May 27, 2003
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a Special Called Meeting / Work Session on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 in the Catawba Valley Community College / Alexander Center Multipurpose Room, Taylorsville, North Carolina.
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Robertson called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Commissioner Bolick gave the invocation and Commissioner Hammer led the Pledge of Allegiance of the Flag.
ADOPTION OF AGENDA
Chairman Robertson requested the addition of a Closed Session to discuss contractual matters pursuant to N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5).
Commissioner Hammer made a motion to adopt the agenda as amended. Commissioner Keever seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
OVERVIEW OF WATER FUNDS
Rick French, County Manager, stated that the water funds totaled approximately $1.6 million. The current rates are $15.20 minimum and $2.46 per thousand. Mr. French stated that he would be taking into consideration the 2.4% Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase from the City of Hickory as well as the recent capacity purchase, which would result in a yearly payment of $97,911.14 to the City of Hickory.
Dennie Martin, McGill Associates, discussed a financial analysis that was completed last fall during negotiations regarding the purchase of water capacity, which included a recommendation for a 5-year program for the adjustment of water rates. The Board at that time took the first step and raised the rates. Mr. Martin recommended that the Board continue with the 5-year plan by continuing to increase the rates 5% each year for the next 4 years in order to generate the required revenue for debt incurred by the County. However, Mr. Martin stated that if the objective of the Board was to accumulate substantial capital reserve in order to make larger expansions to the County water system as discussed, the percentage for rate increases per year needed to increase.
Mr. Martin discussed the need for a master plan for the County water system and he noted that there had been some discussion in regard to applying for a Rural Center grant this coming fall to secure funding for a master plan as well as a badly needed hydraulic model.
Commissioner Keever didnt feel that the Boards long-range water plans were definite enough to take into consideration a rate increase for the 2003-2004 budget.
Mr. Martin stated that the Board could continue the plan as is with the 5% increase and then reconsider an increase for the 2004-2005 budget.
Chairman Robertson stated that the Board had decided several years ago to review all County rates and fees including those in Water, Inspections, Solid Waste, etc. so that increases could be established gradually to avoid "sticker shock."
Mr. Martin also stated that the Board might want to consider an impact fee, also known as a cost recovery fee. Mr. Martin noted that it was very rare for a water system to not have this type of fee. Chairman Robertson agreed and explained that, with impact fees, the County could re-establish capacity used without relying on water rates. Mr. Martin informed the Board that most water systems established an impact fee for residential users and then a more substantial fee for nonresidential users since that was where most of the capacity would be depleted.
Commissioner Hammer asked if Alexander Countys minimum fee and rate per thousand was comparable to other systems in western North Carolina. Mr. Martin replied that Alexander Countys rates were very reasonable and were about midway in the scale of rates.
Chairman Robertson noted that the Board would discuss this issue further at the June 9, 2003 Commissioners Meeting.
POLICY FOR SUPPLEMENTAL AND EMERGENCY WATER SUPPLY
Dennie Martin, McGill Associates, presented the revised Policy for Supplemental and Emergency Water Supply. Mr. Martin discussed the following revisions (noted in bold type):
Commissioner Odom asked if Mr. Martin had researched any rate structures from surrounding counties. Mr. Martin replied that he had contacted a few other counties and had found that their rates were entirely across the board because every situation was different. Mr. Martin also noted that most systems did not have situations like Alexander County where emergency purchases had a potential of eroding so much capacity. Commissioner Odom asked what the basis was for the rates outlined in the proposed policy. Mr. Martin replied that the basis for the rates were based on his experience with the ratio of temporary water rates related to regular water rates and connection fees as well as minimum monthly charges based on a level of consumption by bulk users as discussed.
Commissioner Odom expressed his concerns that the Board would be passing on the cost to consumers. Commissioner Odom stated that the bulk users as well as the citizens helped pay for the current water system and he felt that any additional costs incurred other than taxes would be additional fees. Commissioner Odom stated that he would like to see the basis of the proposed fees in writing so that the Board could make sure that the fees were comparable with other counties and water entities.
