WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
TUESDAY, AUGUST 17, 1999
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting on Tuesday, August 17, 1999 at 7:00 P.M. in the Green Valley Elementary School cafeteria.
PRESENT: Jimmy Hodges, Chairman
Sue Sweeting, Vice-Chairman
James Coffey, Commissioner
Art Kohles, Commissioner
Jack Lawrence, Sr., Commissioner
Barry J. Reed, County Manager
Libby Link, Clerk to the Board
Chairman Hodges called the meeting to order at 7:03 P.M. welcoming those in attendance. In addition, he stated that County Attorney Hedrick was at a meeting out of town and would be attending the Board’s meeting a little later.
A moment of silence was observed.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Chairman Hodges called for additions or corrections to the August 2, 1999 regular meeting minutes.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to approve the August 2, 1999 regular meeting minutes as presented.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to approve the agenda for the August 17, 1999 regular meeting as presented.
CDBG PUBLIC HEARING
Chairman Hodges declared a public hearing open at 7:05 P.M. to close out the CDBG Housing Rehabilitation project.
Ms. Rebecca Bloomquist, Community Development Planner with Region D Council of Governments, addressed the Board and stated the purpose of this public hearing was for citizens to give any input regarding this project. She noted that most of the recipients of this grant were elderly and disabled and that nine homes were rehabilitated (painted, carpeted, etc.). Ms. Bloomquist added that the total amount spent was $251,834.
There being no public comment, Chairman Hodges declared the public hearing closed at 7:07 P.M.
FIRE COMMISSION’S CONCERNS WITH THE COUNTY’S FIRE COMISSIONER
Mr. Larry Carroll, Watauga County Fire Commission Chairman, voiced his concerns that the Commissioner that the Board had appointed to the Fire Commission in December, 1998 had only attended two out of seven meetings. Mr. Carroll stated that the Fire Commission felt that the Commissioner should attend all the meetings in order to report any concerns to the Board of Commissioners. Chairman Hodges stated that the Board would see what could be done regarding this matter.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT RENOVATION
County Manager Reed stated the County had borrowed funds to renovate the Hannah Building. The Architect, Glenn Reynolds (Reynolds Architects, Inc.), took a long time to prepare the construction documents, and the County received bids a year behind schedule. Mr. Reynolds’ original estimate for the project was $1,000,000. The only bid received was for $1,500,000 ($500,000 more than was estimated and more than the County had set aside for this project). The County asked Mr. Reynolds to find ways to cut costs, and he submitted suggestions which would reduce the contract by $138,464. Mr. Reed stated he had discussed this matter with Health Department Director, Danny Staley, Chairman of the Health Department Board, David Triplett, Finance Director, Doris Isaacs, and Maintenance Supervisor, Robert Marsh, to determine how to proceed. He added that Robert Marsh had expressed concerns about putting $150,000 into the Hannah Building. In addition, Mr. Reed noted that most everyone on the committee thought it would be better to go ahead and build a new building possibly on County owned property adjacent to the Human Services Building.
County Attorney Hedrick joined the meeting at 7:17 P.M.
Mr. Staley stated the Hannah Building was built in the early 1970’s. Commissioner Coffey stated there were a lot of issues to consider and suggested the Board conduct a work session in the next two weeks to discuss this matter further. Mr. Staley and Mr. Triplett were anxious to proceed with the project and appreciated the Board’s scheduled work session. Commissioner Lawrence asked Ms. Isaacs to provide additional information for the Board’s review and discussion to be presented at the work session.
FORESTRY SERVICE REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDING
Mr. Rudy Johnson, Watauga County Forest Ranger, requested additional funding in the amount of $2,268 in order to replace the fire fighting pick-up truck that Mr. Johnson operated. He noted his current truck was nine years old, was over loaded, and he was unable to carry water in the water tank for fire fighting. Mr. Johnson added that if this request was approved, that the Forest Service’s next year’s budget (2000/2001) would be considerably less. County Manager Reed stated, if approved, the additional funds would come from the general fund contingency.
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to approve the additional funds requested ($2,268) for the Forest Service’s current fiscal year budget.
WATAUGA AMBULANCE SERVICE’S ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE REPORT
County Manager Reed stated that in accordance with the Board’s request, he had reviewed the Accounts Receivable information at Watauga Ambulance Service (WAS). Although this information was not provided on paper, the data could be reviewed at WAS on a computer through their billing program. Since the County had never asked for the accounts receivable information on paper, Mr. Reed did not think the County could cite this issue as a non-compliance situation.
In addition, Mr. Reed stated that in reviewing WAS’ records he noticed that since August 27, 1997 that Mr. Wilson had been charging a base rate of $145 per call. However, according to the Board of Commissioners’ Minutes, the Board had authorized a rate of $115 per call. There was no documentation found in the Minutes that Mr. Wilson had addressed the Board for consideration of a rate increase. In addition, Mr. Wilson could not produce any documentation indicating that the Board had approved the $145 base rate. Therefore, Mr. Reed felt that WAS had overcharged customers by $30 per call since the $145 rate was enacted. Mr. Reed added that in all other ways, it was his opinion that Mr. Wilson had complied with the County’s ambulance ordinance and franchise agreement.
