Draft

BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS 

ALEXANDER COUNTY

REGULAR MEETING

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA

April 17, 2001

PRESENT: David S. Odom, Chairman
Joel C. Harbinson, Vice-Chairman
William L. Hammer
W. Darrell Robertson (tardy)
John F. Watts
STAFF: Rick French, County Manager
Jamie Millsaps, Clerk to the Board

 

The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a special called meeting on Tuesday, April 17, 2001 in the Commissioners’ Room of the Alexander County Courthouse, Taylorsville, North Carolina.

CALL TO ORDER

Chairman David Odom called the meeting to order at 7:02 PM.

INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

Commissioner John Watts gave the invocation and Commissioner Joel Harbinson led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

ADOPTION OF AGENDA

Commissioner Watts requested that an AARP Independent Living Week proclamation be added to the agenda as Item 1A.

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

PUBLIC HEARING: 2001 INFRASTRUCTURE HOOK-UP DEMONSTRATION PROGRAM

Nancy Coley, WPCOG Community Development Administrator, conducted a public hearing to receive public comment on a $75,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application to provide water taps and connections for low and moderate income households. The grant will not be for installation of water lines, only hook-ups to existing water lines. Taps to lines constructed with past CDBG grants will not be eligible, which includes the Stony Point/Millers project and the Three Forks/Little River project. Ms. Coley noted that rental property would be included if the tenant and landlord were both low to moderate income households. The $75,000 grant will cover connections to water lines, plumber fees for disconnecting wells, and any repairs to leaking pipes as a result of a connection. The connections will be on a "first come-first serve" basis.

Commissioner Hammer asked Ms. Coley is she had an estimate of how many households could be eligible for connections. Ms. Coley responded 46 households were estimated.

Ms. Coley also noted that a letter of commitment would be needed for connections made to any lines that were not government owned. Ms. Coley also mentioned that Alexander County had received a $75,000 Urgent Repair Grant that would coincide with the CDGB connection grant and suggested that these 2 grants be advertised at the same time in the paper, on the radio, and on the new government channel.

There being no public comment, Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to close the public hearing. Commissioner Watts seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

Commissioner Watts made a motion to authorize Ms. Coley to proceed with the CDBG grant application process. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

CONSIDERATION OF AARP INDEPENDENT LIVING WEEK PROCLAMATION

Karl Lenz presented a proclamation declaring April 28 – May 5, 2001 as AARP Independent Living Week in Alexander County. Mr. Lenz stated that AARP supports the requests of elderly citizens wishing to reside in their own homes instead of being placed in a nursing home. Mr. Lenz noted that an AARP sponsored meeting will be held on April 30, 2001 at the Senior Center for elderly citizens. There will several guest speakers. Russell Greene, Fire Marshal, will be present to distribute smoke detectors. Nightlights donated by AARP in Washington will also be distributed. Mr. Lenz informed the Board that books would be provided for a driver refresher course called "55 Alive".

At this time, Commissioner Robertson entered the meeting. The time was 7:15 PM.

Commissioner Watts made a motion to adopt the proclamation declaring April 28 – May 5, 2001 as AARP Independent Living Week in Alexander County. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

CATAWBA VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE LEASE (DRAFT) WITH ALEXANDER COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

Dr. Cuyler Dunbar, President of CVCC, presented the draft lease for the future community college building off of Highway 16 South which included revisions to the termination and damage/destruction sections of the lease that were requested by the Board. Dr. Dunbar felt that all points had been covered and stated, that once approved, the lease would be sent to Raleigh for approval. A contractual arrangement could be made with the architect after approval from Raleigh.

Commissioner Watts suggested that Edward Hedrick, County Attorney, review the draft lease and give his approval before consideration by the Board. Commissioner Watts stated that he would like the draft lease to be added to the May 1, 2001 Commissioners’ Meeting agenda for consideration to allow time for Mr. Hedrick to review the draft lease.

