JANUARY 29, 1999


The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met on Friday, January 29, 1999 for a retreat at the Kellogg Center on Broyles Road. Present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chair Bill Moyer, Commissioner Marilyn Gordon, Commissioner Renee Kumor and Commissioner Don Ward. Also present were County Manager David E. Nicholson, Assistant County Manager Angela S. Beeker and Acting Clerk, Avalina B. Merrill.

Staff members were present only during those discussions that pertained to their agency. Staff that attended a portion of the meeting were Finance Director, J. Carey McLelland and Budget Analyst, Selena Coffey; Planning Director, Matt Matteson; Maintenance Director, Les Capps; County Engineer, Gary Tweed; Staff Attorney, Jennifer O. Jackson; Public Information Officer, Chris Coulson.

Absent were: County Attorney, Don H. Elkins and Clerk to the Board, Elizabeth W. Corn.

Only two members of the public attended the meeting.

Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order at 8:30 am. The first topic of discussion was on the budget with segments on zero-based budget, program, capital, personnel, schedule for development and revenue neutral definition.

Vice-Chair Moyer suggested the Board look at each department=s budget on a 2-year cycle examining closely their accomplishments and the related operational costs. Commissioner Moyer wants to eliminate the mid-cycle requests. Beginning with this budget cycle, Commissioner Moyer urged the Board to examine the budget in depth. Commissioner Moyer wants departments to justify the funding for their programs. He recommends discontinuing funding based solely upon the premise that traditionally it has been granted. Commissioner Moyer recommended departments be required to provide brief, concise data to the Commissioners supporting and justifying their budget requests. He recommended the Board look at the facilities needs of each department and set a capital project budget to handle those needs.

Commissioner Gordon suggested the Board focus on items in the budget for each department that the Board actually can control. Some expenditures in some of the budgets are beyond their control, i.e., portions of DSS State-mandated positions, etc. Commissioner Gordon recommended the Board conduct a budget review and examination on a continuous basis. In the current process, the departments have already prepared the budgets before the Board of Commissioners get to review their requests. By then, it=s too late for the Board of Commissioners to alter it very much.

Commissioner Kumor suggested the Board evaluate services provided by the departments on an on-going basis and get input from the Advisory Boards. She suggested a presentation from the Advisory Boards and the department heads is necessary to properly inform the Commissioners on the nature of the services rendered. Commissioner Kumor recommended the Board consider the facilities plan needs for each department under the Facilities Plan.

Commissioner Ward suggested the Board look at the nickels and dimes for each department in the first review. He encouraged the Board to examine the budgets in depth. Commissioner Ward wants a continuous review of the budget to avoid the redundancy of granting funding based on the theory that it=s always been granted. He recommended the department heads justify the funding requests in their budget before the Board of Commissioners.

Chairman Hawkins suggested the Board do a continuous review and examination of the budget on a 2-year cycle beginning with this budget cycle. He expressed a particular concern about the decline in the child support collection enforcement that occurred in the last cycle. An in-depth, continuous review of the DSS budget would answer those types of concerns.

County Manager David E. Nicholson suggested the Board begin budget examination with the departments having the greatest dollar amount for their budget and working down to the department with the least dollar amount budget. The top ten departments would be a good starting point. The largest ones are Department of Social Services, Department of Public Health, Public Safety, Parks and Recreation and the Library. Public Safety includes the Sheriff and Jail, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Marshal/Emergency Management and Fire Departments.

Mr. Nicholson reminded the Board that historically the fire departments develop their budgets based on the projected amount of revenue from fire tax.

Commissioner Moyer suggested the fire departments be required to justify their budget requests rather than just automatically funding their requests.

Chairman Hawkins recommended the Commissioners look at the long-range goals for the budgets of the fire departments. He reminded the Board the decline of volunteers for the fire departments will impact their budget needs.

Commissioner Ward suggested that 1/4 cent of the tax dollar from the fire districts be placed in reserve to bail out fire departments for disaster relief.

Commissioner Gordon recommended the Board consider what level of service they wished to contract for the emergency services before setting their budget.

