July 16, 2002
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held its regular meeting on Tuesday, July 16, 2002 in the Commissioners Room of the Alexander County Courthouse, Taylorsville, North Carolina.
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Watts called the regular meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Terry Foxx, Emergency Management Director, gave the invocation and Jamie Millsaps, Clerk to the Board, led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Chairman Watts gave the Chairmans Report which included discussion of the following items:
ADOPTION OF AGENDA
Chairman Watts stated that the Board did not have a specific bill to consider during Agenda Item #2 (Consideration of Resolution Regarding Article 44 Half-Cent Local Government Sales and Use Tax). Chairman Watts stated that he would like to combine Agenda Item #2 and Agenda Item #4 (Consideration for 2002-2003 Alexander County Budget) to be considered together.
Rick French, County Manager, stated that Keith Millsaps, President of the Alexander Rescue Squad Board of Directors, would be presenting Agenda Item #7 (Consideration of Proposed Contracts for FY 2002-2003 for Alexander Rescue Squad & EMS, Inc.) instead of Terry Foxx, Emergency Management Director.
Commissioner Odom made a motion to adopt the agenda as amended. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
PUBIC HEARING: REZONING CASE 02-6: KING
Sylvia Turnmire, Director of Planning & Development, presented Rezoning Case 02-6 submitted by J. Harold King. Mr. King requested rezoning of property located at 5565 Icard Ridge Road from R-20 (Residential) to H-C (Highway-Commercial). Chairman Watts stated that this public hearing was continued from the June 27, 2002 Commissioners Meeting.
Ms. Turnmire stated that she had spoken with Greg Atchley, former Planning Director, and Harry Schrum, former Code Enforcement Officer, both of which were employed during the time that permits were issued for this property. Mr. Atchley stated that he was responsible for the maps at that time and noted that the property was in fact zoned H-C (Highway-Commercial). Mr. Atchley also noted that Mr. Schrum would not have approved a permit for H-C (Highway-Commercial) use if the property had not been zoned H-C (Highway-Commercial).
Ms. Turnmire stated that the Planning & Zoning Commission held a special meeting on July 2, 2002 to review the rezoning request a third time, as requested by the Board of Commissioners. Ms. Turnmire stated that staff reviewed the tax map from the tax office which showed the property zoned H-C (Highway-Commercial) as of Bethlehem zoning in 1987 as well as the letter from Ms. Jennifer Pennell which also stated that the property was zoned H-C (Highway-Commercial). Staff also received a letter from an adjoining property owner, Ms. Nina Miller, on July 2, 2002 which was also presented at the Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting. Ms. Turnmire also noted that information prepared by the County Attorney in regard to liability of the case had also been presented during the meeting. Ms. Turnmire stated that the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning request by a 3-1-1 vote (3 in favor of the approval, 1 against the approval, and 1 abstention).
Chairman Watts asked if all involved parties were present at the July 2, 2002 Planning & Zoning Commission. Ms. Turnmire stated that the property owners present at the last Commissioners meeting as well as this meeting were present at the July 2, 2002 Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting. Ms. Turnmire stated the meeting was not a public hearing but that the Planning & Zoning Commission asked questions to the individuals that were present.
Chairman Watts asked if all surrounding property owners were informed of the meeting. Ms. Turnmire replied that all property owners involved were informed of the meeting by phone and letter.
Roger Drum stated that he owned property directly across from the subject property. Mr. Drum presented copies of the Bethlehem zoning map which went into effect in 1973 and was in effect until the spring of 1999. Mr. Drum stated that according to the Alexander County Tax Office, the tax map could be changed, up until 1999, by a tax assessor driving by and seeing the property. Mr. Drum stated that he had spoken to George Brown in the Tax Office in regard to this information. Mr. Drum also noted that Carl Bunton had informed him that the Planning & Zoning Commission did not change any property from H-C (Highway-Commercial) to R-20 (Residential) when countywide zoning was adopted. Mr. Drum also discussed the affect of property owners if the property was rezoned and noted that the property west of the boat garage had a tax value of $990,000. Mr. Drum was concerned that the propertys value would be lost if the property was rezoned and a business was to be placed on the property. Mr. Drum stated that the 1973 map, 1999 map, and the new Bethlehem zoning map showed no H-C (Highway-Commercial) except the boat marina and garage. Mr. Drum also stated that the most current zoning map should take precedence over all other zoning maps.
Rita Drum stated that she owned property across the street from the subject property. Ms. Drum stated that she couldnt understand how a map could be searched for one day and not be found and then be found the following day. Ms. Drum also asked how an unsigned letter stating that the property was zoned H-C (Highway-Commercial) could be legal. Ms. Drum also asked why Diamond Enterprises and R & N Marina was requesting rezoning if the property was already zoned H-C (Highway-Commercial). Ms. Drum stated that she was also concerned with the affects on the environment in regard to a business on the property including contamination of water as well as air and noise pollution. Ms. Drum stated that the property owners were simply asking for a quiet, respectable neighborhood for their children and grandchildren to grow up in.
