WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 1998
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting on Tuesday, February 17, 1998 at 7:00 P.M. in the Board Room of the Watauga County Courthouse.
PRESENT: James Coffey, Chairman
Jack D. Lawrence, Sr., Vice-Chairman
Linda S. Craig, Commissioner
Jimmy Hodges, Commissioner
Jack Wellborn, Commissioner
Stacy C. Eggers, Jr., County Attorney
James S. Ratchford, County Manager
Libby Link, Clerk to the Board
Chairman Coffey called the meeting to order at 7:00 P.M. welcoming those in attendance.
A moment of silence was observed.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Chairman Coffey called for additions or corrections to the February 2, 1998 regular minutes. In regards to the Air Quality Issues resolution and letter to the State, Commissioner Craig reminded the Board that she had stated during the February 2, 1998 board meeting that the letter to the State should specify that the State impose their own statutory requirements as conditions to ensure protection of the public health. Commissioner Craig added that this statement was not included in the draft minutes and wished to have it included in the minutes.
Commissioner Craig seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to approve the February 2, 1998 regular minutes with the change as discussed.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Chairman Coffey called for additions or corrections to the February 17, 1998 agenda.
Commissioner Wellborn stated that Mr. Don Butler wished to address the Board regarding the Citizens Against Pollution. It was agreed to add Mr. Butler to the Agenda under Item 4 (A) Asphalt Plant Moratorium.
Commissioner Craig, seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to approve the agenda for the February 17, 1998 regular meeting with the amendment.
VOTE: Aye – 5
Nay – 0
ASPHALT PLANT MORATORIUM
The Citizens Against Pollution (CAP) wished to address the Board again regarding their concerns for the proposed asphalt plant (Maymead Materials, Inc.) off Roby Greene Road. Mr. Lee Stroupe, Co-President of CAP, informed the Board that Ms. Peggy Atzel would speak as CAP’s representative. Ms. Atzel addressed the Board and stated that she had been a Watauga County resident her entire life, lived on the New River, and knew many of the farmers and residents on Roby Greene Road. All she heard about was Maymead’s rights to build a plant in the area but she wondered don’t the citizens have any rights? She added that she was concerned about the children in the community. Ms. Atzel noted the County desperately needed to preserve tourism and did not need to support Maymead. She reminded the Board that on 8/19/97 CAP asked them to adopt an ordinance in order to protect the health of citizens. Ms. Atzel read a letter and resolution from an attorney, John D. Runkle of Chapel Hill, regarding this issue. She asked the Board to adopt this resolution to enact a moratorium against asphalt plants.
Mr. Don Butler stated his remarks were primarily directed to the members of the CAP group. He read a letter, which introduced himself and indicated concerns about CAP. Mr. Butler stated that he resided in the Rutherwood Community, and he was also concerned about the proposed asphalt plant location. However, he felt that CAP’s continuing tactics served no purpose, and it was time they stopped interfering with the orderly and efficient functioning of our County government. Mr. Butler added that he felt the Board had acted in a very responsible manner and it was time for CAP to stop harassing the Commissioners. During Mr. Butler’s speech, Mr. Lou Zeller interrupted Mr. Butler several times by speaking out. After Chairman Coffey warned Mr. Zeller several times to let Mr. Butler finish speaking, he requested that a Sheriff’s Deputy remove Mr. Zeller from the Board Room in order to proceed with the meeting. After Mr. Zeller exited the Board room, Mr. Butler finished his speech.
AIR QUALITY ISSUES FOLLOW-UP REPORT
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, addressed the Board and stated he had spoken with Mr. Alan Klimek, Director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality, on 2/12/98. Mr. Klimek had reviewed the Air Quality Issues resolution that the Board had sent to the State. The Environmental Protection Agency was conducting a study of fugitive air emissions, and the Board of Commissioners had asked the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to delay issuing permits until the study was completed. Mr. Furman noted the Planning Board met on February 16, 1998 and would make their recommendation to the Board at the March 2, 1998 regular meeting regarding the polluting industries regulations. He added that General Statute 113A-8 did not allow picking and choosing businesses to regulate, and the Planning Board’s position was that the County needed to consider growth in general. Mr. Lee Stroupe addressed the Board and stated CAP was asking the Board to show a sign of strength and to show a concern for the citizens. CAP expressed that the best way to spend tax money was to ensure clean air. Vice-Chairman Lawrence addressed Mr. Stroupe and stated that he thought he and several representatives from CAP had reached an understanding from their last meeting that occurred on February 11, 1998. Vice-Chairman Lawrence added that he was not a villain, took his job seriously, and what the Board had come up with was the best that could be done. It was noted that if the State wanted to pass a Moratorium, it would override anything the County did. Mr. Stroupe argued that a moratorium passed by the County would stand up in court. County Attorney, Stacy Eggers, added that what the attorney, Mr. John D. Runkle, had stated in his letter (that a moratorium could get challenged in court and by itself, might not stand up) supported what he had explained to the Board.
