July 25, 2002

PRESENT: John F. Watts, Chairman
William L. Hammer, Vice-Chairman
Joel C. Harbinson
David S. Odom
W. Darrell Robertson (late)
STAFF: Rick French, County Manager
Jennifer Herman, Budget Officer
Jamie Millsaps, Clerk to the Board
David Icenhour, Human Resources / Public Information Director
MEDIA: Rick Gilbert, WACB Radio
Gary Herman, The Taylorsville Times


The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a Special Called Meeting on Thursday, July 25, 2002 in the Commissioners’ Room of the Alexander County Courthouse, Taylorsville, North Carolina.


Chairman Watts called the meeting to order at 7:41 PM.


Chairman Watts requested several changes to the agenda. The changes included tabling Agenda Item #2 (Consideration of Medical Services for Alexander County Jail) for the August 6, 2002 Commissioners’ Meeting as well as rearranging the order of the agenda items to be considered as follows:

    1. Other Business
    2. Consideration of 2002-2003 Alexander County Budget
    3. Clarification of Rezoning Case 02-6: King.

Chairman Watts noted that Commissioner Robertson would be arriving late and explained that Commissioner Robertson would need to be present during the Clarification of Rezoning Case 02-6 because he, along with Chairman Watts and Commissioner Odom, were the only commissioners that voted on the issue at the June 27, 2002 Commissioners’ Meeting. Commissioner Harbinson recused himself from voting and Commissioner Hammer was absent. Chairman Watts explained that this item would therefore be considered later in the meeting to allow time for Commissioner Robertson to arrive.

Commissioner Hammer stated that he would like to discuss the Water Sedimentation Meeting held on July 24, 2002 with Duke Power officials during Other Business.

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


The following items were discussed during Other Business:

    1. Rick French, County Manager, stated that the 2002 NCACC Annual Conference would be held on August 22-25, 2002 in Forsyth County, Winston-Salem. Mr. French requested any Board member interested in attending to return the registration form to Judy Feimster in the Administration Office by Friday, July 26, 2002 or Monday, July 29, 2002.
    2. Chairman Watts commented that this was a critical time for the NCACC to reiterate and strengthen the message that counties are trying to send to the leadership in Raleigh. Chairman Watts felt that the NCACC could be one voice for all counties and supported attendance by all Board members since it was a local conference.

    3. Mr. French stated that Russell Greene, Fire Marshal, had received a hand delivered water petition. The petition contains 24 signatures each agreeing to pay a $1,500 assessment fee toward the construction of a water line from the intersection of White Plains Church Road and Rocky Springs Road (2.17 miles) to the intersection of Allen Road and Rocky Face Church Road. Mr. French stated that, if constructed, the line would be served by EnergyUnited Water Corporation. Mr. French noted that the petition was to be delivered to EnergyUnited as well. Mr. French explained that the estimated cost of the project, if contracted out, would be in excess of $200,000. Mr. French also noted that if EnergyUnited provided all labor, the estimated cost of materials totaled approximately $80,000. The 24 names on this petition agreeing to pay $1,500 each will generate $36,000 or approximately half the cost of materials.
    4. Mr. French noted that staff would be gathering all water petitions received in order to prioritize them and determine which areas of the county were most feasible to expand water lines.

    5. Mr. French discussed the Antioch Church Road waterline that was approved in November 1998 to be constructed with certain conditions. Mr. French stated that water problems continue to increase in this area and explained that construction of this line would not only serve homes in this area but also serve as a connection with Caldwell County, which would serve as a backup for our system in this area of the county. Mr. French presented a preliminary cost estimate for this line from McGill and Associates totaling $17,700 which included design engineering. Mr. French also stated that with the Boards’ approval, staff could proceed with engineering and possibly combine this project with a portion of the upcoming Rink Dam Road line.
    6. Commissioner Harbinson stated that he had heard a lot of comments from people asking why water lines were being constructed on Antioch Church Road and not Cheatham Ford Road and other areas. Commissioner Harbinson stated that a lot of these areas mentioned, including Cheatham Ford Road, were in EnergyUnited’s service area and explained that the county could not get grants for water lines for a system other than the county’s own water system.

      At this time, Commissioner Robertson entered the meeting. The time was 7:50 PM. Mr. French brought Commissioner Robertson up to speed on this issue.

