May 27, 2003

PRESENT: W. Darrell Robertson, Chairman
William L. Hammer, Vice-Chairman
Wesley E. Bolick
W. Norris Keever
David S. Odom
STAFF: Rick French, County Manager
Jamie Millsaps, Clerk to the Board
David Icenhour, Human Resources Director
Russell Greene, Fire Marshal
MEDIA: Gary Herman, The Taylorsville Times
Norris Keever, WACB Radio


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.


Chairman Robertson called the meeting to order at 6:00 PM.


Commissioner Bolick gave the invocation and Commissioner Hammer led the Pledge of Allegiance of the Flag.


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.


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 didn’t feel that the Board’s 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 County’s minimum fee and rate per thousand was comparable to other systems in western North Carolina. Mr. Martin replied that Alexander County’s 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.


Dennie Martin, McGill Associates, presented the revised Policy for Supplemental and Emergency Water Supply. Mr. Martin discussed the following revisions (noted in bold type):

Paragraph #1 revised to read: Alexander County, hereinafter referred to as the County, has requests, from time to time, from public or private Bulk Water Users for potable water that is for supplemental, interim or emergency supply or purposes other than re-occurring usage.

Paragraph #2 added: Bulk Water Users, for the purposes of this policy, are defined as users who purchase water for the purpose of redistributing said water to other users.

Item #3 revised to read: Such supplemental, interim or emergency water users shall not be provided with permanently installed water meters and therefore, the County shall require a written notification of no less than five (5) days prior to the withdrawal of water to install a temporary point of connection and a meter, except in instances when the County Manager, the Fire Marshal, or the County Emergency Services Coordinator deems that the notification period may be waived due to a fire emergency or an emergency related to a major water line break or system failure.

Rick French, County Manager, asked that the wording of County Emergency Services Coordinator be removed and replaced with County Manager designee.

Item #11 revised to read: No supplemental, interim or emergency withdrawals of water may continue for more than six (6) consecutive months without the express permission of the County Manager, and such continuations may be granted only after receipt of a written request from the user and the County Manager’s verification that ongoing communication has occurred between the County and the user throughout the period of consumption to insure that the County’s interests are protected

Item #12 added: During such times that a supplemental, interim or emergency connection exists, the user shall comply with the County’s policies related to water conservation.

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.


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:

    1. The repair of all leachate outbreaks.
    2. The removal of woody vegetation growing on the C&D Landfill slopes.
    3. The grading of C&D Landfill side slopes to a 3:1 slope and seeding of all re-graded slopes.
    4. The application of at least 2 feet of soil cover to Phase III & IV and seeding of the area to prevent erosion.
    5. Adding additional cover to Phase I to maintain a small working face.

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.


The following budget discussions were held:

Sheriff, Jail & Communications

Hayden Bentley, Sheriff, stated that he had just received the recommended budget this afternoon and had not had a chance to review the entire budget. Mr. Bentley stated that he had received a letter today informing him that the Sheriff’s Communications had been transferred to the 911 Communications budget. Mr. Bentley stated that he did not have a chance to refigure the salaries and wages for the Sheriff’s Department budget and he noted that he would consult with Mr. French later in the week.

Mr. Bentley stated that he had not previously provided a list of contracted services in the original budget request and he noted that he would also discuss this with Mr. French.

Mr. Bentley discussed the contract for the computer system and he informed the Board that the bills had been running 6 months behind. Mr. Bentley stated that the bill was paid twice a year and he asked if the Board would like to catch up on the 6 months or continue as is.

Jennifer Herman, Finance Officer, stated that if the next bill were dated January through June 2003, she would have to show it as an expense in the financial statements for the 2003 budget year even if the check wasn’t written until July. Ms. Herman also noted that it would have to be accrued back into the 2003 year as well.

Mr. Bentley discussed the allocation for uniforms for 2003-2004, which remained the same as 2002-2003. Mr. Bentley stated that his officers could get by with the same uniforms for one more year but he noted that the uniform line item would need to be increased in the next budget year due to wear and tear and cost increases.

Mr. Bentley stated that he would need to discuss capital outlay items with Mr. French to determine exactly what was approved and what was not since there was a difference in the amount requested and the amount recommended.

Commissioner Bolick discussed the contract with Software Solutions for the Sheriff and Jail computer system and he asked if the County Information Technology Department could handle the maintenance of the system. Mr. Bentley replied that Greg Cronk, Information Technology Director, would occasionally contact Software Solutions in order to correct a problem but he explained that the contract with Software Solutions was a good investment because it included 2 to 4 upgrades on equipment and programs each year. Mr. Bentley also stated that staff was able to download information onto a disk to be sent to the State which saved time.

