PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2010, 7 P.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, N.C.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will consider entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte through which UNC-Charlotte would perform research at the Catawba County EcoComplex on alternative technologies and business practices to generate energy, reduce landfill operating costs and waste volume, and improve waste processing; and will receive the Community Child Protection Team’s Annual Report for 2008-2009, when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, 2010, at the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton. Note the change in the Board’s usual meeting schedule, because the third Monday in January is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday and County offices are closed.
The Board will also consider a request to transfer $20,000 from the Public Health Restricted Fund Balance to the Kids In Need (KIN) Fund, to meet additional need for the KIN Fund as a result of the economic downturn; the appropriation of Federal stimulus funds to provide financing for a mass vaccination campaign, if needed, to respond to an H1N1 flu pandemic outbreak and for planning to enable Public Health to rapidly detect and respond to an H1N1 outbreak; and a tax refund request.
A. The Board will consider a request to transfer $20,000 to the Kids In Need (KIN) Fund from funds given in prior years to Catawba County Public Health to be used when needed by the KIN program for medical, dental and other authorized needs of eligible children. The Kids In Need Fund was set up by the School Health Team at Public Health to help meet medical, dental, vision, medication and other needs of low-income children who otherwise may not have access to this care. The fund is used for school-aged children who fit eligibility guidelines set by the Team, as follows: children must reside in Catawba County; be enrolled in grades K-12; receive free or reduced lunch at school; and not be covered by health insurance, Medicaid or N.C. Health Choice. The KIN program receives private donations, small grants, funds from teacher assistants and other school staff, and several fundraisers throughout the year. In the current fiscal year, all funds donated or raised have been expended for care to eligible children. Approximately $16,000 is needed to meet the need for the remainder of the fiscal year. This need was projected in 2008 however and, with current economic conditions, it is expected the amount needed will increase further before year end. The $20,000 transfer will leave an approximate balance of $21,000 in the restricted fund balance for future use. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends this fund transfer.
B. The Board will consider accepting $197,550 in new Preparedness/Bioterrorism funds from federal “stimulus” funds to provide financing for a mass vaccination campaign, if needed, to respond to an H1N1 flu pandemic outbreak and planning to enable Public Health to rapidly detect and respond to an H1N1 outbreak. On April 26, 2009, the Acting U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency as a result of the detection of 20 known cases of swine-origin influenza A virus in the United States, now known as pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus. Between April 24 and May 15, 2009, North Carolina’s public health system responded to the identification of the virus. Since the spring of 2009, Catawba County Public Health has worked to assist in educating the public and providing information to assist in reducing the spread of the virus. Public Health continues to respond by providing the most current information to citizens and partnering with other providers to meet the vaccination needs and other needs of the community.
In light of the threat the pandemic poses to the nation’s public health and security, Congress appropriated funding, though the 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act, to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic. The State of North Carolina has appropriated $197,550 to Catawba County Public Health to provide financial resources for implementing a mass vaccination campaign and related H1N1/pandemic-outbreak response activities; and support revised and expanded plans for activities that will enable Public Health to rapidly detect and respond to an H1N1 outbreak. No County funds are included in this budget revision. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends acceptance of these grant funds.
C. The Board will consider a tax refund request totaling $48,647.16. Records have been checked and these refunds verified; therefore, the Tax Collector is asking for approval of the refund request. Under North Carolina General Statute 105-381, a taxpayer who has paid taxes may request a refund in writing for an amount paid through error.
UTILITIES AND ENGINEERING
The Board will consider executing a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, through which UNC-Charlotte would perform research at the Catawba County EcoComplex on alternative technologies and business practices to reduce landfill operating costs and waste volume, and improve waste processing. The County’s EcoComplex will become an off-campus component of the UNCC Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC), and supplement the university’s Infrastructure, Design, Environment, and Sustainability (IDEAS) Center, and North Carolina Motorsports and Automotive Research Center (NCMARC). If the Memorandum is approved, the EcoComplex will provide UNCC research faculty and students with the space and physical resources needed to demonstrate and test sustainable alternative technologies for energy generation, waste processing, and waste reduction.
EPIC is a planned research endeavor between the University and private partners. Its goal is to expand energy engineering and energy research in the region based on industry needs. Private partners in this effort include Duke Energy, Shaw Group, AREVA, the Electric Power Research Institute, URS Washington Group, Westinghouse, Siemens, and Metso Power. UNCC’s IDEAS Center is a research center focused on accelerating change. It seeks to hasten the move from unsustainable infrastructure, housing, and technology design to ideals and practices more in tune with the challenges of today’s changing world and environment. Faculty includes representatives of civil, mechanical, electrical and systems engineering, architecture, biology, business, chemistry, geography and earth science, psychology, public health and sociology.
