STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON MAY 19, 1999
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for its regularly scheduled mid-month meeting on Wednesday, May 19, 1999 at 9:00 a.m. in the Commissioners= Meeting Room of the Henderson County Office Building at 100 North King Street, Hendersonville, NC.
Present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chair William Moyer, Commissioner Marilyn Gordon, Commissioner Renee Kumor, Commissioner Don Ward, County Attorney Don H. Elkins and Clerk to the Board, Elizabeth W. Corn.
Staff present was County Manager David E. Nicholson, Assistant County Manager Angela S. Beeker, Finance Director Carey McLelland, County Engineer Gary Tweed, Staff Attorney Jennifer O. Jackson, Utilities Director Jim Erwin, Utilities Easement Technician Doyle Freeman, Planning Director Karen C. Smith, and Public Information Officer Chris S. Coulson.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order and welcomed those in attendance.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Commissioner Don Ward led the audience in the pledge to the American Flag.
County Manager David E. Nicholson led the invocation.
INTRODUCTION OF JAMIE OXLEY, AGRICULTURAL PROJECT DIRECTOR
County Manager David E. Nicholson introduced Jamie Oxley, Agricultural Project Director for Henderson County. Mr. Oxley gave a brief update to the Board on the damage to the local apple crop as the result of a recent hailstorm. He also advised the Board that the apple growers had produced a new product, apple chips. A firm in Ohio was buying local apples to produce this product.
DISCUSSIONS/ADJUSTMENT OF THE AGENDA
Chairman Hawkins moved the two public input sessions for this meeting, the Consideration for Regulations on the French Broad River, and the Abandonment of the Old Asheville Highway, to immediately follow public input.
Chairman Hawkins also added under Staff Reports, Item E, in conjunction with the Board=s discussion on project financing, a presentation by Dr. Yeager, the Interim Superintendent for the Henderson County Schools, on some property for which the Board of Education was seeking approval from the Board of Commissioners to purchase.
Commissioner Moyer added Item #5, an update on the Library, under Pending Issues.
Commissioner Ward added Item #6, an update on the Blue Ridge Community College auditorium, under Pending Issues.
Chairman Hawkins made a motion that the Consent Agenda be approved as presented. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
The Consent Agenda consisted of the following:
Minutes: Special-Called Meeting March 3, 1999
Special-Called Meeting March 25, 1999
Special-Called Meeting March 29, 1999
Special-Called Meeting March 30, 1999
Regularly Scheduled Meeting April 21, 1999
Tax Refund Requests (16)
Sixteen Tax Refund Requests were presented to the Board for its review and approval.
Tax Release Requests (81)
Eighty-one Tax Release Requests were presented to the Board for its review and approval.
Tax Collector=s Report
Tax Collector Terry F. Lyda presented the tax collections report for May 1999.
A road petition to add Oakwood Avenue to the State Maintenance System was presented for the Board=s review and approval.
Subdivision Ordinance Fee Schedule
A fee schedule for the Subdivision Ordinance was presented for the Board=s review and approval.
Notification of Vacancies:
The Board was advised of these vacancies on the following Boards and Committees:
1. Land of-Sky Regional Council Advisory Council on Aging-2 vacancies
2. Environmental Advisory Committee (NEW)
3. Smart Start - 2 vacancies
Corrections to minutes of March 17, 1999
The Board was advised of corrections to minutes previously presented for the March 17, 1999 mid-month Board of Commissioners meeting.
PUBLIC INPUT SESSION-To Consider French Broad River Regulations
Staff Attorney Jennifer Jackson gave the Board an update on the French Broad River airboat situation. The Board scheduled this input session at its May 3rd meeting to give public notice that the Board was considering requesting local water regulations for the French Broad River and also to receive comments from the public on such regulations. The authority for the Board to request such regulation is in North Carolina General Statute 75A-15 which was included in the agenda packet. Ms. Jackson had also provided for the Commissioners the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission=s procedure for establishing local water safety regulations. The Board was at the first step of that procedure which was to receive public input and consider a resolution formally requesting the Wildlife Resources Commission to study the river and consider the Board=s recommendation on some regulation regarding that. The public input session was advertised in the Times-News on May 12th. Ms. Jackson had also provided for the Board a draft resolution for its consideration requesting the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to consider a no wake zone for the approximate twenty-five miles worth of the French Broad River as it runs through Henderson County. The procedure was for the Board to submit, if the Board wished to consider such regulation or forward such recommendation, an application to the Wildlife Resources Commission along with a certified copy of the resolution. One of the requirements was for the Board to agree to participate in the uniform waterway marker system. That meant that Henderson County would agree to purchase and maintain any markers that would be required to designate the French Broad River as a no wake zone. Staff had spoken with Captain Whitson, a local Wildlife Officer, who indicated that he probably would recommend signs as opposed to buoys for the river since river levels fluctuate with storms. The signs would provide more permanent markers for designating the waterway as a no wake zone, should that be the Board=s recommendation. Ms. Jackson did not have any costs for the marker system but Captain Whitson recommended a 3' x 3' sign at each end of the river. Buoys would cost approximately $150 per buoy. There are similar markers on Lake Summit but the markers for the rivers would be slightly different since the signage would be for a river versus a lake.
Commissioner Moyer stated that this was a broad statute for promoting safety on the river when there is recreation involved and asked Ms. Jackson if she was convinced that the Wildlife Resources Commission would only enforce the no wake zone and nothing further. Ms. Jackson replied that typically that was all they would do. Once the Board forwards its recommendation to the Wildlife Resources Commission, it would study the area and make an independent decision as to whether it would be appropriate to have a no wake speed zone for the entire river. Commissioner Moyer understood the no wake zone but he was more concerned about the safety aspect and he assumed the Wildlife Resources Commission wouldn=t even look at that. Ms. Jackson replied she thought they would but she wasn=t sure what else they could do besides enter into a no wake zone. Commissioner Moyer further stated that certainly controlling speed was one big thing that could be done for safety. Ms. Jackson stated that the speed would be taken care of in a no wake zone because a speed limit for idle or slow speed would be enforced in the no wake zone. It would be very difficult to monitor a 20-mile per hour speed limit. Commissioner Moyer commented that he would much rather have the burden of proving speed is dangerous to people than try to prove that a wake in a certain area is going to be detrimental to a river bank and that was what he was concerned about. Ms. Jackson thought the thinking of the Wildlife Resources Commission was that the no wake zone was in effect a speed limit or a speed zone so that individuals were forced to navigate watercraft to a very slow speed or otherwise they would be creating a wake and would be violating the no wake zone. The Wildlife Officers would be charged with monitoring and enforcing those zones.
Chairman Hawkins stated that the Statute stated that the Wildlife Commission would investigate the water recreation and safety needs of the local water hence he thought they would do both of those. Ms. Jackson had mentioned that the County would participate in a standard water marker system, which to him meant all the lakes in the County as well as rivers. He didn=t know to what extent the County could or desired to do that. If the County was going to make an application, Chairman Hawkins wondered should it not be a joint application with Buncombe County. He had some concerns that the no wake zone might be twenty-five miles long. According to item six, the no wake zone specifies that a clear danger to public safety must be present and he didn=t know how you could make a twenty-five mile long wake zone and present a clear danger. Ms. Jackson stated that certainly was something that the Wildlife Resources Commission would look at. Chairman Hawkins further questioned if an airboat makes a wake since it was a flat bottom boat which couldn=t be drawing much water because it rides up on the water. Ms. Jackson replied it was her understanding that an airboat does create a wake. In her conversations with the Wildlife Resources Commission, Ms. Jackson understood that to take care of the concerns that the Board of Commissioners had heard about, they were recommending a no wake because that would be the most appropriate type of regulation to address those concerns. To address the uniform water marker system, Ms. Jackson had the very same concerns that Chairman Hawkins did. She believed the answer to that is only when there are some regulations on a body of water that the markers are necessary because the markers alert those watercraft that are utilizing that body of water that there are some regulations that they need to be aware of. The only body of water in Henderson County with some regulations was Lake Summit. The French Broad River would be the second body of water in Henderson County with such regulations. To address Chairman Hawkins= concern about a joint resolution with Buncombe County, Ms. Jackson advised the Board it would be very appropriate to consider that. Staff had understood that the Board was trying to move forward with this matter as quickly as possible and she believed that Buncombe County was following the same type procedure that Henderson County was following in their territorial jurisdiction. She believed what would happen if the Board chose to submit an application and a resolution supporting some regulation that it would go to the Wildlife Resources Commission, as will Buncombe County, and the Wildlife Resources Commission would consider the whole problem together.
Chairman Hawkins further commented that the application specified that when requesting full implementation of the uniform waterway marker system in all waters within the governmental unit, the Board would be required to implement that water marking system on all its lakes. But he understood that Ms. Jackson=s interpretation was that if there weren=t any regulations that apply to the water markings, then the water marking systems do not apply. Ms. Jackson had requested a copy of the regulations on the Uniform Water Way Marker System but she had not received that information yet. She had spoken several times with Barbara Roate who was in the division of the Wildlife Resources Commission that deals with this type of issue and Ms. Roate assured Ms. Jackson to some extent that Henderson County would not have to post every single creek and river and lake and pond within Henderson County. That is not practical for the Wildlife Resources Commission to regulate. In addition to notifying the citizens that are using the bodies of water, it would also provide evidence to the Wildlife Resources Commission as to what their territory of enforcement would be. Chairman Hawkins further commented that Commissioner Kumor had found some additional information and one of the regulations within the Uniform Water Way Marker System was to mark the dangers of rocks. The French Broad River is full of rocks and there would be signs for twenty-five miles if they were marked. Ms. Jackson replied she couldn=t provide at today=s meeting an estimate of the cost for those markers. If the Board chose to send the application and resolution forward, then the Wildlife Resources Commission would investigate the river and tell the Board what had to be marked under the Uniform Water Way Marker System. At a minimum, both the north end and south end of the French Broad River would need to be marked where it comes into and leaves Henderson County.
Chairman Hawkins deferred further questions from the Board until after Public Input.
Randy Burmaster, 85 Carrie Lane, Fletcher, NC-Mr. Burmaster lived less than 200 feet from the French Broad River. He previously lived in Florida near the Everglades and he knew that airboats do make a wake. Mr. Burmaster only had one day per week off from his employment. The airboat originally only had two trips per day on the river but that increased to three or four times per week. His biggest concern was as the popularity of the airboat tours increased the number of trips per day it would make up and down the river would increase. The airboat was very loud and created a disturbance to the local residents. When the airboat passed Mr. Burmaster=s house, the noise was so loud all conversations had to be stopped; no audio or video entertainment could be heard. When the airboat makes its tour near Mr. Burmaster=s house, it was fifteen minutes of continuous loud, unbearable noise. He thought the airboat tours should be discontinued.
Sue Krall, 98 Holly Hill Drive, Candler, NC 28715-Ms. Krall was a resident of Buncombe County. Water had been a part of her life from a child from swimming, life guarding, teaching water safety instructions, driving, skiing, and scuba diving, driving boats as well as teaching navigation of watercraft, piloting various ships of different sizes in the Bahamas for the Navy from a hundred eighty foot torpedo retrievers to the one hundred foot torpedo launchers. No matter the size of the boat, at speeds of 35 and over, which the air boat was doing, the wake put out that is confined to the river banks will cause unwanted erosion. Out on a lake or ocean where the wake can dissipate, the after effects are not as damaging. Ms. Krall was an outings leader for the Sierra Club, the Carolina Mountain Club, and the Out There Club and she paddled the French Broad River almost weekly leading different paddling trips and to see the air boat coming around at wide open speeds around a bend was very alarming. She felt that a slower speed is going to implement protection for other boaters. The after wake of the air boat was enough to roll water into the top of her sit-on top kayak which compares to taking on water in a class two or above conditions on the river. Ms. Krall had heard arguments that the flow of the natural river erodes the banks, but that can=t be controlled because that=s natural. However, the Board=s decision on the airboat could control man-made erosion created by the airboat. She had maintained journals of every outing she had led over the last five years and the journals had proved that the nesting and migration of the Canadian geese was definitely on the low side since the airboat had been traveling the river. Sitings of muskrats, otter, beavers, songbirds were definitely on the decline along that portion of the river. Ms. Krall compared this to lying in your bed in a peaceful sleep and the foghorn of an alarm sounds and all you want to do is roll over, push the button and turn it off. With the noise created by the airboat, there is no button to push to stop the noise. The songbirds and the waterfowl would choose to relocate instead of trying to raise their broods by the water where the air is infiltrated with decibels greater than what should be allowed. Ms. Krall asked the Board to protect the safety and the natural air space and the banks of the river which was home to various wildlife as well as the paddlers on the river.
Chairman Hawkins read the specifications from the Wildlife Resources Commission for a no wake zone which stated that to establish a no wake zone a clear danger to public safety must be present. He asked Ms. Krall how she related the airboat operation to a clear public safety issue. Ms. Krall replied that the wake was enough to roll water into her kayak and for inexperienced canoers the wake would be enough to roll the watercraft over. Chairman Hawkins asked Ms. Krall if her primary concern about the public safety was for canoes or kayaks versus some other secondary effects the wake might have. Ms. Krall replied yes to that question.
Margaret Gibbs, 155 Carrie Lane, Fletcher, NC-Ms. Gibbs stated she was a licensed audiologist in North Carolina and also a property owner along the French Broad River. She expressed concern about the activities of the commercial airboat along the French Broad River. Ms. Gibbs had measured the noise of the airboat both with an analog and a digital sound level meter, both of which were calibrated. She had also measured the noise levels of aircrafts at the Asheville Airport because she lived very close to the airport also. As a reference she had measured the aircrafts passing over the same location from 56 to 74 dba depending on the type of aircraft. The measurements that she had gotten from the airboat had been 102 to 104 dba. The sound level meters measure in units called decibels. A decibel scale is not linear. An increase of 60b is a doubling of the measured noise. In the Henderson County Noise Ordinance, daytime noise is limited to 88 dba and the airboat was approximately sixteen times greater than this. The dba refers to the weighting scale and the weighting measures used for sound frequencies in the five hundred to ten thousand hertz ranges. This is the range where the human ear is the most sensitive. Ms. Gibbs distributed information that showed some everyday sound levels. Normal conversation speech from five feet away is around 55 dba. The beginning of OSHA regulations start at 85 dba, a chain saw is 100 dba and a helicopter is 105 dba. Ms. Gibbs read a few excerpts concerning OSHA regulations for businesses. All continuous, intermittent, and impulsive noise between 80 and 130 dba must be included in the exposure assessment which meant it had to be documented. Employers must offer hearing protectors to workers exposed to above 85 dba and all must be given a variety of protectors from which to choose. Training sessions must be given at least annually to workers exposed to above the 85 dba. Employers must provide base line audiograms within the first year of an employee=s exposure to 85 dba and above and annual audiograms thereafter. OSHA has regulations to protect employees so was it right for people living along the French Broad River to be exposed to these levels at even higher levels addressed by OSHA without their consent or without compensation. No hearing protection is provided to all those people on the riverbank.
Ms. Gibbs addressed many health concerns. In the hearing mechanism, there is a condition called sensory neural hearing loss which is permanent to the inner ear in the eighth nerve. There is a condition with this type of hearing loss called recruitment. The definition for that is disproportionate increase in the sensation of loudness or the uncomfortable loudness level. A patient with normal hearing can tolerate noises within the 100 dba or 110 dba levels. Patients with the sensory neural hearing loss would be uncomfortable with noise levels of 60 to 75 dba. So when individuals complain that the noise of the airboat is so loud that it hurts their ears, there is validity to those statements particularly for individuals with the sensory neural hearing loss. Another factor is odor toxic medications some of which have a synergistic effect along with noise. This means that individuals who are taking those medications and are exposed to loud noise may experience more severe damage to the ear. Ms. Gibbs listed three different types of odor toxic medications for antibiotics, cardiac conditions and cancer chemotherapy. Individuals who live along the French Broad River taking those medications would have a very big concern about the noise levels created by the airboat.
The noise also created interference with communications. The EPA determined that 55 decibels would permit adequate speech communication outdoors at a distance of about 3 meters. Unfortunately, the noise can mask important sounds and it could cause serious safety hazards involving an accident or even a fatality because of failure to hear the warning sounds in the event of danger. The communication is virtually impossible at levels of 100 dba. Ms. Gibbs distributed a graph that illustrated that if the noise level is between 90 to 100 dba such as when the air boat is close by, a parent would have to be a maximum of two feet away from a child to warn the child of perhaps a car approaching. If the parent is further than two feet away, then there would be no way for that parent to be able to shout loud enough for the child to be able to hear.
Ms. Gibbs also talked about the effects of noise on sleep. Currently, there were no regulations that exist concerning the operation of the airboat at night. Even though the air boat operates during the daylight hours only right now, some consideration should be given to those people who work at night and sleep during the day. She provided information on the frequency of sleep disruption. For example, with 90 decibels of noise there is a seventy percent chance of having sleep disrupted. Noise induced sleep interferences are very critical factors of community annoyance.
From intermittent road traffic noise, the maximum recommended levels would range from 45 to 68 db and boats would be considered vehicles but on the river. Noise annoyances are more than just slight irritations. It could mean a significant degradation in the quality of life and degradation in health for some individuals. The stress of the noise can be manifested in many aspects of health including migraines, irritability, insomnia, ulcers, colitis, psychological disorders and blood pressure.
In conclusion, each exposure to the airboat noise levels are annoying and potentially hazardous as documented by much research in audiology. Therefore, Ms. Gibbs stated that it was imperative that the public not be exposed to these noise levels. She recommended a limit of 75 dba be applied to boats and water vehicles and activities that are conducted on the river.
Chairman Hawkins asked Ms. Gibbs about the EPA regulation that she quoted for continuance noise. If the airboat was moving at 35 mph up the river, Chairman Hawkins couldn=t understand how the noise area would stay at that high decibel level for an extended period of time. Ms. Gibbs replied that the problem was that the higher the decibel level, the time is halved. For instance, an individual would be able to spend only half as much time the louder the sound gets. So when individuals are introduced to levels of 105 dba, it could be potentially hazardous to their hearing mechanism.
Commissioner Moyer asked Ms. Gibbs where she took her audiology measurements. Ms. Gibbs replied she took them from her property along the French Broad River in a field close to the river.
Commissioner Gordon asked Ms. Gibbs how far from the river=s edge was her property line. Ms. Gibbs replied the property line goes all the way to the river and therefore she was on her own land when she took the audiology measurements.
Commissioner Moyer further asked Ms. Gibbs if she tried to get multiple readings on her meters as the air boat goes by. Ms. Gibbs replied that she used two different sound level meters. The analog meter is just a needle and it goes up and down. On that meter, Ms. Gibbs could tell when the airboat is thirty feet away; the noise level would be an x amount of dba. She had measured the time when the airboat was the very loudest or at the point of the maximum loudness and that had been one of four. The other meter was a digital sound level meter which gave only the numbers.
Commissioner Moyer further questioned Ms. Gibbs about the levels registered on her analog meter. From the time it gets from about seventy until the time it gets back down to seventy, how long a period of time was she talking about, was she talking minutes, seconds, or what. Ms. Gibbs replied that she hadn=t measured that level but she would say about a half minute to 45 seconds.
Chairman Hawkins asked Ms. Gibbs what effect does atmospheric conditions have on sound as to how well it travels and to what db level and what were the atmospheric conditions when she made her measurements. Ms. Gibbs replied she didn=t know that off the top of her head but as far as the atmospheric conditions, the one thing she did note was the air boat travels pretty much only on days when it=s nice and sunny and fairly warm so it=s not raining, it=s not overcast. She would find out what effect the atmospheric conditions have on the noise levels and advise Chairman Hawkins at a later time.
Commissioner Gordon asked Ms. Gibbs to clarify the 100 dba reading with the EPA requirements and asked for what time frame was that. The EPA requirements specify certain protection depending upon the period of time the sound endures. Ms. Gibbs replied that she believed the way it works, is that 90 dba would be a maximum of eight hours noise exposure and 95 dba would be a maximum of four hours exposure, 100 dba with a maximum of two hours of exposure, 105 dba with a maximum of one hour of exposure. Commissioner Gordon further stated that in other words if a worker were exposed to that level for a period up to two hours or one hour then the protection would come into play. Ms. Gibbs replied that anything starting at 85 decibels in industry would require employees to wear hearing protection.
David Donnnell, P. O. Box 10915, Asheville, NC 28801-Mr. Donnell is the owner of Southern Waterways. Mr. Donnell wanted to help in the cost and maintenance of signage and buoys. Southern Waterways would be willing to provide financial support as well as maintenance of the signs. The company wanted to work with the Commissioners in both Buncombe and Henderson County to make this a situation that doesn=t continue to escalate and turn into a very difficult problem. Mr. Donnell also pointed out that there are two airboats that were currently using the French Broad River. The larger of the two, the Air Boat Express, was the airboat that raised the most concern because of its noise and speed. There=s another airboat owned and operated by another man that operates it as a commercial business as a fishing guide service. That airboat had been operating on the French Broad River for four or five years and there has never been a complaint because it is a smaller, ultra light air boat. Mr. Donnell wanted the Commissioners to understand there needed to be some type of definitive category of one airboat as opposed to another because they are not all the same. The smaller air boat has never been a problem and he didn=t foresee it as a problem because of its size, its smaller motor and much slower speeds and the noise it creates has not been a problem. The speed and the sound of the airboats that are the real problems in both Buncombe and Henderson County and under both counties Noise Ordinances are business exempt. Mr. Donnell thought that should be reconsidered at least for watercraft on the French Broad River because the noise rather than the speed was primarily what people were most concerned about. A no wake zone would be difficult for the entire area that is controlled within the Henderson County boundaries but he realized that speed and safety are a major concern. Chairman Hawkins had inquired earlier in the meeting as to how the speed and safety would affect other boaters and would a no wake zone help control that. As Ms. Krall had pointed out, the air boat travels at high speeds and with the summer season, more recreational boaters would be on the river and thus the likelihood that an accident would occur, in his opinion, would increase just by the sheer numbers of non-motorized, human-powered recreational water craft on the river. So the speed is certainly something that could be controlled by a no wake zone but Mr. Donnell realized that it would be hard to establish that for long periods of the river. Although he couldn=t provide the Commissioners with an answer to the speed issue, he thought that speed and safety especially on the river was a potential for accidents.
