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MARCH 21, 2011


Catawba County Board of Commissioners

Monday, March 21, 2011, 7:00 p.m.

1924 Courthouse

30 North College Ave

Newton, North Carolina

1. Call to Order

2. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag

3. Invocation

4. Approval of the minutes from the Regular Meeting and Closed Session of February 21, 2011

5. Recognition of special guests

6. Public Comments for items not on the agenda

7. Appointments

8. Consent Agenda:

a. Catawba Valley Behavioral Healthcare (CVBH) leases

b. YMCA/Love-N-Care lease

c. Naming of group home campus in honor of Ethel Lutz

d. Tax refund request

9. Departmental Reports:

a. Finance Department:

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Facility Needs Survey. Presented by Rodney Miller, Finance Director.

b. Planning, Parks and Development:

Authorization to proceed with a Carolina Thread Trail Grant to secure property around Bunker Hill Covered Bridge. Presented by Mary George, Assistant Planning Director.

10. Other Items of Business

11. Attorneys’ Report

12. Manager’s Report

13. Adjournment

PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES: Individuals needing assistance should contact the County Clerk at 828-465-8990 within a reasonable time prior to the meeting. A telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD) is located in the Government Center and can be reached by dialing 465 8200. 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.

INFOTALK/INTERNET: The Catawba County Telephone Information System will allow you to use your touch tone telephone to obtain current information on Catawba County 24 hours a day. Information is updated on a regular basis. Dial 465-8468 and INFOTALK will direct your questions with easy to understand instructions. Reach Catawba County on the Internet at

The April Board of Commissioners Meetings will take place on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. and on Monday, April 18, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse in Newton.

MONDAY MARCH 21, 2011, 7:00 P.M.

The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will consider authorizing staff to apply for a Carolina Thread Trail grant that would be used to secure property around the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, to give the County options in the future to better secure the bridge and make it more accessible for tourists and the public, and will receive information on a North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Facility Needs Survey, when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 21, 2011, at the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.

The Board will also consider naming a group home campus in honor of Mrs. Ethel Lutz in recognition of her positive contributions for the children of Catawba County as a member of the Board of Social Services and in other capacities; consider the proposed renewal of several leases: 1) four leases with Catawba Valley Behavioral Healthcare for four houses, owned by the County around the main library in Newton, for residential services for $1 a year for four years, and; 2) a lease with YMCA of Catawba Valley, Inc. for a facility on 1.94 acres in Newton being used for operation of the Love-N-Care Child Development Center, for $1 a year for ten years; and will consider a tax refund request.

A. The Board will consider the renewal of leases with Catawba Valley Behavioral Healthcare for four homes in Newton used for residential services. As Catawba County’s Mental Health Board implemented the State’s Mental Health Reform Act it formed a non-profit organization, Catawba Valley Behavioral Healthcare (CVBH), to deliver comprehensive services to adults with serious conditions of mental illness and developmental disabilities. CVBH provides crisis interventions, short and long-term support and treatments necessary to effectively sustain this targeted population, through outpatient, day treatment and residential services. A freestanding non-profit organization, CVBH has taken on the responsibility of a major portion of high-risk services that had been previously operated by the public sector, through a contractual arrangement with the County

With the divestiture of Mental Health services by the State, CVBH began leasing from the County the former Mental Health main building and adjacent Lifeskills facility in January 2007. CVBH continues to lease the Lifeskills facility to provide some services. In addition, the County leased to CVBH four modest houses near the main County Library in Newton that were acquired through tax possession and purchase. These houses were leased to CVBH for $1 per year plus any agreed upon maintenance costs, which were charged at $25 per hour plus materials. These leases expired on December 31, 2010, and CVBH wishes to enter into new lease agreements for one term of four years and three months, expiring on June 30, 2015. The lease terms remain the same at $1 per year and maintenance costs at $25 per hour plus materials. A termination provision is included in these new agreements for either party giving a 120-day notice. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends the renewal of these leases.

