PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2009, 9:30 A.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, N.C.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will consider appropriating funds for the design and engineering of a Blackburn-Plateau Water Supply Loop Project to provide infrastructure needed for economic development, job creation, environmental improvement, drinking water provision and fire protection in those parts of the county; and the adoption of a resolution supporting the Carolina Thread Trail project, which will preserve and connect open lands in the region; when the Board meets at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, February 2, 2009, at the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board will also hear a presentation by the Friends of the Sherrills Ford Library on the group’s vision for a new library and community/cultural center for Southeast Catawba County; consider an exception to the County Personnel Code which would adjust the paid holidays for County employees for Christmas 2009 and 2010 to better serve the needs of the public; appropriation of an additional $90,000 for consultant fees to process an anticipated increase in new and co-location cell tower permit applications through the end of the fiscal year; the authorizing of right of way agreements for the construction, maintenance and operation of an electrical power line to serve three Southeastern Catawba County Wastewater project pump stations; a budget revision to account for Solid Waste Disposal Tax reimbursement received from the State; a resolution in support of the appointment of local citizens to the North Carolina Board of Community Colleges, and acceptance of the County Tax Collector’s report on delinquent 2008 real estate property tax and adoption of a resolution for the advertisement of all unpaid tax liens. The Board will also issue a Certificate of Commendation to Catawba County Social Services, which accepted a State Division of Social Services’ Challenge for Children to reduce the backlog of children in foster care and succeeded in reducing this backlog by 21% in 2007.
A. The Board will present a Certificate of Commendation to Catawba County Social Services for accepting the North Carolina Division of Social Services’ Challenge for Children to reduce the backlog of children in foster care. After accepting this challenge, Social Services made the foster care backlog a top priority and reduced the backlog by 21% in 2007, compared to an average of 9% for counties across the state.
B. The Board will receive a presentation from the Friends of the Sherrills Ford Library which is expected to outline the group’s vision for a new library and community/cultural center in Southeast Catawba County.
A. The Board will consider an exception to Section 28-205 of the County Personnel Code as it regards the paid holidays for Christmas 2009 and 2010, in an effort to better serve citizens. Staff recommended that, for 2009, December 23, 24 and 25 (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) be observed as paid holidays by County offices and, for 2010, December 22, 23 and 24 (also Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) be observed as paid holidays by County offices. The Personnel Code officially states that when Christmas falls on a Friday, County offices shall observe December 24, 25 and 28 (Thursday, Friday and Monday) as holidays. In 2009, Christmas falls on a Friday. The Code also states that when Christmas falls on a Saturday, County offices shall observe December 23, 24 and 27 (Thursday, Friday and Monday) as holidays. In 2010, Christmas falls on a Saturday.
By adjusting the 2009 and 2010 Christmas holiday schedule, county staff will be positioned to better serve the needs of the public by opening County offices on the Monday following Christmas. This will eliminate two consecutive shortened work weeks at a time when the County’s Tax Office has increased demand and many County citizens have returned to work after the holidays and have expectations of the County offices being open for business. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends this exception to the Personnel Code.
B. The Board will consider amending the County’s 2008-09 budget to appropriate an additional $90,000 for consultant fees to process an anticipated increase of up to seven new and co-location cell tower permit applications between now and the end of the fiscal year. Catawba County has been collecting funds for cell tower co-locations since 2003. The County’s Finance Department originally created an escrow account to deposit the funds, pay the consultant and return excess funds to the applicant. As of December 1, 2007, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting the use of an escrow account for cell tower construction or co-locations. The County then established a revenue account to collect a consolidated sum to cover the County’s application fee and consultant costs associated with the review process. Since this was the first fiscal year for the use of this process, staff was uncertain as to how much to budget. In the current fiscal year, $30,000 was budgeted in revenue; however, no expenses were appropriated. Staff underestimated the number of permits that potentially could be processed. During 2008, a substantial increase in cell tower activity occurred, resulting in fourteen applications. Based on fiscal year to date applications, it is anticipated that staff will process approximately seven more applications before June 30. In order to process seven additional applications and cover the shortfall in expenses, it is projected that up to $90,000 may be needed, expected to be available as follows: 1) $30,000 from revenues projected from new cell tower permit applications anticipated by June 30, 2009; 2) $46,500 from revenues projected from additional co-location permit applications anticipated by June 30, 2009; and 3) $13,500 from revenue already collected for a new cell tower. These funds will be reserved exclusively for new and co-location cell tower related expenses, and will not be spent if the anticipated applications are not received. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends this budget amendment.
C. The Board will consider authorizing its Chairperson to execute right of way agreements to serve three Southeastern Catawba County Wastewater project pump stations. On June 16, 2008, the Board awarded a bid to construct the northern section of the Southeastern Catawba County Wastewater project, requiring three sewer pump stations. The Terrapin Creek Pump Station property on Mollys Backbone Road was acquired from Crescent Resources and has been transferred to the County. The Balls Creek Pump Station property on Brown Chapel Road was acquired through condemnation. The Sherrills Ford Pump Station property at Sherrills Ford Elementary School is in the process of being transferred from the Board of Education to the County. Duke Energy will prepare right of way agreements after the transfers of the properties have been executed. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the Board authorize the Chair to execute these right of way agreements.