Chairman Hawkins asked Mr. Donnell at what speed water skiing can occur, would 20 knots be reasonable to get a skier up out of the water. Mr. Donnell replied he did not know because he was not a water skier. Someone in the audience replied that 25 mph would lift the skier. Chairman Hawkins stated that if the airboat was operating in the 25 to 35 mph speed and if the speed were cut back much below 25 mph, then water skiing would be precluded on the river. Mr. Donnell stated that in Buncombe County there was a man long ago that proclaimed to be the first and only person to water ski on the French Broad River. He had a jet boat over twenty feet long and the river isn=t big enough for that size of jet boat but he did water ski.
Mr. Donnell commented that the Air Boat Express operator had stated that he was providing an opportunity for people to see the trash and the debris on the river but there has never been any effort to clean it up. Southern Waterways, in conjunction with Quality Forward, River Link and several of the non-profit children=s homes, would provide equipment at no charge, had done monitoring of the river and done river cleanups numerous times throughout the summer as well as into the winter.
Elderly individuals had participated on the quiet water float. The Air Boat Express operator had stated that the elderly can=t go in a canoe or raft but his company had individuals in the age range of 95 to 98 from the Given Estates take an enjoyable and peaceful trip on the river with the Southern Waterways.
Southern Waterways offered both guided and non-guided trips on the river. They have an extensive safety program their staff goes through prior to each trip departure.
Mr. Donnell stated there had also been some attack on his business in regards to the whole issue because he is bringing the matter to the Commissioners. Those individuals claimed he was concerned about monetary loss created by the competition to his business from the other airboat company. As a business owner, that=s always a concern but Mr. Donnell wanted to assure the Commissioners in the eight years that he had been in this business, he was no richer now than he was eight years ago. Any canoe livery operator in the US would state that the reason for this type of business is to offer people the enjoyment of paddling a non-motorized boat and because of their love for the river and wanting to help people enjoy and see what natural resources are available. So for the groups to attack him and say that he was concerned about having a monopoly, he would welcome those other companies to sell their airboats and buy canoes. There would be more strength in numbers and there would be better opportunity to show the public what the river is all about and a better opportunity to clean up the river. Mr. Donnell felt he had to defend his business with those statements and that was why he was bringing this to the attention of everyone. It wasn=t because he was afraid the Air Boat Express would take away his business or income because he didn=t think that was going to occur, but he was doing it for his love of the river. He too had grown up on the water ways and he thought this issue of speed, noise and the type of use needed to be seriously considered for now and the future. Mr. Donnell has young children who experience the river and he was sure that younger age hearing can be affected more easily. So if his children participate two, three times a week and they=re exposed to this continued loud noise, even if it=s for a brief period of time, a minute, two minutes, the compounded exposure certainly would lead up to some type of hearing loss. So he was concerned over the use now and the future use.
Commissioner Gordon asked Mr. Donnell what other types of uses would be impacted by a no wake zone other than just the air boat that was being discussed and asked if he could elaborate on that further because she heard mixed messages in what was presented as to what would be appropriate. Mr. Donnell replied other uses that would be affected are the fishermen that use motorized boats to travel up and down the river. Other than fishermen, Mr. Donnell didn=t think there would any other use that would be affected if it were specific to the river. Maybe the Board should consider specifying a maximum horsepower of watercraft which would in turn relate to how fast that boat could go on the river. He didn=t think there were people that fished the river that had motorboats larger than 20 or 30-horse power. That information should be sought out either as a group of businessmen on the river or the Commissioners or make a public announcement to submit horsepower use on the river.
Chairman Hawkins asked Mr. Donnell how he would register his canoe=s horsepower. Mr. Donnell stated he didn=t know since it was non-motorized and human powered.
Commissioner Gordon stated she would be interested in knowing whether the ability to regulate speed on the river would be something that the Commissioners could do because the Board obviously doesn=t regulate speed on the highways and she didn=t know the correlation between a public water way and what the Board would have the ability to regulate. The only option that has been presented to the Board thus far is through the Wildlife Commission and from what the Board had been given, their procedure would simply be a no wake zone which would obviously eliminate uses that are not a problem. Mr. Donnell stated that=s what they were trying to avoid and wanting to consider the people that fish because they=ve been fishing and using motor boats since motor boats were invented and there=s never been a complaint. Maybe the no wake zone through the Wildlife Resource Commission wasn=t the answer but there=s got to be some governing body that will help all the concerned people in figuring out what=s the appropriate speed, or horse power or noise level. Mr. Donnell thought maybe a horse power limit would reduce the type of boat that would go fast but it would allow those people that fish the opportunity to still use their boat.
Irvin Gibbs, 155 Carrie Lane, Fletcher-Mr. Gibbs had over 360 signatures on a petition from people that were very concerned about the noise. The petitioners were requesting a 15 mph speed limit or 75 decibel noise level. Mr. Gibbs wanted to clarify that the smaller airboat didn=t go by repeatedly. It=s the large air boat that goes up stream towards Hendersonville by Mr. Gibbs= house and then fifteen minutes later after it turns around, it comes back by again, goes to the dock, loads up, and comes back by in about twenty to twenty-five minutes. That was the case when the airboat tours originally opened up because he had lots of passengers. In the last few weeks the weather had not been as well, and the airboat had not traveled through there that much. On the issue of how to regulate and how to handle the problem, Mr. Gibbs had recently read in the local newspaper that the Commissioners at both Buncombe and Henderson County were thinking about turning this issue over to the Wildlife Commission. He was curious as to how that would work, what would the Wildlife Commission do. So he called the Wildlife Commission and spoke with the Assistant Executive Director for the Wildlife Commission, Dick Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton told Mr. Gibbs that the Wildlife Commission does not have the authority to make all sorts of rules but the General Assembly had given the Commissioners the authority to make ordinances over local nuisances, i.e. noise. Mr. Gibbs wasn=t sure how that would pertain to speed limits but he encouraged the Commissioners to call Mr. Hamilton for further information.
Mr. Gibbs stated that he was very disturbed by the airboat. He and his wife own property on the French Broad River and when the airboat goes by they basically have to stop, wait until it passes before they can continue talking. The airboat noise makes it difficult to hear their children, which could pose safety concerns for them. The Gibbs= also own livestock but they are not kept in the field next to the river because the livestock became distressed and agitated when the airboat ran the river. Mr. Gibbs enjoys fishing the river from the bank but that pleasure is disturbed when the airboat goes by at 140 dba level. The airboat travels at about 25 to 35 mph. The operator of the airboat had stated to the public that he travels at 35 to 40 mph on the river. At 25 mph it takes one second to go 36 feet and at 35 mph it takes one second to cover 51 feet. When the airboat goes by the Gibbs= property, it is 12 to 15 feet from the bank. Mr. Gibbs stated that if the airboat hit a submerged tree in the river, it would only take one second for the airboat to hit the riverbank which would create a safety hazard not only for the passengers but for any individuals on the river bank.
The noise created by the airboat was violating Mr. Gibbs= family. Noise is unwanted sound and it is derived from the Latin word nausea which means sea sickness. Noise is among the most pervasive pollutants. The air into which second hand noise is emitted and that on which it travels is commons, a public good. It really belongs to no person or group but it belongs to all of us. Therefore, people, businesses or organizations do not have unlimited rights to broadcast as they please as if the effects of noise were limited only to their private property. On the contrary they have obligation to use the commons in ways that are compatible with or do not detract from other uses. Polluting the commons with high levels of noise is not right just like it is not our right to smoke in public buildings because of the effects of second hand smoke, or for industries to dump toxins into our rivers. We need to strive to protect the environment and our health and well being by protecting the commons. Mr. Gibbs stated he felt the airboat clearly violates the commons and violates the river by producing too much noise. He recommended that in some manner the Commissioners establish a 75 dba limit, maybe an 80 dba to be consistent with the existing ordinance, be placed on boats and water vehicles that are going along the French Broad River. A speed limit for commercial boats should be established also.
Sarah Bumgarner-241 Pinner Road-Ms. Bumgarner had a letter from Charlotte Getske who is an officer in the Audubon Society which addressed some of the noise and erosion concerns regarding the operation of the airboat on the French Broad River. Ms. Bumgarner= home is seventy feet from the river on the County line. When the airboat passes, she can hear the slapping of the waves for several minutes after it passes. Most fishing boats do not run that fast. Ms. Bumgarner wanted the Commissioners to know that Mr. Donnell had been doing a lot of work on this matter at the request of the residents on the river, not necessarily because of his business and personal property. The noise is intolerable when the airboat passes. Compare that noise to having a loud motorcycle passing by your house every twenty-five to thirty minutes and you hear it coming for a long distance. Ms. Bumgarner was not attempting to put anybody out of business but she hoped the Commissioners would consider not only what she had said but also what had been raised as concerns by all the other individuals who had spoken in opposition to the airboat. She too was concerned about the wildlife along the river. The letter from Ms. Getske provided more information on the effects to the wildlife along the river.
Mike Levins, 56 Waters Cove Road, Candler-Mr. Levins had been a fishing and hunting guide on the French Broad River for almost five years. He uses an airboat for this commercial business traveling the river day or night, winter and summer. In that period of time, he had noticed an increase in wildlife, not a decrease. It=s hard to get a good view on wildlife if you only paddle five or six miles of river once or twice a month or even if you paddle just once a week and you only do it in daylight hours. There=s sixty plus miles of river here and a majority of the wildlife on this river are nocturnal feeders such as deer, bears, wild cats, otters, beavers and every kind of imaginable creature that comes out at night because for the majority of them that=s when they feed, except for the birds. Mr. Levins sees a lot of these animals at night when he does night fishing trips and to his knowledge he is the only one that has ever done that on the French Broad River. He takes people cat fishing at night and he runs the river anywhere he wants to go. Mr. Levins= business as an air boat guide service depends on a healthy river, a good fish habitat, a good wildlife environment and he doesn=t do anything to harm that or he doesn=t want to see anybody else do anything to harm this. The air boats within the last month and a half have retrieved four persons from this French Broad River that were in dire need of help which could have ended up in a fatality. The area and situation in which the victims were would have been very difficult for any other type of vessel to get to them. He had heard comments about the victims could have been reached by a canoe but paddling back upstream underneath the I-26 bridge whenever the water is high and running through there at about 20 knots would be a difficult job in a canoe especially if the canoe got just a little sideways. Ms. Levins had also heard comments about erosion. The French Broad River is free flowing so it=s a continuous eroding process within itself because of the rise and fall of the water. The continuous movement of the river constantly eats away at the bank at the level of the water. The bank is never in the same place twice from day to day. A good example of erosion in rivers is the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Boats didn=t create that, but erosion of the river itself.
Concerns had been raised about handicapped individuals as well as the elderly. Mr. Levins was sure there were some elderly people that could use canoes and kayaks to go down the river but there are a lot of them that can=t. His business is a great value to these people. He takes them fishing, hunting and sight seeing so they can see the river. His business had rules on the river. Coast Guard rules state that any State-owned or County-owned boating or fishing access area is considered to be a no wake zone. Any canoe, dock or boat that=s parked on the side of the river, if it=s got a person in it, or if you pass a canoe or a boat and you create a wake that rocks that boat and puts that person in imminent danger, then you=re in violation of Coast Guard rule. Then the violator is reported to the Wildlife Resources Commission. Mr. Levins stated he would do the same if he saw anybody do such because he doesn=t tolerate that kind of stuff. As far as emergencies on the river, if the emergency response, fire department, sheriff=s department had an air boat, there are a lot of times on this end of the County and in Buncombe County, that they could respond quickly to an emergency on the river and that might save a life because a lot of times, time means life in those situations especially if the victim is in cold water. He travels the river winter and summer, not just in summer months whenever its pretty and he can paddle the river because its warm but he travels in the rain, in the cold, it doesn=t make any difference. Regarding law enforcement, the Wildlife officers could patrol and help in the river rescue if they had an air boat but because of the craft they have has difficulty traveling the river at times, like during low water, they can=t do this. There is very little law enforcement on the 60 plus miles on the river with the number of boaters increasing every day. Wildlife doesn=t have the manpower or the craft to do the job. Mr. Levins thought that was a big issue because if there were wildlife officers on the river that they could see what was going on and they could monitor the situation and that would do away with a lot of the complaints, some of which are just hear say.
The French Broad River belongs to all of the people of North Carolina, in Mr. Levins= opinion. Not just a select few or just one particular group but it=s for everybody. It should be enjoyed by all, taken care of by all, and used by all equally.
With regards to comments made about noise, Mr. Levins stated that OSHA general industry statue 1910.95, paragraph two talks about permissible noise level in industry. In the time weighted average, 100 dba=s for two hours, 90 dba=s for eight hours. Someone commented the boat travels fifty-one feet per second so if you=ve got a thousand feet of property on the river, this boat passes your property in twenty seconds. So if it makes thirty trips a day past your property that means you have been exposed to ten minutes at a 100 dba. The noise level that=s allowed is two hours per day at 100 dba for industry standards. At 105 dba, it=s one hour. So if the airboat passed thirty times in a day, that=s twenty seconds it takes to pass a thousand feet at fifty-one feet a second which means you have been exposed to ten minutes a day in this noise level. The boat is not sitting in one place. This noise is going by. Mr. Levins works at Rockwell and when he goes out their door, he hears planes taking off at the airport which are so loud that it almost bursts your ear drums. Would those too be regulated to 75 dba? On the interstate beside the river, trucks using the jake brakes create loud noises.
Mr. Levins was not opposing the use of canoes, kayaks, rafts but he was for everybody=s equal right to use this river and not be limited to use just paddle power because his business could not survive if he had to rely on paddle power plus travel up the river cannot be accomplished with just paddle power. There is so much noise on the banks of this river, how could anyone get a clear accurate reading standing on the bank without taking into account the planes flying overhead, the birds singing and everything else. Something must be isolated to get a direct reading on it.
Commissioner Ward asked Mr. Levins what size engine he used on his boat. Mr. Levins replied that he used a fifty-two horse Roetax and a 112-horse power on the other boat. Mr. Levins wanted the Commissioners to understand that it was not the size of the motor that creates the noise. It=s the tip speed and the only thing that will change the amount of noise. For instance, if you=ve got an eighty-four inch prop and it=s turning an eight-blade prop and that prop is turning at five thousand rpm that gives you 624 mile an hour tip speed. On Mr. Levins= boats, the maximum ratio that the prop is turning is 420 mile an hour tip speed which cuts that noise down considerably. In the situation with the other airboat, Mr. Bumgarner, it=s a very expensive process if it=s not been done from the start. The prop=s around $5000 to $6000, the gearbox is another $5000. To do that, would take a serious amount of money and know how. Mr. Levins= and his brother design, build and sell all kinds of water craft and they have for years. Mr. Levins= stated that his boat with him in it by himself would run about 50 mph, but if he had passengers on the boat he would run between 25 and 30 mph. But he doesn=t do that in a continuous process because he would be fishing and hunting, or when he=s sight seeing he wants people to see what=s there. The main thing he uses speed for in his business is to get to and from where=s he=s going. In between times, he slows down so it=s not a continual run for him.
Chairman Hawkins commented the Board allowed an hour and a half of public input. Chairman Hawkins made a couple of observations. From looking at what=s allowed in the statutes, he had some questions particularly about what would be involved with uniform waterway marker system in the rest of the County, if the Board pursued that avenue. There was some indications in Chairman Hawkins= mind that the Wildlife Commission talks about being able to make rules for water recreation and safety but if you look at the avenue of the no wake zone that might be a very difficult approach to take on this problem, in his opinion. However, there had also been some indication that it may be more of a problem as far as the wake zone from enforcement which apparently was already in Coast Guard statutes. Another area the Commissioners had not investigated as far as making wakes was in areas of other boaters and so forth.
Commissioner Gordon also noted that the Commissioners had not been aware of the Coast Guard regulations that might apply on the river. Ms. Gordon had previously raised questions about the correct jurisdiction for any regulation that might need to be done. At this point in time, she could not see that it would be appropriate to approach the Wildlife Commission with a request for a no wake zone for a twenty-five mile stretch of the river. Ms. Gordon thought that would be an extreme measure to take based on what she had heard at this meeting. She would be very reluctant to do something that would prohibit the fishing and sport use of the river by vehicles or craft other than paddle craft. She didn=t think that was appropriate. Ms. Gordon could certainly sympathize with the people who live on the river and she understood the concern with the noise, but she didn=t think the Commissioners had been given at this meeting the proper way to address this. This obviously, like every other issue the Board gets into, becomes much more complex than it appears on the surface.
Commissioner Moyer stated that his concern was with respect to the overall situation really involved the environment, the animals, the birds and things along the river. The safety aspect, which to Commissioner Moyer, was speed and the nuisance aspect which is noise. He really didn=t think the no wake zone, for reasons mentioned by Chairman Hawkins and Commissioner Gordon, is the way to go about this. It just wasn=t the right way to do it. Commissioner Moyer thought the Commissioners needed to look to other devices whether it is the Noise Ordinance or some type of speed regulations and he would like to see some way to look at the environmental impact along the river that this is having. He agreed with Commissioner Gordon to go to a no wake zone, you=re talking about having an impact on other businesses and things which he thought would not be appropriate or necessary. But he thought if you have a reasonable restriction with respect to noise and speed which can apply to everybody, he thought would be a much, much better way to go about it. He thought the Board should ask staff to look at other alternatives that would solve the problem. Even if the Board chose to go to no wake, it could be a year or so before the Commissioners got anything back and he really was concerned about their ability to enforce it, how long the no wake zone would be. Mr. Moyer agreed with Ms. Gordon, twenty-five miles was completely unreasonable. He just thought it was the wrong way to go about it and he thought to expedite getting something done, the Commissioners ought to look at the nuisance aspect, the safety aspects and see if they could get something done promptly.
Commissioner Ward stated that basically the key word here was enforcement. If you make an ordinance or a no wake zone or whatever, it=s enforcement. He thought at first about a dba cap in the Noise Ordinance but then again you=re back to enforcement and who monitors our ordinances is the Sheriff=s Department. Did that mean that airboats would be bought for the Sheriff=s Department to patrol the river like it does Lake Summit? He didn=t think there was an easy solution to this problem. He suggested the Board instruct the County Manager to get with Ms. Greene from Buncombe County and see what direction Buncombe County is moving and for Henderson County to make a combined force and do something. Like the man said, two heads are better than one and right now, this Board was almost at a stand still on this. The Board had tried to help the people, but they didn=t want to hurt the people that use the river in other capacities. It was a question to Commissioner Ward which way to go.
Commissioner Kumor thought this was just the beginning of issues on the river because it=s been a while to bring the river back to its former self when people did use it and take advantage of it. She agreed with Commissioner Ward in that the Commissioners should be partnering with Buncombe County because both sections of the river that encompass both counties are probably going to get an increased degree of activity. That then leads the Commissioners to Commissioner Moyer=s concerns for not only protecting people who are on the river whatever their mode of transportation but also paying attention to the environmental and wildlife concerns that are also there. She kept going back to the fact that it took a long time to return the river to a place that people wanted to enjoy and now we=re finding that if we use our heads and take advantage of everyone=s interests, we should be able to craft a usage approach that is fair to everyone and protects what we spent the last twenty-five years regaining.
Chairman Hawkins summarized where he thought the Board was going. It appeared to him the direction the Board wished staff to take was two fold. One is to explore the enforcement application of particular Coast Guard regulations. If there are enforceable rules already at the Coast Guard level, i.e. at the Federal level that deals with no wake which within itself deals with speed which deals with noise, there may be a connection, and he wanted to know more about that. The other thing he thought the Board was interested in is the extent of application of water markings for the rest of the County. He was also concerned about the liability the County might incur. For example there are rules put in places, the signs go up and ten miles up the river somebody has an accident and claim they didn=t see the sign, he didn=t know what kind of liability the Commissioners might have in those types of situations. Once the Commissioners had those answers either the Chairman should correspond to the Chairman of the Buncombe County Board or the County Manger or whatever the Board wants to communicate, give them this Board=s thoughts and discussion and inquire as to what line of approach they may be thinking about taking so that all can discuss maybe a combined effort to deal with the issue.
Commissioner Kumor stated it might be reasonable to research how individual communities have dealt with the issue and that way this Board could get a first hand approach as it did with the Noise Ordinance hearing from the enforcement officers in Raleigh about the pros and cons.
Commissioner Ward stated everything he found dealt with coastal waters which is governed by the Coast Guard.
Commissioner Kumor stated the French Broad River is a recreational resource that is close at hand and that is going to act as a magnet to a lot of people who enjoy the activity there and this Board would end up looking at the issues that Commissioner Moyer had raised of public safety and environmental concerns. She thought it was wise for the Board to start now because the process is only going to get more complex.
Commissioner Moyer thought that in addition to what Chairman Hawkins had said, he thought the Board should have staff look into how they could control the safety which is speed and the nuisance effect of it, what specific steps the Board can take and the environmental things because he didn=t think the no wake zone is the answer or is it going to work. The Commissioners could look into the signs if it wanted to but if it=s not the right answer, it=s not going to do any good. He thought the Commissioners needed to start looking at what other avenues could be done to enforce it.
Chairman Hawkins stated again that he thought the communications with Buncombe County would do that because they may have some ideas this Board hadn=t thought of that it could explore. Certainly staff might want to look at some other thoughts particularly from the public safety aspect whether it be a nuisance aspect or the environment aspect of it as far as tools that the Commissioners have available to work with it.