As an off campus component of EPIC, the IDEAS Center, and NCMARC, the EcoComplex will play an integral role in improving energy efficiency and society’s interaction with the man-made and natural environments. UNCC will focus its research on several areas including syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen), algae and wood ethanol. In the future, the University’s research would expand to include using various types of animal waste as a renewable energy source. The MOU would allow the University and County to expand their relationship through future research components.
The initial research components included with the Board’s approval of the MOU would be wood ethanol, wood waste gasification, syngas, algae, soil amendment, and animal waste to energy. Wood ethanol research would be done in a small 12 foot by 12 foot structure using wood waste supplied by Catawba County, including waste from EcoComplex- based Pallet One and Gregory Wood Products, and land clearing debris, furthering the use of wood as a renewable energy source in making ethanol as well as the diversion of certain types of woody waste from the landfill. Gasification, a method of extracting energy from different types of organic materials, converts carbon-based materials into syngas, which can be used to produce green electricity. This research project would include partnering with General Electric and Nexterra. The technology employed would remove tar from syngas so it can be used to power an electricity-producing internal combustion engine, similar to those found at the County’s landfill gas-to-energy facility.
Algae have high oil content and are therefore a possible source of renewable energy. UNCC would grow algae in a small greenhouse (less than or equal to 1 acre in size) utilizing carbon dioxide from the landfill gas-to-energy generators to speed the plant growth process. This research will help determine the best way to harness the energy from the algae. In addition, UNCC is currently doing research to ascertain whether sheetrock, like algae, can add value to soil during crop growth. Test plots of biodiesel feedstock crops are being grown at the Blackburn Landfill in a soil mixture containing crushed sheetrock. If the sheetrock adds positive nutrient value back to the soil, this could provide an avenue for recycling sheetrock and diverting it from the County’s Construction and Demolition Landfill.
Research on the use of various types of animal waste as an energy source would be the focus of future research at the EcoComplex. UNCC has already started preliminary research, using bovine waste collected from a farm in Catawba County. Researchers are using various types of fungi to help break down the waste and possibly control odor. County staff is exploring a possible bartering arrangement through which farmers would provide waste to the County and the County, in turn, would provide an animal feed using the feedstock meal by-product created during the crushing of seeds for biodiesel production. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the execution of the MOU as outlined above.
The Board will receive the 2008-2009 Annual Report of the Catawba County Community Child Protection Team. The Team was established in February 1992 as the result of an order from the North Carolina Governor’s Office. The State later mandated the creation of a Child Fatality Review Team, and the County elected to combine the two in 1995. The combined teams have met quarterly since their inception, except for specially called meetings. The Child Protection Team has the legal responsibility for reviewing cases of child fatalities when the family is known to the Department of Social Services and identification of areas in Protective Services needing improvement in order to maximize the safety of the community’s children. The Child Fatality Team’s purpose is to provide a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary approach to study cases of childhood death in Catawba County in order to attempt to reduce child fatalities.
The Community Child Protection/Child Fatality Team has proven to be an effective one, utilizing the systemic approach. The Team was active in FY 2008-2009 and discussed the following items:
1) The State Coordinator for the local Child Fatality Prevention Team (CFPT) gave an update to team members on North Carolina’s Child Fatality Prevention System and some of the actionable recommendations that had come about as a result of the CFPT teams, such as the all-terrain vehicle safety law in 2005, requiring carbon monoxide detectors in rental property homes, and the Safe Surrender Law.
2) The Team addressed issues that affect its capacity to accurately assess risk and address the safety issues of children. It has been involved in recruiting and retaining resource families (foster and adoptive), conducting child and family team meetings, improving educational outcomes for children in foster care, strengthening kinship connections, and improving safety and risk assessments. Catawba County is one of 24 sites across the U.S. participating in a project to determine when a child should be returned to his or her family after being in foster care or with relatives. A result of this initiative is that Catawba County has placed 33% of children with relatives, as compared to the overall statewide rate of 18%.