Elizabeth Sigmon, area property owner, stated that she had been made aware that all residents were informed when countywide zoning was established. Ms. Sigmon felt that the owners of the subject property did not respond to the rezoning notice and so therefore the property remained zoned R-20 (Residential). Ms. Sigmon explained that NC Property Law, as well as the County Attorney, stated that the most current zoning map stands, not the tax maps. Ms. Sigmon stated that she was concerned that a different business, other than a boat marina) would locate onto the property at some point that would not be appealing to the eyes, ears, or nose. Ms. Sigmon asked if there could be a restriction to what is allowed on the property if rezoned to H-C (Highway-Commercial).
Norma McFarlin stated that she owned property next to the Drums. Ms. McFarlin stated that she owned 5.25 acres directly across from the subject property in which she planned to split between her children. Ms. McFarlin stated that her children were no longer willing to build homes on her property because they didnt want a business in their front yard. Ms. McFarlin expressed her concerns about the business lowering the tax value of surrounding property and felt that residential property would bring in more property taxes than the business would.
There being no further public comment, Commissioner Odom made a motion to close the public hearing. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Commissioner Harbinson stated that he had a prior professional and social relationship with the petitioners and offered to recuse himself from voting if it was requested by anyone involved in the rezoning case. Norma McFarlin requested that Commissioner Harbinson recuse himself from voting. Commissioner Harbinson therefore made a motion to recuse himself from voting in the matter of Rezoning Case 02-6. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Commissioner Robertson asked if comments made tonight were also made at the Planning & Zoning meeting held on July 2, 2002. Ms. Turnmire stated that Mr. Drums comments were not made at the meeting.
Commissioner Odom inquired about the proposed use for the land. Ms. Turnmire replied that there had been no other proposed use listed other than boat sales, service, and storage. Commissioner Odom asked if the subject property had ever been listed on an open market in the hands of a realtor. Jim Osborne, property owner, stated that he, his wife, and his father-in-law had owned the property since 1988 and to his knowledge had never been on an open market until recently when he put the property up for sale.
Commissioner Robertson asked if Bethlehem zoning was reviewed when countywide zoning was adopted. Ms. Turnmire replied that Bethlehem was included with countywide zoning and that staff held workshops to review the Bethlehem zoning.
Chairman Watts asked if zoning had been changed to any other property in Bethlehem during countywide zoning. Ms. Turnmire stated that zoning changes were not made to any property in Bethlehem during countywide zoning unless it had been requested by the property owners. Ms. Turnmire stated that a rezoning request for the subject property was not made during this process.
There being no further discussion, Commissioner Robertson made a motion to approve Rezoning Case 02-6. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted 3 for the motion (Commissioners Odom, Robertson, and Watts) and one recusal (Commissioner Harbinson).
Commissioner Odom suggested that, when submitting a rezoning application, citizens should be more defined and descriptive in regard to their proposed use for the property. Commissioner Odom stated that this would possibly alleviate some fears and misconceptions of surrounding property owners.
CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION REGARDING ARTICLE 44 HALF CENT LOCAL GOVERNMENT SALES AND USE TAX
Chairman Watts stated that there was not a definitive bill to implement at this time. Therefore, this item could not be considered. Chairman Watts suggested moving onto Item #4 since it was directly related.
CONSIDERATION FOR 2002-2003 ALEXANDER COUNTY BUDGET ORDINANCE
Chairman Watts stated that staff had received word that there had been some movement in the House in regard to the half-cent local option sales tax. Chairman Watts explained that the Board needed to wait until the House took action on the sales tax before taking action on the 2002-2003 Alexander County budget.
Chairman Watts requested a meeting for budgetary purposes to be held on Thursday, July 25, 2002 at 7:00 PM. Commissioner Robertson stated that he had to attend a Foothills Mental Health Meeting on July 25, 2002 but was unsure of the time of the meeting. Commissioner Robertson stated that he would check the meeting time and contact staff. After discussion, the Board agreed to tentatively schedule a meeting on July 25, 2002 at 7:00 PM.
Rick French, County Manager, clarified that items to be considered at the July 25, 2002 meeting would include the half-cent sales tax resolution and the 2002-2003 Alexander County budget.
Commissioner Harbinson explained that when the 2001-2002 budget was adopted, he had directed the Finance Officer to record the county debt as of July 1, 2001. Commissioner Harbinson stated that he had again asked for the same information for the 2002-2003 budget. Commissioner Harbinson distributed a county debt table and also reviewed the county debt information as of July 1, 2002 which is hereby made a part of these minutes.
