October 18, 2004

PRESENT: W. Norris Keever, Chairman
William L. Hammer, Vice-Chairman
Wesley E. Bolick
W. Darrell Robertson
John F. Watts
STAFF: Rick French, County Manager
Jamie Starnes, Clerk to the Board
MEDIA: Gary Herman, The Taylorsville Times


The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting on Monday, October 18, 2004 in the Bethlehem Elementary School Cafeteria, Bethlehem, North Carolina.


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


Commissioner Wes Bolick gave the invocation and Keaton Peek, student at Bethlehem Elementary School, led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.


Commissioner Bolick requested the discussion of Christmas in Bethlehem at some point during the agenda.  Chairman Keever suggested this issue be placed on the agenda as Agenda Item #3B.

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


Karen Hoyle, Social Services Director, presented the proposed 2005-2007 Work First Grant Plan.  She conveyed her appreciation to all the community partners involved in the plan for their participation.

Ms. Hoyle informed the Board that the plan was made available for public comment at the Library, County Administration Office, and on the Alexander County website.  She stated that staff had not received any public comments and was therefore ready to submit the plan to the N.C. Division of Social Services.

Commissioner Watts stated that the Work First Program allowed Social Services to donate vehicles to non-profit organizations.  He discussed the tax law change that would take place in January 2005 that would result in Social Services receiving a much lesser tax credit than previously allowed. 

Commissioner Robertson stated that the Work First Plan had addressed the issues of transportation and child care, which were the most critical aspects. 

Commissioner Robertson made a motion to adopt the 2005-2007 Work First Grant Plan as presented.   Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion.   The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.


Rick French, County Manager, discussed the purpose of Budget Amendments #10 and #11, which included the following:

Budget Amendment #10 – To budget for an increased number of autopsies and death investigations.  To increase the budget for the purchase of a Ditch Witch sub site locater.

Budget Amendment #11 – To also increase the budget for the purchase of a Ditch Witch sub site locator.

Commissioner Watts asked Mr. French if he was aware of the total dollar amount of budget amendments made so far in the fiscal year.  Mr. French stated that staff could investigate that figure for him at a later date.

Commissioner Robertson made a motion to approve Budget Amendments #10 and #11.  Commissioner Bolick seconded the motion.  The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.


Commissioner Hammer recommended the George and Alva Hoke be appointed to the Council on Aging to replace Hazel Lackey who had recently resigned from the council.  He also recommended that Betty Lovette be appointed to the Council on Aging to replace Jean Rufty who had also resigned.  Commissioner Hammer informed the Board that these terms would expire in October 2007.

Commissioner Hammer made a motion to approve the appointments.  Commissioner Bolick seconded the motion.  The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

Commissioner Bolick stated that staff was constantly searching for citizens to serve on County boards and committees.  He urged anyone interested in serving on a County board or committee to contact Jamie Starnes, Clerk to the Board.  Commissioner Watts also noted that there was a link on the County website that listed each board and committee.


Commissioner Bolick stated that each year thousands of citizens attended the Star Lighting in Bethlehem, which was sponsored by the Bethlehem Community Development Association, on the first Saturday in December.  Commissioner Bolick explained that 2 years ago a Christmas Drive-through was organized, allowing citizens to set up booths depicting the life and times of Jesus.  He noted that the drive-through had been a great success and would continue again this year.  He also pointed out that the drive-through, also sponsored by the Bethlehem Community Development Association, as well as the Star Lighting was supported entirely by churches and business in the Bethlehem area.

Commissioner Bolick stated that he wished to bring this issue before the Board each year to remind everyone of these very special events.

Therefore, Commissioner Bolick made a motion to declare December 1-15, 2004 as Christmas in Bethlehem.  Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion.  The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.


Chairman Keever stated that the Board had organized this portion of the meeting to allow the citizens of Bethlehem to provide suggestions as to what type of services they wanted in the new County building located on Bolick Lane in Bethlehem.

Rick French, County Manager, introduced the following staff members and department heads for the citizens present at the meeting:

                        Karen Hoyle, Social Services Director

                        Leeanne Whisnant, Health Director

                        Sylvia Turnmire, Director of Planning & Development

                        Russell Greene, Fire Marshal/Interim Emergency Management Director

                        Gary Hoyle, Library Director

                        Hayden Bentley, Sheriff

                        David Icenhour, Economic Development Director

                        Greg Cronk, Information Technology Director

                        Doug Kerley, Building Codes Administrator

                        Jamie Starnes, Clerk to the Board

                        Angela Johnson, Recreation Department Administrative Assistant

                        Nancy Coley, WPCOG Community Development Administrator

At this time, Chairman Keever requested any public comment.

