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MAY 20, 2013

Catawba County Board of Commissioners Meeting
Monday, May 20, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room, 1924 Courthouse
21 East 1st Street, Newton

1. Call to Order.

2. Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

3. Invocation.

4. Approval of the minutes from the Board’s Regular Session of May 6, 2013.

5. Recognition of Special Guests.

6. Public Comment for Items Not on the Agenda.

7. Presentations:

Certificate of Commendation to Jake Pierce, 500 Meter Freestyle 3A State Swimming Champion 2013.

8. Public Hearing:

Resolution entitled “Establishing Fire Protection Service Districts”. Presented by Emergency Services Director Bryan Blanton.

9. Appointments.

10. Departmental Reports:

A. Economic Development Corporation. 

Approval of Amended Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Bylaws. Presented by Ellie Bradshaw, Chair, Economic Development Corporation Board.

B. Emergency Services/Utilities and Engineering.

Request to Waive Solid Waste and Building Permit Fees Associated with Affected Catawba County Property Owners due to Serious Flood on May 6, 2013. Presented by Emergency Services Director Bryan Blanton.

C. Social Services.

Social Services Update. Presented by Social Services Director John Eller.

11. Other Items of Business.

12. Attorneys’ Report.

13. Manager’s Report.

14. Adjournment.

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.

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

CALENDAR: The Board will hold budget hearings with County Departments and outside agencies on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will conduct a budget Public Hearing and Wrap-up on Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. All of these May meetings will take place in the 1924 Courthouse in Newton.

MONDAY, MAY 20, 2013, 7 P.M.

The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will consider waiving normally charged solid waste disposal and building permit fees for those certified as having been affected by the May 4-6, 2013, flooding in Catawba County when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 20, 2013, at the 1924 Courthouse at 21 East 1st Street in Newton. The Board will also hold a public hearing on a proposed resolution establishing Fire Protection Service Districts in the county. Citizens would not see a change in their fire tax rate nor in the fire service level they receive. The proposed service districts would be precisely identical to the current fire response/insurance districts for all unincorporated areas in Catawba County.

The Board will also receive an update on Social Services programs, and consider proposed changes to the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) bylaws to make the bylaws consistent with current requirements for non-profit corporations and streamline the methods for taking corporate action and giving notice of board meetings. And the Board will recognize Jake Pierce, who won a 3A state swimming championship earlier this year, with a Certificate of Commendation.

The Board will present a Certificate of Commendation to Jake Pierce for his outstanding performance in winning the North Carolina 500 meter freestyle 3A State Swimming Championship in 2013. The certificate will commend Pierce, a member of the Fred T. Foard High School Swim Team, for his spirit, motivation and hard work in achieving this admirable accomplishment.

The Board will hold a public hearing to receive citizen comments and consider adoption of a resolution entitled “Establishing Fire Protection Service Districts”.

As a result of researching an issue regarding how fire taxes were collected, maintained and used, the County Attorney discovered that fire tax districts had been established in a variety of ways between 1960 and 1975. Most districts were created pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes, which involved an election. Of those created through election, some of the fire tax district boundaries cannot be identified because a map or written description could not be located. In other cases, there isn’t clear evidence as to how some districts were created. Over the years, working in conjunction with fire departments, staff made recommendations to the Board based on what was believed to be providing the best fire protection to citizens. Because boundaries have changed over the years, there are some areas where fire taxes have been collected without the proper authority and other areas where fire taxes have been collected, but not used in the original fire tax district created by election. No one intentionally created this problem. However, now that the County and fire departments have knowledge of the problem, it is incumbent upon both parties to take corrective action as allowed by State law.

Staff has researched the options available to become compliant with State law. There are two options. First, North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) 69-25.11 provides a statutory mechanism to make changes to fire tax districts established by election. According to the University of North Carolina Institute of Government, “…this procedure can be so complicated as to be almost unusable”. Generally, this process involves a petition of two-thirds majority of the property owners of the impacted area(s), approval of a majority of the board of directors of the corporation(s) that provides fire protection for the area, and approval of the Board of Commissioners. The County’s situation is further complicated by some specific challenges. These include no clear evidence as to how some districts were created, that some fire tax district boundaries cannot be identified because a map or written description could not be located, and that some fire tax districts may have been established or modified without following the requirements of the statutes.

The second option involves the development of County Fire Protection Service Districts. This option is much simpler and immediately brings all districts into compliance with State law. Article 16 of NCGS Chapter 153A applies to County Service Districts. A board of commissioners may define any number of service districts to “finance, provide, or maintain for the districts” for a number of different reasons, one of which is fire protection.

In determining whether to establish a service district, a board must consider the following: the resident or seasonal population and population density of the proposed district; the appraised value of property in the district; the current tax rates of the county; the ability of the proposed district to sustain the additional taxes and any other matters the Board believes have a bearing on whether the district should be established.