County Manager David Nicholson stated that one of the possibilities long term is to work with Buncombe County to set up a local bill. Of course, this wouldn=t be this session of the General Assembly but the next session of General Assembly. For example, the regulations that are currently in effect at Lake Summit are actually through a local bill. That may be a possibility but that=s not a long-term solution to address a lot of issues on the river. If the Board is going to do that, it probably should also bring in Transylvania County and Madison County as part of those discussions. Mr. Nicholson had conversations with Ms. Greene from Buncombe County and with Mr. Wilson from Transylvania County, but he hadn=t talked to the folks in Madison County yet, but that may be a long term solution. He thought staff should investigate and look to see what kind of wording could be put into the Noise Ordinance and those type of things to address that and see if anybody else has any ideas about other police power type of ordinances that could address some of the issues the Board has heard today.
PUBLIC INPUT SESSION-ABANDONMENT OF A PORTION OF OLD ASHEVILLE ROAD (SR 1533)
Ms. Jackson informed the Board the County had received a petition for Dawjoncourt, Inc. asking that the County request the North Carolina Department of Transportation to abandon and remove from the State maintenance system the portion of Old Asheville Road (SR 1533) which traverses the petitioner=s property. The Board had received letters of support from the petitioner in support of the abandonment and an impact study that was done by the Planning Department. As requested by the Commissioners at its last meeting, the staff had contacted the NCDOT to see if they had any plans for this petitioned area. The local Engineering Division of NCDOT advised that staff does not typically get involved in any recommendation until such time as the North Carolina Department of Transportation asks them directly.
Notices were sent out to the property owners in the area of the petitioned abandonment area. Staff received one written comment from Tammy Branks supporting the abandonment of this portion of Old Asheville Road in addition to the portion crossing her property. Ms. Branks supported the abandonment of the entire road in that area. Staff had requested the various safety officials, the Sheriff=s Department, EMS, Fire Marshal, to take a look at the section involved with the petition. Rocky Hyder, Fire Marshal, had replied that he didn=t see any safety issues involved. Tom Edmundson, EMS Director, informed staff that he did not see any safety issues with the abandonment of this portion of the road because all of these properties can be accessed directly from US 25. However, Mr. Edmundson stated that this portion of the road might actually have some historical significance. Old Asheville Road is the old Howard Gap Road and it does serve as the first road into North Carolina from South Carolina.
Ms. Jackson reminded the Board of the procedure of abandonment requests. If the Board finds it in the best interest of Henderson County to request that the road be abandoned from the State maintenance system, the Board can on either a motion or by a resolution ask the North Carolina Department of Transportation to do so. NCDOT of course would come in and study the area and make a determination of whether that is something they think is wise.
Mike Justice-AMy family owns both sides of that road except for the place that Tammy Branks= owns. My father before he died and Claude Branks before he died back in the late >80's fought and spent money to get that road closed. They finally got it closed and then there was a property, well, at the end of the road that lives in South Carolina that spoke louder than they did and got it reopened and nobody even lived out there. Well the State=s spent about $30,000 with stone, and culverts, grading, you know, to open this road to nowhere. And now we=re back to closing it again and I am all for it. In fact you can close it from the Naples Road as far as I=m concerned and as far as the Justice family is concerned because no body else lives there and no body else owns any thing there. So between the Justices= and the Branks= I see no reason not to close that road. And if you, you know, do what the mobile home people, then you=re closing off their section but they=re leaving access to go in and out that back way for cars and trucks and I hear traffic up all hours of the night going no where. They just go out there and park and you know do whatever and then they drive out and so I live right there close to it. So it would benefit us if you=d just close the whole thing or you recommended it.@
Chairman Hawkins: AExcuse me, Mike, when you say the whole thing, are you talking about, or maybe you could show me on the map here...are you talking about all the way back here, this section?@
Mr. Justice: AUh-huh and my mother owns this and this, and this, and this, we own all of that on both sides of the railroad and I think my cousin owns one section there but when it=s all combined the family owns the whole thing.@
Commissioner Moyer: AWhat was the reason we can=t consider abandoning the whole thing?@
Chairman Hawkins: ADo we have anyone else signed up to speak? OK, Bill, I=ll come back to that in just one second.@
Jon Hall-AMy name is Jon Hall. I represent Dawjoncourt. The new Naples extension when it went in up there at that time that it went in, the State of North Carolina vacated the section approximately 200 to 240 feet has already been abandoned of that highway to the north side of the extension. So in fact it=s already been cut in half. The piece that we have applied to have vacated is on the property that Dawjoncourt owns on both sides of the existing alley or road way. A tenant that has a mobile home dealership, that=s commercial type property, some of the situations that they=ve had and have brought up to my attention have been a lot of thieving where they come in from back side in the late hours, early morning hours, and they come in by the railroad tracks and basically with their pick up trucks and if they=re not stealing something, it may be kids parking in between the trailers, it=s a good place to go park and you know kind of go hang out with your girl friend. So it=s really become kind of a with the very high bank, I think it=s a 60-foot high bank with the extension, it=s really created more of a problem. And so our reasoning for abandoning that short section was pretty much just vandalism, unwanted and so on and so the other part where, you know, that=s certainly would be up to the property owners but from our point of view it=s kind of a dead end headed no where and it=s already been abandoned on the other side of the road so this isn=t the first, this is the second abandonment.@
Commissioner Moyer: ASir, would you have any objection including the other property owners?@
Mr. Hall: AI think it=s a great idea.@
Chairman Hawkins stated that the map he was looking at the other part of the Old Asheville Highway goes over and connects to the Naples Road. He wouldn=t feel comfortable with considering that portion of the road because first of all the Commissioners had not received an application to close it and it had not been to the Planning Department for recommendation and so forth. Chairman Hawkins was hearing that there is a feeling that there=s a reason to close that other section over also and to him it would be more appropriate to table this and get the other information for the other side of the road and then consider both of them together.
Ms. Jackson stated that the Board of Commissioners could on its own motion petition the Department of Transportation for an abandonment and it could essentially consider the one petition plus whatever piece of additional piece of that road that it wished to. She recommended that if the Board wished to do so, that staff consult with the safety officials to make sure that they don=t foresee any further problem although she didn=t think they would have a problem with that. Ms. Jackson thought it would be appropriate if the Board would like to send it back to the Planning Department staff and let them take one more look at it and also to the safety officials and then let staff report back to the Board and at that point the Board could take some action on it.
Chairman Hawkins thought that would be a more correct procedure to follow plus since the State had already put an on-ramp through the road it was almost a foregone conclusion and that would be a better way to approach it if there is some additional to be added on it.
Commissioner Kumor wanted to make sure that Mr. Justice was included and Ms. Branks in the whole process. Ms. Jackson stated they had already been notified. All of the property owners from Naples Road to Dawjoncourt had been notified by letter. Ms. Jackson thought it was in response to those letters that Ms. Branks and Mr. Justice were responding. Commissioner Kumor just wanted to make sure that Ms. Branks and Mr. Justice understood the process so that they understand everyone is moving all together.
Commissioner Gordon stated she understood the importance of following a set procedure in this type of situation but that there=s certainly, as she could see it, no cause to keep that open as a public road. She hoped the Board would be able to expedite this as much as possible.
Ms. Jackson asked the Board if they would like something back on its next agenda. Chairman Hawkins stated that would be fine but this would place a heavy load on the Planning Board at the current time. Ms. Jackson reminded Chairman Hawkins that the Planning Board had not seen this information. It was the Planning staff that actually conducted the impact study. It was her understanding from speaking with the Planning staff that they would not have any objection to that and as she recalled there might have been some comments in that actual impact study to suggest that might be a better way of doing it anyway. But just to give them one more chance to take a look at it, Ms. Jackson thought it would be appropriate to send it to Planning staff.
Chairman Hawkins stated that if Planning staff could have it back by the next Commissioners= meeting, that would be fine.
CAPITAL PROJECTS FINANCING-New Fletcher Elementary School\New Jail Facility-
Finance Director Carey McLelland briefed the Board on the capital project financing for the new Fletcher Elementary School and the new Jail Facility. Mr. McLelland had provided to the Board updated interest rate information and financial projects for these capital projects. The Commissioners were given three loan instruments by Mr. McLelland, one being bank qualified which means that in any calendar year, no more than $10 million would be issued which qualifies the County for a lower rate and the bank wouldn=t have to report the interest income it receives. Non-bank qualified means that more than $10 million would be issued. If the County issued the full amount for both projects, it would be $15.3 million which would result in a higher interest rate. Certificates of Participation is similar to a bond issue, it looks like a bond but it=s not a bond issue. Mr. McLelland had provided on the jail 15 and 20-year terms for comparisons. If the Commissioners looked at a six-year term on the school and a 15-year term on the jail, that would be the least expensive way of financing projects. On the summary page, it showed the additional interest the County would have to pay out if the Commissioners chose to go with other loan terms or other instruments to finance both projects.
Chairman Hawkins commented that previously the Board had decided to take on two capital projects, one being the jail and the other being the financing of the new Fletcher Elementary School. Commissioner Moyer and Chairman Hawkins along with the County Manager and the Finance Director tried to look at some various options that the Commissioners had before them at this meeting. On the bank-qualified loan, the rate would be 4.37% which was several points lower than the plan that was first presented to the Commissioners previously which was 6%. The annual payment for the plan of $1.2 million dollars was about $145,000 less than the annual payment that the Board had planned on in the original plan at 6%. That means whichever package the Board chose will generate a little excess of Article 40 and Article 42 money available to the school for capital improvements during this time period. On the jail facility, the Commissioners increased the tax rate by 2 cents on the last budget cycle. Part of that two cents tax increase not only was setting aside some money for construction for the jail but also had some personnel costs involved. The amount of money available from the 2 cents minus the personnel costs was about $825,000. As the Commissioners look at this package and look at the annual payment, they needed to bear in mind that the amount of money and constant dollars that had been set aside was about $825,000 for the annual payment on the jail. In the bank-qualified loan, the annual payment was $845,000 so if the Board chose that as an option, then the annual payment would be an additional $25,000 that had not been set aside. Chairman Hawkins noted that the bank-qualified loans restrict the County to $10 million a calendar year. The principals were 15 million, 300 hundred thousand dollars so technically and actually the County couldn=t borrow $15 million in non-bank qualified loans in this calendar year.
The County Manager had made some inquiries to the Local Government Commission to investigate whether or not the County could do some split financing which would be that the County would borrow $10 million this calendar year and borrow the balance of $5.3 million in early January. That could be an option but no reply had been received from the LGC on that.
Chairman Hawkins noted another option would be on the Certificate of Participation for a six and fifteen year loan. The additional interest involved over the life of those loans would be $51,186 if the Board chose to go with a Certificate of Participation or a COP. Basically the difference in the COPS and the bank-qualified loans would be there wouldn=t be a $10 million calendar year restriction. The other issue would be whether the Commissioners wanted to examine a 20-year loan on the jail or a 15-year loan. Commissioner Moyer had pointed out that the annual payment would be about $100,000 less on the 20-year loan. That=s the biggest difference in the 15-year loan and the 20-year loan. The other point is the amount of interest that would be paid on that amount of money when the loan is paid off.
Mr. McLelland pointed out if the Board decided to go with a COPS instrument in this calendar year to finance both projects, there was a question of whether the Board wanted to preserve its $10 million small issue option for the next calendar year for something else. The Board could do split funding, it has been done by other counties, the LGC approves it, it had been done by Haywood County a couple of years ago for a couple of schools, so there was a question of preserving the $10 million for next year if the Board decided to do that.
Chairman Hawkins thought the issue came down to the most efficient and economical plan would be the bank-qualified loan at six and 15-years. Those would be the least expensive for the County at the end of the terms of the loan. For the jail facility, the County would be paying an additional $25,000 annually on the debt service that had not been set aside.
Commissioner Kumor noted that would only be for, if the County were holding the 2 cents, this first budget time because after that she anticipated the 2 cents would appreciate in value anyway.
Chairman Hawkins stated that if the Commissioners elected after this budget cycle to let the 2 cents bring in the dollar value from the new evaluation, it would bring in considerably more than that. If the Board planned for a constant dollar value for the 2 cents set aside, then it wouldn=t change over the period.
Commissioner Gordon thought that was an issue that would have to be discussed because she was looking more at the perspective of the true dollar value rather than the 2 cents with an automatic increase built in. She thought the Board should stick to the revenue neutral approach on this. No matter what the Board=s decision may be ultimately the Board needed to approach it in that view in Commissioner Gordon=s opinion.
Chairman Hawkins suggested the Commissioners look at it from the 20-year approach because it doesn=t take all the constant dollar value to make the payment but over the term of the loan would cost an additional $2 million in interest. The Board would have to make a conscious decision if it wanted to pay an additional $2 million if it elected to go that route or did it want to take an additional $25,000 each year on the debt service or did it want the tax rate to change dollar wise as it went with the evaluation.
Mr. McLelland stated that these rates were as of May 14th and if they remained stable, he was sure that the bank had left some room in there so when this is bid out, the interest may decrease a little more.
Chairman Hawkins noted that was something the Board wanted to consider because particularly for the Board of Ed., any money saved on a lower interest rate would automatically already be in those areas as designated by statutes to be in any way so that would just mean more money available to capital improvements and capital facilities in the school budget. On the side of the County, if the interest rate is lower, for example if the Board selected that first option, the County would basically have more money to pay the debt service which would be closer to what dollar amount was allocated.
Mr. Nicholson wanted to also remind the Board that the Federal Reserve met this week about raising the interest rates so this is a snapshot in time. He cautioned the Board not to expect it to go up a great deal but according to some of the financial institutions there may be a slight rise in interest rates into the third and fourth quarter but after the first of the new year, the interest rates would drop.
Commissioner Gordon asked what kind of time frame the Board had on a commitment on the interest rate and financing and at what point in time must the Board establish the financing package.
Chairman Hawkins replied he would like to see the Board at this meeting select one of these options at this snapshot because there had been some assurance that the bank was welling to work with the County very close to these numbers and give the staff at least two options. One option would be if the Local Government Commission, if the Board wanted to do the bank qualified that requires financing, was amenable to allowing the Board to do that to proceed on with it. If that should be out of the question, then look at the COPS which would be $51,000 and to proceed on with that. That way from this meeting, the Board would be able to actually proceed with the financing.
Commissioner Moyer asked Mr. McLelland if he had a commitment on those interest rates. Mr. McLelland replied that he did not have a firm commitment but this was just a snap shot of what the rates were currently. Mr. Nicholson replied these were rates provided to the County by financial institutions but he wanted the Commissioners to realize that was just rates from one financial institution and the County would have to open it up to all financial institutions and hopefully that would drive the price down somewhat.
Commissioner Moyer asked Mr. McLelland to look at the COPS and the bank qualified loan for twenty years, under the Fletcher School line at 6 years under COPS, the average interest rate would be 4.01 and the average annual payment would be $1,230,294. Under the bank-qualified, the interest rate was raised to 4.37 and the average annual payment went down to $1,218,000. He wanted Mr. McLelland to explain to him how the interest could be raised .36 and lower the annual payment. It does have a bearing on which option to choose. Commissioner Moyer thought it was great to pay for things as you go, it=s always the way to do it, it certainly was the way he liked to do it but when you=re behind on the capital work that needed to be accomplished, you have to balance off the annual interest and principal payment that you have to make contrasted to how much you pay in the long term. True, if you borrow money for 20 years, you=re certainly going to pay more in interest but you=re using somebody=s money for an extended period of time and when you=re looking at a building like a jail facility that=s going to probably be around for thirty or forty or more years. Commissioner Moyer thought it was appropriate for the people to pay that are going to use it and not put that entire burden on the taxpayers over the next five years. The numbers he thought spoke for themselves. If you finance this on a COPS for 20 years, your average annual payment is going to be $715,000 and if you go even down to 15 years, you could move that rate up to $800,000 and if you went down to six years, you=d be well over a million which means the current taxpayers would have to pay that amount. He thought it was very, very prudent from a financial standpoint and the capital planning with what the Board had ahead of them to extend our term loan even if it requires paying more interest in the long run it keeps the annual tax rate down and enables you to keep it down by financing longer terms. When you get to the school situation, as he had said before, it enables you to accomplish a lot more with the current money. If you finance everything on the 5-year basis on the premise that you=re going to wait until that=s paid off to do the next school, he didn=t think the Board had the luxury of doing that and that puts all the burden on the current taxpayers for buildings that are going to last twenty or thirty years. That=s why Commissioner Moyer advocated extending these out, keeping the annual payment down as low as you can which means your current tax rate will be kept low and you=ll avoid tax increases.
Commissioner Kumor asked if Commissioner Moyer was suggesting that the Board finance the whole package for 20 years, Fletcher and the new jail. Commissioner Moyer replied that was certainly the way he would do it. He wouldn=t necessarily say twenty years but he=d balance it somewhere between fifteen and twenty years to get a balance between the current annual payment and what you have to be. He wasn=t saying that 20-years was necessarily the best for everything.
Commissioner Kumor stated if she understood what Commissioner Moyer was saying was if the Commissioners extended it that way the annual payment set aside for Fletcher might be reduced to such a degree that the Commissioners could more quickly without a tax increase get into the building of the next school. Commissioner Moyer replied yes, do the Balfour school. That was exactly right, it might be able to do two of them for what was set aside in the budget.
Chairman Hawkins interjected that first of all as far as who pays in the long run, if you have a twenty year debt, the people here right now are still going to have that $2 million interest whether they pay it over the 20 years or whether they pay it over the 15 years. As far as the amount of money that, for example if you finance Fletcher on a shorter term, you already have excess money on the program that was planned that involves no tax increase. In fact, it capitalizes on some of the monies that we already have generating probably $145,000 extra revenue a year. But if you look at the long range term, if you=re going to have to pay another two million dollars in interest, no body gets to use that money except the bank because that money goes straight to the bank. You=re looking at buildings over a twenty or thirty year period, the County is still going to have come back and come up with the $2 million that has been paid out in interest that you=ll never see. Chairman Hawkins really thought that the best option is the first one that is the minimum amount of long term interest still gets both of the facilities built and keeps the second phase of Balfour on schedule. You can=t build Balfour any faster than the 2000 year budget cycle next year even if you save this whole amount of money because there=s a considerable amount of money that has to come for the Balfour payment out of the reduction of the courthouse debt. That=s really where the revenue for the debt service payment for the second school is going to come from. Longer term financing, Chairman Hawkins didn=t see, would help in the long run at all. That was the issue the Board would have to decide.
Commissioner Kumor thought that was a philosophical issue and as you throw into the pot that 1.2 million debt service for the jail, if you just dedicate that just to Balfour then there would be only two schools built. However, if you look at this as a total over the next couple of years of almost 2.5 million dollars and extend it and we could have that pot of money and extend the period of loan, we can start clipping off these schools a year a time. If we don=t do it that way, after Balfour is started and dedicate the debt service of the courthouse to that there is a substantial tax increase to start supporting debt service on all the other elementary schools that are needed. But to assume that we=re going to have all this money that is already built into the budget without a tax increase and extend the payments over a longer period of time, we can when your increments start clipping off the elementary school needs and still have time to go back and look at some of the other capital needs in this community that may result in some tax increases.
Commissioner Moyer stated that the other thing that was being completely overlooked was there has been a nice low period of inflation but to effectively look at this, you=re paying back 2 million dollars over twenty years but when you look at the time value of money and if we get any kind of inflation at all, you=d be paying that back in twenty years with money that=s probably worth forty cents on the dollar or less of what you have today. You=re paying that back with much higher priced dollars than if you let that run 20 years and if we get any kind of inflation, if this interest rate is 4 and inflation goes to 5 or better, we=ll be making money on the deal by having that finance and paying it back long term.
Commissioner Kumor thought the other side of that if we serve the future which was what she thought we should be doing, it=s the future who=s going to use these building and it=s the future who should be helping pay for these buildings. Whether you anticipate that every single one of us will be the future in twenty years, that=s not all that the future is going to be in this community. It=s going to be the new people that come in and the growth that we have and the quicker we pay off a debt the more they use it for free and we have put an onerous burden on a seven-year window of our community=s life instead of waiting and inviting people who come here in the future to help us share the responsibility of that debt load.
Chairman Hawkins replied that the people that are going to be here for the next seven years are probably going to be here for the next twenty years also. So whatever additional burdens you put on like paying back the two million dollars they=re going to get either way.
Commissioner Gordon asked if we had any figures on what our actual payment and service would be on twenty years on school construction. The only figures that she had seen on schools had been calculated at six-year payoffs for Fletcher. She did share the concerns about what we=re going to do after this original financing package is worked through. Obviously, Balfour isn=t the end of what needs to be done and the package we have really doesn=t address what we do when that money is spent. Commissioner Gordon could see the thinking in stretching longer term financing to free some of the current tax revenue. Personally, she was very cautious about what will happen with the economy. Overall, she thought we shouldn=t be too confident that in four or five years we=d be able to pass a bond vote and build schools and the money stream would continue to be flowing. She thought we needed to be very careful on that and not look just to increase tax revenue as being able to pick up the bill. Commissioner Gordon understood that what Commissioner Moyer was talking about was using the revenue stream that was already there and stretching it as much as we can. She thought we needed to think about this before we jump.
Mr. McLelland stated that he did not have any figures on the six-year term. He based it on six years based on the joint facilities committee consensus at that meeting but he would be glad to run those for the Board if it wanted to have them.
Commissioner Kumor noted that just taking that 15 million dollar total for twenty years at the rate for the COPS might just give us a real clear idea of what we=d be looking at for an annual payment.
Mr. McLelland replied that he had an answer to Commissioner Moyer=s question on the third page on the bank qualified loans for the school, the rate is a set rate there and the annual payment is a set rate for the entire year. On the COPS instrument for Fletcher on the third page, that=s an average rate because it fluctuates over that six-year period in a COPS transaction, that=s an average rate over the six-year period as well as the payment as an average rate. It could be higher and it could be less over the term of the six years. So that=s average.