B. The Board will consider the renewal of a lease with the Young Men’s Christian Association of Catawba Valley, Inc. (YMCA) for the facility operated by the Love-N-Care Child Development Center for a ten-year period. On September 7, 1993, the County entered into a ten year lease agreement with the YMCA for operation of the Love-N-Care Child Development Center for low and moderate-income families. The agreement stipulates that the YMCA will provide ten vacancies for children of County employees and that the YMCA is responsible for all maintenance at the facility. The current lease was renewed in April of 2001 and will expire on April 2, 2011. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends the renewal of this lease.

C. The Board will consider a request from the Social Services Board to name the Radio Station Road group home campus for former Social Services Board member Ethel Lutz. In fall 2010, a DSS group home on Section House Road was vacated and the five youth there were moved to the Radio Station Road campus to the former Lutz Emergency Shelter. The Lutz building was fully designed for residential services in 1995 and can house six youth. The home on Section House Road was named “Andrea’s Place” in 1997, in honor of Andrea Benfield, retired Child Welfare Program Administrator. Ms. Benfield continues to visit the group home and support it with donations. The former Lutz Shelter was named in 1998 for Ms. Lutz, a former Social Services Board member and tireless advocate for children. Other group homes are named in honor of Bobby Boyd and Villard “Chuck” Blevins, retired Social Services Directors, and in honor of Margaret Stanton, a former child welfare administrator.

Andrea’s Place needed to retain its license and respective name, as approved by the State, to continue continuity of service for the boys. DSS staff contacted the Lutz family to discuss the circumstances and the desire to assure ongoing respect for Ms. Lutz’s advocacy for children. As a result of those discussions, the Social Services Board requests that the Radio Station Road group home campus be named “the Lutz Campus” to recognize Mrs. Lutz and her family. The staff and youth would like to erect a plaque and tree on the grounds to signify this acknowledgement.

D. The Board will consider a tax refund request in the amount of $984.40. Records have been checked, and the refund verified, so 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.


The Board is expected to acknowledge it has received and reviewed a Facility Needs Survey for each school system in the county, though this action does not endorse or commit to the proposed projects. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) performs a survey of school needs, by Local Education Agency (LEA), every five years as required by North Carolina General Statutes. The survey reflects capital construction needs for the years 2010-2015 for each LEA. The projects are ranked from 1-4 indicating the order of priority, with “1” being the most immediate need and “4” indicating low or no need other than routine maintenance and upkeep.

The cost summary for each LEA survey is based on a statewide formula from DPI used by all LEAs in determining estimated costs for each project. Some projects in the survey are currently underway, including an Arndt Middle School project and Webb Murray Elementary School project, which had a ground-breaking last month. Both of these projects had an actual cost that was less than the estimated costs per the DPI formula, and the County’s typical local costs have been lower than the estimates based on DPI formulas. Also included in the report are the current Average Daily Membership (ADM) for each school in the county and the projected ADM for the 2015-16 school year.

Surveys for each of the LEAs in Catawba County, which have been certified by their respective school boards, were sent to commissioners last month. The five-year facility needs identified in each survey closely mirror the County’s understanding of the school facility needs over that same five-year time period.

The Board will consider authorizing staff to apply for a Carolina Thread Trail (CTT) implementation grant to acquire 21 acres of land surrounding the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, subject to the County securing an option for the property. In the fall of 2010, the Catawba County Historical Association applied for a Federal Highway Administration grant to obtain funding to secure the property around Bunker Hill Covered Bridge. The application requested $224,000 to install security cameras, a sprinkler system and a fire retardant coating on the underside and interior of the bridge. The Association anticipates notification of grant approval later this spring. If awarded, the grant would provide much needed security and fire suppression at the bridge site, advancing a major goal of the Historical Association, the County’s Parks Master Plan and CTT Master Plan to secure greater public access to this national, state and local historical landmark.