CVCC Board of Trustees Appointment

Commissioner Watts mentioned that he had spoken with Jack Hoke, Alexander County Schools Superintendent, regarding the Board of Education’s recommendation to the CVCC Board of Trustees. The Board of Education recommends Dr. Josephine Foster serving on the CVCC Board of Trustees as 1 of the Alexander County representatives for a 2-year term. An official letter of recommendation will be available for the May 1, 2001 Commissioners’ Meeting.

Commissioner Hammer asked why the term for this seat was only for 2 years instead of 4 years. Commissioner Harbinson informed Commissioner Hammer that the Alexander County representative would be filling a position and the CVCC Board of Trustees wished to stagger the terms. The Alexander County representatives will serve a 4-year term after the 2-year term is completed.

Dr. Dunbar also noted that CVCC would need a letter of recommendation with the names of nominees to serve on the CVCC Board of Trustees as the Alexander County Representatives.

UPDATE ON PROPOSED PERMANENT RIPARIAN BUFFER RULES

Sylvia Turnmire, Director of Planning & Development, presented a framework document which provided a menu of options for application of riparian buffers along perennial and intermittent streams throughout the Catawba River basin. Several options were proposed regarding widths and applicability of the rules which included the following:

    1. A uniform 30-foot forested buffer on all perennial and intermittent streams except for exemptions and uses provided in the Table of Uses.
    2. A 2-tiered buffer system with 30-foot forested buffers on all larger streams (blue-line waters on 7.5-minute USGS topographical maps) and 15-foot forested buffers on smaller streams (those found only on county survey maps).
    3. A 30-foot forested riparian buffer on all perennial and intermittent streams only where it is triggered by a land use activity that would meet any of the following:
    1. require an erosion and sediment control plan (generally where 1 acre or more of land is disturbed, but could be less for some local programs).
    2. require a 401 Certification.
    3. exceed 12% impervious cover on the project site.

              4.  An approach based on a threshold watershed size (similar to Mecklenburg’s and Charlotte’s SWIM buffer program). Buffer widths would be based on the size of the watershed with larger buffers required for larger watersheds.

The Board asked Ms. Turnmire for her suggestion on which option would be the best choice for Alexander County. Commissioner Watts requested Ms. Turnmire’s best opinion on which option would be least intrusive for our citizens. Ms. Turnmire responded that she felt option 3 would be the best choice.

Commissioner Harbinson asked if Alexander County was required to adopt the buffer rules. Ms. Turnmire responded that the buffer rules would be state enforced whether or not the counties adopted the rules. The decision to enforce the rules will not be up to local governments.

Chairman Odom asked if fines would be charged to property owners who cleared their property after the buffer rules were enforced by the State. Ms. Turnmire responded that State officials would either replant the trees or shrubs that were cleared from the property or the property owners would be charged $1.80 per square foot for the first 30 feet that is cleared and $1.44 per square foot for the outer 20 feet that is cleared.

Commissioner Robertson and Commissioner Hammer attended the public hearing on the buffer rules in Valdese on March 22, 2001. Commissioner Robertson reported that many county representatives were present at the public hearing, including McDowell County officials who were obviously very angry. Commissioner Robertson felt that the Environmental Management Commission officials took no consideration of any comments that were made at the public hearing.

Commissioner Robertson also stated that he disagreed with the buffer rules for the following reasons:

    1. There is no consideration for sewer plants along the Catawba River.
    2. There are no impaired streams in Alexander County; therefore, it would not be fair to require the rules.
    3. Fertilization pollution into the Catawba River has not been addressed.
    4. Taking 30 feet of property for a buffer would be a sizable impact to property, especially for agricultural organizations.

Commissioner Robertson stated that he had been in contact with Mike Struve, WPCOG, regarding this issue and informed the Board that other counties have voted to exclude any or all of their streams in the permanent rule. Commissioner Robertson suggested that Alexander County do the same since there are no impaired streams in the county.

