PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2008, 7 P.M.
SHERRILLS FORD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CAFETERIA
8103 SHERRILLS FORD ROAD, SHERRILLS FORD, NC
NOTE: THIS MEETING FOLLOWS A COMMUNITY INFORMATION MEETING FROM 4:00-6:30 P.M. IN THE SHERRILLS FORD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CAFETERIA. COUNTY STAFF WILL BE AVAILABLE TO TALK TO CITIZENS ABOUT THE PROPOSED MOUNTAIN CREEK PARK, THE EXTENSION OF SEWER LINES IN SOUTHEAST CATAWBA COUNTY, LIBRARY SERVICES, AND A NEW EARLY VOTING PRECINCT AT THE NEW SHERRILLS FORD FIRE AND RESCUE BASE.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will consider the county’s first solid waste fee increase in thirteen years, to accommodate a new mandated State tax and rising expenses at the Blackburn Landfill and nearby Construction and Demolition Landfill; and receive a report on a Southeast Catawba County Convenience Center Site Study, when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 17, 2008, in the cafeteria of the Sherrills Ford Elementary School, located at 8103 Sherrills Ford Road. The Board will hear public comment on the proposed relocation of the Southeast Catawba County Convenience Center, but will not make a decision on a site for the relocated center at this meeting.
The Board will consider a Mental Health budget increase that would add five new positions, with no additional County funding; acceptance of a grant to enable the 911 Communications Center to fund an Emergency Medical Dispatch Quality Assurance/Training position for one year; an increase to Public Health’s Home Health budget due to increased caseloads, higher costs of therapy services and increased mileage rates, with the increased costs to be offset by increased revenues; a proposed grant application to fund the Catawba County Criminal Justice Partnership Program; and two tax refund requests. The Board will also receive an annual informational report on the Catawba County Community Child Protection Team.
A. The Board will consider two tax refund requests totaling $159. Records have been checked and these refunds verified, therefore the County Tax Collector recommends approval. Under North Carolina General Statute 105-381, a taxpayer who has paid his or her taxes may request a refund in writing for an amount paid through error.
B. The Board will receive the Catawba County Community Child Protection Team Annual Report for 2007, as required by the State. The team was established in February 1992. The State later mandated a Child Fatality Review Team and Catawba County elected to combine the two teams in 1995. The combined teams have met quarterly since 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 identifying 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 local directors of Social Services and Public Health have specific responsibilities for each team and the Board of Commissioners determines whether to combine the two teams. Although they are combined in Catawba County, this report addresses the work of the Community Child Protection Team. It is expected to indicate that the Team has been active. It has been involved in the safe surrender of infants, in child welfare cases across county lines, in public information on co-sleeping of adults and infants, in regional citizen review panels, and in the review of child fatality cases.
A. PUBLIC HEALTH
The Board will consider a request from the Catawba County Board of Health to increase the overall Home Health budget by $252,500. These additional costs will be covered by earned revenues, and no new County funds are being requested. This request relates to the need for additional funding for medical supplies, travel, education, telephone, postage, advertising, physical therapy and occupational therapy services. Since the beginning of the fiscal year, Home Health’s caseload has increased, resulting in a need to increase budgeted funds. The caseload increases have resulted in additional changes, including higher costs for therapy services and increased mileage rates. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of this request.
B. MENTAL HEALTH
The Board will consider approving an increase to the current Mental Health budget of $883,416, bringing it to a total of $24,356,127.42. This revision adds five new positions with no requests for additional County funding. State allocations in the amount of $68,416 will be used to partially support mobile crisis/ES services and train law enforcement personnel in the proper responses to citizens experiencing incidents involving mental illness. $800,000 in Medicaid contracts will be appropriated for increased service demands. $15,000 from the Mental Health Fund Balance will help support the building of a covered, ADA accessible, fenced area for the Adult Life Program. Personnel changes will include five full-time employees for the Catawba Local Managing Entity, which are funded in the current budget and require no additional funds. These positions will include an account specialist to handle accounts payable and purchasing; a human resource director to maintain all personnel and related duties, as these functions are separated from management by the County; a care coordinator to manage new State performance requirements related to the tracking of the mentally ill who are incarcerated; an administrative support position to manage data entry, and a support specialist to assist in managing the increased volume of medical records submission associated with the addition of Burke County consumers. The Board of Commissioners’ Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of this request.
C. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
The Board will consider accepting a grant in the amount of $42,240 from the North Carolina Office of Emergency Services’ 2008 EMS Toolkit Grant Program, in partnership with the Duke Endowment. The grant will enable the 911 Communications Center to fund an Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) Quality Assurance and Training position for one year. Catawba County has been using Emergency Medical Dispatch Protocol since March 2001 and has been recognized as a leader in this protocol. The County’s goal is to ensure that the EMD Protocol is uniform, to provide the maximum utilization of emergency response vehicles and manpower to callers in non-emergency or emergency situations, and provide standardization of dispatch procedures for EMS, fire, rescue, and law enforcement. To ensure that this goal is met, telecommunicators require extensive training to become certified, and numerous hours of continuing education to maintain certification. In addition to personnel certification, National EMD Certification for the Communications Center requires that a Quality Assurance Program be in place to review protocols set forth.