It was the consensus of the Board to begin preliminary review of programs and services offered by the department along with some evaluations of them before this budget cycle. Beginning in February, the Board would set 2-hour work sessions to examine the budgets. In February, the Commissioners will examine the budgets of the Department of Social Services and Department of Public Health. In March, the Board will examine the fire departments budgets. In April, the Board will examine the budget of Parks and Recreation and maybe the Library. In May, the budgets of Planning/Zoning/Inspections, will be examined. The dates for these budget sessions will be determined and announced at a later date.


Commissioner Ward recommended the Board not invite input from the Advisory Boards in the budget deliberations. Discussion ensued among the Commissioners on that recommendation. Commissioner Kumor recommended input from the Advisory Boards on the budgets for the departments which they represent. She reminded the Commissioners the purpose of the Advisory Boards is to advise the Commissioners on the needs of that particular department and its services. Commissioners Moyer, Gordon and Ward do not want Advisory Boards involved in budget deliberations. Commissioner Gordon stated that the advisory board or chair should be present for policy and program discussions. After much discussion, the consensus of the Commissioners was to permit the chair person of the Advisory Boards to be a spokesperson during budget deliberations but the department head would be the responsible party to justify the budget requests before the Commissioners.

After the audit of the Assessor and Tax Collector, the Board wants to schedule a budget work session for those departments. During the budget work sessions for the Assessor and Tax Collector, Chairman Hawkins wants to examine the amortization and foreclosure process. Commissioner Moyer suggested the Board consider choosing a different style of tax bills to accommodate easier reading and understanding by the taxpayer. He suggested the Board consider other options of payment of the tax bill such as charge cards and lock boxes. Commissioner Gordon wants the Board to consider a method by which the payments received for tax payments could result in quicker cash flow and encourage payment by mail. The current process for posting tax payments hinders cash flow and is much slower than Buncombe County=s process. Chairman Hawkins recommended the Board consider granting a payment discount for early payment on property taxes to aid cash flow. He reminded the Commissioners that 90% of the tax collection is received without solicitation by the Tax Collector. Only 10% of the collection is solicited by the Tax Collector.

Commissioner Moyer inquired as to how the Board wanted to handle funding for the Alliance for Human Services during budget deliberations. Chairman Hawkins asked the Commissioners to clarify what are non-human services, do they wish to fund them and if so, at what level. Commissioner Moyer serves as the Commissioner appointee on the Alliance for Human Services and wants direction from the Board by the end of February on how to proceed with their funding requests.

Chairman Hawkins directed staff to place on the mid-February Commission meeting agenda the Alliance for Human Services for the Board=s discussion and deliberations.

Commissioner Kumor suggested looking at the budgets of emergency services in July.

Commissioners Gordon and Kumor suggested the Board clarify criteria for economic funding for economic development issues before this year=s budget adoption.

Chairman Hawkins opened discussion on Revenue Sources. He reminded the Board the collection of back taxes owed to the County was approximately one-half million dollars last year. He recommended the Board consider setting aside those types of monies to address needs such as facilities. Chairman Hawkins recommended the Board consider funding an employee suggestions program for rewarding employees on cost-savings recommendations. He stated the employees who render the services on a daily basis have first hand knowledge and experience on where cost-savings can be made effectively. Chairman Hawkins recommended the Board not depend too heavily on getting an additional one cent sales tax as proposed by them to the NC Legislature.

Finance Director, J. Carey McLelland, asked for direction from the Board in establishing a fee to be charged for reprocessing returned checks made payable to the County. He also asked their consideration of assessing a finance charge on delinquent charge accounts.

The Board directed County Manager David E. Nicholson to present these requests and staff=s recommendations on policy for these issues on the mid-February Commission agenda.

Chairman Hawkins opened discussion on Planning Issues. Topics of discussion on the agenda were listed as Board Priorities, Planning, Land Use and Quality of Life.

Commissioner Moyer stated to the Commissioners his greatest concern was county-wide zoning. He questioned whether the Board was going to continue their current approach of Apatch@ zoning or zoning only by request on an issue. Mr. Moyer is opposed to that approach. He is also concerned with Asafety net@ zoning because it lends itself to special permit use privileges. However, to accelerate zoning, Commissioner Moyer encouraged the Board to proceed aggressively with instituting Asafety net@ zoning.