DAM PROJECT UPDATE
Planning & Inspections Director, Joe Furman, addressed the Board and spoke of the proposed Devils Lake Dam reconstruction. A letter was written to the State that stated concerns and requested the State pay close attention to this project. Mr. Furman had spoken to State representatives who had agreed to meet on February 26, 1998 at the Foscoe Fire Station to address any citizens’ concerns. Mr. Furman would be in attendance, and he added that the Board was invited to attend. Chairman Coffey noted the Commissioners might want to attend the meeting.
PUBLIC HEARING REQUEST
Veterans Service Officer/Safety Director, Jim Harmon, introduced Mr. Tony Barlage, Helicon Director, to the Board. Mr. Barlage stated Helicon was proposing rate increases to its basic service rates as a result of new channel additions, as well as increased operating and capital costs. Mr. Barlage added he would be happy to answer any questions.
OLD RATE NEW RATE DIFFERENCE
Limited Basic 8.00 10.50 2.50
Super Value Basic 23.45 25.95 2.50
Chairman Coffey stated that before a rate increase, it was necessary to have a public hearing.
After discussion, Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Craig, moved to schedule this public hearing for the March 17, 1998 regular meeting.
FRONTIER VISION CABLE SERVICE MATTERS
Veterans Service Officer/Safety Director, Jim Harmon, addressed the Board and stated he had received numerous complaints from citizens due to service problems they have had since the snowstorm in January 1998. Mr. Harmon also presented a list of individuals who had contacted him. He added that as of this date, some people were still without service. Mr. Harmon visited the Zionville Office, and he found the staff to be very helpful but was told service calls went to an office in Tennessee. Mr. Harmon felt that perhaps Frontier Vision did not have an adequate number of technicians working to restore service in Frontier Vision’s service area. The three things everyone was concerned with: 1) poorly scheduled service (not being informed when a technician would come); 2) poor picture quality (snowy, quality changed a lot), and 3) lack of a functioning office (one doesn’t talk to a person, one got a recording). Citizens did not feel they had access to a person. Chairman Coffey stated he felt the Board needed to get some clarification. Commissioner Craig added that the Board was most concerned that a person would be in the office at all times. County Manager Ratchford told the Board that Frontier Vision was to have a representative attend this meeting, however, their representative was sick and not able to attend. Mr. Ratchford stated a representative would address the Board at the next regular meeting scheduled for March 2, 1998. Commissioner Hodges stated he felt that Frontier Vision was not adequately doing their job, and would promise one anything. Commissioner Wellborn noted he had tried to get through to them all day but never succeeded. County Attorney Eggers stated it was his understanding that Frontier Vision had not done anything to upgrade the system. Commissioner Hodges added that Frontier Vision should have investigated the system before they purchased the business from SRW. It was noted that the County’s ordinance allowed the County to place a fine of $50/day if Frontier Vision was not in compliance with the contract. Vice-Chairman Lawrence expressed the Board had complaints right now that the Company did not follow. Chairman Coffey addressed the citizens and stated he hoped they felt better coming to the meeting to bring this issue before the Board. Commissioner Hodges suggested County Attorney Eggers review these complaints in order to advise the Board of options . Chairman Coffey advised the citizens present that the Board would do everything possible to best represent them. Mr. Harmon stated he would with meet with County Attorney Eggers to work on this issue.
CJP GRANT APPLICATIONS
Ms. Suzi Woodard and Ms. Gail Hawkinson addressed the Board and requested approval to submit a Continuation of Implementation Funds grant application for next fiscal year’s operation as well as three Discretionary Funding grant applications for the Criminal Justice Partnership program. It was noted that these applications did not require County funding. Ms. Woodard added that this Program assisted judges with alternatives to incarceration.
Commissioner Wellborn seconded by Commissioner Craig, moved to apply for all the grants as proposed.
Social Services Director, Jim Atkinson, addressed the Board and presented that department’s standard monthly report. Mr. Atkinson updated the Board on the Work First program. He noted that only fourteen counties met the participation rates in the "all parent" rate, and that Watauga County was the only County that met the "two parent" rate. Mr. Atkinson added that this wouldn’t happen each month, but DSS was real proud of this accomplishment. Commissioner Craig reiterated that the Commissioners could see on page 53 of the agenda packet that there were a lot of counties (approximately 90) that did not meet the qualifications. The Board expressed this was a job well done.