Chairman Watts explained that the Local Government Commission (LGC) determined NC counties bonding capacity. Chairman Watts noted that Alexander Countys bonding capacity was at $99 million from previous revaluation and should increase when final figures are in.
REVISION TO PERSONNEL POLICY FOR SECTION 2 HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS
David Icenhour, Human Resources/Public Information Director, presented a revision to Section 2 of the Personnel Policy which regards Health Insurance benefits. Mr. Icenhour stated that the Board had approved this revision at the April 2, 2002 Commissioners Meeting to take effect on July 1, 2002 with the exception that it would be reviewed before implementation.
Mr. Icenhour explained that with this revision, eligible part-time employees would be provided health and dental insurance on a pro-rated basis with the employee paying a portion of the monthly premium. Mr. Icenhour gave an example of a half-time employee that would be required to pay 50% of their insurance.
Mr. Icenhour stated that if the Board put this revision into effect, it would affect 12 people with a savings of $20,256 per year. Mr. Icenhour also noted that the cost to employees would vary with a low of $85 per month and a high of $212 per month.
Mr. Icenhour stated that the Board had the option to move ahead with the revision as discussed or to do a variation revision. Mr. Icenhour noted that some other counties set a benchmark of 30 hours in order to receive full benefits. Mr. Icenhour stated that Catawba County benefits were based on a pro-rated basis.
Rick French, County Manager, recommended that the Board continue benefits as is and to develop a revision to the policy for new employees in the 2002-2003 budget. Mr. French explained that new employees benefits could be based on a pro-rated basis while those already employed would be grandfathered in.
Chairman Watts agreed with Mr. Frenchs recommendation but felt that the employee should be grandfathered in, not the position. This would ensure that the employee would keep their benefits if they changed positions or if the employees hours were reduced.
Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to develop a revision to Section 2 of the Personnel Policy to base new employees health benefits on a pro-rated basis and grandfather-in current employees. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
WORK FIRST COUNTY BLOCK GRANT PLAN
Nan Campbell, Director of Social Services, stated that every 2 years the Federal Government required North Carolina to develop a new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) plan and explained that each county was required to develop a plan as well. Ms. Campbell stated that staff was beginning the planing process for the year to begin in October 2003 and end in September 2005. Ms. Campbell stated that NC law requested that the Board to determine whether Alexander County would remain a standard county or an electing county and also appoint a planning board. Ms. Campbell recommended that the Board vote to remain a standard county and also submitted suggestions for the planning board members which included the following individuals:
Ms. Campbell stated that no recommendation had been made for representatives from the County Commission, Foothills Area Board, or Chamber/Business community. The Board suggested David Odom to serve as the County Commission representative, Rick French to serve as the Foothills Area Board representative, and Keith Hertzler to serve as the Chamber/Business Community Representative.
Ms. Campbell stated that the Board would begin meeting in August.
Commissioner Robertson made motion to remain a standard county and approve the Work First Planning Committee appointments. Commissioner Harbinson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
CONSIDERATION OF MEDICAL SERVICES FOR ALEXANDER COUNTY JAIL
Hayden Bentley, Chief Deputy, explained to the Board that the jail was the Sheriffs Departments highest liability and proposed a medical services agreement with Dr. Jay Piland. Mr. Bentley stated that, if the Board chose to approve the agreement, Dr. Piland would provide the following to the Alexander County jail:
Mr. Bentley stated that the largest savings would come from decreasing medical office and emergency room visits and decreasing costs of medications. Mr. Bentley informed the Board that on 2 different days last week, 4 inmates had to go to the doctor each day. Mr. Bentley explained that one officer could not provide the security for 4 inmates at the doctors office and staff would therefore have to call in another officer.
Mr. Bentley felt that this agreement would result in a large savings for the Sheriffs Department because if would not only decrease the number of medical office and emergency room visits, it would eliminate the need to call in additional officers for adequate security. Mr. Bentley stated that Catawba and Burke counties operated under this agreement and both were more than pleased with the service and savings. Mr. Bentley mentioned that the estimated cost of the one or two year agreement with an average of 9 hours per week of onsite nursing and the abovementioned services would total $4,365 per month.
Commissioner Robertson inquired about the current costs of medical service for the jail. Mr. Bentley estimated a cost of $60,000 for the 2001-2002 year not including the cost of transporting inmates to medical offices or cost of calling in additional officers for security. Mr. Bentley stated the proposed agreement would cost approximately $48,000 per year if the agreement became effective as of August 2002.
Commissioner Robertson asked if the approximate cost of $48,000 would include any hospital bills incurred. Mr. Bentley replied that those type bills would not be included in the agreement and would be the responsibility of the Sheriffs Department to pay.