      Commissioner Odom felt that the Antioch Church Road waterline would be very beneficial not only for households but for fire protection as well. Commissioner Odom stated that this was the first petition that the county had received with citizens agreeing to put up money for the project and noted that he appreciated such action. Commissioner Odom also thanked his fellow Board members as well as Mr. French for their hard work with water issues.

      Commissioner Odom made a motion to proceed with the Antioch Church Road water line with engineering from McGill and Associates. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

    7. Mr. French presented water readings for the meter at US 64 and Happy Plains Intersection for review by the Board. Russell Greene, Fire Marshall, noted that EnergyUnited was using approximately 1 million gallons per day.
    8. Mr. French stated that staff had received a notice that the North American Emerald Mines had applied to the Land Quality Section of the NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to modify an existing surface mining permit to add land to the permitted area. The applicant, James K. Hill, Jr., proposed to mine gem stones on 14 acres located 2.5 miles NE of Highway 90 off SR1491. Mr. French stated that the notice was for informational purposes only.
    9. Commissioner Hammer discussed the water sedimentation meeting held on June 24, 2002 at WPCOG. The meeting consisted of representatives from Alexander County, Burke County, Catawba County, Caldwell County, and Duke Power. Commissioner Hammer stated that a study was done on the sedimentation in 4 coves including 2 in Lake Hickory and 2 in Lake Rhodhiss to determine how much sedimentation had developed in the lakes. In some places there was 30 feet of sedimentation. Commissioner Hammer stated that Herb Greene, Caldwell County Chairman, discussed efforts to remove the sedimentation from the lakes. Duke Power officials stated that they wanted to go back and study the issue further so possibly develop another solution because it was so expensive to pump the sedimentation out of the lakes. Herb Greene suggested removing the sedimentation and recycling for material such as asphalt. Commissioner Hammer stated that the meeting was positive and felt that they were on the right track in regard to the removal of sedimentation.

Commissioner Hammer stated that other issues were discussed during the meeting including the scarcity of water. Commissioner Hammer noted that Duke Power was currently running the hydroelectric plant at 10% force now and explained that if the hydroelectric plant was running at 100%, the lake would go completely dry in a very short time.

Commissioner Hammer also noted that Duke Power officials briefly discussed their upcoming license renewal on the hydroelectric plant which takes place every 50 years.

Commissioner Robertson asked if the Water Quality people present at the meeting had any comments on the sedimentation issue. Commissioner Hammer stated that the Water Quality representatives did not have any comments while he and Mr. French were in attendance at the meeting.


Chairman Watts asked for a moment of silence in honor of John Shook, EMS Paramedic, who passed away on Saturday, July 20, 2002. The commissioners extended their sympathy to the Shook family.


Rick French, County Manager, presented the 2002-2003 Alexander County Budget Ordinance for consideration and stated that Alexander County had been operating with an interim budget for the month of July. Mr. French stated that the state had withheld $1,146,874 for 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 budget years.

Mr. French stated that the proposed budget was 6.83% less than the 2001-2002 budget and did not include inventory tax reimbursements or any additional half-cent sales tax revenues. The proposed tax rate is 46.5 cents per $100 and the Fund Balance will be left at 8.2%. Mr. French stated that there would be a 2.5% increase in residential water and a 10% increase in landfill fees.

Commissioner Robertson noted that not only had the State taken $1,146,874 from Alexander County, it had also increased the counties’ mandated portion of Medicaid, Alexander County's share totaling $250,000. Jennifer Herman, Budget Officer, stated that Medicaid cost for Alexander County had risen $400,000 to $500,000 in the last 2 years. Commissioner Robertson stated that North Carolina was one of only a few states in the United States that passed a portion of the cost of Medicaid onto counties.

Mr. French reported that the House had approved on second reading a half-cent local option sales tax with an effective date of January 1, 2003. Mr. French stated that elements of bill (S1292) included:

    • The state half-cent sales tax sunsets December 31, 2002 maintaining a statewide sales tax rate of 6.5 cents.
    • Reimbursements are eliminated immediately with no hold-harmless provision for this fiscal year, but full hold-harmless for all local governments will be effective beginning July 1, 2003 through July 1, 2012.
    • Beginning in October 2002, counties and cities will begin receiving sales tax distributions monthly instead of current quarterly distributions.
    • Counties and cities most drastically affected by the six-month delay this fiscal year will receive a partial hold-harmless this year. These counties are Anson, Davie, Durham, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Granville, Polk, Rockingham, Scotland, and Stokes.