Chairman Robertson stated that he would also like to see the rate structures of surrounding counties.
Commissioner Keever stated that Item #7 in the policy gave the County the authority to change the rates and fees at any time. Commissioner Keever felt that the Board should move forward with the adoption of the policy in order to protect the County in the event that an emergency occurred. Commissioner Keever noted that the Board could later adjust the rates and fees if needed.
Commissioner Keever made a motion to adopt the Policy for Supplemental and Emergency Water Supply to include the changes discussed with the stipulation that Mr. Martin would return in 60 days with information regarding rates and fees for re-consideration if needed. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted 4 in favor of the motion (Commissioners Bolick, Hammer, Keever, and Robertson) and one against the motion (Commissioner Odom). The motion passed.
OVERVIEW OF SOLID WASTE BUDGET & REPORT ON CONSTRUCTION & DEBRIS / LANDFIL
Rick French, County Manager, stated that the current budget for Solid Waste totaled $1,282,022. The budget that had been requested for Solid Waste totaled $1,515,007; however, the recommended budget in review currently totals a little over $1.4 million. Mr. French stated that this would require $214,812 to be taken from the General Fund.
Mr. French discussed the leachate problems with the Construction & Debris Landfill (C & D) which staff is currently trying to address. Mr. French suggested possibly increasing the C & D rate from $22.15 to $44.30, which is the current tipping fee for the transfer station. This would generate an additional $135,000.
Mr. French presented several slides of the C & D Landfill and the leachate problems for the Board to view. Mr. French discussed 5 problems with the C & D Landfill, indicated by the NC Dept of Environmental and Natural Resources, Division of Solid Waste Management, that needed to be addressed, which included the following:
Mr. French stated that it would be difficult to comply with these steps due to the expense as well as the increased amount of rainfall, which had caused a tremendous amount of water and mud at the site. Mr. French stated that he would be meeting with Wayne Sullivan, Municipal Engineering, on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 to develop a plan to submit to the NCDENR. Mr. French stated that the problems would take time to repair and he noted that he had asked NCDENR for their patience due to the rains; however, NCDENR had not been cooperative. Mr. French also stated that the C & D permit had expired and he felt that the NCDENR would use that to their advantage.
Mr. French also discussed a Sedimentation Inspection Report from the NCDENR that discussed the recent timber removal. The report stated: The Timber Harvesting is not conducted in accordance with forest practice guidelines related to water quality (best management practices). No erosion and sediment control measures or any type of best management practices were seen on the site. Mr. French pointed out that the County worked very closely with the NC Forestry Service on the removal of the timber, which is now being written up by NCDENR.
Commissioner Odom noted that the NCDENR was the same organization that forced a 50-foot buffer on the Catawba River to prevent sedimentation getting into the river. Commissioner Odom felt that it was ironic that the same organization wanted the County to cut trees down because water was coming out of the soil. Commissioner Odom stated that he wanted the citizens to know that this was a double standard.
Chairman Robertson discussed the increased amount of rainfall that the County had received since October 2002. Chairman Robertson felt that more damage would be done at the C & D Landfill if staff tried to begin repairs now than if staff waited until the ground was dry.
Mr. French noted that the transfer station would be paid off next year, which would bring the Solid Waste/Landfill closer to being self-supporting. Mr. French also noted that a lease for a new front-end loader would be included in the proposed budget.
Commissioner Keever discussed the convenience sites and pointed out that it costed approximately $251,000 to operate the convenience centers with no revenue to offset the cost. Commissioner Keever stated that the convenience sites were the source of the shortfall in the Solid Waste budget and he noted that it was the intention of the Solid Waste Task force to phase out the convenience sites at the end of the 10-year plan. Commissioner Keever stated that the Solid Waste Task Force then felt that most people would prefer to have door to door pickup at the end of the 10-year plan; however, he noted that this was not the case because it would be more expensive to contract for door to door service. Commissioner Keever felt that the Board needed to discuss increasing the fees at the convenience sites as well as possibly phasing out a few sites in areas where they are least used.
