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MARCH 16 , 2014
Catawba County Board of Commissioners Meeting
Monday, March 16, 2015, 7 p.m.
Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room, 1924 Courthouse
30 North College Avenue, Newton, NC
2. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
4. Approval of the Minutes from the Board’s Special Meeting, Regular Meeting and Closed Session of February 2, 2015.
5. Recognition of Special Guests.
6. Public Comment for Items Not on the Agenda.
8. Public Hearing:
10. Consent Agenda:
12. Other Items of Business.
14. Manager’s Report.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES: Individuals needing assistance should contact the County Clerk at 828-465-8990 within a reasonable time prior to the meeting. Access to the 1924 Courthouse for individuals with disabilities is at the south side (“A” Street). The elevator is located at the north end of the building. Participation in public meetings is without regard to race, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, color, or disability.
CALENDAR: The April Board of Commissioners Meetings will take place on Monday, April 6, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. and on Monday, April 20, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse, 30 North College Avenue, Newton.
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS MEETING
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on a request to rezone 37.63 acres located at 2951 Highway 16 South from R-40 Residential to R-80-CD Conditional District for the purpose of a solar farm, when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2015, at the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board will consider a request from Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) to transfer $480,000 from capital projects funded in Fiscal Year 2014/15 to current expense to offset required funding reversions to the State, and a letter of commitment to fund $890,000 in the County’s Fiscal Year 2015/2016 budget to replace roughly 1.5 miles of underground pipes discovered to be damaged after a sinkhole developed on the CVCC campus in 2013. The Board will consider a request from the Hickory Public Schools to transfer $35,000 in funds remaining in a Longview Elementary School project to provide a local match for federal E-Rate funds used to address technology infrastructure needs at high poverty schools.
The Board will consider a request for a Right of Way Agreement with Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC, in order for Duke to provide electricity at the site of a firing range being constructed for use by the Sheriff’s Office, on property at the Blackburn Landfill that is not expected to be needed for landfill operations for at least 40 years. The Board will receive a report on delinquent 2014 real estate property taxes and consider authorizing the Tax Collector to advertise the delinquent tax liens as prescribed by North Carolina General Statute. The Board will consider two updates to sections of the County Code and approval of a proposed Contractor Prequalification Policy, all of which are needed to reflect changes in North Carolina law approved by the General Assembly. And the Board will consider approval of a proposed Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Travel Policy, which closely mirrors the County’s Travel Policy.
The Board will also issue a proclamation declaring March as Give Healthy and National Nutrition Month.
The property for which the rezoning request is being considered is located at 2951 Highway 16 South. It is zoned R-40 Residential and is undeveloped and partially used for agricultural purposes. Birdseye Renewable Energy LLC is proposing to lease 37.63 acres in the western portion of a 60 acre tract to install and operate a solar facility. Parcels surrounding the subject parcel are zoned R-40 Residential, with some containing single-family residences, some undeveloped, one containing accessory structures, and one being the location of a driveway for a parcel that is not abutting the subject parcel.
The property is located within the Rural Preservation-Overlay district, which requires a 100-foot setback for structures from Highway16. According to the site plan submitted, the tract (37.63 acres of solar panels) would be developed according to the development standards for Solar Farms found in Section 44-633 of the Catawba County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).
Highway 16 South is designated as a minor arterial road in the Catawba County Thoroughfare Plan. This section of the highway is generally designed and constructed to carry 15,800 vehicles per day. Traffic counts taken in 2013 along Highway 16 South, north and south of the site, measured 12,000 average trips per day. Development of the property will consist of temporary construction traffic and will not overburden the existing roadway or cause significant congestion issues during normal operations.
The Balls Creek Small Area Plan serves as the current land use plan for this area. “Future Land Use Recommendations" within the plan depict the property as located in an area recommended for low density (one acre per dwelling) residential development. The density associated with the request for a solar farm at this location is consistent with the density recommendations of the plan. This particular area is comprised predominantly of large acreage tracts accommodating agricultural and residential development to the south, east, and west. Prior to recent amendments to the UDO, solar farms were classified as public service facilities allowed in all residential districts subject to a special use permit.
1) the relatively low density pattern of the surrounding neighborhood; consistent with density required in the R-80 district (80,000 square feet, 2 acres), combined with conditional zoning designating a solar farm as the exclusive use;
The Catawba County Planning Board held a public hearing on January 26, 2015, to consider the request. Two board members indicated they had concerns as to how much benefit solar farms are to the County. One board member suggested this property is a good candidate for a solar farm due to its topography. Mr. Brian Bednar, President of Birdseye Renewable Energy, gave an overview of the project and also indicated that the solar farm would support homes in Catawba County and provide additional tax revenue for the County. No one spoke in opposition to the request.
The Planning Board voted 9-0 to submit a favorable recommendation to the Board of Commissioners to rezone approximately 37.63 acres to be leased by Birdseye Renewable Energy LLC from R-40 Residential to R-80-CD Conditional District based on the reasons listed above from staff, with the addition of:
5) Additional area along the southern line being included in the lease to provide the required screening buffer (75 feet where no additional vegetation is planted).