D. The Board will consider a budget revision to account for revenue from Solid Waste Disposal Tax reimbursements in the amount of $34,285. During the 2007 session, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1492 which created a statewide solid waste disposal tax and increased permitting requirements and costs. Senate Bill 1492 mandates that each Solid Waste Management program transfer $2 per ton to the State for each ton of municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris that is buried. The Blackburn Landfill is expected to receive approximately 204,000 tons in fiscal year 2009, which equates to $408,000. Catawba County vigorously opposed Senate Bill 1492 and the solid waste disposal tax in particular. County staff was very active in professional groups created by the Senate Subcommittee on Environment, and by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, in an effort to require the State to produce realistic, scientifically proven reasons for the increase in regulatory requirements for landfills in North Carolina, and provide sound financial analysis behind the disposal tax and implementation of new and increased construction and operating permit fees. While Senate Bill 1492 does provide for some money to return to the County, the money to be returned is determined on a per capita basis instead of on the amount of waste managed and is not expected to offset the new fees the County will be required to pay.
Catawba County has paid the State $167,750 on 83,875 tons since July 1, 2008. The County collects the disposal tax and then files a return with the North Carolina Department of Revenue quarterly, based on tonnage reports from landfill tracking systems. Counties and municipalities will receive a per capita distribution of tax proceeds quarterly. Reimbursements due to municipalities will be paid directly to the municipality. The State set a reimbursement estimate for fiscal year 2008/09 at $0.42 per capita. Catawba County, based on a population of 81,631 in the unincorporated area, should receive $34,285 in revenue, to be split into two payments in February and May. The State has estimated the rate of per capita distribution for fiscal year 2009/10 to be $0.99; however, the rate is tied to statewide disposal tax yield and available funds for distribution. If the rate remains at $0.99 per capita, reimbursements for FY 2009/10 will be approximately $80,815. The Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the Board approve this budget revision.
E. The Board is expected to receive a report on delinquent 2008 real estate property taxes in accordance with North Carolina General Statutes 105-369(a) and will consider adopting a resolution directing the Catawba County Tax Collector to advertise the delinquent tax liens as prescribed in the Statute. As of January 19, 2009, delinquent real property taxes in Catawba County totaled $5,477,280, which represents 7.03% of the 2008 real property levy.
A. PARKS, PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
The Board will consider adopting a resolution of support of a proposed Carolina Thread Trail project and making appointments to a County Thread Trail Planning Steering Committee. The Board recently adopted a Parks Master Plan and has explored opportunities for achieving elements of the plan, such as trail development. One such opportunity is the Carolina Thread Trail program. In 2005, the Trust for Public Land, Catawba Lands Conservancy and the Foundation for the Carolinas established a vision for preserving and connecting open lands in the Charlotte region. This vision developed into the creation of the Carolina Thread Trail (CTT), an initiative to create a network of greenways, trails and blueways (connected waterways) in a fifteen county region that will connect 2.3 million people in North and South Carolina. The fifteen counties include: Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cherokee, Chester, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lancaster, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanley, Union and York. Guiding principles of the CTT include connectivity, collaboration, accessibility and inclusiveness to all citizens, as well as respect for the land and landowners.
The CTT was established as a non-profit organization and is being financed from private donations and State and Federal funding sources. To date, the CTT has raised $15 million in private funds and has been approved for $3 million in public funds from the Clean Water Management Trust, the first of a five-year funding commitment. The CTT provides funding to local governments through a grant process to begin development of a Thread Trail segment within each jurisdiction. Funding is available to support a four-step process of thread trail development: planning, design, acquisition and construction. A local match of 10% is required for the planning process which would be shared by the participating jurisdictions.
Catawba County planning staff has been actively involved in the CTT process. In September, a meeting was convened with city planners and recreation directors across the county to inform them of the CTT and the opportunity to participate in first stage planning for the CTT segment in Catawba County. The goal of the planning process is to have the County and cities work together to develop a plan that identifies trail corridors, designates the backbone of the network as the Carolina Thread Trail and outlines an action plan for implementing prioritized segments of the trail. This 10-12 month planning process will engage public leaders and involve public input. When a master plan is developed, it will be presented to the governing boards for adoption. Once the plan is adopted, local governments will be able to apply for additional implementation grants for prioritized segments of the trail.