Mr. French explained that after passage in the House, the bill would be sent to the Senate for final approval. Under the NC system of government, this action is not final until both Houses of the General Assembly agree to the same plan.

Mr. French also noted that the Day Reporting program had not been included in the Governor’s budget. Governor Easley expected counties to pick up funding of the program. Mr. French stated that he had spoken with Patrice Roselar, NCACC, who informed Mr. French that they were trying to get the program back in place by August.

Commissioner Harbinson conveyed his disappointment with local legislators voting against the half-cent local option sales tax. Commissioner Harbinson noted that Representative Tracy Walker had informed staff by email that he would vote in favor of the sales tax, but in turn voted against it. It was pointed out that had Representative Tracy Walker and Representative Edgar Starnes voted for the half-cent sales tax, the bill would have passed and Alexander County would have $880,000 in revenues for 2002-2003 budget. Commissioner Harbinson stated that if the half-cent local option sales tax was enacted for counties in January, Alexander County would received $440,000 and the Board would then amend the budget and appropriate more funds to areas cut in the proposed budget or apply said revenues to the Fund Balance.

Commissioner Robertson noted that this board, as well as previous boards, had tried to obtain a half-cent sales tax to provide some relief for property taxpayers. Commissioner Robertson noted that sales tax was a fairer tax because everyone paid the tax, not just property owners.

Commissioner Hammer agreed that a sales tax was the best way to go and was fairer. Commissioner Hammer also noted that he couldn’t understand why Raleigh couldn’t comprehend that approach and enact the half-cent local option sales tax to provide some relief for property owners.

Commissioner Odom stated that he did not want citizens to think that Raleigh was doing the county a favor by enacting the sales tax in January and urged to not send them any kind of thank you cards or letters. Commissioner Odom noted that the county was still "in the hole" even if the State enacted the sales tax in January. Commissioner Odom applauded the Board’s eagerness to secure the half-cent local option sales tax and for working together.

Mr. French informed the Board that he attended the House session last week when the half-cent local option sales tax was voted down. Mr. French stated that he tried speaking with Representative Tracy Walker without any luck. However, Mr. French did speak with Senator John Garwood. Mr. French stated that Senator Garwood invited him into his office and took time to talk to him. Mr. French stated that Senator Garwood was now out of our district but recognized him for his cooperation.

Mr. French also stated that the State budget problem was not settled and explained that the State was simply moving money from one fund to another which was not solving the problem. Mr. French stated that some say that the State budget crisis would last for the next 5 years.

Commissioner Harbinson thanked County Manager Rick French as well as the Finance and Administration staff for the work done during this difficult budget. Commissioner Harbinson also noted that the Board was very appreciative of the professional cooperation and attitude of the department heads during budget cuts.

Chairman Watts noted that the Board listened to all suggestions and was proud that the Board worked together as a whole during the most challenging budget in the history of the county. Chairman Watts also stated that there would be some departments that would be disappointed with their individual budgets but noted that amendments could be made once the Board received some concrete revenue figures from Raleigh.

Commissioner Robertson stated that the State had left counties few options in regard to their budgets. Commissioner Robertson expressed concerns about the amount of the Fund Balance and stated that he was concerned about where that would leave the county next year. Commissioner Robertson agreed that the State was not solving the budget problem by moving money around and noted that the State had taken money from the Rainy Day Fund, Transportation Fund, and the Hurricane Fund.

Commissioner Harbinson stated that this was an unusual budget year due to the combination of revaluation, recession, and loss of revenue from the State. Commissioner Harbinson explained that, due to the actions of the State, counties had the option of either using the Fund Balance, cutting services, or raising taxes. Commissioner Harbinson stated that the Board was in hopes of getting the half-cent local option sales tax because it was a fairer tax that everyone paid, instead of only 40% that pay property taxes. Commissioner Harbinson stated that Alexander County was fortunate to have a 46.5 cent tax rate and noted that there were only 6 counties with lower tax rates.

Commissioner Odom expressed his concern for those people that had to lose their jobs due to actions taken by the State but noted that most counties were in much worse shape than Alexander County. Commissioner Odom noted that he was not a big fan of an excessive Fund Balance and felt that 8.2% would be plenty. Commissioner Odom explained that the Fund Balance was to be used for emergencies and catastrophes that the county had no control over and felt that the State withholding revenues from counties was such an emergency. Commissioner Odom thanked County Manager Rick French and all county employees for their hard work and patience.