Commissioner Ward recommended the Board accelerate its zoning approach.

Commissioner Gordon pointed out the importance of the understanding of the motivation for some of the support for zoning and for a re-evaluation of the true impacts of current zoning. She admonished the Board to consider the problems the current policy of adopting zoning based upon petitions has created for the community. Commissioner Gordon stated that Asafety net@ zoning may well be all that is needed in some areas of the county. She encouraged the Board to discontinue arbitrarily instituting zoning to appease some of the citizens in the community who have registered concerns but to consider the impact the zoning decision would have on the community long-term. Commissioner Gordon encouraged the Board to institute regulations that would enhance the quality of life for the community and hence create a bond among them on zoning issues. She challenged the Board to not make zoning decisions based upon the volume of citizen comments but instead weigh what was the best for the County overall. Commissioner Gordon stressed the importance of a rewrite of the existing zoning ordinance and classifications. She said that she thought zoning as it has been done in the past and is now done in the municipalities could be disastrous for the County as a whole.

Chairman Hawkins agreed it was important to educate the people on the true importance of zoning and that zoning will not and cannot protect everybody. He recommended a zoning approach of setting standards that can be quickly applied. Chairman Hawkins asked the Board to consider setting some priorities when considering zoning. He recommended the first priority to be the areas around municipalities; secondly, zoning around the large growth areas of the County; and thirdly, look at who initiates the zoning request. Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that an important part of zoning is the location of infrastructure because it impacts where zoning is needed first.

Commissioner Moyer encouraged the Board to be more proactive with NCDOT in setting the Transportation Plan. He recommended the Board be more active in the meetings on the TIP. Commissioner Moyer suggested the Board establish a County Thoroughfare Plan. The City has a Plan and so should the County have one for its boundaries.

Commissioner Gordon agreed. She recommended the Board have input with DOT on thoroughfares and road planning because those impact the County. Commissioner Gordon encouraged the Board to take an active role in working with the DOT on transportation policies set by them that impact County transportation.

Commissioner Kumor disagreed with the need for a County thoroughfare Plan and instead suggested the County develop a transportation plan that would blend or dovetail with the City Plan.

Commissioner Kumor encouraged the Board to be pro-active in land-use issues because the community is tired of waiting on the Board to press forward on those issues.

At the recommendation of other Board members, Chairman Hawkins directed staff to place on a future agenda the discussion of establishing a County thoroughfare Plan.

Chairman Hawkins opened the discussion on Quality of Life Issues.

Commissioner Ward commended the Board on starting the process of evaluating quality of life issues by instituting the Motor Sports Facilities and Noise Ordinances.

Commissioner Gordon relayed a request for input from the Board on a regional, health department initiated, regulation for feed-lot type livestock operations. Director of Public Health Tom Bridges has noted that there is a state-wide moratorium on such operations until September and this would be a good time to develop a regulation.

Commissioner Moyer recommended the Board establish guidelines for committees appointed to work on quality of life issues. He recommended the Board set a two-hour workshop once a month to discuss specific quality of life issues.

Commissioner Gordon stressed the importance of Board input early in the development of ordinances. She indicated that more time at the beginning could save considerable time overall. She supported the idea of a monthly or as-needed workshop so that Commissioners would have time for informal discussion of current issues and concerns. This could shorten the time of regular meetings and insure that communication is open between members.

Commissioner Kumor agreed the Board must set parameters for those committees.

Commissioner Ward encouraged the Board to review the quality of life ordinances adopted by surrounding counties, such as Buncombe County Noise Ordinance, tailor modification to the County=s needs and then send it to the Planning Board for fine tuning. He recommended the Board have input on the ordinances before sending them to the Planning Board versus just rubber-stamping the recommendations of the Planning Board or staff=s recommendations. Commissioner Ward recommended the Board give direction to the staff on parameters to be included in the ordinances rather than allowing staff to write the ordinances for them. He wants more Board involvement in writing ordinances.

