March 9, 2022 – Alexander County joins 11 counties and 60 cities in North Carolina as a Certified Local Government (CLG) through the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service. Commissioners approved an agreement to become a CLG at their March 7th meeting.
Connie Kincaid, Business Development Manager with the Alexander County Economic Development Corporation and staff liaison for the Alexander County Historic Preservation Committee, presented information about the CLG program and the associated benefits. The National Historic Preservation Act established the CLG program to provide financial and technical assistance to preserve historic properties in counties and municipalities that have their own historic preservation commission and a program meeting federal and state standards.
Kincaid said one of the primary benefits of being a CLG is the ability to compete for grant funding to advance local historic preservation efforts. The county will also receive technical assistance and training from the State Historic Preservation Office and participate in nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, as well as other benefits.
Commissioners expressed their appreciation to the Alexander County Historic Preservation Committee for their hard work and dedication.
On a related note, commissioners heard a report from Audrey Thomas, Historic Survey Specialist with the State Historic Preservation Office, regarding the Taylorsville Comprehensive Municipal Study which was completed over the past year. She said the architectural survey creates a lasting record of historic places, promotes a better understanding of local heritage, and identifies significant properties. During the project, Thomas surveyed 176 individual buildings in the town including industrial, institutional, religious, commercial, and residential properties.
In June 2021, the Downtown Taylorsville Historic District was placed on the state study list identifying the potential for National Register listing. She determined that 33 buildings in the district are eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. She said there would be no obligations or restrictions on private property owners; however, they would be eligible for tax incentives during federal and state-approved preservation projects.
In more economic development news, David Icenhour, Executive Director for Alexander County EDC, presented information about a $500,000 grant that the county received from the North Carolina Railroad Company (NCRR) for the purpose of grading a site in the Alexander Industrial Park. Icenhour said the goal is to create a rail-served site that will be attractive to a future industrial prospect. Alexander County is one of only six counties to receive the “Build Ready Sites” grant from NCRR.
In addition, the EDC was awarded a $632,412 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation in December 2021 which will be combined with the NCRR grant for a total of $1,132,412 for the project, which includes engineering, design, and grading.
“We’re extremely appreciative of the grant awards from the North Carolina Railroad Company and the Golden LEAF Foundation, and look forward to seeing this project result in new jobs and investment for Alexander County,” Icenhour stated.
Commissioners unanimously approved the grant agreement with NCRR.
• County Manager Rick French presented information about the Alexander County Courthouse Park, Rotary Performance Stage, and splash pad. He said the dedication and ribbon cutting for Alexander County Courthouse Park and Rotary Performance Stage is set for Sunday, May 15, with remarks from local officials, special entertainment, and food vendors. While the splash pad will not open until after the dedication on May 15 this year, the normal schedule is proposed to be April 1 through September 30 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
He also discussed a daily fee schedule for rental of Courthouse Park, which is free for local non-profits and for-profits with a $150 maintenance/cleaning fee and a refundable $300 security deposit. For organizations outside the county, there will be additional fees. A parks ordinance was also reviewed.
Commissioners will further review and vote on the park proposals at their April 4th meeting.
• John Wear, Assistant Community and Regional Planning Director for the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, presented bids for the Emergency Watershed Protection program. A number of local streams became filled with debris following the flood of November 2020.
The Alexander County Soil and Water Conservation District (ACSWCD) was awarded a $79,500 grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The grant is also paying $11,925 to the WPCOG for technical assistance.
Wear said the lowest responsible bidder for the project is Shaun Lackey Excavating LLC with a bid of $190,000, which includes chipping and burning the debris upon removal at three sites. Including technical assistance fees, the project totals $209,000. Pamela Bowman, ACSWCD Coordinator, said they will apply for additional grant funding.
Commissioners approved the low bid with the understanding that no county funds are being used for the project at this time.
• County Manager French presented a number of budget ordinance amendments, most notably including an amendment to adjust the budget for employee bonuses to be paid in March 2022 in the amount of $1,000 for eligible full-time employees and $500 for eligible part-time employees.
Chairman Ronnie Reese said he is happy to be able to provide an incentive to county staff. “We’re trying to do some things to help our employees. When we received the ARPA funding that we are using for water infrastructure, it freed up money that we can use for other things such as employee bonuses,” Reese said.
• Commissioners held a public hearing on a proposed county ordinance to establish child safety zones in Alexander County. Sheriff Chris Bowman said he received a call several months ago from a concerned parent regarding a registered sex offender parking at school bus stops. Detectives Buddy McKinney and Dennis Foster started investigating the matter, and discovered that the state statute doesn’t include bus stops in the “sex offender unlawfully on premises” section. Sheriff Bowman said that Henderson County has adopted an ordinance to establish child safety zones, and Iredell County is considering adopting a similar ordinance.
Detective McKinney said the number one goal of the ordinance is the safety of children and to be able to enforce the prevention of loitering at bus stops.
Commissioners expressed their concern about the problem and their support of the ordinance. A special meeting was scheduled for March 21 at 6:00 p.m. via Zoom to vote on the ordinance.
• In the County Manager’s Report, Mr. French noted three upcoming events: the Alexander County 6/12/24 Hour race at Alexander Central High School on April 2-3, RockyFest on April 23, and the Alexander County Courthouse Park dedication on May 15.
Consolidated Human Services Board Meeting
• Kristy Hunt, Senior Center Director, said programming is beginning to increase at the senior center as COVID-19 cases continue to decline. Participants are enjoying the exercise and music groups. Staff continues to assist with Medicare plans. AARP is offering free tax preparation services on Saturdays. A Senior Celebration is scheduled for May 27 with special music by Rick Cline.
• Billie Walker, Assistant Health Director, provided a COVID-19 update. Alexander County has a cumulative total of 10,359 cases, with 71 cases in the last 14 days and 21 cases in the last 7 days. There have been 137 deaths associated with the virus. Alexander County has a test positivity rate of 4.8 percent while North Carolina has a rate of 3.9 percent.
• Leeanne Whisnant, Consolidated Human Services Director, presented a social services update. She said the state recently conducted the Recipient Eligibility Determination Audit (REDA), which showed 97 percent in approval actions, 96 percent in denial/termination actions, and 96 percent in technical errors. The state requires a minimum of 96.8 percent for all three categories, so the department submitted an accuracy improvement plan to the state. Beginning in June, the state will audit 10 records per month until 96.8 percent is achieved for three consecutive months.
Whisnant reminded the board about the Low Income Water Assistance Program (LIWAP). The department received $50,101, with $29,284.91 utilized through February 2022.
The department also offers the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP). The local DSS received $148,282 from the program, with $91,400 utilized through February 2022. They received an additional $194,512 from the American Rescue Plan Act, with $71,000 utilized through February.
She said there are currently 67 children in foster care, with one adoption in 2021 and four adoptions so far in 2022. There are currently 10 participants in the foster parent class which began in January. If you are interested in any of these programs, call Alexander County DSS at (828) 632-1080.
March is National Social Work Month. National Public Health Week is celebrated April 4-10.
County Manager French expressed his appreciation to Whisnant and Walker for their hard work during the pandemic.
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners typically meets on the first Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in room #103 at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education. The next regular meeting is set for Monday, April 4 at 6:00 p.m. Regular meetings are recorded, and can be viewed on the county’s Government Channel on Spectrum channel 192 or on the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Meeting agendas, minutes, videos, and more are available on the county’s website at alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.