Commissioner Moyer asked if the COPS rate actually changed based on inflation and things. Mr. Nicholson replied that it was very similar to a bond when it is put out. They actually bid it based on so much coming due every year but it is a set rate but then they give you a net rate and that was the net rate. So your money this year is probably 3%, or it could be 5 or 6%, but those are set rates and you have set payments. It=s not a floating rate or variable.
Commissioner Gordon stated she thought the Board really needed to look at the figures, have the figures in front of them before they make a decision on which way to go.
Chairman Hawkins stated that we could get some more figures but then you come back to the point that Commissioner Moyer made if we went out tomorrow and got figures and brought them back the next day, then that may be the figure you=re looking at and it may not in as much as if the interest rates change or whatever. Chairman Hawkins thought the Commissioners should make a decision on this financing package or one piece of it but there is some advantage he thought to doing both of them together.
Commissioner Kumor stated that she agreed with that because they=re both coming at the same time and because we=ll probably realize these economies of dealing with one principal or one chunk of money. The only point is she thought we might be better off looking to stretch the money out in a true capital improvements process by stretching this by the money we have on hand, stretch it out at least three or four school buildings.
From the school building standpoint, Chairman Hawkins didn=t think stretching out the loan to twenty years versus the six would make any significant difference in that as far as the planning because he didn=t think you=d have enough money to make a debt service on two or three more schools out of that anyway.
Commissioner Kumor replied that out of 2.5 million dollars over the next three years and not increasing the taxes we could be doing a debt service on a whole lot of little jobs. If we have 1.2 million dollars right now that is built into the budget to do debt service, next year, September 2000, because Commissioner Ward was wise enough to say let=s earmark that money for schools, we=ve got another 1.2 or 1.4 million that=s coming off. So we have 2.2 million dollars in the next eighteen months or less to rearrange in a form to start to save in a capital improvement planning process. We start Fletcher here and then with x number of dollars and that 2.2 million dollar pool and next year at the same time we start Balfour with that 2 million dollar pool that we=re going to have and then we may do one or two more schools based on the kind of money we=ve already got built into our budget for this whole period of time.
Chairman Hawkins commented that the other part of that equation is if you look even at the short-term plan, we were taking a significant amount of that money. You think you=re going to be regenerating and putting into the current capital investments program for the schools. We=d been working at a million dollars and we=ve upped that considerably and that=s where that money came from. So you can=t use it back into your annual capital program and use it for long-range capital.
Commissioner Kumor thought that was the long-range capital, more schools.
Chairman Hawkins stated that what he was saying was that the amount of money that Commissioner Kumor was talking about part of that was planned to go back to current capital expenses because that=s what we had told the Board of Ed. So you won=t be able to take your courthouse money and say if you find out in twenty years that we=re going to have that much more money available and put it in your current capital budget also.
Commissioner Kumor thought that if we separate the issue of current capital, are we talking about maintenance capital. Chairman Hawkins replied that this was whatever the Board of Ed comes over on their current capital budget. Commissioner Kumor stated that was more along the lines of repair and addition and she saw that as a whole different issue. If we have a commitment to maintenance and capital and those improvements, that=s a whole different issue that we have to commit to because historically we know if we don=t do that everything falls apart and we end up paying a whole lot more in the long run.
Chairman Hawkins stated that what he was saying was that the plan the Board had looked at part of the excess money that was generated because that was the money that was being generated, was going into that program so if you pull it out of that and use it in conjunction with a longer term financing then you=ll have to go and that was a considerable amount of money about close to a million dollars you=d have to actually raise your tax rate to compensate for that on a short term. So that goes back to a longer term.
Commissioner Moyer stated that any way you look at the COPS, if you do twenty years, it=s going to cost $700,000 in interest to finance almost $9 million and on a six year it=s going to cost a 1.2 to only finance six million. The numbers are clear that you could finance considerably more, forget the long-term cost. Commissioner Moyer: AI move that we finance the jail on a twenty year basis on what would appear to be the best on the COPS program and that we move forward with that financing. If you want to continue to debate the schools we can, but I=d like to get the jail piece moving.@
Commissioner Ward asked if he was going to make financing assuming we=re going to stay on budget schedule with the $730,000 contingency built into it. We haven=t gotten any exact numbers back on the jail yet other than what were perceived at that one meeting.
Commissioner Moyer replied that was going on the basis that the maximum amount of eight million. The maximum interest we have set aside eight hundred and twenty-five thousand and this program will cost roughly seven hundred and sixteen thousand a year.
Commissioner Ward could see Commissioner Moyer=s point of view on that if we were going twenty years, but if we=re going to do long term financing like he suggested and like Ms. Kumor suggests, would it not be prudent at this term to look at split financing and including Balfour school and also get the best rate.
Commissioner Moyer replied that he=d love to but if we=re going to get bogged down on the schools and stay with five years it makes a problem.
Commissioner Ward stated that he didn=t feel comfortable moving on financing on the jail without seeing the exact numbers other than what we=re projecting and not even knowing. Mr. Nicholson would tell you that he couldn=t go out for financing until he has an exact number in front of him.
Commissioner Gordon replied that the Commissioners were in the same situation with the schools. We didn=t have exact figures, we=re dealing with parameters, and we=re saying no more than this amount.
Commissioner Ward said he would like to include Balfour in that and do twenty years on split financing and use our ten million wisely on both years.
Commissioner Moyer stated that if that was what Commissioner Ward wanted he would be happy to amend his motion, Athat we finance the three schools, the two schools, and the jail on the twenty year basis, split financing and that we move forward on all three.@
Commissioner Ward stated that he wanted to see some numbers. He would support it tentatively but he wanted to see some numbers to see what it would do to the maintenance schedule.
Commissioner Moyer stated it would have no effect on the maintenance schedule because you would save money on maintenance. This was capital only.
Commissioner Ward stated he knew but we had figured in some of our plans on the schools some of our money that we perceive in that.
Chairman Hawkins replied that was what we had in here that we told the Board of Ed and in fact on 6-30-01 you=re looking at 2.458 million dollars available after your debt service the courthouse came back off.
Commissioner Gordon wanted to ask another question. On the jail facility, we had budgeted 825 for debt service. If we go with a package that gets it for 716 we=re picking up over a hundred thousand dollars a year and that=s not dedicated to the jail. That=s our option as what we do with that and that could be directed to school maintenance or whatever if we chose.
Commissioner Kumor stated that she also thought that when and if we go in a short piece meal way with dealing with the schools, we reach a point in about two or three years that we=ve used up all the money that=s already in our budget and we=re still going to have to build schools. So whether we build the schools in the long term and use the money that=s built into our budget and then put the money out there for maintenance for the schools, we=re going to end up with money that we have to spend on our schools whether up front we put it into debt and in two years we add more money to our budget to pay for maintenance, or we pay for maintenance now and in two years add more into our tax base to pay for debt, it=s still money that we have to pay. We need to do both of those for the schools and in her opinion we had already committed to those things in theory that we=re going to do all those things. We=ve just got to say it costs money and we=re going to try to do it in the best and most economic fashion that we can. She thought Commissioner Moyer=s motion is trying to address all those things.
Chairman Hawkins replied if you look at that and the motion that=s on the floor on the new jail facility, you need to note that over the twenty years you=ve paid 5.4 million dollars in interest and again that money goes away when you pay it. It doesn=t go to pay anything. So you=ve saved a hundred thousand dollars a year or a hundred seventeen thousand a year for twenty years to spend on whatever you want.
Commissioner Moyer replied but you had to look at the time value of money and what money=s going to be worth over that time period and you factor that in and the figures come out entirely different because you=re not paying back in the years fifteen or twenty particularly with dollars that are worth what they=re worth today. You don=t have to tax people today to pay that.
Chairman Hawkins replied if that should be the case then you should probably tax people to pay the debt off in a shorter term.
Commissioner Moyer replied if we could accomplish everything we wanted to in a shorter time, he would be all in favor of that but based on what we have on our plate and what lies ahead of us, to him this was by far the safest way to avoid a tax increase and to avoid having a bond issue in the next couple of years. This gives us a lot more flexibility and the ability to use our money. The numbers speak for themselves. It=s clear that you have that much more debt service you can cover. Sure, you=re going to pay more over twenty or thirty years in total dollars but in time value of money it=s going to end up not that much of a difference if you factor that in. If we get any inflation, it=ll turn out being less.
Chairman Hawkins asked Commissioner Moyer what to tell him how you compute time value.
Commissioner Moyer replied you could take whatever interest rate you want and factor in your money value.
Mr. Nicholson replied there are present use values that you could look at and see inflation based on the 3 percent or 5 percent or whatever the value is over 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years to show you those calculations. Staff could show the Board those numbers.
Chairman Hawkins asked the Board if it wanted to have staff do some more work and have staff look at some more numbers or did it want to vote on Commissioner Moyer=s motion now on the jail project.
Commissioner Moyer replied that he amended his motion based on what Commissioner Ward had requested that he do. He restated the motion, AThe amended motion is that we would proceed to plan financing on a twenty year basis for the Fletcher School, the Balfour School and the jail, try to do that on a split dollar basis over the next two or three years to cover all of those and obviously to get the best interest rate we can possibly get to do that.@ Commissioner Moyer clarified that when he spoke about a split he was talking about a time period whatever is the most efficient.
Mr. McLelland stated that we were talking about a bank qualified loan where we can take advantage of the ten million dollars.
Commissioner Gordon asked if the interest rates go sky high by the next year when we get ready to borrow the other ten, we were at those interest rates, not at today=s interest rates. Mr. Nicholson replied they would guarantee a rate, but he wanted the Commissioners to understand it=s going to be a little higher because they=re going to hedge their bet a little bit. What they had told us it would be no more than four, five, six months before they would even think about going out so really a COPS issue may be a thing you want to look at because you can build in your debt service based on you can say I want this much debt here and after October 2000, we can increase our debt. You can be a little more creative with the way you put the package together. He wasn=t sure he could get a split funding package together that extends more than four, five or six months.
Commissioner Gordon stated that it=s by calendar year and we=re already in May so we could perhaps hit that six months but we could still probably guarantee into the next calendar year. Mr. Nicholson replied but that would only give us less than $5 million.
Commissioner Kumor stated but we would be doing it at a twenty year pay back and that would still leave us at the end of that building period the monies that we say we still have available to then do a loan on Balfour.
Mr. Nicholson agreed with what she was saying from the standpoint of your debt service payment would be less but the capital amount that you can borrow between Fletcher Elementary School and the jail is 15.3 million. So all you would have is 4.7 million dollars toward Balfour without going into 2001. He wanted the Board to understand that as opposed to looking at a COPS issue where you could say I want to borrow x amount of dollars but I want my debt to kick in at certain times. Mr. Nicholson wanted the Board to understand we couldn=t do two elementary schools and the jail in two calendar years.
Commissioner Moyer: ALet me amend the motion to say that we do it on twenty years on the three and the staff come back to the Chairman and I as we=ve been working with them with a proposal as to what they think is the best way to accomplish that.@
Commissioner Gordon replied she thought that was the way to approach that.
Commissioner Moyer stated that we=d look at the numbers and bring them back at the next meeting. That was his motion.
Chairman Hawkins called for a vote on that motion to reexamine a different payback period time wise and adding the third school. Again on that you=d just have to look at the amount of money that you=ve set aside for the third school. That=ll be the parameter that you=re working on and he thought that was ten million dollars.
Commissioner Moyer stated that we=d do it the same way here, we=ll add in what you set aside in your previous thing, add what it will cost and we=ll see what the difference is. He would guarantee that. It worked on the six and it would really work on the twenty. Chairman Hawkins replied that it really was a matter of how much total money you want to pay for the loan. The mathematics were there but if you think it looks good on twenty spread it out to thirty and you=ll have even much more but the philosophical issue is how much interest do you want to pay back xyz to borrow your money.
Commissioner Moyer: AWhat about if add to what staff does for us if we take just five percent to split future replacement in the past and ask him to do a time value based on the five percent interest to see what that money will be worth. I=m using five to average in inflation. So if it goes above that or below, we=ll use five. It makes a simple calculation for them to read into a chart.@
Chairman Hawkins thought this was a good discussion because first of all we have a lot of capital building needs and second of all we have a limited amount of money and so it gets down to how much you want to spend and when you want to spend it and there=s any number of permutations and combinations to build a financing package on with as many variables as we=ve got. He thought that was the challenge for the Board to try to find the best one we can use and get the farthest distance out of it.
Chairman Hawkins: AThose in favor of that motion, if you would say aye.@ All voted in favor and the motion carried.
UPDATE FROM DR. YEAGER, INTERIM SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT
Dr. Frank Yeager, Interim Superintendent of Henderson County Public Schools, advised the Commissioners that on yesterday he presented a recommendation to the Henderson County Board of Education to purchase a piece of property on Howard Gap Road in Fletcher for the site of the new Fletcher Elementary School. Originally, the Board of Education thought they could swap land with the Town of Fletcher but those plans were altered after the first phase of the environmental study indicated there could be an environmental problem. Consequently, phase two was done and that study indicated that the land the Board of Education was going to swap with the Town of Fletcher was not suitable for a school. The Board of Education informed the Town of Fletcher of that problem and chose not to embark on that deal. Obviously, the Board of Education had to find additional land for the new school. An extensive search for land that would accommodate the new school site considering such things above a flood plain, land close to Fletcher but not necessarily in the Fletcher city limits, preferably a little east or south of there. The search looked for land close to water and sewer which is a critical point because of cost, land that was on a highway that had a straight stretch with a good line of sight so there wouldn=t be safety issues of buses turning in and out on a curve. The search looked for land that was at least in a price range that was reasonable for the northern part of Henderson County. Land was found with those amenities and the Board of Education took an option to purchase on it. Phase one of the environmental study had been completed which indicated there were no problems on this land because it was formally pasture land so it was not likely there would be environmental problems on it. The survey of meets and bounds had been completed and the land meets all the agreements and what the Board of Education had been told about the land. The only thing the Board of Education had not completed was the title search but that hopefully would be done soon. Therefore, Dr. Yeager recommended to the Board of Education yesterday and to the Commissioners at this meeting that the option to purchase be approved subject to the Board of Education attorney telling them there is a clear title. Dr. Yeager didn=t foresee any problem with that.
The Commissioners had been provided with the specifics of the proposed purchase. The cost of the land was approximately $17,000 an acre, the land in question has a little bluff at the front which will have to be shaved off but that could be accomplished easily because it has ravine behind it to which the dirt can be pushed that way. There is a small stream that would have to be culverted over to make a driveway. There would be a sloping hill on which the school could be built. The Board of Education felt the site was suitable for the plans that it had already worked on which would save approximately $150,000 because of money previously spent on those plans. The Board of Education had an agreement with its architect in contract form where if the bid doesn=t come in where they wanted it to come in, i.e. the total amount of 9.5 million dollars, the architect would work free to redo those plans to cut down the size or whatever had to be done to get it within that amount of money. The Board of Education had done everything it knew to do to reduce square footage. One thing that would have to come later that might reduce the cost further is that after detailed plans were received from the architect, a third party not connected to the architect would be hired to do value engineering to try to cut the cost a little bit more. However, most of the savings had already been dealt with through reducing square footage which is where most of the savings are realized. One of the unknown factors is the bidding climate and how hungry the contractors would be. Dr. Yeager had been involved in the building of other schools to the same plans and it had been as much as a ten-dollar square foot difference based upon the bidding climate. The Board of Education was asking the Commissioners to authorize it to take $350,000 minus $2,500 which had already been paid out for an option to use that money to purchase this land. That would them allow to work out, based upon the Commissioners= decisions on financing, whether it needed to be done in phases like the grading with the different contract and the general contractor. The Board of Education thought this was the best deal for land it could come up with at this time. The timetable was to get ground broken before the first of the year which would allow grading to occur before the weather turned bad. Hopefully, the school would be completed and occupied by August of 2001.
The Board of Education would try to sell the Fletcher property and recover some of its money. There were interested individuals in the Fletcher property in addition to the Town of Fletcher. Dr. Yeager further stated that the Board of Education would have to approve a priority list for capital construction by next year according to State law. It=s a ten-year plan that comes up next year. That=s timely because a new superintendent needs to be a part of that process anyhow.
There were four other projects that really significantly have a need in addition to the question of Fletcher and Balfour. Etowah was a 1920 building comparable to these two, in a little better shape than these two but comparable, and Hendersonville Middle School has twelve trailer classrooms that can=t continue because it=s overtaxing everything, and there are six trailer classrooms at Rugby and Flat Rock. Those are all significant projects although Dr. Yeager felt that Flat Rock and Rugby are going to be a lot smaller than the first two.
Commissioner Moyer commented to Dr. Yeager that he had mentioned transportation and asked if this site was going to create a problem with respect to being close to businesses. Dr. Yeager responded that it was in a totally residential area with some apartments close by and houses and trailers around but there were no businesses that he knew of in close proximity. On the other side of the hill behind it there were some businesses but on this side on Howard Gap Road at this site there was not business that Dr. Yeager saw on either side of the road.
Chairman Hawkins made a motion that the Commissioners accept the recommendation from Dr. Yeager for an option to purchase the land subject to a title search and that the money be withdrawn from the capital reserve fund as far as the financing on it which was part of the money already set aside in the package for the Fletcher school to proceed with the purchase of this almost twenty acres of land.
Commissioner Ward commented that he thought the land per se was a little bit high in price but he thought that we=re handicapped by location and he thought when we=re competing against developers we=ve got to pay that premium price. Maybe we could do a little better on the next school site as far as price but Mr. Ward did call to question the price on that.
Commissioner Gordon commented that she was very well aware that we may set ideals for locations but we work with what is available in the market place. She read this morning=s paper and read the comments of concern about the Howard Gap Road location. Ms. Gordon had heard comments in the past about our site selection for schools and how they impact the immediate community around them and the transportation, so on and so forth. It appears to be the best site available but she did think we do need to be aware that issues such as Howard Gap Road are going to have to be addressed somewhere along the line. Zoning that is proposed in that area, the Hoopers Creek zoning requests comes in fairly close to that property and she thought the extension of the sewer line down Howard Gap Road would certainly perhaps change the lay of the land. Commissioner Gordon thought that is a part of the ball game but we need to be very well aware that we=re going to have to look at those things as we go along.
Dr. Yeager replied that the Board of Education did look at all that but that was the best it could do with what they had. The other option the Commissioners had but the Board of Education was reluctant to do this unless they absolutely had to was to do condemnation. As this County develops more and more and more and more of these kinds of issues come up with developments already there, condemnations are going to have to be considered more and more but as of this point short of condemnation this was the best it could do with the cards that had been dealt.
Commissioner Moyer stated that Dr. Yeager appeared very confident and apparently the Board of Education was too that it was a very satisfactory and usable site for the school. Dr. Yeager replied that yes they were and the architects already had done the estimates on the moving of the dirt. The cost is no greater than the original Fletcher site, the land has a straight shot for safety, but obviously the Board of Education would like to get DOT in there to put a third land, a turn lane, but as property goes it was the best the search had produced and it=s very adequate. Dr. Yeager stated that each one of those variables was looked at before the Board of Education decided to make its recommendation.
Chairman Hawkins called for a vote on his motion. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
UPDATE ON THE GREENWAYS PROPOSAL
Commissioner Gordon requested that the greenways item be placed on this agenda because the LGCCA was presented a proposal for the formation of a greenways commission called the Apple Country Greenways Commission. She thought it was appropriate for the Commissioners to review this proposal and discuss it and possibly make a recommendation or choose to gather more information. Ms. Gordon knew that Laurel Park had chosen to endorse this proposal and also the City of Hendersonville. Flat Rock had tabled the proposal pending some further information, and she didn=t know whether that Fletcher had discussed it at this point in time. However, she understood there had been a concern about the direction the County would take with this. All of the Commissioners had been involved with some of the discussion on greenways in the past. The Commissioners had a proposal from the Parks and Recreation Department for the formation of a County commission and Ms. Gordon was concerned that we focus our efforts in whatever avenue we take but that we do focus our efforts in this and don=t duplicate what=s already been done or is proposed to be done. She was putting the proposal before the Board for discussion. The Commissioners had received a copy of the proposal and a copy of the letter from Mayor Niehoff and Mike Egan about it. It was a proposed interlocal agreement establishing the Apple Country Greenway Commission.
Commissioner Moyer stated he had talked to the greenways people about this and he thought their current plan is to make a presentation to this Commission after they have reviewed a few more things taking into consideration some of the comments they have gotten from some of the other jurisdictions and then make an actual presentation to this Board as to what their plan is. So this Board could expect that in a couple of weeks or so and then it would be appropriate for the Board to take action.
Yesterday, Rick Merrill provided a copy of the greenways proposal for each Commissioner. However, the Commissioners only actually picked up their copy this morning prior to this meeting so they hadn=t read it yet. Commissioner Gordon requested this because there had been some misunderstanding in the community and misunderstanding in the media as to the Board=s position on this and she wanted it to be very clear that the Board has taken no formal position and that justifiably there are questions that need to be answered before they do take a position on it. That was basically her reason for putting this item on this agenda because she thought the Commissioners needed to clear up that misunderstanding.
Chairman Hawkins commented that he brought to the Commissioners the information that he and Commissioner Moyer had received on this proposal at the LGCCA meeting. That was the first time they had seen that package. Chairman Hawkins had gotten some correspondence from the County of Sacramento in November of 1997 on some of their greenways, in particular the one that runs from Folsom Prison all the way into Sacramento. He had concerns on a lot of areas and he had worked with Karen Smith in the Planning Department on those. The idea of linear parks is certainly something the Sacramento area began in 1915 and had evolved into a state park, a very beautiful area but very expensive to operate. A letter dated December 18th came to the Board from the Parks and Rec=s. Advisory Committee about some investigation that the County Parks and Rec. was also doing on a proposed establishment of a Henderson County Greenways Commission. Chairman Hawkins thought the Board would see in the budget a request or at least in the Parks and Recreation=s presentation some updated information on this However, the organizational structure was changed a little bit in the Parks and Recreation=s and that didn=t occur at the initial budget workshop. The point being is that was also on the table back in December much predating the current activities. Chairman Hawkins thought it was very appropriate to see what kind of presentation this current offer would be that came. Then have an opportunity for the Board of Commissioners, and he suggested at a workshop, to look at what is being proposed by Parks and Recreation, examine how that may or may not participate in the Environmental Advisory Committee those portions of the greenways that might be considered environmental whatever parameter with that and certainly some of the costs associated with it, how it might be interfaced with the municipalities realizing that some of the municipalities, Flat Rock, Laurel Park don=t have Parks and Rec. commissions, neither does the City of Hendersonville which integrated with the County sometime back. So almost the only stand alone other Parks and Rec. Division in the County is in Fletcher which is just getting started on its projects. Chairman Hawkins thought all those concerns should be brought back in the workshop and the Board could look at some of the data it would have and see what kind of course of action it wanted to take about the greenways proposal.