Chairman Hawkins recommended the Board establish parameters to govern the quality of life issues and appoint sub-committees. He recommended the Board be more definitive with staff and committees on what the Board was looking for in the quality of life issues.

The consensus of the Board was to set a monthly meeting to discuss policy and issue directions to staff on specific issues.

Commissioner Gordon requested the Board discuss at some point in the meeting the times of Commissioner meetings, workshops and informal meetings.

Chairman Hawkins adjourned the meeting at 11:50 am for lunch. The Board, the County Manager, Assistant County Manager, and Acting Clerk went by County van to the Etowah Barbecue Shack for lunch.

Chairman Hawkins reconvened the retreat at 1:40 pm. He opened the floor for discussion on infrastructure beginning with the landfill facility.

Commissioner Kumor suggested the Board host a meeting with Buncombe County Commissioners on regional land filling and recycling efforts.

Commissioner Moyer recommended the Board pursue joint efforts with neighboring counties on solid waste.

Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of a water/sewer workshop scheduled for February 15, 1999. He recommended the Board consider permitting the Utilities Department to contract the water/sewer services for the County. As the contractor, Utilities staff would look at sewer line extensions, sewer needs for subdivisions, and aggressively look for grants to aid in sewer extension costs. Chairman Hawkins recommended merging the two districts, Cane Creek and Mud Creek Water and Sewer Districts, and negotiate contracts for services for those districts.

Commissioners Moyer and Gordon questioned what purpose contracting services for Utilities would serve. Commissioner Moyer recommended, if the Board moves forward with that option, than an Advisory Board be appointed to aid Commissioners in water and sewer needs for the community.

Commissioner Kumor wanted the Board to demonstrate the need to community before proceeding with the idea of contracting services.

Chairman Hawkins informed the Board that he will bring back to them information on contracting services for their consideration in a future workshop.

Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that Commissioner Ward had recommendations on the Facilities Infrastructure. Commissioner Ward presented a proposal to consolidate several departments which provide similar services under one roof which in turn would release several buildings back into the tax market. Those buildings are costing the County much money in repairs and upkeep. His proposal included using a portion of the County-owned acreage at Blue Ridge Community College and have a building constructed on it that would house Department of Social Services, the Health Department, Planning, Inspections and Zoning. DSS and the Health Department could incorporate their educational curriculums into those of BRCC thereby producing a greater realm of education and services with a reduction in costs. The County owns 47 acres at Blue Ridge Community College so the land would be at no cost to the County. Commissioner Ward=s proposal recommended the Sheriff=s Department staff move to the County Office building into those spaces formerly occupied by the DSS staff. With that move, the Nuckolls Building and the building leased for the Detective Division would be released. The Land Development Building would be released for sale. The Office of Budget and Finance would be moved from the annex of the Historic Courthouse back to the County Office Building. The Historic Courthouse would then be available for release. Commissioner Ward recommended that a historical organization such as the Genealogical and Historical Society be given an opportunity to purchase the building. The first phase of his proposal would cost approximately $4 million dollars. Some of that funding could be drawn from the State, maybe as much as one-third. The County would regain at least $30,000 from the release of the lease on the Mac building which houses the Detective Division plus gain revenues from other County government buildings that would be released as a result of this consolidation. Commissioner Ward recommended the Board establish an Advisory Council to study that proposal.

Phase II of Commissioner Ward=s facilities proposal would address future space needs of County agencies.

Commissioner Kumor questioned if that proposal to use some of the acreage at BRCC fit the parameters established by former Boards for that acreage and how would the County replace that acreage.

Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that some grant money may be available for renovations at the historic courthouse due to its historic significance.

It was the consensus of the Board to establish a committee to look at proposed uses of the historic courthouse. The Board recommended the committee be comprised of County legal staff, Dr. George Jones and members of the Historical Society, Chamber of Commerce staff and some downtown merchants. Because Commissioners Kumor and Gordon had previously investigated the issue of the historic courthouse, Commissioner Moyer recommended that Commissioners Gordon and Kumor be the Commission appointees to structure this Committee. Commissioners Moyer and Ward were appointed to work on structuring a committee for design of the facilities under Commissioner Ward=s proposal.