To assure constant improvement in the EMD process, the Duke Endowment is funding grants totaling $2.8 million across North Carolina. The grant funds three levels, to first begin an EMD program, then to create policies and procedures around that program, and finally to implement quality assurance and program improvement. Catawba County has completed the first two levels and has applied for funding for the quality assurance level. Funding will also support the 911 Communications Center’s first outcome to ensure citizens receive prompt emergency and medical care through the Center’s maintaining a 90 second average dispatch time on all emergency calls throughout the County.
The grant will pay for a Quality Assurance/Training position, plus benefits, for a period of one year beginning in March 2008 and ending in February 2009. This position will review the EMD process used in the Communications Center, analyze data, revise procedures for improved service, provide training to current telecommunicators and train new telecommunicators. The grant will also pay for training of three personnel in AQUA Quality Management Software. Continuation of this position is recommended, but not required, and will be requested in the 2008-2009 County budget. The Communication Center had a senior telecommunicator doing this training in 2006. Due to call volume, this telecommunicator was reassigned to telecommunicator duties. Part of the training was picked up by EMS and other agencies. Currently, telecommunicators are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education per year. National EMD Certification also requires that 2% of medical calls be reviewed weekly. This person would assume this duty. The County’s Fiscal Year 2008-09 budget will include grant funding for the position through February and request County funding for the remainder of the year. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends acceptance of this grant.
D. UTILITIES AND ENGINEERING
1. The Board will consider increasing solid waste management fees, as of July 1, 2008, to meet a mandated new State tax of $2 per ton of solid waste, and rising expenses at the landfill. This would raise the solid waste tipping fee from $30 to $33 per ton for municipal solid waste and increase the Construction and Demolition Landfill tipping fee from $19.50 to $21.50 per ton.
In July 1995, the Board of Commissioners increased solid waste tipping fees to $30 per ton. Municipalities and citizens were promised at that time that the tipping fee would not increase for ten years. The County has actually held this fee stable for almost thirteen years. During the last thirteen years, landfill and supporting solid waste operational costs have changed significantly with the rising costs of fuel, equipment, construction, personnel, Federal and State operational requirements and mandates, and demand for additional public services. Since the last fee increase in 1995, two Subtitle D lined landfills have been built and construction began on a third lined cell in January 2008. The County has built two construction and demolition landfill units and just completed an expansion to unit 2. It has developed a landfill gas methane recovery system with a 3 megawatt electrical production system. Services have been expanded to include household hazardous waste collection events, community service programs, recycling and waste reduction education, and code enforcement. Due to State mandates, certification and training costs for staff have increased by 74% since 1995. In 1995, the landfill processed 171,629 tons of solid waste. It produced 208,234 tons in fiscal year 2006-07, an increase of 21%. Equipment costs have increased 11%, tires 45%, repair and maintenance costs 32%, and fuel costs are up 300%. Convenience Center operations have also increased, in excess of 25%. The convenience centers had operating costs of $581,054 in fiscal year 2006-07. All five sites have had capital improvements over the past four years.
All costs associated with the landfill and solid waste activities are funded from the County’s Solid Waste Enterprise Fund, which is derived from solid waste tipping fees and contains no tax proceeds. During last year’s budget hearings, staff reported to the Board of Commissioners that a solid waste tipping fee increase was warranted in order for the Enterprise Fund to remain viable and continue to address the rising cost of operation. Based on recommendations from a 2007 study, staff proposed an increase of $5 per ton, effective July 1, 2008, which would have allowed the County to again hold fees stable for ten years. Staff was directed by the Board to evaluate alternative fee structures or strategies, with the Board saying it preferred small increases over a short term to one large increase after ten years. After further study and meetings with municipalities, staff concluded a $1 per ton increase on July 1, 2008, and subsequent $1 per ton increases in future years, is the best alternative. This would allow the County to accurately account for increased revenue from a renegotiated contract with Duke Energy anticipated in 2009, and capture cost savings generated by shared relationships in the County’s EcoComplex. Municipalities also preferred small increases vs. one large increase in 10-year blocks.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1492 in 2007, 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 2008-2009, which equates to $408,000 resulting from the new tax. The solid waste disposal tax also applies to construction and demolition waste that must be buried. Therefore, staff recommends the Construction & Demolition Landfill tipping fee be increased from $19.50 per ton to $21.50 per ton to cover the mandated $2 State waste disposal tax. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends approval of an increase of the solid waste tipping fee from $30 to $33 per ton for municipal solid waste and an increase of the Construction and Demolition Landfill tipping fee from $19.50 to $21.50 per ton. The subcommittee did not make a recommendation on a proposed increase in the fee for solid waste disposed at convenience centers, pending a final determination of a site for a proposed relocation of the Sherrills Ford Convenience Center.