The County’s CTT thread segment would not replace existing trail plans, but would compliment them and provide regional connectivity through segments established in the cities’ and County’s plans. For example, the County’s recently adopted Comprehensive Parks Master Plan identifies Lyle Creek as a regional greenway trail. The CTT planning process will evaluate this greenway project as a potential major CTT component which will allow other spur trails identified in the cities’ plans to provide connection points. Each jurisdiction was asked to present a resolution of support to their governing body and provide a recommendation for a steering committee member who would represent the city’s interest in the planning process. The County has received resolutions of support from each local government in the County, with exception of the Town of Brookford. The County will serve as the lead agency and grantee for the CTT planning process. The total cost to acquire the services of a trail planning consultant will be approximately $60,000 (as determined by CTT). The local governments would then be responsible for the 10% local match or $6000. This expense will be divided between the cities and the County based on the population formula used by the Western Piedmont Council Of Governments for regional transportation and water studies. The County’s share would be approximately $3,000. In addition to the cities’ recommendations for Steering Committee representatives, staff has developed a list of interested individuals who represent a broad range of interests in planning the County’s thread trail segments. The committee members also will serve as “ambassadors” for the CTT by reaching out to the public to garner support for the trail network. The Board’s Policy and Public Work Subcommittee recommends the adoption of this resolution and appointment of proposed committee members.
B. UTILITIES AND ENGINEERING
1. The Board will consider awarding a contract in the amount of $180,600 to McGill Associates, PA, for the design of the Blackburn-Plateau Water Supply Loop Project by use of North Carolina General Statutes 143-64.32, which allows the County to contract engineering design services without using the formal Request For Qualifications (RFQ) process provided the County states, “the reasons therefore and the circumstances attendant thereto”. Staff selected McGill Associates because of its accomplished past experience and direct work on this project’s Preliminary Engineering Report.
Staff is accelerating the design of this project to be fully prepared for an expected Federal stimulus package. Based on staff’s assessment of the expected stimulus package requirements, the Blackburn-Plateau Water Supply Loop Project represents the ideal infrastructure project due to its blend of economic development, job creation, environmental improvements, and drinking water provisions and fire protection. The Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG), and County staff are working with Catawba Valley Mills Manufacturing Facility (Ashfar Enterprises, Inc.) to obtain a Community Development Block Grant to fund needed water services in order to increase manufacturing output and jobs. Funding and/or any grant matching money for this project is available in the County’s Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund.
The Blackburn-Plateau Water Supply Loop Project is part of the County’s overall water supply plan. It is separated into two phases, a Blackburn Bridge Road Project and a Wilfong Road Project, scheduled for 2012 and 2013, respectively. The County’s Utility Prioritization Tool advanced these projects in the County Capital Improvements Plan after reevaluating them as an integrated project that includes an extension to serve the new Propst Fire Department station and new requests for waterline extensions received by the Propst Fire Department and Catawba County EDC. Neither include an extension along Plateau Road south of Grace Church Road to serve the newly constructed Propst Fire Department station, as had been previously analyzed.
The Blackburn-Plateau Water Supply Loop Project will provide municipal water to the proposed Propst Crossroads Fire Station; enhanced fire protection in the Propst Fire District; municipal water along the western and southern boundaries of the Blackburn Landfill; municipal water and fire protection to a proposed economic development project; the expansion of the Catawba Valley Mills Manufacturing Facility (Ashfar Enterprises, Inc.); and municipal water and fire protection to a proposed economic development project at the intersection of Startown Road and US Highway 321. The project will also provide a necessary supply loop system to future businesses, and a secondary water supply loop to the Town of Maiden and the Southeast Catawba County Water Supply system, in the event of a problem with the City of Hickory water supply main on Startown Road.
The project will be divided into seven segments to allow the County to bid, construct and/or obtain infrastructure grants in parts. Segment 1 will extend from the end of the existing waterline on Plateau Road to the intersection of Grace Church Road. Subsequent segments will extend from Grace Church Road along Plateau Road to the proposed Propst Crossroads Fire Station; along Grace Church Road to Hickory-Lincolnton Highway; along Hickory-Lincolnton Highway to Blackburn Bridge Road; along Blackburn Bridge Road to Startown Road; then followed by a 12-inch line extending along Startown Road and finally a 16-inch line along Startown Road from south of Elbow Road, then west on Elbow Road, north under Highway 321 to West Maiden Road, and then east on West Maiden Road to an existing 36-inch water line on Startown Road.
Construction funding and ownership of the first six segments are anticipated to be revenue sharing waterlines with the City of Hickory. Construction funding and ownership of the 16-inch line along Startown Road from Town of Maiden limits to EDC- held properties will be provided in accordance with EDC intergovernmental agreement(s) for a proposed multijurisdictional industrial park.
A budget revision is needed to appropriate funding for the engineering and design fees. The cost of construction will be appropriated along with any grant funding when the construction contract is awarded. Staff recommends funding in the amount of $180,600 be appropriated for the design of the Blackburn- Plateau Water Supply Loop Project as outlined above.
OTHER ITEMS OF BUSINESS
The Board will consider adopting a resolution in support of the appointment of Mr. John F. Watts to serve on the North Carolina State Board of Community College Trustees, which would benefit from his educational excellence, proven leadership skills and dedication to community service. Mr. Watts is currently a trustee to the Catawba Valley Community College Board and has been for eight years, and served as an Alexander County Commissioner from 1998-2002 and on the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Governors School from 1992-1998.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464