Chairman Hawkins encouraged the Board to consider the long-term expense of maintaining the older County buildings.

Commissioner Ward recommended the Board consider contracting maintenance services such as

heating and air conditioning and consolidating maintenance and recreation maintenance services.

Commissioner Kumor requested time to discuss her recommendations for the move of Commission offices to the offices formerly occupied by the Elections staff. Because Commissioners Kumor and Ward had worked jointly on those plans, Commissioner Moyer recommended they finalize those plans and bring back to the Board their final recommendation for that move. The Board agreed to Commissioner Moyer=s recommendation.

Chairman Hawkins opened the floor for discussion on policy. He requested permission from the Board to go to the municipalities with a recommendation of joint efforts on purchasing to promote great cost savings for all parties engaged in the effort. Discussion ensued among the Board members relating to problems and costs associated with warehousing commodities. The consensus of the Board was to pursue that discussion about joint purchasing efforts at a future meeting.

County Manager Nicholson briefed the Board on the Clean Water Grant. He reminded the Board that to qualify, the County must have projects ready to go by June of 1999. Since the County did not at that time have such projects, it would be virtually impossible for the County to apply based upon that criteria. County Engineer Gary Tweed briefed the Board on the Clean Water Grant and re-emphasized the difficulty the County would have meeting the Grant=s criteria.

It was the consensus of the Board for Chairman Hawkins and Commissioner Ward to continue to serve as the Commission appointees on the Joint Schools Facilities Committee. Chairman Hawkins recommended that Commissioner Moyer be appointed as an alternate should he or Commissioner Ward have to default from serving on the committee. Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board the committee was continuing the dialogue of funding for specific areas and parameters for square footage per student and associated costs. The Committee will determine how the Board of Education plans to use the mobile space.

Commissioner Moyer expressed concern on the prototype model selected by the Committee and Board of Education on the Fletcher Elementary School. He doesn=t want the Boards to go back out for bond issuance for funding but instead wants the Boards to establish a 15-year long-term Plan. Commissioner Moyer wants the Joint Schools Facilities Committee to be sensitive to the County=s Land Use needs when siting a school facility. He recommended the Committee develop a long-term capital plan to meet the facilities needs of the schools.

Commissioner Gordon also expressed concern at the use of the Fletcher design as a prototype due to its site specific design and two-story construction. She said she had heard concerns voiced at the Chamber retreat over the placement of schools in prime industrial and commercial sites.

Chairman Hawkins urged both the Board of Education and the Commissioners to consider operational costs and population costs when establishing a 15-year long-term Plan.

Under establishing Policy, the next topic of discussion was Economic Development. Commissioner Moyer requested the Board set a joint meeting with the Planning Department staff and Committee of 100 to discuss the goals and objectives for economic development by this Board.

Chairman Hawkins urged the Board to establish goals for economic development that do not just become net cash flow incentives.

Commissioner Kumor suggested the Board develop its own economic development policy before meeting with the Committee of 100.

The Board agreed to develop its policy and then meet with the Committee of 100 to discuss that policy. While developing its economic development policy, the Board will set criteria for economic development incentives.

Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that the agricultural industry had requested the Commissioners= assistance through economic development efforts for marketing the apple industry.

County Manager David E. Nicholson explained to the Board that representatives of the agri-business community requested to come before the Board at their mid-February meeting on 2/17/99 with recommendations for economic development related to the apple industry. However, having heard the discussion the Board just engaged in on economic development policy, Mr. Nicholson will advise the agri-business representatives of the Board=s wishes to develop a policy on economic development before entertaining any requests related to economic development.

After consideration of the request from the agri-business and how that sector will be impacted by any economic development policy set by the Board, it was the consensus of the Board to listen to the recommendations from the agri-business and then set a meeting on developing economic development policy.

Chairman Hawkins opened the floor for discussion on Government Administration. Chairman Hawkins requested direction from the Board to staff regarding guidelines for video taping the Commission meetings. Board members agreed to omit the segment of informal public comment on the video taping. The remainder taping of the Commission meeting would be run as is, i.e. unedited.