Commissioner Odom inquired about the need for new vehicles. Mr. Bentley stated that the recommended amount budgeted for 4 new vehicles was $20,000 each, which he felt would not be enough. Mr. Bentley stated that Larry Schronce Ford had quoted a price of $21,500 each without radios, sirens, blue lights, markings, etc. which would bring the cost up to approximately $23,000 each. Mr. Bentley requested that the Board review the need for vehicles before May 1st during the next budget year because the cut off date to be included in the State contract was May 1st. Mr. Bentley informed the Board that he had some information on a dealer in Georgia at which he could get new Fords equipped with new radios, sirens, blue lights, and markings for $24,000. Mr. Bentley felt that this would be a beneficial investment.

Mr. Bentley also stated that he would need to meet with Mr. French to discuss the need for enough funding to provide replacements for officers who are out sick or take vacation time.

Mr. Bentley also discussed the Jail budget and he noted that line items 5200.4600 (Medical Supplies), 5200.4700 (Food Provisions), and 5200.4710 (Contracted Detention Services) were cut drastically due to the Criminal Justice Partnership Pre-Trial Release Program. Mr. Bentley informed the Board that he did not feel that the Pre-Trial Release Program would take 75% of inmates out of jail as anticipated and he felt that more funding would need to be budgeted.

Mr. French stated that Anita Price, Resource Center Director, had given him a figure of $76,586.12 savings of which he took 75% of to decrease the Jail budget. Mr. Bentley felt that a 75% savings was unrealistic, especially since costs were continually increasing. Mr. Bentley also informed the Board that for the last 3 weeks, the 25 inmate capacity jail had had a capacity of 35 to 39 inmates.

Jennifer Herman, Finance Officer, stated that she had served on the committee that reviewed the Pre-Trial Release Program. Ms. Herman explained that Ms. Price supplied figures for last year in regard to medical supplies, food provisions, etc. The committee reviewed individual cases for last year to determine how many inmates would have been eligible for the Pre-Trial Release Program. Ms. Herman also noted that she had spoken with Ms. Price today regarding the program. Ms. Price urged anyone to call her with questions regarding how the figures were obtained.

Chairman Robertson asked Mr. Bentley to discuss the Pre-Trial Release Program more in depth with Mr. French and Ms. Price to possibly adjust the Jail budget if needed.

Emergency Medical Service Review

Nolan Jarvis, EMS Director, stated that he had also not reviewed the recommended budget that was distributed today; however, Mr. Jarvis discussed several issues with the EMS budget.

Mr. Jarvis discussed employee overtime, which has been discussed numerous times over the years. Mr. Jarvis stated that he was always open to other options to reduce the number of overtime hours acquired by EMS personnel. Mr. Jarvis stated that overtime was difficult to ignore with a department that operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Mr. Jarvis explained that the system for calculating overtime had recently been changed from an 86-hour system every 2 weeks to a 40-hour system every week. This was due to a recent court ruling as well as a recommendation from Mark Knuckles, Human Resources Consultant.

Mr. Jarvis stated that each EMS employee worked 56 hours per week but he noted that EMS employees were only paid at a half time rate for the overtime hours, not time and a half. Mr. Jarvis explained that a paramedic’s pay averaged $27,283 ($10.06 hourly) or $563.16 per week. After adding in the 16 hours overtime at a half time rate ($5.03 hourly), $80.48 is added bringing the total pay to $643.78 per week. Mr. Jarvis also noted that there were several part-time employees available when full-time employees were out of work.

Commissioner Keever asked if Mr. Jarvis had performed any calculations to determine how many employees it would take to eliminate overtime hours. Mr. Jarvis replied that EMS currently operated 3 shifts in rotation and he stated that an additional shift could be added which would result in 6 more full-time employees. Mr. Jarvis noted that each employee would then work 42 hours per week, accumulating only 2 hours of overtime each week. However, Mr. Jarvis noted that these employees would be paid at a full time rate ($219,000 per year) instead of a half time rate for the current employees ($75,000 per year) which would cost the County more.

Chairman Robertson asked how many overtime hours were accumulated each week by EMS personnel. Mr. Jarvis replied that approximately 550 to 600 hours of overtime were accumulated within a pay period (2 weeks).