Commissioner Robertson made a motion that Ms. Turnmire inform the Environmental Management Commission that Alexander County will not be including any streams in the permanent riparian buffer rule. Commissioner Harbinson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

UPDATE OF NCACC REGIONAL MEETING

Commissioner Watts and Rick French, County Manager, gave an update of the NC Association of County Commissioners’ Regional Meeting held on April 4, 2001 which they attended along with Bobby White, Caldwell County Manager. The update included the following topics:

Medicare Reimbursements

Discussion was held regarding the increase in reimbursements for Medicare miles for Emergency Medical Services. With this new process, counties can anticipate an additional $5 million annually, based on NC Department of Health and Human Services trip data. The Heath Care Financing Administration (HCFA) has been delaying implementation for 1 years. Commissioner Watts stated that it was a unanimous view among NC counties that it was time the State took action with this process. Legal action is being considered by some if the process is not enforced soon.

Streamlined Sales Tax

Discussion was held regarding the loss of remote sales tax revenue through mail orders, phone, television, and Internet services. It is estimated that by the year 2003, NC will be losing an estimated $450 million in sales and use tax revenue. Of this $450 million the State will lose approximately $300 million and local governments will lose $150 million. Brick and mortar stores which pay property, payroll, and income tax are placed at a further disadvantage as more and more sales move to remote sellers. The NC Department of Revenue has developed the Streamline Simplified Tax Proposal to help in the sales tax revenue loss. At the March 14, 2000 Commissioner’s Meeting, Former Commissioner Wesley Bolick proposed adopting a resolution in support of the Streamlined Simplified Tax Proposal. The resolution was passed unanimously by the Board at the April 4, 2000 Commissioners’ Meeting.

Proposed Legislation on Election Reform

There are 3 proposed election reform bills before Congress of interest to counties that are being monitored by the National Association of Counties. One bill (S218) would create a new commission other than the Federal Elections Commission to administer $500 million in grants to State and local governments for equipment. The second bill (S565) would create a commission to study elections and make recommendations to Congress. It too would have a $500 million grant program, but it would be administered by the Justice Department rather than a new commission. A third bill (H354) would fund a $1.5 billion grant program over 3 years and continue administration under Federal Election Commission.

                State Budget Shortfall

The State budget shortfall is estimated at $1.2 billion in a worst case scenario. Cities and counties should get inventory tax reimbursements for the first fiscal year, but there isn’t a strong commitment for the next year. The State has proposed a menu of options for cities and counties to raise revenues in order to supplement the inventory tax reimbursements.

Commissioner Robertson stated that he felt it was unfair that State employees were only required to give up their mobile phones and pagers due to the State budget shortfall while some counties are required to lay off employees because of lack of funding.

Mr. French stated that he hoped Alexander County to receive reimbursements at the end of this year but urged the Board not to expect any reimbursements for next year.

Commissioner Harbinson stated that he felt the NCACC needed to push harder on this issue and mentioned Senate Bill 1088 which includes a menu of local option revenue sources.

ALEXANDER COUNTY HOSPITALIZATION INSURANCE/CONTINUATION OF RETIREMENT POLICY AMENDMENT

Rick French, County Manager, presented the Alexander County Hospitalization Insurance/Continuation of Retirement Policy that became effective January 1, 2000. Mr. French proposed an amendment to Section 5.4 which states that retired employees will be covered by the regular group plan until reaching age 65. Mr. French proposed that Alexander County provide supplemental hospital insurance to retirees for life. This would cost the County approximately $120 - $190 per month depending on the age of the retirees which will be little impact on the budget. Mr. French recommended approval of the amendment to the policy.

Commissioner Watts suggested that Mr. French contact local insurance agencies to negotiate the best deal. Commissioner Robertson asked if it would be feasible to have someone look at the impact in 10-15 years before adoption of the amendment to the policy. Mr. French responded it would be more feasible to move ahead with adoption of the amendment since there are several employees close to retirement.

Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to approve the amendment to the Alexander County Hospitalization Insurance/Continuation of Retirement Policy to provide supplemental hospital insurance to Alexander County retirees for life. Commissioner Watts seconded the motion.

Commissioner Robertson stated that it should be determined beforehand what type of supplement the retiree will be receiving so that there will be no question by the retiree of what to expect.

Commissioner Harbinson stated that he would accept Commissioner Robertson’s friendly amendment and asked that the motion be changed to include the statement. Commissioner Watts seconded the motion including the friendly amendment. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

DESIGNATION OF INTERIM FINANCE DIRECTOR

Rick French, County Manager, stated that due to the extended absence of Ken White, Finance Officer, an Interim Finance Director would need to be designated to perform the duties of the Finance Officer. Mr. French stated that he would like to move ahead with the designation before the budget began because of the increased financial responsibilities that went along with budget preparation.

Mr. French stated that the Interim Finance Officer would be working with the Audit Committee consisting of Commissioner Robertson and Commissioner Watts.

Chairman Odom stated that he would like for Rick French, County Manager, to serve as Interim Finance Officer for 1 year to allow time for Mr. White to recover from his injuries.

Commissioner Robertson made a motion to designate Rick French, County Manager, as Interim Finance Officer for 1 year. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

Chairman Odom conveyed his appreciation to Mr. French for his willingness to serve in this position.

OTHER BUSINESS

Littering Complaints

Rick French, County Manager, informed the Board that he had received some complaints from citizens regarding excessive litter along the road to the Landfill and along the road at one of the convenience sites. Some trash trucks have been entering the Landfill without a covered top causing trash to fly out the back of the truck. People have also been dumping their trash along side of the road at the convenience sites. It has been suggested by some citizens in the county a littering ordinance be adopted to regulate this problem.

Commissioner Robertson stated that there was a section concerning littering in the Solid Waste Ordinance that included regulations and requirements for the covering of trash trucks.

Chairman Odom stated that he had received some complaints regarding Vashti and Highway 16 South convenience sites and suggested that a deputy patrol these areas on Saturday mornings when dumping is at its worst. The deputy would have authority to write tickets to anyone caught littering.

Commissioner Hammer agreed and suggested a Highway Patrol Officer patrol the convenience site areas.

Chairman Odom asked Mr. French if a road had been selected for the Litter Sweep which was discussed at the April 3, 2001 Commissioner’s Meeting. Mr. French stated that a road had not been selected, although Commissioner Harbinson had suggested Short Cut Road.

Scheduling of Work Sessions

Mr. French stated that a May 15, 2001 work session with the Planning Board needed to be scheduled at the May 1, 2001 Commissioners’ Meeting to discuss countywide zoning. Mr. French also suggested scheduling the first budget work session for April 30, 2001. Commissioner Robertson and Commissioner Harbinson stated that they could not meet on April 30, 2001. After discussion of dates, the Board agreed to hold the first budget work session on May 8, 2001 at 6:00 PM in the Extension Learning Center.

Mr. French stated that he hoped to have the first public hearing on the budget on June 5, 2001.

CONSENT AGENDA

  1. Budget Amendments #29 and #30.
  2. Minutes from Special Called Meeting on March 20, 2001.
  3. Closed Session Minutes to be unsealed from February 17, 2000; April 4, 2000; May 16, 2000; May 30, 2000; June 6, 2000; July 25, 2000; September 12, 2000; and October 3, 2000.

Commissioner Watts made a motion to approve the Consent Agenda. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

CLOSED SESSION – PERSONNEL & LEGAL MATTERS

Commissioner Watts made a motion to enter into Closed Session at 8:15 PM to discuss personnel and legal matters. Commissioner Hammer seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

ADJOURNMENT

After returning to Open Session, Commissioner Watts made a motion to adjourn at 8:45 PM. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.

                                                                                                           

  David S. Odom, Chairman           Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board