UPDATE ON REASSESSMENT
Mark Edney, Assistant Assessor, gave a brief update on the reappraisal project and mainly the appeals process. The formal hearing process had been completed. As of May 18th , out of 52,127 notices mailed, 7,314 inquires were received about their reappraisal of which 70 were for information only. Total parcels appealed were 7,244. Residential was 6,279, commercial was 700, present use value of farm properties was 265. The Assessor=s staff had worked 5,670 of those 7,200 parcels so far, 1,015 parcels did not get a change in value, 158 were adjusted up in value, and 4,497 were adjusted down in value. Percentage wise the total percentage of appeals was 13.9 percent which compared to about the same number as the reappraisal in 1995. The state average for reappraisal was between 10 and 15 percent and that=s where Henderson County=s had been through the last two reappraisals. Mr. Edney stated that although all sit-down appeals had been completed, there still were about 1,500 mail-in appeals to work, but as of yesterday appeals to the Board of Equalization and Review were 233 which usually runs about 10 percent but right now it was just at 3 percent. Although the formal appeals process had been closed, residents could appeal to the Board of E & R up until July 16th so there still was about two months left for anyone that wanted to appeal but they would have to appeal formally.
Chairman Hawkins asked Mr. Edney under the current number of appeals if he had an estimate of the dollar value that may be involved. The point he was getting to is that it makes it very difficult to look at adjusting and setting a tax base and tax rates on the evaluation when there is still considerable amount of parcels that are under appeal. Mr. Edney replied in the last values provided to Mr. Nicholson and Mr. McLelland, the Assessor=s staff had estimated the best it could on how much had already been given back on appeals based on how many were left so that number was their best number. Mr. Nicholson stated that staff had worked with Mr. Baird=s staff on redoing some of those numbers and some of the numbers the Commissioners would see today would be a little different than they had seen at a previous discussion.
One of the points that Chairman Hawkins was making as we look at the percentage collection all indications are there would be a lot of commercial and industrial appeals also that would go through the local Board of E&R but they would probably go on to the State level. So you always have to look at the collection rate the year after a reappraisal and it=s not unusual that there will be a slight drop because they don=t want to pay until the appeal is over with. Mr. Nicholson had taken that into consideration in his budget presentation that the Board would see later in this meeting. Mr. Nicholson further commented that the appeals process was open until July 16th, which would be after the Board had already adopted the budget for the next fiscal year.
Commissioner Kumor made a motion for the Board to go into Closed Session as allowed pursuant to NCGS 143-318.11 for the following reasons:
1. (a)(3) To consult with an attorney employed or retained by the public body in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege between the attorney and the public body, which privilege is hereby acknowledged. To consult with an attorney employed or retained by the public body in order to consider and give instructions to the attorney with respect to a claim.
2. (a)(5) To establish, or to instruct the public body=s staff or negotiating agents concerning the position to be taken by or on behalf of the public body in negotiating (I)the price and other material terms of a contract or proposed contract for the acquisition of real property by purchase, option, exchange or lease, (II) the amount of compensation and other material terms of an employment contract or proposed employment contract.
All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Chairman Hawkins stated the Board of Commissioners would reconvene this meeting at 1:00 pm.
1. Social Services Board Members - Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of one vacancy which was a County term. He noted that Ms. Corn had prepared a different format in the Nominations booklet on the second page. For example, under Social Services there were two names listed from the applications the Clerk had on file. Additionally, there also was a response from Bill Lapsley who currently was serving as the Chairman of the Social Services Board. The Clerk had received indication from three individuals that they were interested in serving on the Social Services Board. Commissioner Ward submitted the name of Bill Lapsley for renomination. Commissioner Kumor pointed out that the Social Services Board has a legislated two terms limit and this would be starting Mr. Lapsley=s second term. There were no further nominations. Chairman Hawkins made a motion the Board accept Mr. Lapsley by acclamation. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
2. Henderson County Regional Water Forum-Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of the term expiration of 6/1/99. Commissioner Ward currently was serving on that and Chairman Hawkins asked Commissioner Ward if he was interested in continuing to serve. Commissioner Ward replied this was an extremely important Board and it ties so well in with the Water Board in Asheville and he suggested that Commissioner Moyer might entertain the thought of serving on this since both are such important Boards. Commissioner Ward entered Commissioner Moyer=s name for nomination to serve on this Forum. Commissioner Moyer replied that he would be happy to serve. There were no further nominations. Chairman Hawkins made a motion that the Board accept Mr. Moyer by acclamation. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
3. Advisory Committee to Cane Creek Water and Sewer Authority-Chairman Hawkins advised the Board this was a new board. It appeared there were two nominations open although in the information packet it indicated there would be five members but it only listed a committee of four. Commissioner Gordon had already been appointed to represent the Commissioners. Another nomination was needed for a person living within the district but outside the Town of Fletcher. Another appointment was necessary to make the Committee five members with the Town of Fletcher=s two appointments. The Board had previously been given a list prepared by the Tax Assessor of people that live in the general area that the Board was looking for membership on this Committee. Commissioner Gordon stated that she was a little hesitant at this point in time to put names into nominations although she had talked with a couple of people this week and she wanted to give them a little more information and be sure they could coordinate the meeting times. She believed with some of the things some of the members were involved with two more weeks would not be a delay in the proceedings. She would like to have a little more time to discuss this with them before putting their names into nominations. Commissioner Gordon stated that she would appreciate any nominations from the Commissioners for this committee or if there were members of the community who would like to apply because at this point no applications at all had been received. She had to essentially go and hunt for people to serve on this so she would appreciate it if there are people who are interested in serving to contact her. Commissioner Ward stated that he had contacted six or eight people about serving but all had declined to serve on this. There were no nominations and these were rolled to the next meeting.
4. EMS Council-Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of one vacancy. Commissioner Kumor stated this was a staff designated position and she wanted to nominate Tom Edmundson to be reappointed as the staff member to the EMS Council. The Board had received a letter from Mr. Edmundson that he was willing to serve again. There were no further nominations. Chairman Hawkins made a motion that the Board accept Mr. Edmundson by acclamation. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
5. Blue Ridge Community College Board of Trustees-Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of two vacancies. He had contacted Attorney Russ Burrell who indicated that he was interested in serving again. Chairman Hawkins also had a telephone conversation with Chairman Spearman and Mr. Spearman indicated that Mr. Ryndall was also interested in serving again although the Board had not received a letter from Mr. Ryndall. Chairman Hawkins nominated Russ Burrell and Fielding Lucas. Commissioner Kumor nominated Luke Ryndall. Commissioner Moyer asked Ms. Kumor if Mr. Ryndall had not served eight years on the BRCC Board. Ms. Kumor replied ABut you didn=t think that counted on the Planning Board, Bill.@ Commissioner Moyer: AI certainly did think it counted but I was asked to overlook it. I=m just asking whether that...@ Commissioner Kumor: AWhen we adopt it as a policy then I think it becomes something we abide by.@ Commissioner Moyer: AIt is a fact?@ Commissioner Kumor, AYes, we=ve gone through and put the dates of people=s appointments here.@ Chairman Hawkins asked if there were any other nominations. Commissioner Moyer nominated Dr. Robert Dowedswell. There were no further nominations. Chairman Hawkins stated those nominations would be brought back to the next meeting for a vote.
6. Henderson County Board of Health-Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of two vacancies on the Board of Health. He stated that Keith Dale had responded that he was interested in serving another term. Ms. Corn had not received responses from any other members eligible for reappointment. One of the vacancies was a designated position requiring a physician. Commissioner Kumor nominated Keith Dale. Commissioner Gordon commented that Mr. Dale was serving as the Chairman of the Board of Health and just recently assumed that position and she thought it would be appropriate to re-nominate him. Commissioner Ward asked if it would be appropriate to make a call to Mr. Vanderworth. Commissioner Gordon stated the Board of Health would be meeting next week and she would attempt to find out the status on that nomination. Commissioner Moyer made a motion to suspend the rules and appoint Mr. Keith Dale. All voted in favor and the motion carried. The other vacancy was rolled to the next meeting.
7. Library Board of Trustees-Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of two vacancies. No response had been received from Mr. Staton. Commissioner Moyer commented that Mr. Kaplan decided to step aside and not serve another term. Also Mr. Staton had told him that he is not going to serve again. Commissioner Moyer encouraged the Board to take particular note to the length of time and the tremendous benefit that Morris Kaplan had been to the Library Board of Trustees. He also understood that there may be a couple of candidates coming in and he requested these vacancies be rolled to the next meeting. Chairman Hawkins nominated Art Harrington. Commissioner Ward commented that he had a candidate in mind but the candidate had not yet submitted an application. Chairman Hawkins made a motion that the Board suspend the rules and appoint Mr. Harrington. All voted in favor and the motion carried. The other vacancy was rolled to the next meeting.
8. Mountain Area Workforce Development Board-Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of three vacancies. When the Board previously reviewed these appointments, there was a little bit of concern on exactly the make up of that Board. He did not get a chance to get all the ramifications for that Board but he noticed that some of the nominations were for the Chamber of Commerce and some for the Board of Commissioners. Ms. Patti Leonard is the Board=s current representative on the Workforce Development Board and he had no problem with taking care of that. The other two vacancies were the Chamber of Commerce=s. Chairman Hawkins asked Ms. Corn to correspond with the Chamber of Commerce for some input on those vacancies. Chairman Hawkins nominated Ms. Patti Leonard as the Board of Commissioners= nominee. There were no further nominations. Chairman Hawkins made a motion that the Board accept Ms. Leonard by acclamation. All voted in favor and the motion carried. Ms. Corn would send a letter to the Chamber of Commerce inquiring of the status of the ex-officio member as well as the Chamber of Commerce appointment.
9. The Jury Commission-Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of one vacancy. There was only one position that the Board of Commissioners currently appoints to and that was the position now held by Dutch Burdette. Mr. Burdette had informed Chairman Hawkins that he was not interested in serving another term. Chairman Hawkins commended Mr. Burdette for his years of service to that Commission. Commissioner Ward nominated Ms. Koehler who had submitted an application. Chairman Hawkins made a motion that the Board accept Ms. Koehler by acclamation. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
10. Henderson County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council-Commissioner Kumor advised the Board on position number four the legislation suggested a representative from the District Attorney=s office or his representative. Although the nomination showed Jeff Hunt, Mr. Hunt has designated Merri Oxley to be his representative. So the JCPC wanted to formally put Ms. Oxley as the District Attorney representative. In the position number 3, the Sheriff had been sending two people although based on the Board make up there=s only one person that can serve in the Sheriff=s slot and the JCPC recommended that Ben McKay have that position and Eric Summey who comes also as one of the Sheriff=s representatives to be the public representative to fill out the last public slot. The JCPC was still looking for a representative from the faith community and it did not have anyone yet. Larry Harmon had been working with Bob Williford of the Chamber to find a representative from the business community. One gentleman was appointed but based on the JCPC meeting times and the work involved, he had to decline that nomination. So the JCPC was still working with the Chamber for one more business representative. The only other vacancy left was to get in touch with Judge Cilley and see if he would like to give a representative for the Chief District Judge office. Chairman Hawkins asked if Commissioner Kumor=s motion was basically for the Board to reassign those individuals as she had indicated. Commissioner Ward asked when you move a deputy to the number 25 position, we=re keeping someone from the public from serving and also two paid deputies would be serving on the JCPC. To him, that was taking some money out of patrol or the DARE program or wherever Mr. Summey serves (someone interjected he was a detective) and in the Sheriff=s budget he had asked for more detectives and yet this would be taking someone away from duty. Commissioner Kumor stated that was a very fair question and she stated that we should inform the community there was another vacancy and would love to have someone from the community to serve. Commissioner Ward would like to see those two deputies alternate because of their shifts and the way their schedule works. To him, just use a little common sense and not have two people paid and especially one that=s shorthanded in his department anyway. That was his only question although he realized that both of those men wanted to serve. Commissioner Kumor stated she didn=t have a problem with that and that also was reasonable. The other issue she had been dealing with is she would certainly like some additional law enforcement, for example somebody from Chief Parks because his office had been working with the Communities That Care grants but she=ll accept what Commissioner Ward was saying and she=ll ask if Ben and Eric could work it that way and still keep that public slot open. She would also ask that the Board look for someone from the business community and the faith community. Chairman Hawkins asked for a vote on the motion as amended by Commissioner Kumor. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
11. Hendersonville City Zoning Board of Adjustment- (1) vacancy as an alternate. Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board of an appointee that after a little research was not eligible because of the location of his residence. However, the Board had a couple of people that had indicated an interest in that which was Brent Williams and Mr. LaStrange as well as Mr. Clause. Mr. Nicholson reminded the Board it appointed Mr. Clause as an alternate to the Henderson County Zoning Board of Adjustment. He lives in the Bearwallow area and therefore would not be eligible for the city appointment. There were no nominations so that vacancy was rolled to the next meeting.
12. Nursing/Adult Care Home Community Advisory Committee- (10) vacancies. Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board it had previously appointed Calvin Titus for position number 4 and the Board could vote on that one. Carol Shuffstall can be appointed to position number 7. Bonnie Stewart, position number 10, can be appointed today. Ellen Brown could be appointed today and position number 19 David Dennison. That was five of the ten positions that had already been nominated. Chairman Hawkins called for a vote on those positions being appointed. All voted in favor and the motion carried. Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that position number 5 is a designated position for which Claire Boo had been nominated but the Board needed to wait until the Nursing Homes response is received. So that vacancy was rolled. Position number 9, Aubrey Carruth was nominated at the last meeting but again the Board would have to await a reply from the Nursing Home so that vacancy was rolled to the next meeting. Position number 23, Ms. Whitmire was nominated and a letter had gone out to the Nursing Home. So that=ll enter into the 45-day count. Chairman Hawkins advised the Board it could take nominations at this meeting on position number 14, it=s a designated position, and position number 22, which also was a designated position. If nominations were made today, the Board would have to wait until the Board receives a response from the Nursing Homes. Commissioner Kumor reminded Chairman Hawkins that on position number 14, the Board nominated Sarah Jones so she starts the process over again so the Board will have to wait on position 14. Therefore, Chairman Hawkins stated the Board could take a nomination for position 22. Commissioner Kumor nominated Nancy Mitchell. Chairman Hawkins called for a vote on the nomination for Nancy Mitchell. All voted in favor and the motion carried. That nomination would go into the 45-day waiting period.
UPDATE ON FRANCHISING OF RESIDENTIAL SOLID WASTE HAULERS
Gary Tweed, County Engineer, gave the Board an update on the franchising process and talked to the Commissioners about an issue concerning issuance of permits for residential collection. Last fall, the Board had a request from the Solid Waste Haulers Association to study franchising. They submitted a request supporting franchising and asked that we work with the Haulers Association and try to develop a franchising system. The burden was put on the Haulers Association to start this process by asking them to meet, hold work sessions, tell the Commissioners how they felt the County could be subdivided into franchise areas and they had done that. Mr. Tweed had provided a map to the Commissioners which was a culmination of two work shops and a couple of other meetings with individual haulers to work out what was before them. Basically, there were nine companies that were looking at these franchises. Originally there were twenty, but over the past six months several purchases had occurred where some of the larger companies were buying some of the smaller companies. This had gone before the Solid Waste Advisory Committee but the final map had not been presented to them yet because staff was still looking to take to them the franchise documents and so forth. Documents had been drafted on the Ordinance and also on the agreements that would be entered into. Ms. Jackson was currently reviewing those. Once Ms. Jackson had made her comments and changes to the documents, staff would go to the Advisory Committee and back to the haulers to talk about conditions of the agreements, rate structures and other things they may want to see in the documents as well. Then staff will be in a position to come back to the Board with a final franchise ordinance and draft agreement so that the Commissioners could set a public hearing and go forward with the process. An issue that had been raised in the past few months was when the haulers requested this initially they asked that this be held to those existing permitted haulers at that time. In the recent weeks, there had been some inquiries from individuals for new permits to get into the waste hauling business. As of the day Mr. Tweed prepared this agenda information, he had not received any completed applications on file. Last week, a gentleman came in that was interested in getting into the business. Mr. Tweed discussed with him what was going on with the franchising and that man has since submitted an application which staff was currently reviewing but he also indicated that he understood the process of franchising and that he would be willing to accept a permit that did not include residential collection. He was more interested in the construction, demolition, the industrial, and the commercial business because that was the type of equipment he had. So right now Mr. Tweed did not have a complete application that he considered for residential collection. The haulers had requested that issuance of those permits be frozen or suspended until the process is finalized. Mr. Tweed fully supported that request and he thought it would be an appropriate action to do that.
Commissioner Ward asked Mr. Tweed on buyouts if there would be a clause in the document that if a company wants to sell, do they turn their franchise back into the County or does another company buy their franchise area or what kind of arrangements would be made. Mr. Tweed replied he thought the Board of Commissioners would have right of approval or disapproval of any transferable franchise or sell of the franchise.
Commissioner Gordon stated she thought the Commissioners needed to address the issue of new haulers coming during this process because it had not come up previously and that needed to be handled. As Mr. Tweed mentioned in the presentation that this move to franchising was something that was requested by the haulers and she thought that needs to be perhaps clarified because she had a number of calls in the last few weeks questioning why this is on the table. She did not know if any further elaboration needed to be made on that today but perhaps this was an opportunity for it if there=s any confusion.
Chairman Hawkins thought one of the things the Commissioners needed to address in its direction to the County Manager was basically what to do with the one permit for the C&D hauler. If the hauler has a complete application, Chairman Hawkins didn=t think he should be denied his permit. Mr. Tweed stated the application from the C & D hauler could be processed, at least the industrial and commercial part of it. One other company had submitted an application but they were using the wrong forms and staff had sent them the correct forms but they were just interested in the commercial business as well. Right now, the franchising is residential collection in the unincorporated areas of the County so if those permits are suspended that would be all that it would be for, the unincorporated areas residential collection. Commissioner Gordon clarified that it would not actually be suspending anything that was in process for anyone. In other words, we have no applications for residential pick up that are pending and taking action to suspend accepting applications but not leaving anyone hanging. Mr. Tweed thought it would be inappropriate if a new company is allowed to come in and they start developing a business and develop a customer base and we get down to the end product and they do not get a franchise, he thought that would be unfair to them. Mr. Tweed had tried to be up front with everyone that had contacted him as to what the process is and what we=re undertaking and they fully understand that.
Commissioner Gordon asked Mr. Tweed how long he anticipated the process taking. Mr. Tweed replied that he was hoping to have this in place by July 1 but there=s a public hearing that=s necessary so it would probably be another 60 to 90 days before it would be finalized.
Commissioner Moyer thought there=s a lot of public interest in this and he thought a lot of comments and letters are starting to be circulated and he really thought the earlier the Commissioners had a public hearing so the public has a chance to express themselves the better off they would be. He was hopeful it could be held now and to wait even longer is going to make the situation more difficult because everybody is starting to feel it=s a done deal. It doesn=t matter what is said, they=re not getting any input at the important time and he would really like to see the Commissioners schedule a public hearing now to get the public input so that it means something because once the contracts are all done, the people aren=t going to believe the Commissioners one bit if there is a public hearing at that stage. So he wanted to see the Commissioners schedule a public hearing now.
Commissioner Gordon thought that was a very good point.
Chairman Hawkins made a motion that the Commissioners comply with the proposal as presented which basically limits and terminates accepting any other residential hauler contracts in the unincorporated areas. Commissioner Gordon asked if the Commissioners could place a time frame on that or was it just until whenever. Chairman Hawkins amended his motion for a time frame until a final decision on franchising is made and subsequent to the public hearing. County Attorney Elkins informed Chairman Hawkins that bothered him in including a certain class of people or business owners and excluding business in general as far as making an application and he assumed Chairman Hawkins was talking about an application to the County for a franchise. Chairman Hawkins asked Mr. Elkins if he thought it would be more appropriate to at least if you have an application pending approval of the application to such time that this has been completed. Mr. Elkins replied yes he saw no reason to exclude the other applications if it=s just based on equity for trying to be fair, he wasn=t sure the County had legal authority to do that and he hadn=t researched that but it was something that bothered him. Mr. Tweed stated that Ms. Jackson had reviewed the Ordinance and what=s in the Ordinance and thought Ms. Jackson could speak to that. Ms. Jackson wasn=t sure whether Mr. Elkins= concern was on the franchising application. Mr. Elkins replied he wasn=t sure what he was talking about but to exclude other people from making an application or whatever the Commissioners said they were not going to allow any other applications. Commissioner Gordon stated it was just for permits, not the franchising per se for a permit to haul at this point in time. Ms. Jackson stated there is a provision in the Henderson County code section 165-27 which does say the Board can grant the right to collect and in her reading, it would allow for some discretion on the part of the Board of Commissioners as to whether to grant any permits for collection but she did share some of the same concerns in that any time you restrict some commercial activity you do run some risk of being challenged on that. Ms. Jackson didn=t think this was a situation that it=s typically encountered and she had been unable to find any real guidance specifically on this point.
Commissioner Moyer shared these concerns too and the way to get around them would be to permit the applications but suspend issuing any permits and have a definite period of sixty days so it=s a reasonable time to let the process work. He thought then it would have a chance of it being upheld. If either of those is banned, Commissioner Moyer thought there would be a problem of it being arbitrary and unreasonable.