The Board must hold a public hearing before it adopts a resolution establishing a new service district. Notice of the hearing is required, and it must state the date, hour, and place of the hearing. Usually this notice must be mailed to the district property owners at least four weeks before the hearing, and published at least once not less than one week before the hearing. There is an exception to the requirement of mailing notice to each district property owner at least four weeks before the hearing. The exception allows the Board to adopt a resolution no more than 90 days prior to the required public hearing and prior to the first publication of notice referenced above. The resolution must state that property taxes within a district may not be levied in excess of a rate of fifteen cents on each $100 of property value for fire protection. This resolution was adopted at the Board’s April 15, 2013, meeting. On April 16, 2013, a report required by NCGS 153A-302(b) and a map were made available for public inspection in the office of the Clerk to the Board of Commissioners. Notice of the May 20, 2013, public hearing, required by NCGS 153A-309.2, was advertised on April 22, 2013, and April 29, 2013, by publication in the Hickory Daily Record.

Following the public hearing, the Board may establish a service district if it finds that: there is a demonstrable need for providing one or more of the services authorized by statute, which includes fire protection; it is impossible or impractical to provide such services on a countywide basis; it is economically feasible to provide the services in the district without unreasonable or burdensome taxes; and there is a demonstrable demand for the proposed services by residents of the district.

After careful analysis, and with the goal of coming into full compliance with the law, staff recommends the establishment of fourteen individual fire protection service districts precisely identical to the current fire response/insurance districts for all unincorporated areas in Catawba County. This would immediately bring all districts into compliance. Citizens would not experience a change in their fire tax rate nor the service level they receive. Additionally, this solution produces the same amount of revenue currently generated by the individual fire tax districts, ensuring that no department experiences any change in tax base.

If this resolution is approved, staff will request that the Board set current fire tax rates to zero dollars and set new fire protection service district rates equal to the current fire tax rates when adopting the Fiscal Year 2013-14 County Budget.


The Board will consider approval of revised bylaws for the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation. These amended bylaws were approved by the EDC Board of Directors at its April 2013 meeting, but must be submitted to and approved by the Board of Commissioners. The Economic Development Corporation is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to build a diversified economic base throughout Catawba County, and to foster the creation of jobs by recruiting new business and industry and helping existing business grow and prosper.

The Board of Commissioners appoints five of the nine directors for the corporation. The remaining four directors are appointed by Hickory, (two directors), and Newton and Conover, (one director appointed by each). The current bylaws have not been revised in some time. Changes to the bylaws are necessary to be consistent with current requirements for non-profit corporations and streamline the methods for taking corporate action and giving notice.

The changes reflect current standards for the conduct of the affairs of a non-profit entity and have been reviewed by the County Attorney. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends approval of the amended bylaws.

The Board will consider waiving the solid waste tipping fees and building permit fees associated with affected Catawba County property owners due to serious flooding which occurred on May 6, 2013. Emergency Services will be required to certify any and all storm damage to property and predict the certified quantity of damage to be waived prior to permitting, storm debris disposal or the issuance of a waiver. Emergency Services certification will also be required to receive a waiver of any Building Permit related fees associated with property severely affected as a result of the serious flooding.

The Board’s Chair, Katherine W. Barnes, declared a State of Emergency for Catawba County late on the afternoon of Monday, May 6, 2013, in response to serious flooding in several areas of the county. Catawba County experienced flooding that damaged more than 50 homes in the northern and eastern parts of the county. Extensive rain at the headwaters of the Catawba River caused the river and lakes to rise rapidly on the morning of May 6, 2013. Catawba County Emergency Management has teams in the flooded areas to assist affected citizens, provide information and perform damage assessment at affected homes. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the waiver of these fees associated with Catawba County property owners certified as affected due to serious flooding which occurred on May 6, 2013.

The Board is expected to receive an informational update on Social Services programs. There are many changes taking place at the state and national level that have impacted many program areas within Social Services. A data review will be provided to inform the Board regarding volume increases within Social Services. Some examples include that there are almost 26,000 Medicaid recipients and 29,000 Food Assistance recipients in the county receiving services. In addition, Foster Care numbers and the need for Adult Services continue to rise.

Social Services’ mission remains unchanged: to strengthen, with dignity and respect, the quality of life for all citizens through supportive services and advocacy. These efforts are strengthened through Social Services strategic planning process which includes a focus on the following Board goals: vulnerable children are in safe, nurturing, financially stable environments; citizens will become or remain economically independent; vulnerable seniors and disabled adults are safe and have opportunities to remain in their own homes; citizens will be knowledgeable of and satisfied with Social Services; Social Services will operate with the highest standards of effectiveness and efficiency, and children and families will have access to nurturing, education, support and treatment services to maximize family functioning.