal review from the County Attorney.
Commissioner Robertson made a motion to approve the Transportation and Disposal Agreement with GDS pending final legal review from the County Attorney. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
SUSPEND SALARIES AND TRAVEL FOR COMMISSIONERS FOR THE REST OF THE FISCAL YEAR
Commissioner Odom addressed the State budget crisis and the impact on counties and stated that many counties had been forced to layoff employees and cut funding for schools. Commissioner Odom stated that could not justify cutting education funding, sending sheriff deputies home, or cutting EMS crews to save money. Therefore, Commissioner Odom instructed Mr. French to instruct Jennifer Herman, Budget Officer, to suspend his salary and travel for the rest of the fiscal year to be set aside in the General Fund. Commissioner Odom noted that commissioners received $400 per month or $4,800 a year and he felt that the money should be used for something other than his salary. Commissioner Odom urged his fellow board members to do the same and hoped that word would reach the State and Governor Easley that this action had been taken.
Chairman Harbinson stated that Commissioner Odoms idea was a good one and stated that he would join him since "sacrifice should start at the top".
Commissioner Watts stated that all Board members had other jobs for their major source of income to provide for their families. Commissioner Watts noted that he felt this move showed an indication of the severity of the state of local budgets and that the commissioners were willing to make sacrifices to join in the pain. Commissioner Watts stated that he would join Commissioner Odom as well.
Commissioner Robertson felt that this action was sending the wrong impression to employees and citizens. Commissioner Robertson stated that the Board should be reassuring employees that their jobs were taken care of and that emergency services would keep operating. Commissioner Robertson stated that the $400 per month only covered expenses for the Board considering time in meetings and money spent in travel. Commissioner Robertson suggested holding off on the Bethlehem Office and the 4th of July Celebration to save money instead. Commissioner Robertson stated that he was in favor of saving money but did not agree with doing it this way.
Commissioner Hammer stated that the $400 only added up to approximately $150 or $160 a week after taxes and insurance and stated that it would only be a small portion compared to what was needed. Commissioner Hammer felt that the suspension of salaries was not necessary until layoffs occurred or until the county was in desperate need of equipment.
ALEXANDER COUNTY PERFORMANCE EVALUATION POLICY
David Icenhour, Human Resources/Public Information Director, presented the Alexander County Performance Evaluation Policy for consideration by the Board. Mr. Icenhour stated that the policy was a tool for department heads to evaluate all employees once per year.
Mr. Icenhour explained that the performance evaluation would include 6 performance factors which included Quality, Quantity, Work Habits, Work Interest, Relationships with People, and Promotability. There are 30 total specific job factors included in the performance factors. Employees are graded as Superior, Above Expected, Expected, Needs Improvement, and Unacceptable.
Mr. Icenhour stated that the policy included an incident reporting form. Mr. Icenhour noted that when there was available funding, merit adjustments could be made to payroll and explained that one step equals a 2.5% payroll increase. For an Overall Superior rating, an employee may receive more than a step increase. An Overall Above Expected rating may equal up to a step increase. An Overall Expected rating will not qualify the employee to receive an increase. An employee that receives an Overall Performance Needs Improvement rating will not receive an increase and another evaluation will be completed in 6 months. An Overall Unacceptable rating will result in no merit increase and possibly disciplinary action.
Mr. Icenhour stated that all department heads received a copy of the policy and had made comments. Mr. Icenhour stated that there were still a few things to work out with the policy
Commissioner Robertson felt that this was a good place to start and asked if job descriptions were available for all jobs. Commissioner Robertson also stated that employee training was needed for all employees before adopting the performance evaluation plan. Training would assure that all employees know exactly what there job was and what was expected of them.
Rick French, County Manager, agreed that employee training was needed. Mr. French noted that DSS and the Health Department had developed a performance evaluation plan and that staff was simply trying to get the County Performance Evaluation Policy started before the next fiscal year began.
Commissioner Robertson also suggested that each supervisor meet with their employees before hand to discuss goals and expectations.
Mr. French mentioned that Mr. Icenhour had begun training and orientations for new employees. Commissioner Watts asked if current employees would be grandfathered in for the new employee training or if all employees would be required to take part in the training once the policy was adopted. Mr. French noted that all employees would be required for training.
After discussion, Commissioner Robertson made a motion to table adoption of the Performance Evaluation Policy to the April 2, 2002 Commissioners Meeting. Commissioner Watts seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Mr. Icenhour also noted that Centex Rooney would be holding a Job Fair on April 4, 2002 at the National Guard Armory from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM for all construction trades.
The following items were discussed during Other Business:
Commissioner Watts made a motion to approve the Alexander Countys Transportation Department Logo as presented. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Commissioner Robertson made a motion to approve the resolutions. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Mr. French also stated that Alexander Countys Tier designation had been dropped from a Tier 5 to a 3. This allows the county to apply for Rural Center grant funds without the extra burden of additional matches.
Mr. French also noted that the Solid Waste budget for the month of January was in the black $1,917.37. The fund, however, is still in the red $124,403.77 for the year.
Rick French, County Manager, requested that Consent Agenda Item D be withheld from the Consent Agenda.
Commissioner Odom made a motion to approve the Consent Agenda without Item D. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
CLOSED SESSION - N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5 & 6)
Commissioner Watts made a motion to enter into Closed Session at 9:00 PM to discuss contractual matters and personnel issues pursuant to N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5 & 6) and return to Open Session for adjournment purposes only. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
There being no further business, Commissioner Robertson made a motion to adjourn at 9:40 PM. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Joel C. Harbinson, Chairman Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board