Prequalification is defined under the new G.S. 143-135.8(f)(2) as “a process of evaluating and determining whether potential bidders have the skill, judgment, integrity, sufficient financial resources and ability necessary to the faithful performance of a contract for construction or repair work.” The focus of the requirements is to ensure that a prequalification process is conducted using criteria that relate to the specific project being bid and which are applied objectively and fairly to all bidders. The new requirement also gives contractors an opportunity to learn why they were denied and the ability to appeal a denial. Local governments must now adopt an objective prequalification policy applicable to all construction or repair work and the assessment tool and criteria to be used in prequalifying bidders for that specific project. The assessment tool must include scoring values and minimum required score for prequalification on that specific project. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends the adoption of this policy.
B. The Board will consider recommended amendments to Chapter 8 - Buildings and Building Regulations - of the Catawba County Code of Ordinances. Numerous changes in the North Carolina General Statutes affecting construction and procurement were enacted during the 2013-14 legislative session. The recommended amendments ensure that Chapter 8 - Buildings and Building Regulations - of the Catawba County Code of Ordinance is consistent with all 2013-14 changes to the North Carolina General Statutes affecting construction and procurement. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of these amendments.
C. The Board will consider recommended amendments to Chapter 30 – Purchasing - of the Catawba County Code of Ordinances. Chapter 30 of the County Code was last updated in 2011. Some minor revisions are requested to reflect changes in North Carolina General Statutes and current practices. These changes include added Design-Build and Design Build Bridging construction method, added E-Verify requirement for formal construction contracts, and revised disbursement voucher requirements to reflect electronic processes. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of these amendments.
D. The Board will consider entering into a Right of Way Agreement with Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC. The Sheriff’s Office is constructing a firing range at the Blackburn Landfill. The project has a budget of $100,000 and will consist of gravel parking, a metal shed, metal carport, asphalt and electricity.
The Sheriff’s Office currently rents land for a shooting range that is basically a marshy area. There are several underground springs that staff have tried repeatedly to drain by running drain lines into the creek. When there is heavy rain, the whole range floods including a tower used for storage. The underground water system frequently disables the electronics of the target system. In addition, the equipment is frequently shot by someone with deer rifles. The neighbors surrounding the current firing range complain every time the range is used.
The site at the Blackburn Landfill should be a perfect location for the new range - it is isolated, not in a flood plain and not expected to be needed for landfill operations for at least 40 years. In order to provide electricity at the site, Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC will construct poles, lighting, fixtures, transformers, etc. and Duke requires a Right of Way Agreement. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends entering into this Right of Way Agreement.
E. In accordance with North Carolina General Statutes, the Board will consider accepting a report from the Catawba County Tax Collector setting forth the total amount of unpaid taxes for the current year and will further consider adopting a resolution ordering the Tax Collector to advertise the delinquent tax liens as prescribed by the Statutes. As of January 31, 2015, delinquent real property taxes in Catawba County totaled $4,529,278, which represents 6.51% of the 2014 real property levy.
F. The Board will consider a proposed Travel Policy for the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board. The ABC Board has requested that the Board of Commissioners approve an ABC Travel Policy that has been approved by the Catawba County ABC Board. The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission requires that the Catawba County ABC Board provide proof that its appointing authority has approved its travel policy on an annual basis. The proposed policy very closely mirrors the County’s travel policy.
Due to State funding formula changes and overall reductions at the State level, CVCC has been forced to revert $1,386,001 since July 1, 2014. So far this year, CVCC has been able to cover roughly $900,000 of the reversion by eliminating 12 positions and transferring State capital/operating funds to instruction. These reductions are in addition to a $1.47 million reversion resulting in the elimination of 11 positions last year. In order to avoid eliminating 7 additional positions, CVCC is requesting that the County transfer $480,000 from two capital projects (chiller and gas pack replacements) approved in Fiscal Year 2014/15 to current expense. These projects would then be the two top priorities for the College in Fiscal Year 2015/16. CVCC anticipates being able to cover the current expense deficit moving forward through a combination of increased enrollment that will increase State funding, anticipated changes in funding flexibility from the State and savings resulting from reductions made after the start of the current fiscal year.
Additionally, CVCC requests that the County provide a letter of commitment to fund $890,000 to replace roughly 1.5 miles of underground piping across the campus. After a sinkhole developed on the campus in 2013, CVCC contracted an engineer to do an inspection of all underground piping. The engineer’s report found that there were multiple sections of piping across the campus that were severely deteriorated and recommended replacement within one year to 18 months. CVCC has an existing renovations project with $1.5 million to address paving needs and many of the areas to be paved are also the areas that need piping replacement. CVCC can obtain State approval for the project and begin design work now with the existing funding, with the bulk of the work to be completed over the summer.
CVCC is requesting that a letter of commitment be provided now to include the additional $890,000 in the County’s Fiscal Year 2015/16 budget. The entire project will be debt financed, with debt likely issued this fall. The County has sufficient funds dedicated to schools’ debt service to finance roughly $41 million in projects in the next four year cycle, including the piping replacement. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of the transfer of $480,000 from capital projects funded in FY 2014/15 to current expense and approval of a letter of commitment to fund $890,000 to replace underground piping on the CVCC campus.
B. HICKORY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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