County Manager Nicholson recommended to the Board that only views of the full Board be broadcast during video taping rather than individual focus.

Mr. Nicholson also urged the Board to consider using the County website more for distribution of information to the community. Recent experience on citizen comment on the noise ordinance via the public comment sector of the website had proven that much of the community has opted to use that means of communication with the Board.

Commissioner Kumor recommended to the Board that a link be created on the County=s website to allow public input on feedback on topics of great interest and concern to the community, Ahot buttons@. She urged the Board to then consider having staff develop educational video tapes on those Ahot buttons@ to educate the public about the Board=s policy on those issues.

Commissioner Moyer expressed concern that video production for such issues would be too difficult and expensive for staff to produce and might not be an effective tool for public education on Board policy.

It was the consensus of the Board to do selective video production. However, the Board expressed it did not want video production related to establishing Board policy.

Chairman Hawkins asked for direction from the Board on taking the suggestion to the LGCCA about joint efforts on video production. It was the consensus of the Board for Chairman Hawkins to do so.

Commissioner Gordon expressed concern about how the informal public comment is currently handled by the Board. The current policy of permitting informal public comment at the beginning of the meeting many times disrupts the structure of the meeting. Staff is detained for long periods of time awaiting Board discussion to begin on agenda items on which they have input. Concerns expressed by the citizens during informal public comment are many times answered later in the agenda by the Board under discussion items. Commissioner Gordon urged the Board to consider slotting Informal Public Comments later in the agenda. Perhaps it would be better situated at the end of the discussion items. She urged the Board to develop some criteria for Informal Public Comment. She suggested the Board require the citizens to list the topic they wish to address before the Board and enforce the 3-minute limit. If the topic is on the agenda, set aside time during the discussion of that item by the Board to permit informal public comment on that topic only. Commissioner Gordon also urged the Board to establish parameters for informal public comment that required the individual addressing them to do so with respect and courtesy.

Commissioner Ward recommended the Informal Public Comment be moved to after public hearings which begin at 7:00 pm. If no public hearings are scheduled, public input could begin at 7:00 pm rather than at 5:30 pm.

Commissioner Kumor expressed concern that the community would perceive those recommended changes to Informal Public Comment as a lack of concern by the Board to the needs and concerns of the community.

Commissioner Moyer suggested the informal public comment segment be moved either to the very first item on the agenda or to the last item on the agenda. He suggested the informal public comment be placed after general business. Commissioner Moyer urged the Board to restructure the agenda to streamline the meetings and make them more productive.

Commissioner Kumor expressed concern as to how the public who wished to address the Board on a particular topic would be accommodated if the informal Public input was moved to the rear of the agenda.

Board members, except Commissioner Kumor, agreed to place the informal public input segment mid-stream in the agenda.

These recommended changes to the structure of the agenda is to be addressed by the Board at their mid-February meeting.

Chairman Hawkins recommended the Board permit the County Manager to provide them with recommendations on consolidation, privatizing and contracting services for reorganization purposes. He recommended the Board consider reducing the employee population by 1% through attrition, i.e. retirement, resignations.

County Manager Nicholson informed the Board that he plans better utilization of personnel by restructuring. He informed the Board he will advise them at a future date of those plans.

Under the topic of Personnel Review Procedure, Commissioner Kumor urged the Board to consider a time line for evaluation of the County Manager. She expressed concern that the current method of his evaluation and the time frame for it was not in the best interest of the County Manager. Commissioner Kumor urged the Board to consider addressing that recommendation at a future date.

Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that a previous Board of Commissioners had adopted a resolution granting exclusive authority to the County Manager for hiring and firing of department heads without input from the Board. Discussion ensued briefly as to whether the Board wished to rescind that authority. The consensus of the Board was to leave that exclusive authority with the County Manager.

The Board had established goals for the County Manager throughout the day and felt it was unnecessary to address that segment of the agenda.

Chairman Hawkins adjourned the meeting at 4:45 pm.