Poor access to the site has been an obstacle for over a decade and the major barrier to providing security for the bridge. Planning staff and the Historical Association have explored various options and grant opportunities in order to achieve the goals of better access and security for the site. With the countywide adoption of the Carolina Thread Trail Master plan, the County is now in a position to apply for implementation funds to acquire land around the bridge as part of the CTT designated route and a trailhead access site. The adopted CTT Plan established priority segments to be implemented, including a 2.6- mile segment from Claremont’s City Hall to the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge. With the call for implementation grant applications from CTT, Planning staff contacted Claremont regarding its interest in applying for a portion of the trail segment which would connect the Claremont City Park to the I-40 rest area. This segment would coordinate with the County’s application, which would acquire land around the bridge site for a future trail and trailhead access. With State and Federal grant sources being severely cut back, the CTT grant provides one of the very few definitive grant opportunities in the near future to acquire land around the bridge site. The CTT grant application is due April 30, with a notification date in late summer 2010. The County’s CTT grant application would request up to $100,000 for a 21-acre tract, a portion of land owned by Bolick heirs. The parcel lies on the west side of Lyle Creek and is essentially landlocked. It is a key tract, in that it is adjacent to the bridge site and eligible for the CTT grant. The Bolick heirs’ property consists of over 250 acres, of which the County is interested in 21 acres lying west of Lyle Creek and adjacent to the bridge. The property contains a stand of pines for which the owners may be interested in receiving revenue from timbering. The value of the property based on $8,400 per acre would be $176,400. Staff is proposing an offer to purchase be made to the Bolick heirs for $100,000 with the heirs considering the remaining value of $76,400 as a “bargain sale” in exchange for the proceeds from the timbering of the pine. The CTT grant would cover the $100,000 purchase price for the Bolick heir property. No County money would be spent to acquire the 21 acres.

For over seven years, the Connor heir(s) tract fronting on Highway 70 has served as the key tract of land for gaining direct access to the bridge. The County had been unable to negotiate with the Connor heir(s) due to their reluctance to consider selling any portion of the property until the estate was settled. The parcel consists of a 15-acre tract containing a 1,740 square foot house with full-basement, currently being rented. The Connor estate has been settled and the heirs now desire to sell the entire 15- acre tract with the home. The property was appraised in the fall of 2010 at a value of $280,500. The County has just been made aware of an interest expressed by the N.C. Division of Cultural Resources (DCR) to work with the County Historical Association and Catawba County to acquire the 15-acre Connor heir(s) tract for the purpose of providing access to the bridge. DCR would apply for a N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund grant (with application due March 15) and, if successful, would hold title to the Connor property.

Upon award of the grant, it is expected that the State would enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the County detailing the long-term maintenance responsibilities and conditions under which the County could use the property for access to the bridge site. This is a similar arrangement to the 8-acre Stewart tract located southeast of the bridge, which was secured over two years ago for a similar purpose. The County would benefit from this transaction by having the ability to operate a future park around a historic landmark identified in the Parks Master Plan as a high priority. Subject to the State’s MOU, the existing dwelling unit could be rented, for the time being, to a caretaker who would oversee security by opening and closing the gate to the bridge access. Long-term, the County would occupy the dwelling unit as a park office or for park programming.

Successful grant awards for the two tracts, consisting of 36 acres, would help achieve a long-standing goal to secure the bridge site and provide access to the bridge, now inaccessible by construction equipment due to erosion of the easement owned by the Historical Association. With acquisition of this property, the County’s Utilities & Engineering Department could assist in improving physical access to the bridge, allowing for better security access and enhanced opportunities for the public to enjoy and learn about the site. The Historical Association currently educates school groups about other historical sites in the county, but has limited opportunities at the bridge due to the condition of the footpath. The improved access will also bring in additional travel and tourism opportunities for the county. The bridge site was named as one of the top 75 places to photograph by Our State magazine. The site is prominently displayed on the NCDOT 2011/12 state highway map. With establishment of the CTT trail network connecting Claremont to the I-40 rest area and down Lyle Creek to the bridge site, 700,000 travelers who annually stop at the rest area could walk down the trail to the bridge. By securing the CTT grant for the Bolick property and the State obtaining the Connor heir(s) property through a Heritage Trust Fund grant, the County would meet the goal of securing property for a park around the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge without using County funds for acquisition.