Commissioner Gordon stated she didn=t think it should be open-ended but there should be a definite time frame. Ms. Jackson stated she certainly was more comfortable with a definite period of time as opposed to it being hinged on the activity of the Board on the part of the franchising.
Commissioner Moyer stated if you permit the applications to come in there would be a time period, there would be a pecking order so if we do go back then we can just move in and deal with them in the normal fashion. So he thought that would be the better motion.
Commissioner Gordon stated the one thing that the Board hadn=t really discussed about the situation there is always the possibility of someone applying for a permit during this time to haul and establish themselves as a hauler without really establishing a customer base. Then at the point and time the Board decides to do franchising that person would be in line to receive a franchising area and Commissioner Gordon thought there was an issue of fairness to those haulers who were already established with their customer bases and how that was set up. She thought there was more to this than just whether or not the Board has the right to set up the business.
Mr. Tweed asked for his clarification if we go this route if the Commissioners had no objection if permits were issued during this sixty days to the non-residential business like C&D, industrial, commercial, those folks that are wanting those type of permits. Commissioner Gordon thought that it would be inappropriate to limit those and thought we should continue with that.
Chairman Hawkins attempted to rephrase his motion. AThe motion would be to the extent that although the County is still going to be accepting applications, it will not be issuing any new permits for a period of sixty days for residential customers in the unincorporated areas.@ There was no further discussion. Chairman Hawkins called for a vote on that motion. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
DISPOSITION OF MATERIALS RECOVERY FACILITY EQUIPMENT
County Engineer Gary Tweed reminded the Board that GDS, which operates the Materials Recovery Facility on Sugarloaf Road, has exercised their option to cease the operation. They will be leaving that site August 3rd. As we have County-owned equipment as part of that operation which consists of the truck scales, a baler and conveyor, it=s our intention once they close we do not have a use for that equipment anymore and what Mr. Tweed had proposed is that we go to bids to sell that equipment. Ms. Jackson had prepared a resolution authorizing the sell of that equipment. Mr. Tweed=s intention was to go out to bids and take bids on June 16 to see what we can get for this equipment. If he doesn=t see that it=s a good price for the equipment, it can be stored and bid again so it=s not that he has to get rid of it. He had room at the landfill to store the equipment.
Commissioner Moyer moved that the Commissioners authorize the disposition of the equipment by sealed bid. Chairman Hawkins commented that on the 10 of the month, he had a meeting with some folks from the Land-of-Sky Regional Council and at that time as he had indicated to the Board previously, there was a discussion of the possibility of a solid waste authority and a regional concept. Since then, Chairman Hawkins learned there were already operating in the State two regional solid waste authorities, one in Albermarle region and another one in the coastal regional solid waste. Both of those have between three and seven counties that have come together in a solid waste authority. Chairman Hawkins suggested for consideration of the Board if we do sell this equipment for whatever perhaps the Board might want to earmark that money to help in pursuing whatever staffing from the Land of Sky that is required to move forward on a solid waste advisory regional approach to solid waste. The other aspect of it, as Mr. Tweed had mentioned, is that if we do not sell the equipment a component of a solid waste regional approach might be a recycling portion also of which this might be some equipment our county could contribute as part of that. Chairman Hawkins was sure there would be some cost involved with the Land of Sky if we start participating very actively in looking for some kind of regional approach to solid waste and if we do sell this equipment that would be a good amount of money to earmark.
Mr. Tweed pointed out that in his budget for this upcoming year, he had anticipated using those funds for equipment purchases. Commissioner Gordon thought she had recalled that too. Chairman Hawkins asked Mr. Tweed if he already had those funds designated. Mr. Tweed replied that he did and we could make some adjustments if need to because he really didn=t know what he was going to get for the equipment yet but he did anticipate using those funds for equipment purchases. Commissioner Ward asked Mr. Tweed if he had a dollar figure in mind, a minimal bid on this equipment. Mr. Tweed replied that the equipment was about seven years old, the baler and conveyer equipment when purchased new was a little over $200,000, $225,000 somewhere in that range, and the scale was about $35,000 or so, so we=ve got $260,000 worth of equipment. If he could get a $100,000 out of it, Mr. Tweed thought we=d be very lucky. He wasn=t anticipating much more than about $50,000.
Commissioner Kumor thought based on the fact that we are now televising these meetings and we=re talking about this Materials Recovery Facility, she thought it might be appropriate for the staff to explain what the status of recycling is going to be with the close up of the MRF. Mr. Tweed stated that he had been working toward going to a blue bag program. The blue bag program is where citizens would take their recyclables and put them in a blue bag and the bags would be collected at the curb. Staff was currently evaluating three locations for the processing of those blue bags. GDS operates a materials recovery facility at the New Ware landfill. Staff had also learned this past week of two centers in Greenville, South Carolina. Mr. Tweed planned to visit those two centers next week to see what they can potentially do for us. So there are options out there for the disposal of this. Mr. Tweed hoped that by the time the existing MRF closes that he can convert our existing convenience center at the landfill to a blue bag collection site. In other words, if citizens currently coming in and bringing source separated materials will just bring a blue bag full of recyclables, we will collect those and then ship them to one of these processing facilities. That was what Mr. Tweed was working toward. If he couldn=t get that in place, we will continue to collect it as we are today and he could haul those materials to Asheville Waste Paper just the same as we are today. There are some materials he can take and some he can=t. So if things fall together as Mr. Tweed anticipates, we will have a blue bag program ready sometime around the first of August. This will fit real well with the franchising. Some of these haulers are already offering the blue bag system out in the County. We have about half the County covered in that program now.
Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that if we do begin to participate in some of this discussion on a regional authority, somewhere it would have to look at coming up with some amount of money or the funding may well come out of the enterprise fund of solid waste, depending on how the budget goes. Commissioner Ward commented that a scale was a venture to move to start with and re-certify and set back up. He suggested to advertise these in our normal procedures of bids in the Times-News and circulars, but it might also be prudent for Mr. Tweed to call some of the local trucking lines like Hyder, Justice and just let them know that these bids are coming up. Mr. Tweed replied that he has a list of equipment dealers that he planned to send the notice to. He already has had a couple of inquiries about the baler from used equipment dealers. So local trucking companies could make use of that truck scale.
Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board there was a motion on the floor to accept the resolution as presented by staff. There was no further discussion. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
CABLE FRANCHISE PROPOSALS
Assistant County Manager Angela S. Beeker reminded the Commissioners the County as well as all the local municipalities had been asked by Mediacom to consider a renegotiating of the cable franchise that they hold with those governing bodies. The Board authorized staff to receive some proposals for assistance in deciding first of all whether or not to move forward with the renegotiating. Secondly, if we do move forward with renegotiating, some professional consulting services would be needed to help through that process as well. Those proposals were from Rice, Williams and Associates located in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
For the benefit of the public, Ms. Beeker briefly recapped some of the provisions of the current ordinance in place to govern franchises. She had distributed copies of that to the Board and copies were available for members of the audience and other interested individuals. Basically, this franchise ordinance was adopted in June of 1991. It governs any franchise that is granted after that date. The ordinance provides that any cable franchise that=s granted will be non-exclusive so that any person could come in and as long as they were qualified apply to have a cable franchise in Henderson County. Currently, there are two franchise holders in the County. Mediacom occupies the majority of the County, and in the Gerton-Bat Cave area, which is a very small area of Henderson County, is served by a company called Northland Cable. The franchise authority for this ordinance to govern is only in the unincorporated areas of the County and it provides that all franchises would be for terms of fifteen years.
The Ordinance provides the County would be paid 3% of the gross annual revenues received from subscribers and the County currently does that with Mediacom. Ms. Beeker understood that with Northland Cable there were some questions about that. That particular franchise was issued prior to the date of this ordinance so as far as Ms. Beeker knew the County had operated under the terms of their franchise. It provides a graduated scale so they are actually paying 5% of their gross annual revenues but for the last calendar year that was only $828.
The Ordinance contains various reporting requirements and density requirements which means how many housing units you have to have per mile before the cable company has to extend service. Currently, there were 20 dwelling units per cable mile. Construction standards are contained in the ordinance. The ordinance provides for one peg channel, that=s public, educational and government access, with one free connection and basic service to each government building and each school. The ordinance also contains customer service standards. The customer service standards in the ordinance are a little outdated with the passage of the Cable Act of 1992 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
The franchise in question with Mediacom is for a term of 15 years. It was granted in 1991 so they have seven years remaining on the franchise. It pretty much follows the format of the ordinance. They are bound under the terms of the ordinance.
Chairman Hawkins advised the Board that he had forwarded to the Mayors the information on the cable franchise. He commented that the County=s contract with Mediacom runs until 2006 but the municipalities have contracts up to 2006 and years beyond. The Commissioners had received many inquires on the programming, the changing of channels and the rates. As he understood it, the Board of Commissioners doesn=t have any input as to how Mediacom proceeds with those issues unless the contract is renegotiated and something changes in the contract to reflect on those services. Ms. Beeker advised the Board that it could currently regulate only the basic tier which is broadcast basic, which was currently $6, but the Board had previously taken the position that so few people have just the basic tier and if Mediacom was forced to cut the cost in that tier, the costs would be raised in the other tiers so nothing would be gained. The Board never had the authority to regulate the upper tiers of service. The sunset is for the FCC=s ability to regulate those upper tiers and the rates in the upper tiers. So the Board would have no leeway there.
Chairman Hawkins commented the Board might want to consider asking Mediacom if they want the County to renegotiate the contract did they wish to terminate the contract and renegotiate with all the cable companies if the idea is to have a free enterprise system where they had to compete with some other cable company for the rates. Laurel Park had indicated they have several people that have a good bit of recent expertise in cable franchising contracting. Therefore it might be appropriate to see if the Board wants to establish some kind of committee to look at all these parameters to give us some advise back in conjunction with the municipalities. The offer before the Board would start off with $5,000 to check the books but the proposal did not state what the remaining cost would be. Ms. Beeker replied that was because the consultant was unsure of what scope of representation the Board would want in a renegotiation process. It could vary from very little to a fairly comprehensive representation. Ms. Beeker felt that was something the Board could negotiate with the company when it was deciding whether or not to proceed ahead. Chairman Hawkins noted that the decision on renegotiating didn=t have to be immediate since the contract didn=t expire until 2006. This would give the Board adequate time to evaluate the contract.
Commissioner Moyer asked if the other municipalities had entered into any contracts with Mediacom. He knew that Laurel Park and Hendersonville had but wondered if the other municipalities indicated they wanted to cooperate with the Commissioners in a cooperative effort. Chairman Hawkins replied that he had some indication that they might be interested in some kind of joint effort with the County. If there are those people that have expertise and are willing to look at our franchise and perhaps some of the new offers that had been made to some of the municipalities, then the Commissioners want to look at trying to organize something along those lines. Commissioner Moyer thought since the Board had time to examine the contract before it expired, he thought Chairman Hawkins= idea of getting a cable advisory committee of knowledgeable people to represent the areas would be a good starting point. The advisory committee could get all the information together, see where things stand and by that time the Commissioners could evaluate it.
Commissioner Gordon commented there quite often was comment about the level of experience available in the community and she thought the Commissioners should make as much use of it as possible. She certainly thought the idea of an advisory board was a great one.
Chairman Hawkins stated that he and County staff would generate some correspondence to the municipalities outlining the Board=s thought process on it and see if we could pool some resources in this effort.
Commissioner Kumor noted that at one time the County had a cable committee. Those resources may still be available and just need to be reactivated.
Ms. Beeker commented the first proposal we received really is not an all-or-nothing package but it=s two parts. It may be beneficial to still have a professional to work with the advisory committee who is up to date on the changes in the law because it is very technical and very complicated. She felt the $1300 fee to hold an initial work session was reasonable even if the Board decided not to proceed with the compliance audit.
County Attorney Don Elkins asked why Mediacom wanted to renegotiate. Ms. Beeker didn=t want to speak on behalf of the cable company but what they had told us is the fact they only have a limited time left on their franchise limits their ability to get financing and they would like to be able to go to a bank and say they had a fifteen year franchise. Commissioner Moyer stated it also had an effect on the price when you sell.
Commissioner Gordon thought it was very important that the Commissioners didn=t place Mediacom into white hats and black hats and them against us. It was important that we keep focus on the real issue and that is we provide as good cable service as possible in the county and how best we go about doing that. Certainly we have to have a viable, profitable cable company to get that service. So hopefully we=ll be on the same page as we go into this.
CJPP Grant-Commissioner Kumor informed the Board that the Day Reporting Center had been operating with a grant called Criminal Justice Partnership Program (CJPP) funds. By an act of legislation, each County gets a set amount of money each year but you have to define your program and submit a grant each year to the State Department of Corrections as to how you will spend your money. The program has been used only as a post-conviction resource for three years. With the planning for the new jail facility, a pre-trial type program would become a real asset to managing the jail population. So the grant would be redesigned. In the past, the County had also put some money into this grant to enhance the program. However, this grant was redesigned to not use any County money, would accommodate a post-trial program, and would also provide the development of a pre-trial program that would help manage the jail population in the future. This was being done with the consent of Sheriff Erwin. Commissioner Kumor just wanted the Board to know that the grant would change the focus of the CJPP, expand it a little bit, take out all the County money and manage the program on the $92,000 that comes from the State every year. Commissioner Gordon had also been involved in the process.
Agenda Format-Commissioner Gordon expressed some concerns about the structure of the agenda and in a couple of specific areas, particularly the public input portion and the informal public comments. There were several ways the Commissioners took public input. First, is the informal input comments which could be on any subject. Then there=s input that=s directed specifically at topics that are on the agenda and of course public hearings. Ms. Gordon=s reasons for concern were situations that the Commissioners have had recently where perhaps they reach a point on the agenda where a topic is addressed and have not had public comments directed to that before they=ve discussed it, or instances where the comments go on for such a long period of time that the schedule becomes difficult to control. For instance this morning, someone had mentioned that the average public comment was twelve minutes. Commissioner Gordon knew that some other boards were handling this type of thing with some predetermined time frames and predetermined procedures so that up front people know going in what will be permitted. Chairman Hawkins had provided Ms. Gordon with a copy of the public input policy that was prepared in August of 1998 which addresses some of her concerns but not specifically areas such as time. She knew that the Commissioners had a policy in the past of roughly twenty minutes for public comment but the procedure had been at the end of those twenty minutes to extend that time to permit other individuals to give public comment. Commissioner Gordon wanted the Board=s input on how best to handle this. She wondered if it would be appropriate to perhaps at the start of the meeting have a fifteen-minute period for open public comment but allowing no more than three minutes per speaker. She knew the School Board does some timing on theirs. It certainly would not be appropriate to cut people off in mid-sentence but she did think it would be appropriate to time and give people a signal that their time is running out and stick to that. If everyone has not had a chance to be heard at that point, as the Commissioners go into the agenda, perhaps it would help if people would sign up and list the topic on which they wish to speak so the Commissioners could be sure they had heard from those people before they discussed those items on the agenda. Commissioner Gordon asked if any of the other Board members shared her concerns. Since the Commissioners= meetings are videotaped it was important that the Board keeps some kind of time structure going. She sees many people attending the meetings based on the agenda that is presented ahead of time looking at that for their approximate time frame and then getting into the meeting and finding the time frame for their part of the agenda is very different once the meeting is started.
Another area of concern was staff time that=s tied up in the Commissioners= meeting. Ms. Gordon asked if there was a possibility that staff could be on call and could be notified shortly before their time in the program rather than having to sit through the whole meeting.
Chairman Hawkins addressed a couple of her concerns. The Board had previously discussed this. On the evening meetings which start at 5:30 pm and public hearings, public comments and informal public comments start at 7:00 pm to give a time frame for the Commissioners to get some business done. However, the Commissioners did not follow up with the mid-month meeting because the mid-meetings call for the public comments at 9:00 am at the beginning of the meeting. Chairman Hawkins suggested for the mid-month meetings scheduling the public hearings and public comments at a different time or schedule them up front and adjust the agenda from there. If the concern is to having some input prior to the Board discussing the agenda items, probably both the evening and the mid-month meeting for those segments should be scheduled as the very first thing to get those out of the way. Since there are three different types of public input, informal public comments, and public hearings, Chairman Hawkins suggested the Board stick with its current rules of procedure. The Chairman would advise the speakers they would have only about three minutes to speak and still stick with that as much as they could with the twenty-minute allocation. On the public hearings, also set a maximum time and there are provisions already for that and that may be something to be done on an individual basis. For instance, if the Commissioners think there is going to be a huge amount of people, they may need to limit both the total time and speakers and we have provisions for that. Then just for the public comments, Chairman Hawkins thought Commissioner Gordon=s suggestion would be great for directing a reasonable amount of time, maybe three to five minutes, and have some cards or something to signal the speaker when their time is about to expire and then hold the audience as close to that time as the Board would like. If the Board wanted to have public comments and informal public comments and the public hearings as the first item on the agenda that would address Commissioner Gordon=s concern about listening to the public before the Board discusses the agenda items. Chairman Hawkins thought the agenda could be adjusted to start any of those three sessions at 5:30 pm or 9:00 am and continue with the agenda after those sessions.
Commissioner Ward stated he didn=t like the idea of the card. Being up trying to speak to a specific issue and having concerns, such as the French Broad situation today, a lot of people are not experienced public speakers and they are just talking from their heart and if you hold up a card about their time expiring it almost insults them because their issues are important to them. The Commissioners are elected to represent them and work for them. Commissioner Ward just doesn=t like the idea of limiting them. They should be permitted to speak as long as they want to even if the Commissioners have got to sit here all day and listen to them.
Commissioner Gordon replied that she thought in that case and when the Commissioners were asking for public input on specific topics or during public hearings there has to be more flexibility but the agenda should be structured with a time allowance that allows for comments rather than going ahead and setting an agenda that assumes this is going to take fifteen minutes when in reality it takes an hour and a half. Then everything else gets thrown behind.
Commissioner Ward replied that when Mr. Nicholson sets the agenda he has no earthly idea how many people will sign up to speak. It is a hard call.
Commissioner Moyer stated that from his standpoint it makes the meetings a little less organized and he was very much in agreement with Commissioner Ward that the Commissioners should not be cutting off comment on issues that they were asking the public to comment on. The Commissioners have a hard enough time getting the public to come out and when they prepare and want to speak, Commissioner Moyer thought the Commissioners should be courteous and listen to them. Commissioner Moyer commended Chairman Hawkins for doing a fine job of controlling the speakers and he thought it should be the Chairman=s prerogative to control it if the speaker gets too far. If the Commissioners meetings get a little too late, he thought the idea of starting public input on an issue such as the air boat and after fifteen minutes stopping it and telling the rest of the people that they have to come back a week later, Commissioner Moyer thought it completely destroys the effectiveness of the input, people hearing each other and if that moves the agenda back a half hour well so be it.
Commissioner Gordon replied that the issue that brought this to her mind was the meeting recently where people who attended to give public comment did not have opportunity to do that until the very end of the meeting because for one thing the Commissioners played around with the agenda, changing things around according to who was there to hear and speak on certain topics, so the Commissioners did not follow the agenda. There were people who came to speak on the airboat issue at the last meeting and they had to sit through everything before they had a chance to say a word. Commissioner Gordon realized there were no easy answers and she does want the public input but how do we get the public input in the places where it=s needed.
Chairman Hawkins suggested that on both agendas for the monthly meetings, both for the first evening meeting as well as the morning mid-month, that the first item on the agenda be set for public input, public hearing and informal public comments. On those items particularly for the called meetings, if the Commissioners feel they need to set some time limits they would have a chance to do that. That would give the front part of the agenda to public comments before any other discussions are held. Then for whatever time it takes to get comments, then adjust the agenda accordingly.
Commissioner Kumor reminded Chairman Hawkins the reason the public comments were put on the nighttime meetings at seven o=clock was to accommodate individuals who work during the day hours to have time to get to the meeting.
Chairman Hawkins replied that part of Commissioner Gordon=s concern was discussing topics that they may have wanted to speak on. He understood what Commissioner Kumor was saying and that was the philosophy of it but you couldn=t have both of those. The evening meetings, Chairman Hawkins thought had worked out fine because the Commissioners have dispensed of a lot of business, staff had been able to go home, and then the Commissioners received comments. But you can=t have public comments and discuss items the Board thinks that someone would want to comment on, you have to do one or the other first.
Commissioner Moyer thought the few times that somebody wants to have informal comment on something the Board is going to act on are fairly few. As Commissioner Gordon suggested, if the speaker would put down what they want to talk on and the Commissioners happen to have something, that could be deferred to later in the agenda. Commissioner Moyer still thought that the 7:00 pm time for public comments should stay. Start the nighttime meeting at 5:30 pm, get the meat of the agenda out of the way between 5:30 pm and 7:00 pm and then have comments. If there=s a lot of discussion on an issue the Commissioners have scheduled for 6:00 pm, then the Board would just move it back.
Chairman Hawkins replied that on the mid-month meeting, public comments should be set for 11:00 am rather than 9:00 am so the Board could dispense of as much business as the Board can from 9:00 am until then and maybe just ask at the initial part of the meeting if the public has a comment on something that is on the agenda, then give it at the time it comes up.
Commissioner Kumor disagreed with that idea. The Commissioners would end up with every issue becoming a debate.
Mr. Nicholson stated that Boards that have taken that approach to public comments have regretted it greatly. The Board would constantly have people who want to make comment on almost every topic before the Board. Mr. Nicholson encouraged the Board to keep some kind of organized period, whether that=s before the agenda starts or whatever, but he would not suggest the Commissioners start an open microphone with the community when they were trying to do the agenda.
Chairman Hawkins suggested the Commissioners try doing the public input a little bit later in the mid-month meeting and see how that works out. That would allow staff to do the first couple of hours on the agenda on staff reports or whatever and then the Commissioners could start advertising public input, informal public comments or public hearings at 11:00 am versus at 9:00 am.