            Public Comment and Discussion

Janie McCall felt that it would be wonderful to have a satellite library located in the new building.  She informed the Board that many citizens in the community missed the book mobile.  Ms. McCall stated that she used to get books from the book mobile every week to read to the kindergarten class at Bethlehem Elementary School when she was employed there.  She also stated that children were able to get their parents to visit the book mobile because it was located in the shopping center at the intersection of Rink Dam Road and Highway 127, making it easily available to parents when shopping for groceries or running errands in the shopping center.  Ms. McCall stated that, since the book mobile was no longer being utilized, many citizens did not have access to books unless they drove several miles into Taylorsville or Hickory, which she noted some citizens would simply not do.  Therefore, she felt a satellite library would benefit children and adults in the area.  Ms. McCall stated that she had heard rumors about computers being placed in the new building that would allow citizens to search for and request books instead of having books on the premises.  Ms. McCall felt that books should be made available on the premises instead of on a computer.   She stated that many people, including her, liked to browse and see what was available before making a selection.  Ms. McCall also suggested the Board allow lots of room for a satellite library in the new building.

Commissioner Bolick asked Ms. McCall if she felt the people of Bethlehem would support a satellite library.  Ms. McCall replied that the citizens would definitely support a satellite library, especially if it was well publicized. 

Janice Jones stated that she had spoken to several citizens in the area who would be willing to volunteer at a satellite library.  Ms. Jones stated that, being a retired teacher, she knew how crucial it was to have some type of reading facility located in the area, especially since the book mobile was no longer in operation. 

Beverly Schoenduve informed the Board that the cost for a Hickory library card was $60 for an out-of-town person, which she felt was entirely too expensive.  She also suggested a satellite library since Lakemont Park did not have any sewer service.

Judy Blackwelder stated that she lived on Teague Town Road but worked in Hickory.  She explained that it was too expensive to purchase a library card in Hickory but also that it was too far for her to drive to Taylorsville to the Alexander County Library to check out books.  She also stated that her only free day, which was Saturday, was spent cooking and cleaning, which prevented her from having the time to drive to town.

Commissioner Robertson asked if anyone knew how many Alexander County residents used the Hickory library.  Gary Hoyle, Library Director, stated that he had spoken to the library director at the Patrick Beaver Library in Hickory last fall regarding this issue.  At that time, there were 953 Alexander County residents who had library cards.

Chairman Keever asked Mr. Hoyle if he felt those 953 people would use a satellite library in Bethlehem if one was established.  Mr. Hoyle replied that he felt many of them would, in fact, use the satellite library.  

Commissioner Hammer asked if there were any Hickory residents that had Alexander County Library cards.  Mr. Hoyle replied that the Alexander County Library allowed anyone to have a library card as long as they resided or worked in the county.  He stated that there were a few people from other counties that used our library but not very many.

Commissioner Bolick asked Mr. Hoyle if he was aware of how many Bethlehem citizens used the Hickory library.  Mr. Hoyle replied that he was not aware of those numbers but would research his data to see if that could be determined.

Angela Johnson stated that she lived in the Bethlehem area and also served on the WPCOG Area Agency on Aging and the Alexander County Council on Aging.  She explained that the primary function of these councils was to recommend services to senior adults each year as well as distribute funding from the block grant for those services.  Ms. Johnson suggested that some senior adult services be offered in the new building.  She explained that she was a first year baby boomer and would soon be at the age where those block grant monies would benefit her.  She also felt that baby boomers were going to be less physically fit and more computer literate than other generations.  Ms. Johnson felt that some health programs and senior events would be very beneficial to the aging community.  She also noted that there were several senior groups that would be willing to help make those things happen.

Commissioner Bolick discussed his vision for the new building in Bethlehem which included a satellite library as well as a computerized information technology system.   He explained that 4 to 6 computers could be located in the building for public use.  He also felt that office space could be available for a deputy to meet with citizens by appointment.  Commissioner Bolick stated that he had spoken with the Inspections Department about having an inspector there or possibly allowing citizens in that area to pick up a final inspection report, etc.   Commissioner Bolick felt that this was a project to build on since the County could not afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish a full scale library.

Sylvia Turnmire, Director of Planning & Development, stated that staff had developed a survey that would allow citizens to rank desired public services for the new building as well as operating hours.  Ms. Turnmire stated that these surveys could be picked up at Lowes Food Store #175, Bethlehem Pharmacy, and Bethlehem Restaurant.  She asked that citizens fill out these surveys and then return them to one of these three locations.  She also noted that these surveys would be collected on November 8, 2004.  Ms. Turnmire urged citizens to take part in the surveys.