Commissioner Hammer also expressed his concern for the employees that lost their jobs during the budget process and agreed with the fact that Governor Easley was not solving the problem by simply shifting money from one fund into another. Commissioner Hammer stated that some departments’ budgets were cut more than others and felt that the cuts could have been more across the board and equal.

Chairman Watts explained that in this budget crisis, the Board was forced to do things that they didn’t want to do including eliminating positions and decreasing funding for departments. Chairman Watts felt that staff should know very soon the direction that the State would be taking in regard to the half-cent sales tax and noted that the Board would make some budget amendments once staff received word from the State.

David Icenhour, Human Resources/Public Information Director, presented a budget comparison (which is hereby made a part of these minutes) and stated that Alexander County had the lowest budget per person that any surrounding county with a total of $642 per person. Mr. Icenhour stated also discussed the budgets per person for surrounding counties which included Caldwell at $715 per person, Catawba at $1,126 per person, Iredell at $778 per person, and Wilkes at $917 per person.

There being no further discussion, Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to adopt the 2002-2003 Alexander County Budget Ordinance. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.


Rick French, County Manager, stated that, according to the County Attorney, the Board needed to clarify the reasoning for the approval of Rezoning Case 02-6 which was considered at the June 27, 2002 Special Called Meeting. At the meeting, the Board approved rezoning of property located at 5565 Icard Ridge Road from R-20 (Residential) to H-C (Highway-Commercial).

Chairman Watts discussed the following factors for the clarification of reasoning of the approval of Rezoning Case 02-6:

    1. Size of the tract:
    1. The surrounding or adjacent properties range in size from .43 acres (18,730 square feet) to 9.2 acres and the subject property is 3.32 acres. Therefore, the amendment does not single out and reclassify a small tract in comparison to adjacent properties in the urban area.

            2.  The compatibility of the disputed zoning action with an existing comprehensive plan:

    1. NCDOT identifies Icard Ridge Road as an Urban Thoroughfare at the intersection of Hubbard Road.
    2. The property is served by a 6-inch public waterline.
    3. The 1993 Land Development Plan identifies the subject property as an urban transition area.

             3.   The benefits and detriments resulting from the zoning action for the petitioning property owner, neighbors, and surrounding community:

    1. The structure was built and the business was established in 1989 based upon the Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance and Map, which zoned the property H-C (Highway-Commercial), allowing the existing use.
    2. The purpose of H-C (Highway-Commercial) is for uses that may act independently of one another, in which the current use does.
    3. Due to the close proximity of the property to Lake Hickory, the use is a benefit to patrons of Lake Hickory and residents of the surrounding area.

             4.   The relationship between the uses envisioned under the new zoning and the current uses of adjacent land:

    1. Any use listed in the Zoning Ordinance for H-C (Highway-Commercial) would be allowed including the current use.
    2. A commercial use and zone exists approximately 450 feet to the south (R&N Marina).
    3. A commercial use and zone exists approximately 1,300 feet to the north (Diamond Racing).
    4. There are 14 adjoining properties of which one property is a commercial use (retail greenhouses), one property is a non-conforming manufactured home park, four properties contain single-family residences and the remaining eight properties are vacant or undeveloped land.

Other Justifications

The property was rezoned to justify a mistake made in the countywide zoning process in September 2001. From May 1987 through September 2001 the property had been zoned H-C (Highway-Commercial).

After presenting this information Commissioner Robertson made a motion to reconsider Rezoning Case 02-6 for clarification purposes only which included all the aforementioned reasons as justification for the rezoning. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

CLOSED SESSION – N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(6) PERSONNEL

Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to enter into Closed Session at 9:03 PM to discuss personnel issues pursuant to N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(6). Commissioner Odom 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 9:17 PM. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.



  John F. Watts, Chairman           Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board



County Property Tax Rate Total Budget Budget Per Person Change From Previous Year Anticipated Fund Balance Change in Operational Funding, School
Alexander 0.465 $21,591,668 $642 6.8% decrease 8.20% 3.40% decrease
Caldwell 0.5839 $55,358,215 $715 1.7% decrease 9-10% 4.00% decrease
Catawba 0.495 $163,212,479 $1,126 3.7% decrease 14.00% 2.20% decrease
Iredell 0.47 $99,506,725 $778 0.46% decrease 10.83% 5.28% increase
Wilkes 0.655 $60,323,815 $917 5.0% decrease 8.85% 2.00% increase