Dr. Piland was present at the meeting and explained to the Board several aspects of the proposed agreement. Mr. Piland stated that the county would save tremendously on medications by purchasing them through him in blister packs. Mr. Piland explained that he purchased medications through a local drug store in Hickory and also noted that he would get credit for unused medications returned to the drug store.
Mr. Piland mentioned the success that Burke County had with the program and explained that Burke County was spending approximately $7,500 per month on medical service for the jail. After contracting with Dr. Piland, the cost of medical service decreased to $4,000 during the second month and $3,000 during the third month. Dr. Piland stated that Burke Countys current maximum cost for medical service for the jail totals only $3,500 per month.
Dr. Piland also noted that this agreement would cut back on the use of sleeping and pain bills by inmates. Chairman Watts asked if Dr. Piland used modified forms of the drugs. Dr. Piland replied that he did use the modified forms.
Dr. Piland also stated that he encouraged officers or staff to contact him at any time day or night in the case of a medical incident so that he could advise the officer or staff member of a remedy over the phone. Commissioner Odom asked if Dr. Piland would assume the liability of recommending medical attention over the phone. Dr. Piland stated that he would assume the liability but noted that he wasnt sure if the county would have any liability. Dr. Piland stated that he would look into the matter.
Commissioner Robertson asked if Request for Proposals (RFP) had been mailed to local physicians. Mr. Bentley stated that he was not aware of any such action. Commissioner Robertson felt that local physicians should be made aware that the county was in search of this type of service before moving forward with the proposed agreement with Dr. Piland.
Chairman Watts instructed Mr. Bentley to contact local physicians to determine if any were interested in providing this type of service. Chairman Watts also asked that this be done in time for Mr. Bentley to present a report of his findings at the July 25, 2002 Commissioners Meeting. Chairman Watts asked that the proposed agreement be kept confidential until all physicians were contacted and the July 25, 2002 Meeting is held.
Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to allow Mr. Bentley to contact local physicians to determine if any were interested in providing medical service for the Alexander County Jail and to consider the agreement at the July 25, 2002 Commissioners Meeting. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
CONSIDERATION OF PROPOSED CONTRACTS FOR FY 2002-2003 FOR ALEXANDER RESCUE SQUAD & EMS, INC.
Keith Millsaps, President of the Rescue Squad Board of Directors, presented the yearly contract between Alexander County and the Alexander Rescue Squad to provide rescue services and backup for EMS. Mr. Millsaps stated that the contracts were the same as last year but noted that the figures had been updated to reflect the $45,000 appropriation from Alexander County for the 2002-2003 budget.
Rick French, County Manager, noted that the Board had approved an interim budget for the month of July. Mr. French recommended approving the wording of the contract as presented without any designated numbers since the county did not have any funds due to the adoption of an interim budget. Mr. French stated that the contract would be amended when the 2002-2003 budget was actually approved.
Commissioner Robertson made a motion to approve the wording of the contract with the numbers to be executed upon approval of the Alexander County budget. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Commissioner Robertson inquired about the fire department contracts. Russell Greene, Fire Marshal, stated that he had been in contact with all fire departments in regard to the contracts and noted that the county was withholding funds for this month due to the interim budget. Mr. Greene also stated that the contracts would automatically be renewed each year without any change of wording unless requested by the Board or the fire department.
***SPECIAL RECOGNITION TO THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS***
Terry Foxx, Emergency Management Director, stated that the Board approved a County Animal Response Plan on July 10, 2001 at the request of the State Animal Response Team. Mr. Foxx stated that this resulted after Hurricane Floyd left so many animals dead, injured, or homeless and in response to the outbreaks of the Foot & Mouth Disease in other parts of the world.
Mr. Foxx stated that at the last meeting of the State Animal Response Team, counties with response teams were honored. Mr. Foxx presented the Board with a certificate of recognition for having a response team in place.
Mr. Foxx stated that out of the 33 western counties, only 8 had response plans in place.
AGENDA ITEM REQUEST
At this time, Commissioner Odom requested an EMS Report at next Commissioners Meeting. Commissioner Odom stated that he was interested in the status of program as to whether Alexander County EMS would have a model system or a base line system due to the new state mandated plans.
The Board agreed to place this item on the August 6, 2002 Agenda.
The following issues were discussed during other business:
Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to recommend Commissioner Hammer to attend the meeting on July 24, 2002. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to approve the Consent Agenda. Commissioner Robertson seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
CLOSED SESSION N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5 & 6) CONTRACTUAL / PERSONNEL
Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to enter into Closed Session at 8:15 PM to discuss contractual matters and personnel issues pursuant to N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5 & 6). Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
There being no further business, Commissioner Harbinson made a motion to adjourn at 8:30 PM. Commissioner Odom seconded the motion. The Board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
John F. Watts, Chairman Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board