Chairman Robertson also stated that the leases for a few of the convenience sites had been re-negotiated, which had resulted in higher costs. Chairman Robertson felt that the leases needed to be reviewed to determine if it would be feasible to keep all sites open.
GENERAL FUND DEPARTMENT REVIEW
The following budget discussions were held:
Sheriff, Jail & Communications
Emergency Medical Service Review
Economic Development Discussion
Mr. Hertzler also noted that there had been a few pharmaceutical companies and a financial profiling company looking at Alexander County.
Chairman Robertson inquired about the movie requests. Mr. Hertzler stated that the most serious request came from Dumb and Dumber, When Harry Met Lloyd. The directors came to Alexander County and looked at several schools but they decided to shoot the movie elsewhere.
Chairman Robertson asked if anyone from the Partnership had actually been to the County to look at any sites. Mr. Hertzler replied that Betty Petty had traveled to the County on 4 occasions and had taken many pictures of the mountains, lakes, farms, etc.
Mr. Hertzler stated that it was his understanding that the recommended EDC budget was only for 6 months and that he could request the additional 6 months funding later in the year. Mr. Hertzler stated that this had gotten the Partnerships attention and he recommended continuing with the Partnership with a 6-month budget. Mr. Hertzler also stated that this would give him time to get the web site running and to contact the Department of Commerce to determine if the $40,000 automatically given to the Partnership for Alexander County could be redirected.
Mr. Hertzler stated that Alexander County would remain a member of the Partnership even if the County did not fund the Partnership; however, the County would not receive any services. Commissioner Keever asked if Alexander County would still be listed on the Partnership web site even if the Board chose not to fund them. Mr. Hertzler stated that he was not sure and would check on that issue.
OTHER FUNDS REVIEW
Rick French, County Manager, discussed several other departmental budgets and funds within the 2003-2004 budget including:
Mr. French also noted that a work session could be held after the public hearing set for June 2, 2003 if there werent many items set for the agenda. Chairman Robertson requested that the agenda for June 2nd be very short so that an additional budget work session could be held afterwards.
Chairman Robertson discussed the ongoing problem of the Finance Office not receiving invoices on time. Chairman Robertson requested that this issue be stressed as policy along with the adoption of the budget. Chairman Robertson also mentioned that Foothills Mental Health had began holding paychecks when department heads did not turn in invoices on time.
Jennifer Herman, Finance Officer, suggested that the Board allow her to set up a line item in each department for late charges so that staff could review every quarter to determine how much was spent for late charges in each department. Ms. Herman also noted that the Finance staff had recently purchased a date stamp in order to stamp each bill turned in at the end of each day. Ms. Herman explained that all department heads had been informed that invoices needed to be turned in by 5:00 PM on Tuesday to be paid by Friday of payables week. However, some department heads bring invoices in on Wednesday and say they were in by Tuesday. Ms. Herman stated that the date stamp would eliminate this problem.
Mr. French also informed the Board that some department heads ordered supplies, equipment, etc. before submitting purchase orders, which also caused a problem. Mr. French noted that these issues could be handled as a personnel matter with verbal and written warnings and/or consequences.
Chairman Robertson asked if the Finance Offices system kept track of what late charges were paid for each department. Ms. Herman replied that she kept track of that information on a spreadsheet. Chairman Robertson asked Ms. Herman to supply a copy of that spreadsheet to the Board each month.
Rick French, County Manager, discussed the following issues during Other Business:
CLOSED SESSION N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5) CONTRACTUAL
Commissioner Keever made a motion to enter into Closed Session at 8:32 PM to discuss contractual matters pursuant to N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5). Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
There being no further business, Commissioner Bolick made a motion to adjourn at 9:15 PM. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
W. Darrell Robertson, Chairman Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board