Mr. Atkinson also explained the Electronic Benefits Transfer for food stamps, which would begin in September 1998. Food stamps would no longer be printed, transactions/purchases would all be done with a debit card. CitiBank had contracted with the State to operate the new system. The State had contracted with Lockheed Martin to do the conversion training. Mr. Atkinson stated he had contacted Lockheed Martin as well as Service Design Associates. Watauga County presently had 930 food stamp cases and probably would have that number of cases in September ’98. After compiling information from both Lockheed Martin and Service Design Associates, Mr. Atkinson recommended the Service Design Associates’ proposal. The amount of money involved was approximately $5,200 for the training, and the cost of the equipment would be approximately $1,500. County Attorney Eggers voiced concerns that if the County did not use the State’s Plan (Lockheed Martin) the County could lose money. Mr. Atkinson assured Attorney Eggers that the County would not be penalized for choosing a different Plan. He noted the County was fortunate in that training would be conducted at the new Human Services Center, therefore, a training facility would not be an expense. Commissioner Craig stated that Mr. Atkinson had done a lot of homework on this and had worked really hard. Mr. Atkinson was informing the Board of his decision and added that a change could be made later if needed. There was a general concensus from the Board to proceed as proposed.
WORK FIRST TRANSPORTATION GRANT APPLICATION
Mr. Atkinson noted that Mr. Bob Frye, Assistant County Manager/OSD, could not attend the meeting and addressed the Board in his place. He added that the State had about $1 million that had been divided between counties for Work First related transportation needs. He had spoken with Mr. Frye and Chris Turner, AppalCart Transportation Director, to develop the best method in utilizing the funds. Mr. Atkinson recommended implementing a new AppalCart route from Highway 105 to the Human Services Building. This new route would give more access to families from the Highway 105 area and assist Work First individuals with transportation to Boone. This grant did not require County funding.
In addition, Mr. Atkinson informed the Board that there was an additional grant available through the State for a statewide pilot project – Work for Wheels Program. He recommended the Board apply for $40,000 for a demonstration project (Watauga County Cars For Work Program). The County hoped to get $40,000, but he did not know if the funds would be received.
According to Mr. Atkinson, the funds if approved would be used to help individuals currently in the Work First program who had problems with transportation (getting children to daycare and getting employment where the existing AppalCart routes were), and purchasing vehicles would eliminate this obstacle. Commissioner Craig reiterated that when DSS was working on the new Work First Plan that one of the biggest problems was transportation to get children to daycare, and there was a lot of discussion about vehicles as well as a lot of people interested in getting some vehicles to assist these people. Mr. Atkinson explained that DSS would be very selective as to providing the vehicles to responsible individuals who would best maintain the cars. He indicated that Mr. Frye had contacted other counties to ascertain procedures that they were using.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to apply for these grants.
MISCELLANEOUS ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS
A. Budget Amendment – County Manager Ratchford presented the following budget amendment for Board approval:
Account # Description Debit Credit
283100-319705 Taxes-97-98/St. Simm. 1,260
284340-469905 Pay to Fire Dist./St. Simm. 1,260
283100-319706 Taxes-97-98/Zionville 3,840
284340-469906 Pay. To Fire Dist.-Zion. 3,840
283100-319707 Taxes-97-98/C. Creek 2,600
284340-469907 Pay. To Fire Dist.-C. Crk 2,600
283100-319709 Taxes-97-98/Mt. Camp 5,588
284340-469909 Pay. To Fire Dist.-Mt. Cmp 5,588
283100-319711 Taxes-97-98/Todd 1,069
284340-469911 Pay. To Fire Dist./Todd 1,069
To recognize additional fire tax district revenue and appropriations based on actual tax billings in excess of tax administrators budget estimates.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to approve the above budget amendment as presented.
B. Tax Refund Correction – Tax Administrator, Larry McLean, addressed the Board and stated the Tax Office had made a mistake and written a refund which should have been written as a release. This mistake was not found until after the Board had approved the January 1998 Refunds and Releases at the February 2, 1998 regular meeting. The amendment applied to row 5, page 12 of the refund report shown below:
Taxpayer: 1075035, Cook, Catherine Taylor
Control #: 000481
Code: G01 Amount: $19.48
Code: F01 Amount: $ 2.24
Reason: Sold car/tag surrendered
Mr. McLean asked that this refund be deleted and the Refunds Summary amended.
Commissioner Craig seconded by Commissioner Hodges motioned to accept the amendment as presented.
Commissioner Craig seconded by Commissioner Wellborn, moved to enter closed session following a brief recess at 8:40 P.M. to discuss: land acquisition – G.S. 143-318.11(a)(5)(i).
The Board took no action while in closed session.
Vice-Chairman Lawrence seconded by Commissioner Hodges, moved to resume the regular meeting at 9:00 P.M.
Commissioner Hodges seconded by Vice-Chairman Lawrence, moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:04 P.M.
Elizabeth H. Link
Clerk to the Board