2. The Board will receive an informational report on a Southeastern Catawba County Convenience Center Site Study and receive public comment at this meeting, but will not make a final decision on a proposed relocation of the site at this meeting. Catawba County provides five solid waste convenience centers for citizens who elect not to use curbside solid waste collection and hauling services. Of these five solid waste convenience centers, the Sherrills Ford Center is the only site the County does not own. The County previously held a lease on the property, which has expired, and did not renew the lease because the existing site is inadequate to meet the County’s goals for expanded services.
At a Board of Commissioners planning retreat on October 15, 2007, staff recommended relocating the Sherrills Ford Convenience Center to approximately 40.95 acres of County-owned property located on Slanting Bridge Road, approximately 0.7 miles south of the intersection with Highway 150, at a cost then estimated at $690,720. Staff was directed by the Board to identify and assess properties, other than the Slanting Bridge Road tract owned by the County, that meet the requirements for a relocation site for the existing Sherrills Ford Convenience Center.
Staff worked with the Southeast Area Council of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce for assistance in identifying alternative sites. The County also further evaluated improvements to the existing Sherrills Ford Convenience Center through the purchase of the existing property and additional adjacent property. The County was unable to negotiate an acceptable new lease of additional property, or purchase the required property in order to remain at the existing location. County staff met with Southeast Area Council members on November 13, 2007, and the Area Council agreed to identify other potential sites by the end of January 2008. The Area Council identified an area located on Steam Plant Road, off Sherrills Ford Road approximately 1.6 miles north of the intersection with Highway 150, for relocation of the Sherrills Ford Convenience Center. The owners of the six properties on this section of Steam Plant Road were contacted by the County to determine any interest in relocating the Convenience Center to Steam Plant Road. Three of the property owners indicated they were not interested in selling any property, and two did not respond. Only one property owner, Brenda, LLC, responded favorably regarding a 5 acre site on the southern portion of a 22.25 acre tract. Therefore, the Brenda, LLC site was compared to the Slanting Bridge Road site.
A site study comparison was performed on the Brenda, LLC property on Steam Plant Road and the County owned property on Slanting Bridge Road by McGill Associates, Inc. A report compiled by McGill estimates the cost of relocating the Sherrills Ford Convenience Center to the Steam Plant Road site at $924,258 more than the estimated cost of relocating to the Slanting Bridge Road site, ($1,667,228 for the Steam Plant Road site and $742,970 now estimated for the Slanting Bridge Road site). The McGill report also points out that the Steam Plant Road site requires that Steam Plant Road be paved from a railroad crossing to the proposed site, at an estimated cost of $116,000. The safety and efficient use of the site is negatively affected by potential blockages by freight trains and because the site is located on a dead end road. The study found that the Steam Plant Road site is hindered by minimal natural buffering and minimal area to install additional buffering, by the required relocation of electrical lines and poles, and by property purchase costs. The report further finds that the Slanting Bridge Road site offers the most cost effective approach for the proposed project, and eliminates the need for possible traffic control systems that may be required at the Steam Plant Road site due to the railroad crossing at the intersection of Sherrills Ford Road and Steam Plant Road.
The State mandated solid waste disposal tax of $2 per ton, discussed in item 1 above, also applies to convenience center waste. In order to recover the capital improvement and operational costs and the State tax costs associated with the convenience centers, the per bag fee would need to be increased by 25 cents per bag, to $1.25 per bag, if the Sherrills Ford site is relocated to the Slanting Bridge Road site. If the Sherrills Ford site is relocated to the Steam Plant Road site, the per bag fee would need to be increased by 50 cents per bag, to $1.50 per bag. Although the Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee examined the study report at its March 10, 2008 meeting, it has not yet made a recommendation to the full Board of Commissioners, pending public comment at this meeting.
The Board will consider the submittal of a grant application for State funding in the amount of $119,527 for the Criminal Justice Partnership Program. The CJPP provides an effective bridge between the criminal justice system and community agencies for Intermediate Sanction offenders on supervised probation who are at risk of incarceration. Through a detailed needs assessment, appropriate referrals, treatment services for substance abuse and cognitive skills, and transportation when needed, the partnership program seeks to combine the influence of community-based legal sanctions and non-incarceration punishments with structured services in the community. By providing treatment services appropriate to the offenders needs, the program seeks to address those issues that maintain criminal lifestyle for offenders. Utilizing the State’s accepted offender management model, the program seeks to provide those services that will decrease criminal involvement and increase productive, socially acceptable behaviors. The grant will provide funds to serve approximately 75 people. Since July 1, 2007, fourteen participants successfully completed the program and were thus diverted from jail and have increased their odds against recidivism. Other participants are continuing in the program while seven have been incarcerated. The program’s successful completion rate is 52%, which far exceeds the statewide average rate of 32%. The average daily cost of a participant in this program is $15, while the approximate cost of local incarceration is $45 per day and the cost of incarceration with the North Carolina Department of Corrections is over $80 per day. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of this submission.
County Manager J. Thomas Lundy is expected to announce the appointment of a new County Tax Collector to succeed Jackie Spencer, who is retiring from the position.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464