Ms. McCall felt it would be beneficial to send the surveys home with the students at Bethlehem Elementary School.  Commissioner Watts felt that Wittenburg Elementary School students should also be included.  Hayden Bentley, Sheriff, suggested Ellendale Elementary School students.

Commissioner Bolick asked several department heads to discuss things their specific departments could offer in the new building.

Leeanne Whisnant, Health Director, stated that the Health Department could offer flu vaccines as well as tetanus and other adult immunizations at the Bethlehem location.  She also felt that Health Educators could do some education programs or provide materials or referral services.  Ms. Whisnant also felt that children’s vaccinations, such as the kindergarten vaccinations, could be provided on certain days of the month.  She also stated that health fairs could be held in the new building.

Greg Cronk, Information Technology Director, stated that he had provided Commissioner Bolick with some costs for 4 to 6 public access computers with high speed internet access.

Hayden Bentley, Sheriff, first of all mentioned that his wife was in favor of a satellite library.  As far as the Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Bentley stated that training programs could be held at the building.  However, he personally felt that a staff person needed to be at the building 8 hours a day to provide information to citizens coming in.  He felt that this person needed to have general knowledge of all areas of county government.

Joel Harbinson stated that the concept of making county government more accessible to everybody was something that had been discussed several years ago and he noted that it had been a bipartisan effort.  He pointed out that the Board had discussed the Bethlehem area as well as a location in the Hiddenite and Stony Point area.  Mr. Harbinson explained that the County had secured a space in the above mentioned shopping center some time ago to make this venture happen sooner; however, he noted that the State took $1.4 million of the County’s money that year, which resulted in the Board not being able to pursue the opportunity.  Mr. Harbinson mentioned that there had been some type of reciprocal arrangement with the City of Hickory before he became a commissioner that allowed Alexander County citizens to have Hickory library cards.  At that time, the County paid approximately $10,000 per year for that agreement; however, he pointed out that years later the cost increased to $50,000 which made the agreement cost prohibited.   Mr. Harbinson stated that many citizens would not use the Alexander County library because they would not travel from Bethlehem to Taylorsville.  He felt that this was a good effort and he encouraged the Board to also look into a similar establishment in the Hiddenite and Stony Point area.

Commissioner Bolick stated that Granite Falls, Conover, Newton, and other areas were all included in the agreement with Hickory, as Alexander County was, several years ago.  He stated that the cost increased before he even became a commissioner in 1996.

Mr. Harbinson suggested a possible joint venture with Caldwell County for a comprehensive library at the Caldwell/Alexander County line.  He felt that this was something that could be discussed now for a possible collaboration in the future.

Commissioner Bolick asked if Bethlehem could support a library with an additional tax.  Commissioner Robertson stated that any defined precinct could establish a tax district that would allow the citizens within that district to pay an additional tax for whatever service they wanted.  

Commissioner Robertson also felt that the survey would be a good attention getter to parents if they were sent home with students.  He also felt that there could be many citizens living on the lake side of Hickory that would prefer to visit a library in Bethlehem rather than Hickory.

Ms. McCall felt that working with the Hickory library to get lower costs for library cards would be helpful; however, she noted that reduced fees would still not benefit the citizens that simply would not travel to Hickory.  She felt that these individuals were the ones that would benefit the most from a satellite library in Bethlehem.

Commissioner Bolick asked Ms. McCall if she felt public access computers would be used by the residents of the Bethlehem community if placed in the new building.  Ms. McCall stated that it was difficult to answer that question because she did not use computers herself.  However, she felt that it would be possible that a computer lab would be well used.

Commissioner Hammer urged the citizens of Bethlehem to complete these surveys and get them back to the specified locations so that the Board could study the findings to determine the best use of the building during the next budget process. 

Chairman Keever conveyed his appreciation to the citizens that attended the meeting.  He also urged the citizens to complete a survey.


Chairman Keever requested that the November 2, 2004 Commissioners’ Meeting be cancelled due to the election taking place on November 1, 2004.  He noted that the November 15, 2004 Commissioners’ Meeting would still be held.

Chairman Keever made a motion to cancel the November 2, 2004 Commissioners’ Meeting.   Commissioner Watts seconded the motion.   The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.


Rick French, County Manager, informed the Board that he had met with Sheila Weeks on October 6, 2004 to review the applicants for the Senior Center.  He stated that he and Ms. Weeks had agreed on 5 applicants and he noted that interviews would begin later in the week.


  1. Minutes from October 4, 2004 Regular Commissioners’ Meeting.

Commissioner Hammer made a motion to approve the Consent Agenda.  Commissioner Bolick 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 6:54 PM.   Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion.   The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.



W. Norris Keever, Chairman         Jamie M. Starnes, Clerk to the Board