Commissioner Odom asked if it would be possible for EMS employees to be salaried employees, earning a flat pay rate no matter how many hours were worked. Ms. Herman noted that the General Statutes did not allow for EMS employees to be salaried employees.

Chairman Robertson asked if it would be beneficial to take the supervisors out of the QRV (Quick Response Vehicle) and put them back into the ambulance units and eliminate the QRV. Mr. Jarvis replied that it would help financially because the QRV unit would be eliminated.

Chairman Robertson discussed the disproportional high number of motor vehicle accidents in Alexander County and expressed his concerns about duplicated response by EMS, Rescue Squad, and fire departments to these accidents. Mr. Jarvis replied that the crew dispatched depended on information given by the 911 dispatcher. Chairman Robertson asked Mr. Jarvis to look into the matter of overlapping service.

Chairman Robertson suggested scheduling 3 shifts for 16 hours per day and 2 shifts to cover the other 8 hours per day based on the demand of services. Mr. Jarvis replied that the only slack time for EMS occurred between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM but he noted that the schedule stayed consistent for the most part.

Commissioner Keever suggested considering contracting EMS service from the City of Hickory for the Bethlehem area of the County since there was a considerably low amount of calls received from that area. Mr. Jarvis stated that he would be concerned that another entity would have different rules and protocols than Alexander County and he also noted that there would possibly be a much longer response time since the City of Hickory station was farther away than the Alexander base.

Commissioner Bolick suggested scheduling the current part-time employees for a designated amount of hours each week to take care of the overtime. Mr. Jarvis stated that it would cost the County more because these employees would have to be paid a full rate instead of only a half rate. However, Commissioner Bolick that the County would not have to provide benefits to part-time employees.

Chairman Robertson asked Mr. Jarvis to research the issues discussed and report back to the Board with his findings.

Economic Development Discussion

Keith Hertzler, Chamber of Commerce & EDC Director, introduced Randy Street, President of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Mr. Hertzler gave a report on the Charlotte Regional Partnership, which included the following:

    1. The Partnership has brought 6 potential clients to Alexander County over the past 4 years. The clients were from Germany, France, and the USA. All clients liked the county but needed to be close to a major interstate or within 30 minutes of a major airport. Only one client signed to come to the region and located in Statesville along Interstate 40. The client is now looking to relocate in Greensboro.
    2. There have been numerous requests for movie locations.
    3. In November of 2001, Mr. Hertzler was asked to travel with the Partnership to Germany and France. This trip helped to build a network of global clients. Mr. Hertzler stated that he was still in contact with businessmen and women that he met on that trip. The extra cost to the county was $1,000 for lodging and came out of the EDC budget. The cost of airfare, meals, and transportation was paid by the Partnership from our membership dues.
    4. In June of 2001, the annual Economic Developers Retreat was held in Alexander County at the Hidden Crystal Inn. After the morning meeting, the Partnership took 24 people to Brushy Mountain Golf Course. The Partnership spent approximately $2,000 in the county.

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 Partnership’s 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.


Rick French, County Manager, discussed several other departmental budgets and funds within the 2003-2004 budget including:

    1. Mr. French recommended that the 68-cent fee for 911 Communications be increased to 80 cents. This will generate $25,000 to help with equipment costs with the consolidation of 911 and Sheriff Communications. Mr. French noted that this was not the charge on the cell phone bills.
    2. The tax rates for the fire departments will remain the same. Mr. French stated that the Sugar Loaf Fire Department had requested an increase; however, an increase was not recommended.
    3. Mr. French stated that the Contingency Fund looked good at $600,000 but he noted that most of the fund would be used up in Solid Waste funds and a 2% cost of living increase for employees.

Mr. French also noted that a work session could be held after the public hearing set for June 2, 2003 if there weren’t 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 Office’s 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:

    1. The Solid Waste Management Plan 3-year update needs to be approved in June. Mr. French presented a draft copy of the plan for the Board’s review for consideration at the June 16, 2003 Meeting.
    2. David Icenhour, Human Resources Director, will present some changes to the Personnel Policy at the June 2, 2003 Meeting.
    3. The public hearing for the 2003-2004 budget is scheduled for June 2, 2003 at 6:00 PM in the CVCC/Alexander Center Multipurpose Room. There will be another budget work session held on June 9, 2003, also at 6:00 PM in the CVCC/Alexander Center Multipurpose Room.
    4. Mr. French spoke to W.T. Sorrell with USDA concerning financing for water line construction. The rates run from 4.5% for 40 years. Mr. Sorrell stated that McGill Associates was very familiar with the programs.


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