Commissioner Gordon asked if there was any way to work with the staff so that staff is not tied up in the Board meeting all day. Mr. Nicholson replied that usually the staff the Commissioners saw at every one of its meetings, the County Engineer, the Staff Attorney, the Finance Director, the Interim Planning Director, those folks were there because of a lot of things going on in County government. He tries to schedule the other Department Heads into the Commissioners meetings based on what time he thinks their item will come up on the agenda but that is a total shot in the dark. For example, he called the Assessor=s Office this morning before this meeting and told them a time to appear which they did, but since the agenda got so out of order, he had to send them back to work and recall them later. Mr. Nicholson suggested that in the future he would call the Department Heads from the phone at his station on the stage when he thought their particular agenda would come up. He too had a real problem with County staff sitting in the audience for extended periods of time waiting for their agenda item to come up. If staff comes in at 9:00 am and their agenda item doesn=t come up until 11:30 am or noon, then they have wasted a whole day of effort. The staff that the Commissioners see at all meetings are the ones that put the agenda together and Mr. Nicholson wants them available to answer questions should the Board have any questions on any given agenda item. Mr. Nicholson went through the process the Board was asking for now because he is the one that has to pull all the agenda together. At the evening meetings, he understood the Board wanted the public hearings to remain at 7:00 pm. The meeting would begin at 5:30 pm and the Commissioners would do all the staff reports and nominations between 5:30 pm and 7:00 pm. The Commissioners would take a break and come back at 7:00 pm with public hearings and public comments and go into the discussion part of the agenda.
Commissioner Gordon asked if the public hearings or the public comments would be started at 7:00 pm.
Mr. Nicholson replied the Board needed to talk about both of those. He needed some direction from the Board as to which one it wanted first. However, it was his feeling that the Commissioners should do public hearings first. The public hearings are advertised for 7:00 pm. Then do informal public comments following the public hearing.
Commissioner Gordon stated that what had been happening when the Board has public hearings is, for instance this morning when the Board had public input on the water ways, although the agenda didn=t list a discussion item on the water way issue the Board went into discussion of the issue so it makes it a very lengthy process. So when the Board has a public hearing, is it also including the discussion or the decision or whatever that comes as a part of that public hearing or is that something that is going to be later on in the agenda.
Mr. Nicholson stated that when the Board has a public hearing, he thinks the Board should have discussion or make its decision right after that. If not the Board gets into a discussion item later then the citizens would have to sit and wait. They=ve come for a specific topic during the public hearing and they want to hear the Board=s discussion and it=s decision. So he suggested the Board do that at that point after the public hearing just out of respect to the citizens who have come just to hear that discussion. If the Board puts discussion off and goes into public comments and schedules discussion later on, he thinks that would be rude to the citizens who have been waiting.
Commissioner Kumor commented there also was discussion in the past that informal public comment was not a dialogue. Informal public comments section was for folks to come forward and express their opinion on various issues.
Recently, Commissioner Kumor noticed that sometimes Commissioners chose to then get into a dialogue with those folks making a comment and that starts expanding the time of informal public comments. So the Commissioners can move informal public comment to wherever they want and it could be only fifteen or twenty minutes. But sometimes the Commissioners say that they will accept comment but not respond or not act on it, but after the comments make direction to the staff members to research an issue. However, the Commissioners are responsible if informal public comments lasts a long time. She thinks at that point the Commissioners have to say informal public comment is at a certain time and we will listen but we are not going to discuss this issue that you bring up.
Commissioners Ward and Moyer disagreed with Commissioner Kumor=s approach.
Commissioner Kumor stated the issue is that the Commissioners have a policy that the Commissioners will not tape informal public comments. However, Commissioner Kumor argued that the Board has to tape informal public comments because there will be activities and discussion that go on that would be put in the minutes so that the Board will have to be committed to taping that part of the meeting. Otherwise, the Commissioners need to hear some informal public comment and then tell the citizens to stay for the taped portion of the meeting and the Commissioners will discuss the issue.
Chairman Hawkins commented that he didn=t know whether taping or not taping is an issue.
Commissioner Kumor replied that she thought it is because it becomes a part of the minutes and the taping would not reflect the true meeting because the Board may take action based on an informal public comment. It=s not an easy issue. Commissioner Kumor also thought that public comment fluctuates with perceived crises in the community and the Board may reorganize itself in such a way to respond to crises and go for several meetings. If there are not going to be these issues that the Board has to deal with, then she didn=t think it was appropriate to rearrange the agenda and have that dominate the building of agenda as much as the Board should dominate building the agenda upon discussion and making decisions and moving the general issues forward that it had to.
Commissioner Moyer thought if the Board would do as the Chairman suggested and have both of those in an hour or an hour and a half or no more than two hours before the meeting has started, that won=t be disruptive to the meeting. He thought the Board could manage that.
Commissioner Ward stated another possibility would be to make sure the Board heard informal public comment just before the Board=s tape break. Then, the people can make their comments, the Board can discuss it, say fifteen minutes before eleven or fifteen minutes before seven have informal public comment and then you stop, then when you re-convene at 7:00 you go for the public comment. That way people would have a set time.
Commissioner Gordon clarified her understanding of what Commissioner Ward was suggesting. In other words, informal public comment would begin at 6:30 pm with the tape break at 6:45 pm and at 7:00 pm the public hearings and that type of thing. Commissioner Ward replied that was what he meant. Then like that the people will have an agenda set that they can respond and maybe if they don=t want to stay the other hour or whatever it is for the duration of the meeting, they can leave. At the last Commissioners= meeting, individuals had to sit in the meeting for three hours waiting for public comment to happen, then they spoke for minutes and then left.
Commissioner Moyer suggested giving Commissioner Ward=s idea a try. Commissioner Gordon stated that way then the Board would have the option of taking part of the break to take the opportunity to speak to some of the people who have commented on issues of concern to them.
Chairman Hawkins directed the County Manager on the next agenda for the evening meeting to place informal public comments at 6:30 pm, the Board would break at 6:45 to 7:00 pm, and at 7:00 pm have public hearings or public input and follow the same format for the morning meetings. Mr. Nicholson replied he could pretty much tell how long staff agenda items would be. He was real protective of what he put on the Consent Agenda. There are some things like the MRF equipment that really could have gone on the Consent Agenda but he also thinks it=s an opportunity to let people know what we=re up to so only very routine things will be on the Consent agenda. Mr. Nicholson was still confused about the Wednesday meetings for public hearings. Commissioner Moyer replied they would be at 11:00 am and 10:30 am for informal public comments.
Commission Calendar-Commissioner Gordon stated that the Commissioners have a lot of meetings to attend and a lot of meetings to keep up with. The Commissioners had discussed at one time reformatting the Commission calendar so that not only the formal Commission meetings were included but also some of the extracurricular things the Commissioners were invited to or attending. Commissioner Gordon had spoken with Chairman Hawkins about putting something up as simple as a big calendar on the wall where each Commissioner could indicate the meetings that they will be attending so the Board could be sure they had Commission coverage. Sometimes things are falling through the cracks and consequently all assume someone else is attending and sometimes all of the Commissioners show up when it=s not necessary for all of them to be there. Commissioner Gordon thought it was important the public understands the Board is five individuals going five different ways frequently and it is a little difficult to coordinate every meeting and every event. However, she was hopeful that as the Commissioners moved into their new office that would give them a little bit better medium to structure time.
Commissioner Ward commented that he had received a letter that really blasted the Board of Commissioners for not attending the meetings as a group. He thought if the Commissioners attend any meeting as a group and those people drill the Commissioners on how they believe on certain issues, the Board is basically setting policy in a meeting which is not a public meeting. Commissioner Ward thought two Commissioners at such events was appropriate. If three of them just happens to appear there that=s one thing that can hardly be avoided, but when all the Commissioners attend a meeting or an event and it has not been properly advertised as a public meeting, he thought the Commissioners were having an illegal meeting especially when the people are asking about zoning or planning or things like that. Commissioner Ward thought it was totally wrong. Commissioner Gordon=s suggestion about a calendar would address that situation.
Commissioner Gordon thought the Commissioners had to be careful when the meeting or event is on an issue the public needs to be aware of and three or more Commissioners are participating in one event.
Commissioner Kumor commented that brought up another issue as how would the Commissioners speak to a civic group because she didn=t think it was appropriate to be facing a group and stating your opinion if you are their representative for the Board of Commissioners. If you=re their representative for the Board of Commissioners, you are limited to saying the Board took action and this is the action that we took and maybe you try to explain the reasoning behind the action or you can say the Board hasn=t taken action on that yet. If you are pressed, she would say it=s inappropriate to be giving your opinion because it would wind up in the press saying here=s what this Commissioner=s opinion was before you=ve had a chance to be a participant in a debate and you may find it causes a lot more raucous than not. If you go to a meeting and you are there as a Commissioner, then you=re speaking as the Board. The Chairman is always bound mostly by speaking as the Board, not just in a personal opinion.
Commissioner Moyer replied to Commissioner Kumor that would not be possible because then the Commissioners could not serve on any Boards.
Commissioner Kumor replied that was not true, that was not what she said. What she said was when a Commissioner attends a meeting where you=re invited to be there as a Commissioner, you represent the entire Board.
Commissioner Moyer replied that the Commissioners were Commission representatives on a lot of the boards. So if they say what do you think about this I say I can=t speak because the Commission hasn=t taken a view.
Commissioner Gordon thought that one of the reasons that Commissioners are invited to attend some of these open-type meetings is to get a preview and so they understand that individual Commissioner=s approach. It would be very difficult for any of the Commissioners at an informal type meeting to represent the whole Commission and she certainly didn=t want the other Commissioners to speak on her behalf at such events.
Commissioner Kumor replied the Board was back to Commissioner Ward=s issue on informal meetings where all of the Commissioners were invited to get into a debate.
Commissioner Moyer answered that he thought there should never be any more than two Commissioners on a podium.
Commissioner Kumor stated that at meetings like that, not in meetings where you represent the Board and where you are developing policy, but in meetings where you go invited as a Commissioner to speak, the issue there was you are representing the Board, that=s why you=ve been invited there and you are risking setting a policy and getting into debates.
Commissioner Gordon commented that=s where the Commissioners would be missing a chance for communication with the public if the Commissioners go to those meetings with the idea that they have to present a generic viewpoint on things or have to be so cautious on any position that it=s going to be taken as representing the whole Board. She thinks most people are aware that each is very individual in their approach. The Board needs that one-on-one communication with the public about these ideas and the Commissioners would lose that if they have to be so cautious.
Chairman Hawkins commented that as far as the calendar, when the Commissioners got moved into their new office, he and Ms. Corn would get some kind of large wall calendar. Each Commissioner is off on a project researching and so it=s hard to keep up with the number of events that each Commissioner receives an invitation to a particular event. Chairman Hawkins tries to attend most of those events so none of the other Commissioners have to. If each Commissioner would note on the calendar which meeting or event they plan to attend, it would help keep track of who=s going to attend such meetings.
Commissioner Moyer wanted to make special recognition of the Henderson County Public Library. There was a newspaper article stating the Library had received the highest rating in Western North Carolina and the fourth highest rating in the State with the rating of 670 with a mean rating in North Carolina of 424. Compared to a lot of counties around us this is an extremely good rating. Commissioner Moyer thought it was a real tribute to Morris Kaplan and the Library Board of Trustees, to the Friends of the Library, to this Board of Commissioners and staff of the Library for the work they do. It=s a valuable resource and he hoped the Commissioners would continue to expand the Library=s ability to serve the community. This achievement was certainly well worth noting and the County was very fortunate to have a Library of such caliber in our community.
Chairman Hawkins echoed those sentiments. There was a very good article in the local newspaper on their accomplishments recently and he hoped they would keep up the good work and he knew they would. Mr. Nicholson asked Chairman Hawkins if he would like staff to draft a letter for his signature to the Trustees and to the Library staff that the Board recognizes and appreciates the work of the Library and congratulate them on their recent achievement. Chairman Hawkins replied that would be great.
Blue Ridge Community Center Audit
Commissioner Ward had requested an update on the recent audit of Blue Ridge Community College. Through some articles he had read and through some correspondence in Raleigh and Washington, he saw a lot of money they anticipated getting and some of their procedures had almost been eliminated. He hoped the County Manger could provide an update and if not perhaps the Board could open an avenue of communication with Dr. Sink to see where they stand on their auditorium fund raising or is it still in the process. The budget was approaching and the Board needed to take that into consideration in the budget procedures.
Commissioner Moyer thought Commissioner Ward had requested at the last Commissioners= meeting that Dr. Sink be invited to come to this meeting and speak to that issue. Commissioner Ward replied that he did make that request but evidently it didn=t work out in Dr. Sink=s schedule.
Commissioner Gordon stated that the expansion of the auditorium wouldn=t impact this year=s budget as much as it would the following year=s budget. Commissioner Ward stated that was correct but he thought the Board really needed to know where they stood on it.
Chairman Hawkins noted that Mr. Nicholson would schedule a Blue Ridge Community College update within in the next couple of weeks.
Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board it requested to set a public input session on the solid waste franchising. Ms. Jackson advised the Board it didn=t have to hold a public hearing on a franchise but she had heard the Board express an interest in having some sort of hearing or input session to receive public comment. Any franchise ordinance must come before the Board twice and pass two readings. But as far as a public hearing itself, it is not legally required. It was the consensus of the Board to set the public input session.
The Board set work sessions for the budget on Monday, May 24th at 3:00 pm, Wednesday, May 26th at 3:00 pm, June 2nd at 3:00 pm, Thursday, June 3rd at 7:00 pm and a public hearing on the budget at 7:00 pm on June 7th. An additional budget workshop was scheduled for June 15th at 7:00 pm for the budget of the Board of Education. A workshop on zoning for the Hoopers Creek community was set for May 27th at 5:30 pm. The Board set a public input session on the proposed solid waste franchising for June 8th at 7:00 pm.
GREEN RIVER WATER RECLASSIFICATION
Ms. Jackson gave the Board an update on the Green River water reclassification. As the Board may have heard, the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission has essentially recommended the reclassification of part of the Green River upping the classification to higher quality water and some primary recreation areas. There was a map in the Board=s materials that showed the area of reclassification which was the area north of Lake Summit. All of the portions that were considered for reclassification are trout streams and part of the upper most part they were proposing to reclassify as a primary recreation area which would include swimming, recreational fishing, aquatic life and wildlife areas. Those were classified as C and they are improving those primary recreational areas because they do have frequent recreational activities on the waters. There is a camp in the area that uses those waters for fishing, canoeing and that sort of activity.
The other reclassification would be classifying a certain portion of the water as high quality waters and those waters are rated as excellent based on biological, physical, and chemical characteristics. The water quality folks had studied the area and believed that the reclassification was supported by their studies. This came to them on petition originally from a homeowners association, some individual property owners and a boys camp in that area. That=s why they began to study the area and found the reclassification is warranted. A public hearing was held on May 10th at one of the local high schools and the public hearing was well attended by the citizens. There was some opposition to this higher quality water standard in that it does provide some restrictions in the activities on those waters. The reclassifications mainly pertained to storm water run-off. If a sedimentation erosion control permit is required in any of the areas within one mile of the river in the water basin, it will be more closely regulated and therefore some effect will be seen there. In addition, there are some more regulations with regard to the wastewater discharge into the river with higher standards there.
Ms. Jackson advised the Board it could submit some comment on the reclassifications. The comment period will end just prior to June 10th. After that comment period closes, it will go to the Commission for the Environmental Management Commission to take a vote on whether reclassification should be approved. If it is approved at that point, then it will go on to the Rules Review Commission, and if it is approved there it will go on to the Legislature for approval at that point. A couple of ways the Board could comment would be by letter from the Chairman or by resolution as long it is received before June 10th. Another way, down the road assuming it gets approval through all these various levels of administrative review, the Commissioners would be given a chance to speak with the legislators about submitting a bill in opposition to the ruling.
Chairman Hawkins commented that he had contacted the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Water Quality and requested that the biological data and testing be forwarded to the Board. He questioned the procedure for requesting water classification changes in a County and wondered if that was incorporated in the statute. Could somebody from Buncombe County ask that this county=s water be updated and if so then it may be prudent for the Board to ask to have all the county=s water checked rather than VWIN doing it. The State could do it for free. Ms. Jackson replied there is a procedure set out in the North Carolina Administrative Code that the North Carolina General Assembly had delegated the responsibility of the classification of the waters in North Carolina to the Environmental Management Commission which is a division of DEHNR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Statutorily they have delegated that authority to the Department. Department=s rules and regulations are found in the North Carolina Administrative Code and there is a procedure in there whereby someone can petition for classification or reclassification of waters and they did receive such a petition. The way the procedure works is once they receive a petition, they will come out and do some water studies. They can also do that on their own if they feel like a body of water is in need of some updating of the classification. Then they will come out on their own and do that. Ms. Jackson understood that after they came out and did the studies, they supported the reclassifications and therefore would like to continue to have that rule the new classification put into effect. They have a duty to classify the waters appropriately and once they find that a body of water should be classified into some of these levels, it is probably their duty to go on and send those classifications through.
Chairman Hawkins stated that was really the point he wanted to make because he had received several calls and received some correspondence on the Green River water reclassification. Apparently this is essentially a function of a State agency that=s acting under delegated authority from the State legislature. It=s not an action that=s initiated either by the County or that really the County has other than the possibility of some rebuttal to the rule making when it comes up before the legislation. That was one of the main things that Chairman Hawkins wanted to get clarified on particularly for those people who had contacted him with reference to the procedure. He thanked Ms. Jackson for that information.
Commissioner Moyer stated if he understood correctly they also studied the lower part and where it went into Lake Summit but determined that was not clean enough so they=re not going to do anything about that but they=re going to put the restrictions on the part that is clean. Ms. Jackson replied that was correct.
Commissioner Ward commented that Lake Summit petitioned the homeowners on the lake and the river itself. They did the biological study and there was so much waste pollution in the lake that they just eliminated it.
Ms. Jackson stated that in addition to the part that is just designated as B classification, which is primary recreational, the testing showed that it did not meet the high quality waters classification and therefore it was only classified as a B trout water. On the map, the area closest to the lake was not biologically sufficient to sustain an excellent rating which is the high quality water rating.
Commissioner Ward noted that in the announcement he received and he also attended that meeting along with the Planning Director Ms. Karen Smith what they were told at that meeting that they can on their own, the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, can go out and look at these rivers or an appropriate local government can do it. That particular area has been a Hatfield, McCoy situation with the ones who live on Rock Creek and Zirconia resisting basically the people who have summer homes on the lake and they were the ones that petitioned. There is a big fight between those two groups of people on this and basically they don=t want the people that live there in summer to tell them how to keep their river up. That=s the bottom line. They=ve done it for 200 years. Commissioner Ward compared it to a zoning situation that we live by here. A person in Edneyville is not going to ask for a place in Etowah to be zoned, if you don=t live there. That=s the way they look at it. They don=t want to be told by any local or state government as to how and what to do with their property. A lot of them resent the mile restriction from the river. Basically you=re going with a class one or class two water shed on some of these regulations. When you review the full packet, there are some major restrictions when you go to the high quality water classifications that really will meet this rural community from now on if it is adopted. A lot of them will like it that but the bottom line is that they just don=t want to have their neighbor tell them what they can do with their land. Commissioner Ward questioned the part about an appropriate local government situation. The County pays the VWIN to monitor it, we have zoning that we=re trying to implement and we=re working hard to try to protect our community and then you have somebody come in and petition it and Commissioner Ward didn=t think that was right. The only way from what he understood it can be overturned is if it=s approved that Larry Justus or somebody has to submit a bill in opposition to overturn it. It=s got to go to the House and Senate and the Governor has to sign against it which is going against his own department which is almost impossible to think he=s going to do that against his own people. Commissioner Ward thought the Board was running up against a wall when they even start to think about it.
Chairman Hawkins commented it goes back to his original question as to who is able to submit a request and from what Ms. Jackson had told them basically anybody could. Some guy from Ohio could ask and the agency would react to it. That=s important information to get out. Local government kind of finds itself watching the State come in and basically set regulatory requirements on the headwaters in Tuxedo.
Commissioner Ward commented it could be a future water source for Saluda or Greenville County if we=re not careful. They=d have to clean up Lake Summit which might be a plus. There were situations down there where it was documented that septic tanks actually run into Lake Summit. On a pure health and safety standard from the County point of view that should be investigated in our own County department. Commissioner Ward thought we needed to clean up some on our own. We=ve got septic tanks that run into the lake, and they have documentation on that, and maybe we should start investigating that and start cleaning up the lake on our own.
Chairman Hawkins commented that maybe the Board should request this agency look at that before they look somewhere else.
Commissioner Moyer wondered if they=re going to do the top part because the bottom part is the dirty part and why don=t they work on that at the same time.
Commissioner Ward stated if we have people that live in violations with our septic tanks and to his knowledge there wasn=t public sewer in that area, maybe we ought to take action on that also.
Chairman Hawkins asked Commissioner Ward if he would like for the Board chair to send a comment in as allowed by 10 deadline and ask this agency when they=re looking at the part that we feel that they ought to look at the Lake Summit also. We have that prerogative.
Commissioner Ward commented he thought they had already looked at Lake Summit and said it won=t classify. The classification asked for was for B. They=ve already done that but that didn=t solve any thing. Basically you=re just putting a hardship on the people that live up the creek.
Commissioner Moyer commented that actually it makes it worse because they say we can=t change the classification so what=s going on can continue.
Commissioner Ward further commented that they say our cleaner water is going to run into your lake and offset more of your pollution, but he didn=t see that happening at all.
Commissioner Gordon stated if she was reading it correctly it was stating essentially this was a one housing unit per acre for 25.9 square miles.
Commissioner Ward replied no it was not one housing unit. They had the same question at the meeting. It is one acre of disturbed land. It=s the same thing we do right now. If you disturb one acre, you=ve got to submit a plan but it=s just the State agency enforcing it.
Commissioner Gordon noted that it is development density requirements for high quality waters.