Vice-Chairman Sweeting stated that in Section 13.1 of the ambulance ordinance that it read that any violation of the ordinance was a misdemeanor. Commissioner Lawrence noted the contract had been cancelled (WAS had given its 120-day termination notice on August 5, 1999) and encouraged the Commissioners to focus their attention on the future and providing the best possible ambulance service for County residents. County Attorney Hedrick stated that since WAS had cancelled the contract, pursuing suspension or revocation of the current franchise was a "moot point".
Following discussion, Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved for County Attorney Hedrick to investigate if there had been a violation of the ambulance ordinance and provide a report to the Board.
AMBULANCE SERVICES DISCUSSION
County Manager Reed stated that the franchisee (Tim Wilson of Watauga Ambulance Service) had given his 120-day termination notice. The 120 days would expire on December 3, 1999, and the Board needed to determine how to proceed. Mr. Reed recommended submitting a Request for Proposal (RFP) after changes had been made to the current ambulance ordinance. He added an RFP could not be developed until changes were made to the ordinance. Commissioner Lawrence requested conducting a work session prior to the Board’s next regular meeting scheduled for September 7, 1999. It was the consensus of the Board to schedule a work session for Monday, August 23, 1999 at 7:00 P.M. at the Courthouse to review the County’s ambulance ordinance and Health Department renovations. Mr. Reed stated he would send all ambulance service stakeholders (i.e. the County’s fire departments, rescue squads, Fire Marshal, Lisa Shoun, and local hospitals) a letter requesting their input on any revisions they felt would improve the ordinance.
In addition, County Manager Reed discussed the study that the Board had requested from the State (at the Board’s April 12, 1999 meeting) and asked if the Board wished the State to continue with the study.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to rescind the study.
VOTE: Aye-3 (Coffey, Hodges, Lawrence)
Nay-2 (Kohles, Sweeting)
SALES TAX ALLOCATION METHOD
Vice-Chairman Sweeting stated the constituents of the Blowing Rock District had requested the Board review the sales tax allocation method and asked Blowing Rock Town Manager, Don Holycross, to address the Board regarding this issue.
Mr. Holycross stated he was present on behalf of the Blowing Rock Town Council as well as residents from Blowing Rock, Seven Devils and Beech Mountain. He reviewed the two methods authorized by N.C. General Statutes for the distribution of sales tax revenues. Mr. Holycross also presented the Board with some data which compared funding distributed on the basis of population (per capita basis) versus on the basis of property tax valuation (ad valorem basis) and the amount of revenue that Blowing Rock, Beech Mountain and Seven Devils had lost based on the current method of distribution (per capita basis). Although a change could not be made until April, 2000, Mr. Holycross spoke on behalf of the three towns encouraging the Board
to review this data and to consider changing the present per capita system of allocation back to ad valorem which he felt would be more fair to residents in the three Towns.
Boone Mayor, Velma Burnley, voiced her concerns about changing the method of distribution and its impact on the Town of Boone residents. She stated Boone was the County seat, the home of all County buildings, Appalachian State University and that the Town of Boone’s taxes would have to be raised to make up for the "shortfall" if the allocation method was changed.
In addition, Blowing Rock Mayor, J. B. Lawrence, and Seven Devils Mayor, Harold Wolf, encouraged the Board to consider this request (even if the tax allocation was distributed on an alternating schedule) because they felt it would be more equitable to the residents of Blowing Rock, Beech Mountain and Seven Devils.
Chairman Hodges stated the Board would consider this request.
SUBDIVISION PERFORMANCE GUARANTEE
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, requested the Board approve an increase in the amount of the previously approved Surety Bond which would guarantee completion of additional road construction for Phase IIB and IIC of Twin Rivers by the developer of this project, Landex, Inc.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to approve this request.
REQUEST FOR ADDITION OF A ROAD TO THE STATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, presented a request for the addition of Panoramic Lane (.5 mile located off Bill Hill Road, NCSR 1350) to the State Maintained Secondary Road System.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to approve the above request be forwarded to the N.C. Department of Transportation for consideration.
RESOLUTION BOOK #10, PAGE #1
PURCHASE ORDER LIMIT RE-CONSIDERATION
County Manager Reed stated that in February, 1999 the Board approved raising the purchase order limit from $150 to $500 for a 6-month trial period. Mr. Reed added that all Department Heads seemed comfortable with this change and requested this change be made permanent.
Commissioner Kohles seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to approve this request.
CONSIDERATION OF APPOINTMENTS
County Manager Reed stated Ken Abbott’s term expired in June, 1999 on the Boone Planning Board. The Town of Boone recommended Mr. Abbott’s re-appointment or Colleen Bolick to serve a 4-year term.
Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Coffey, moved to appoint Colleen Bolick to the Boone Planning Board.
County Manager Reed stated the following terms expired 8/31/99 on the Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute (CCC&TI) (Watauga County) Advisory Committee: Denny Norris, Mary Ellis, Tommy Ashley, Harold Tilley, Margaret Jones and Jackie Ward. In addition, Mr. Reed stated that Dr. Sandra Anderson, Director of the CCC&TI Watauga Campus, had indicated that Harold Tilley, Margaret Jones and Jackie Ward had requested re-appointment.
Following brief discussion, it was the consensus of the board to re-appoint Harold Tilley, Margaret Jones, Jackie Ward and Denny Norris and to appoint Howard Dorgan and Billy Martin to the CCC&TI (Watauga County) Advisory Committee. It was agreed that Denny Norris and Billy Martin would serve three-year terms, Margaret Jones and Jackie Ward would serve two-year terms, and Howard Dorgan and Harold Tilley would serve a one-year term.
County Manager Reed noted the following terms expired in August, 1999 on the Watauga County Library Board: Mary Sue Morgan and Shelby Lane. Mr. Reed added that both had agreed to continue to serve 4-year terms.
Commissioner Coffey seconded by Commissioner Lawrence, moved to re-appoint Mary Sue Morgan and Shelby Lane to the Watauga County Library Board.
VOTE: Aye-2 (Coffey, Lawrence)
Nay-3 (Hodges, Kohles, Sweeting)
Vice-Chairman Sweeting seconded by Commissioner Kohles, moved to re-appoint Mary Sue Morgan and to appoint Patty Wheeler to the Watauga County Library Board.
VOTE: Aye-3 (Hodges, Kohles, Sweeting)
Nay-2 (Coffey, Lawrence)
County Manager Reed stated the following terms expired in August, 1999 on the Watauga County – Valle Crucis Historic Preservation Commission: Francis Pressly and Sarah Mast.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to re-appoint Francis Pressly and Sarah Mast to the Watauga County – Valle Crucis Historic Preservation Commission for 3-year terms.
MISCELLANEOUS ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS
County Manager Reed had distributed several miscellaneous administrative items for the Board’s information (several Board/Committee meeting minutes, the Watauga Ambulance Service’s July, 1999 Monthly Call Data Summary and monthly reports provided by the Planning & Inspections Department and the Register of Deeds for July, 1999). None of these items required Board action. In addition, Mr. Reed informed the Board that a public hearing would be held at the Board’s next regular meeting scheduled for September 7, 1999 at 7:00 P.M. at the Foscoe Christian Church Fellowship Hall to consider amending the Foscoe-Grandfather Zoning Map.
This concluded the Board’s business, and Chairman Hodges declared a recess at 8:40 P.M.
The meeting resumed at 8:57 P.M.
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD
The following County Department Heads introduced themselves:
Jim Atkinson, Social Services Director
Doris Isaacs, Finance Director, who also introduced Finance Office employee, Kay Baumgardner
Merle Adams, Tax Collections Director
Sue Counts, Cooperative Extension Director
Deb Wynne, Parks & Recreation Director
Robert Marsh, Maintenance Supervisor
Joe Furman, Planning & Inspections Director
Glenda Duncan, Data Processing Director
Bob Frye, Assistant County Manager/OSD
Jim Harmon, Veterans Service Officer/Safety Director
Rocky Nelson, Project on Aging Director
The following citizens addressed the Board:
Mr. Jerry Vaughn, President of the Green Valley Community Park, Inc., welcomed the Board to the Green Valley area. In addition, he stated that several months ago a number of concerned citizens had met and were considering four pieces of property in the Green Valley area which would provide a park for Green Valley citizens. Mr. Vaughn wanted to inform the Board of this effort adding he might address the Board at a later date to apply for grants in support of this project.
Ms. Rachel Hartley, a resident from the Bamboo area, voiced her concerns that Watauga EMS Director, Tim Wilson, had not provided a private audit of the ambulance service for the Board’s review.
Mr. Sil Main, a resident from the Zionville area, addressed the Board and stated that once the ambulance service issue was resolved that he hoped the Board would provide County residents with the best possible service.
Mr. Brian Mueller thanked the Board for considering new recreational opportunities for the County’s youth. In addition, Mr. Mueller stated he owned a business (requiring a 30,000 square foot facility) and asked the Board to consider establishing an additional industrial park. Chairman Hodges stated he served on the Economic Development Commission and that this Commission was in the process of pursuing some property and had been working diligently on this matter.
Dr. Jimmy Smith, Boone Town Council member, encouraged the Board to continue to distribute taxes on the basis of population (per capita basis).
Ms. Cathy Fallows, a Blowing Rock resident, voiced her concerns regarding the accountability of Watauga EMS Director, Tim Wilson, stating that Mr. Wilson should be held accountable for his actions.
Commissioner Lawrence seconded by Vice-Chairman Sweeting, moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:16 P.M.
Elizabeth H. Link
Clerk to the Board