3) The Team discussed opportunities to provide outreach and education regarding the “Period of Purple Crying”, an outreach program that explains the appropriate care for infants and newborns to community service providers and the general public. There are three key elements that may be related to crying, such as shaking a baby. The goal is to reduce the incidence of shaken baby syndrome by 50% and educate the public that crying is normal and OK. It is a structured outreach to medical providers, to help instruct new parents on the normal, natural crying stints that infants go through at certain times. The program was implemented in both hospitals in Catawba County in April and May of 2008 and Catawba is one of the first counties in the state to have this program underway. The next phases will get information out to prenatal and postnatal community partners and include a media campaign which will include billboards, etc. across the state.
4) The team discussed substance abuse counseling for Public Health’s prenatal patients. Prenatal patients who test positive on drug screening and consent to substance abuse counseling may receive counseling from Social Services’ Family NET program. Also, the group discussed a medication treatment called “17 P”. Women who have had an issue in the past with a pre-term pregnancy are offered this drug in Public Health’s prenatal clinic. Catawba County Public Health has experienced a 64% success rate (patients who received the treatment and made it to full term and delivered a baby). The infant mortality rate for North Carolina had dropped from 8.5% to 8.2%. The rate in Catawba County dropped from 8.1% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2008. The minority rate is still higher than the Team would like to see, but that rate has also continued to drop.
5) The Team participated in a State Fatality Review with the North Carolina Division of Social Services. This intensive review came about as a legislative process and its focus was to look at child fatalities in the State and see how the State would respond to those fatalities. State law requires that, if a death occurred and there had been DSS involvement within 12 months preceding the fatality, an intensive review is conducted. The purpose is to look at all systems involved in order to see what could have possibly been done differently.
6) The Team discussed the Catawba County Substance Abuse Coalition, a part of the Catawba County Health Partners program, and the Coalition’s use since 2001 of the “Keys to Life Program” through the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. The concept of this program is to show high school students the impact of alcohol abuse. National statistics show that, every 15 minutes, someone is killed or injured in an alcohol related automobile crash. In a school where the program is being presented, a bell will toll every 15 minutes throughout the day and the PA system will announce that a student has passed away. The “grim reaper” will show up at the student’s classroom and take them out of the class. Their face will be painted and they will put on a black tee shirt and by sent back to the classroom. An obituary will be read for that student and they can no longer talk to anyone for the rest of that day. An accident scene will be set up and the students will go outside to see what an alcohol related accident may look like. This program is very impactful and takes a lot of manpower and planning, but the Team hopes to eventually be able to offer this to all three school systems.
7) The Team discussed issues surrounding the downturn in the economy and the impact on Child Protective Services. Increases in alcohol and substance abuse were noted, in addition to there being more families struggling to afford medications.
8) The Team discussed mental health changes that may affect child protection and prevention. The North Carolina General Assembly recently passed legislation that will phase elimination of mental health community support services. Community support services provide case management services to children who need higher levels of care, residential treatment and placement services, and/or have multiple needs that need to be tracked and navigated through the mental health system. The local impact is expected to be reflected in higher demands in the criminal justice system and in emergency rooms, as people seek care there as opposed to other places.
9) The Team looked at domestic violence issues and the overlap among domestic violence and child protective services. About 13% of cases reported in 2009 involved domestic violence. Three women in Catawba County died in 2009 as a result of domestic violence. Some significant changes in legislation have had an impact on the effectiveness of interventions in domestic violence situations. A State task force is now working to provide better assessment tools. One of the challenges in domestic violence situations is accurately capturing domestic violence charges. There are several different kinds of criminal charges that can be brought in association with domestic violence that are not limited to assault on a female, including communicating a threat, interfering with emergency communication, strangulation and assault in the presence of a minor. In domestic violence situations, caution is taken not to blame the victim so as not to re-victimize them. Those responding recognize that children may experience a different impact if they actually witness the violence or are exposed to the aftermath. There is a specific court in Catawba County that handles domestic violence cases.
10) The group also discussed the Children’s Agenda Planning Committee, a core group appointed by the Board of Commissioners to develop a comprehensive strategic agenda or plan around children’s issues, aimed at improving the lives of children in Catawba County. This group provided a child data snapshot on factors related to well-being seen in Catawba County that could be benchmarked against state and federal data. The group surveyed children and families about what they feel was the best thing about living in Catawba County and focused on some of the things that need improvement. From this survey, the committee chose five focus areas: safety and security (fear from gangs and crime, desire for a safe place to play); basic needs (jobs, housing, transportation, interpreters); education and preparation for work (focus on drop-out prevention, career preparation, job training and financial education); quality of life (focus on issues of interconnected neighborhoods, social networking, places to meet, technology and the diversity issues in the community) and healthcare (includes dental, preventative care, mental health, medical access, insurance coverage and health services in schools)
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464