She asked if this was the low density or high-density option or is it up the property owner to say which one they=re going to meet. Commissioner Ward replied that no it=s all going back to the runoff like we have to deal with in the Mills River. It=s the runoff of the water in that one-acre. They=ve got to do a little bit more protection the way he understood it but Ms. Smith could address that more since she too was at that meeting.
Ms. Jackson replied that it was her understanding, to address Commissioner Gordon=s questions, that the folks in that area within one mile of the banks have two options on development. One is a low-density which is a limitation on the number of units that can go into one per acre. If that low density is met, then there will be no other higher engineered requirements in there. If a developer wishes to go for a higher density, then they will be required to meet extra standards and they very well may need to have some engineered storm water run off controls put into place. It doesn=t tell you that you cannot develop. It just puts in some higher controls if you do wish to develop in a higher density fashion.
Chairman Hawkins commented that there was a note in the material that Ms. Jackson had provided to the Commissioners under effects of reclassification on page two which says land uses adjacent to waters classified as high quality water must comply. He asked Ms. Jackson what was the scope of adjacent, one mile, half mile. Ms. Jackson replied it was one mile. Ms. Smith commented that included draining too. If you=re within one mile within the ridgeline between your property and the river, you won=t have to do this.
Chairman Hawkins noted that the Board had a lot of concerns and a lot of things that they needed to clear up. He posed a question to the Board if whether or not it wanted any correspondence or did it want to wait and see what kind of classification comes out and see if there is any response it wants to make through the local bill.
Commissioner Ward didn=t think a local bill would help. It had been done in the past and through his correspondence with some people in Raleigh they said it will never go past both House and Senate, and needless to say won=t get by the Governor. They said it=s never been fought on that end of it. It=s just an option of an appeal that people can do but they=ve never had one to come out of a subcommittee. Commissioner Ward would like for the Chair to write a letter protesting their petition events. He thought Henderson was a responsible County and had it tried to monitor the situations in all our rivers and our land controls and to have somebody come in and basically step on our toes and say well you=re not doing a good job we=re going to let this homeowners association basically tell us what to do and use tax payers dollars and eventually County dollars to do this. He thought the Commissioners ought to protest the way the petitions are done.
Commissioner Gordon commented that effectively what they were saying is you are doing a good job so we=re going to up the classification because the classification had to be high enough for it to meet the standard. If it=s not high enough, then the restrictions are looser which to her doesn=t solve anything.
Chairman Hawkins clarified that any correspondence from this Board would be basically to both NCDEHNR and to the legislature and suggest the rules that they have for applying where they=re looking at a good water source that goes into a bad one that they don=t look at the bad one but that they look at the good one, and how you apply for it.
Commissioner Ward stated that he had spoken to Liz at the Water Quality office and she said there are fights every time they go out. They cannot keep a person in that job. She=s been there three years now because every time they go out there=s a fight just like we almost had the other night.
Commissioner Gordon noted that the watershed limitations are very real. We=ve got the one in Mills River that=s seventeen square miles. We=re talking about 28 square miles here. Sooner or later we=ll start really feeling the impact on these things and we should be speaking up. Commissioner Gordon understands we=ve got to protect our water resources but at the same time this isn=t really cleaning up the problems, this is just creating more restrictions.
Chairman Hawkins asked if it was the consensus of the Board to correspond within the deadline and tell them that we=re opposed to their methods and their reclassification in the present content. If anything we think they ought to be looking at cleaning up Lake Summit rather than some water further back.
Commissioner Kumor asked if this meant that we want to increase the VWIN monitoring and take proactive action ourselves if we start to see the numbers fluctuate on the streams in Henderson County so that the State doesn=t have to come in and put any regulation on us.
Chairman Hawkins stated that first of all he didn=t think it matters in looking at this. No matter what the VWIN report is, some guy driving through can make the request and under the administrative rules they=re going to come out and make some investigation. As far as the VWIN report, in his opinion, he hadn=t seen a VWIN report yet that he could read and make some good judgment off of because of the way the data is convoluted in it.
Commissioner Kumor stated that in this discussion the Commissioners had placed a lot of credibility on VWIN as what we see as us being proactive and responsible while protecting our water.
Chairman Hawkins replied VWIN=s reports have reported on the Green River since the three years of the data they didn=t throw out but the other part and as he had indicated, this report indicates that the State came in and did the testing.
Commissioner Moyer wanted to clear Chairman Hawkins= position. He didn=t necessarily oppose reclassification but he thought if they were going to put restrictions on the upper part where it=s clean they should apply restrictions on the lower part where it=s dirty and make them contribute to solving the overall problem.
Commissioner Kumor thought she understood what Commissioner Moyer was saying is that all the Board of Commissioners are against the reclassification. She did not want that in the letter.
Chairman Hawkins will draft a letter and send it to the Commissioners for their inputs and see if he can follow up with that.
DOT-SHORT STREET PROJECT
Mr. Nicholson stated that Chairman Hawkins had received a letter from the Department of Transportation concerning Short Street. The Board had talked about it previously but they basically said this is a city project. However, he wanted the Board to know they were actually switching pots of money which is the reason the Board got that letter. They are now going to the small urban funds to draw the money for Short Street. That allows the Commissioners to make comment upon this project.
Chairman Hawkins and Commissioner Kumor commented they thought Home Depot was going to pay for it. Mr. Nicholson stated they were paying for only half of it. Commissioner Kumor asked if that meant Home Depot was paying $150,000 and then DOT was taking the other $150,00 out of small urban funds.
Chairman Hawkins asked the Commissioners if any of them wished to make comment on that or leave it with Mayor Niehoff.
Commissioner Gordon replied that it=s entirely what=s appropriate. She thought the road is needed and she supports it being built.
Commissioner Moyer >s only concern was that if the Board starts down this road and Home Depot backs out, then where would the Board be.
Commissioner Ward had heard a rumor that might happen.
Commissioner Gordon stated that she was told yesterday that they closed on their property.
Chairman Hawkins took it that the Board had no comments on the Short Street project.
PROPOSED PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENT-CHARLESTOWN PLACE
Planning Director Karen Smith addressed that briefly for the Board. This was an application for a special use permit for a planned unit development. The Board of Commissioners is the review authority for special use permits and under the Zoning Ordinance the Board did have to refer these to the Planning Board officially. The Board will also eventually hold a public hearing. Both developments are interested in that public hearing date. They do want to try to get construction started before they lose the summer and fall months. Ms. Smith needed on Charlestown Place a motion to refer it to the Planning Board and if the Board wants to consider setting a public hearing, it would need to at least allow the Planning Board forty-five days to review the application. If for some reason the Planning Board at its meeting on Tuesday night of next week makes a recommendation, staff could come back and request that the hearing be scheduled earlier.
Commissioner Moyer moved that the Commissioners refer the application to the Planning Board for review.
Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that later in the agenda when they would be looking at the Mud Creek District they would be looking at some capacity that is going to be depleted on this particular project and he thought that was an area as they got closer to reaching the maximum of allotment the Board would have to start taking that into consideration whether it=s the actual amount that is being discharged or the amount that is allocated which is 500,000 gallons. Mr. Nicholson replied that 500,000 gallons was the amount of allocation but they=re only actually using 130,000 gallons.
Commissioner Kumor stated that prior Boards gave away capacity and that people have never used it so they=re just sitting on it.
Chairman Hawkins continued that the point he was making was when you start reaching close to what your agreement with the City of Hendersonville is then some of those other questions start coming up of reaching your capacity or expansion.
Commissioner Kumor thought that would be a good sign of putting a kibosh on growth in the Mud Creek area because we don=t have anymore capacity to allocate.
Chairman Hawkins restated the motion on the floor was to refer it to the Planning Board. There was no further discussion on that. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Chairman Hawkins stated the Board would defer to setting a public hearing on that until after the Planning Board meeting next week.
PROPOSED RESIDENTIAL OPEN SPACE (R-O) DEVELOPMENT-CREEKSIDE
Ms. Smith reminded the Board that Mr. Maxie Small was proposing the application for Creekside. This Board had not seen this before. The last Residential Open Space development that the County reviewed was for Crooked Creek over seven years ago. This too is a special use permit application. It will be reviewed under the Zoning Ordinance for special use as well as the Subdivision Ordinance because it is an actual subdivision of sixty-four single-family lots. The RO provisions do set aside open space and this development is proposing approximately 30% of the land area to be devoted to open space. It makes it a little different than a PUD that the Board had seen before. As with the PUD, this needs to be referred to the Planning Board officially and a public hearing needs to be set.
There was no discussion on this from the Board. Commissioner Gordon made a motion to refer the application to the Planning Board. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Chairman Hawkins stated that Board would probably set both public hearings for the last meeting in June but it would wait until the Planning Board has reviewed the applications.
PRESENTATION OF FISCAL YEAR 1999-2000 PROPOSED BUDGET
Mr. Nicholson presented the Fiscal Year 1999-2000 Budget to the Board. He stated that one of his legal responsibilities was to present to the Board his recommended budget. Mr. Nicholson assured the Board the budget is in compliance with the Local Budget and Fiscal Control Act as well the General Statutes of North Carolina. It is a balanced budget which identifies all the revenues and expenditures of Henderson County and based on our estimates for fiscal year 1999-2000. Mr. Nicholson thought this budget addresses some of the issues as could be seen throughout his budget message today, of issues that the Board have addressed both in last year=s budget and the pre-budget workshops they held this year. It does try to address some of the community issues, some of the needs we have in our community, but realizing that as any government or any organization we are certainly on a limited budget in the process. The total recommended budget for Fiscal Year 1999-2000 is $73.7 million. Mr. Nicholson reminded the Board that includes all of your funds such as special revenue funds, the capital project funds, the enterprise funds, internal service funds as well as the general funds. So that=s the total and all-inclusive budget.
The operating budget is basically the general fund. The general fund budget is $62.3 million and revenues in that budget have grown about 3% for this coming year. He had decreased the tax rate in the budget 8.5 cents. That brings down the budget recommended tax rate to 50 cents.
Mr. Nicholson recapped some of the goals of the Board of Commissioners over the last fiscal year. The Board had put emphasis on a couple of things and two of those were economic development in the community as well as capital projects. Those were emphasized throughout the budget. Another emphasis was maintenance and that=s a high priority. Mr. Nicholson noted that there were five things particularly that he wanted to mention as part of the budget message.
The Board had heard Mr. Nicholson harp for quiet some time about fund balance. The Board had really had a goal to increase the County=s fund balance and this budget reflects that. We just needed to improve the County=s financial position and we have done that and we=ll continue that throughout this budget process.
The second one is the Board=s emphasis to do a jail planning effort to build a new jail.
The next one was to assist the public school system in facility improvements. He congratulated this Board and the last Board for having taken a partnership with the school system to address school facilities.
Mr. Nicholson noted that we=ve tried to develop and maintain a strong economic development program in our community and to both provide jobs for our community and increase our tax base long term. One of the evidences of that is the agricultural project director that the Board was introduced today and the Board=s forethought on that and that was fully funded in this budget.
The last thing Mr. Nicholson noted was the Board=s philosophy of fund growth. As our budget grows that should give us money to operate County government unless there are real specific things that we do need to address that we can=t with our normal growth. It also talks about the fact that we have things like Inspections Department and areas like that we should make sure that those departments are self-funded and we don=t look at the general tax base to fund those issues.
Our major revenue in the general fund is of course, the ad valorem tax property taxes. It represents about 50% of our total revenues. This year as the Board knew we=ve had to work a lot with the Assessor=s Office to come up with what the valuation is to determine what the tax rate was going to be proposed to the Board of Commissioners. That=s because of the Board=s initiative to talk about what revenue neutral is. Mr. Nicholson showed the Board some numbers on how to determine revenue neutral. First of all, you have to start with the current fiscal year that we=re in, FY 99. We have the current valuation as about $5.2 million and that includes real property, business personal property and motor vehicles. It is an all-inclusive number when we look at our valuation. All the numbers in here are all inclusive of all those items that you can levy your property tax on. Our current tax rate is 58.5 cents. In this year=s budget we used a 97% tax collection rate. That means we brought in, or we should bring in, about $29,600 and that=s only in the general fund. That=s not any special revenue funds like the fire districts which is separate, this is the general fund only. Although we have taken the same type of approach with the fire departments as we have for the general fund. Then we come up with what is the growth that we=re looking at. What kind of growth do we normally get as part of the budget? We came up with 3.56% growth in our valuations. How did we come up with that? We took the last four years valuation from the last reappraisal to this past year and said have we grown on an annual basis. We went from $4.5 million growth to almost to $5.2 million growth. So that=s 14% or dividing it out to 3.56 % growth per year. Mr. Nicholson noted that an interesting fact about that number was that last year there was a bill introduced before the General Assembly that talked about requiring local governments to post a revenue neutral number to tell the community what is your revenue neutral tax rate. In other words, don=t hide a tax increase, if you=re going to do a tax increase, tell people you=re going to do a tax increase. Although that bill did not pass last year Mr. Nicholson still took that approach with this budget. It talks about the fact that when you declare what that tax rate is you may add in any additional amount based on the average total increase of the assessed valuation of all property in the County due to the improvements in the last three years. We used 4, but if we had used 3 we could probably have gotten a little extra money. So we really did follow what the General Assembly talked about of trying to tell people and to be honest with people about what a revenue neutral budget would be. Mr. Nicholson stated that he felt real good about that. In his opinion, we have met those discussions of revenue neutral.
So what does that mean? Let=s take it to the next step to the calculation. He took the $29.6 million and added 3.56% to that. Then he lowered the collection rate. Always the year after reappraisal you always see your collection rates drop a little bit, a half of a percent. That=s because you will have people who will appeal to the State property tax division and they=re not going to pay their taxes until that point. You=ll get the money in the following years but you have to base your budget on what you think you=re going to get in for the purpose of this year=s tax collection. So we=re talking about 10 cents. It=s pretty much of a wash by using that collection rate. The other given in the number besides the amount of the budget, is to budget the revenues of what the collection rate is and that=s the valuation. Mr. Baird=s final number of his projection in valuation was 6 billion 355 million dollars in valuation. Then it=s a simple division. You divide it up and you come up with what that tax rate is which was actually 50.04 cents but we rounded it down of course to 50 cents. Mr. Nicholson wanted it to be very clear to the Board of Commissioners how he came up with that revenue neutral budget. He believed that the Board could say this is a revenue neutral budget both on what he told the Board earlier but also on what the General Assembly thought. Even the legislature didn=t pass it, because the Commissioners Association and other people fought this bill because of some other things in here, but based on this bill that was introduced by people who wanted revenue neutral to be published even they also would agree that this would be considered a revenue neutral budget.
Some of the things included in the budget are fee structures. Over the years, we=ve been looking at going to the tax base to pay some expenditures and little by little we tried to look at those departments. Included were small increases in inspection fees, residential, commercial and industrial fees. Also included were some increases in the recreation fees as the Board had talked about those in a pre-budget workshop and those were the same numbers used. Mr. Nicholson had a long discussion with the Public Health Director about his environmental health fees. Mr. Bridges was very open to working with us on that. He=s starting to gather information and do some statistical information. Within his environmental health budget, there are both things he can charge for and things he can=t charge for. So he=s going to have to break out some actual staff time so he=ll be able to tell Mr. Nicholson exactly what he feels should be on a fee reimbursement basis. For example, septic tank and wells there=s a fee charge to it. For restaurant inspections, there is no fee.
The other area that we continue to try to increase is our financial condition. Again in this budget, Mr. Nicholson had appropriated zero fund balance. The good news for the Board is that staff had done what they thought was a pretty conservative guesstimate that we will go to about 6.3 percent of our general fund in unappropriated fund balance. That=s up less than 5 percent. Mr. Nicholson also felt like that with cleaning up the other revenue, like the Cane Creek fund and the 911 fund, that those will help us with not having to do a lot to other funds. At the close of this coming year=s budget by not appropriating fund balance we ought to continue to grow that. Then we can look at the goals of the Commissioners and say look where we were four years ago both in fund balance and what was due to other funds and look where we are today. We=ve come a long way in that process and Mr. Nicholson congratulated the Board of Commissioners on that effort.
Major expenditures-We are a service organization and our largest expense from what County government does is always going to be personnel. We always receive a number of requests for personnel in our budget although this year there were less requests from our department heads. Last year during the budget process, the Board of Commissioners talked about adding staff to the jail and some money was put in last year and said let=s put on three personnel more this coming fiscal year. So based on that Board=s direction last year, Mr. Nicholson put those three additional jail positions in this budget.
This Board has had discussions about a purchasing agent and of course a County clerk to go with that purchasing agent. Mr. Nicholson believed that we could set up a purchasing department which could look at how we purchase things, when we purchase things, and those type of things rather than having a department that just deals with purchasing. Mr. Nicholson believed that it would be a very cost effective expenditure across County government.
Another position added was for a GIS applications specialist. There is no general county money in this position. He reminded the Board that the CD ROM program in the Assessor=s Office and the Land Records Division put into effect this past year is our mapping system which we=re selling to a lot of realtors and surveyors. It has become such a popular service and those revenues will pay the cost for this position.
The last position request was for a split nurse=s position that=s paid for entirely by State and Federal revenues on Medicaid. Although seven positions were listed in the budget, three of them have been directed by the Board in previous discussions that is two positions to be in the purchasing function, a GIS position which has no general county revenues in there and a public health nurse split between maternal and child health with no county revenues assigned to that.
The next major emphasis in this budget is maintenance. The Board had previously stated that it wanted to do a complete review of our facilities and to take the maintenance of our facilities, our buildings and grounds very seriously. So Ms. Beeker and a subcommittee put together for each commissioner a maintenance plan or a three-year maintenance program for Henderson County to upgrade our facilities. It was broken down by priorities with priority one being funded this year, priority two being funded next year, and then a small amount in priority three in the third year. This would be for a major, major upgrade of our facilities. There were pictures in here of what we=re talking about so the Commissioners could see where the needs are to upgrade our current facilities. That=s a major, major expense in this budget. In this year=s budget, it=s $354,700.
Another major expenditure was for our public schools. Mr. Nicholson congratulated the Board of Public Education for a very well done budget, very easy to read, very easy to understand and very conservative in nature. It actually was a total of current expense of 7.7% increase. Just as an increase in budget or extra money for them to operate on, he put $545,000 in which basically was about 4.5% increase. That=s what they asked for on-going expenses. They also asked for money for enhancements to increase some of their programs but Mr. Nicholson was unable to put that in there because there was not cash to do that, but basically their on-going expenses were funded at their full request. He also included $368,000 in the budget to open up Marlow Elementary School. If you look at growth, that growth will bring in a million, 55 thousand dollars. Just to keep schools at a constant level with covering their additional costs, that was $545,000. To open up Marlow that was $368,000.
The next big expense was for Medicaid and that was $277,000. So when you look at the budget, of new increased dollars out of the property tax, there was only $133,000 to do everything else in County government. So that meant a sales tax increase.
The other thing Mr. Nicholson put in the budget from the standpoint of operating expenses was funds of $545,000 for a 5 2 percent increase for teachers= salaries. He reminded the Commissioners, there had been a big emphasis across the State to raise our teachers up to the national average and when that happens, you have two things that happen to County government. You have both about 47 locally paid teachers as well as you pay a supplement to the schools. So in the contingency account he put $185,000 so that if the State=s teacher=s salaries go up to 8% he could use a portion of that to cover that cost.
As for capital, Mr. Nicholson gave them exactly what the Board of Commissioners had been telling them in the past and what the Board of Education had requested. So by using the maintenance money, the ADM money, the restrictive sales tax money the Board of Education would get a million dollars of County money.
Total money going to education, if the escrow is paid out, would be at $15.8 million out of our total general fund budget. However, Mr. Nicholson reminded the Board that does not include almost $2.4 million that=s in this budget to pay school debt service. So if you add that back in, we=re close to over $18 million worth of expenditures in this budget that relate directly to education.
An economic development fund which includes payments to the industries that the Board had made commitments to reimburse them as part of their package of economic incentives to come to Henderson County. There are funds in there for our continued relationship with the Chamber of Commerce and the Committee of 100. Also included was the full year=s funding of the Agricultural Project Director. He again reminded the Board and the community there were no additional county positions. The Agriculture Project Director was a vacant position that we moved over to that slot.
For capital outlay, the Board got requests for over three hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Nicholson put in $140,000 as part of the recommended budget. Also included was the $98,000 to finish up the Y2K improvements. Requests for over $400,000 worth of new leases for replacement vehicles were also included. We put in there about $200,000 of that cost and we used our vehicle replacement policy that we=ve used for the last three years to determine which vehicles to replace and which should not be replaced.
Mr. Nicholson commended the Board as a Board who is addressing the long-term needs of our community and taking the time to address things like land use, quality of life issues, a new jail, school needs but more importantly our whole community because we are really growing. Since he was unable to add additional personnel, we=ve had to re-look at how we do things and why we do things.
Chairman Hawkins commented on a couple of points. He commended Mr. Nicholson and the staff for the work they had done on the budget particularly with the restraints this Board of Commissioners had put on them. The Maintenance plan he thought was a significant item in the County government. The fact that we had no requirement to do any fund balance appropriation into our next year=s budget is also very significant. He was certain he was speaking on behalf of the Board of Commissioners that they greatly appreciated the work that staff had done.
CANE CREEK WATER AND SEWER DISTRICT
Commissioner Kumor made a motion to go into the Cane Creek Water and Sewer Board. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Commissioner Kumor made a motion to come out of Cane Creek Water and Sewer District. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
MUD CREEK WATER AND SEWER DISTRICT
Commissioner Kumor made a motion to go into Mud Creek Water and Sewer District.
All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Commissioner Kumor made a motion to adjourn as the Mud Creek Water and Sewer District. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
The Board had no further business to conduct. Chairman Hawkins made a motion to adjourn.
All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Chairman Hawkins adjourned the meeting at 4:55 pm.
Elizabeth W. Corn, Clerk to the Board Grady Hawkins, Chairman