PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2008, 9:30 A.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, NC
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will conduct a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the County’s 2006 Community Development Block Grant Scattered Site Housing Grant to add one new beneficiary and remove two who have withdrawn from the program; consider a request for a budget transfer to complete the St. Stephens Park renovation project; and hear a presentation on a review of the justice system in the county, from an efficiency and working process standpoint, when the Board meets at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, October 6, 2008, in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board will also consider a water and sewer extension policy for projects not required by the County Code; increasing home health fees due to Medicaid rate increases; allocating insurance money received for two wrecked patrol vehicles to purchase two new vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office; accepting and allocating grant money for operating a one-stop voting site at the Southwest Branch Library; the waiving of solid waste disposal fees for the Lake Hickory Association’s participation in the fall Litter Sweep; and an amendment to the County Code regarding the transfer of employees’ annual leave in excess of 240 hours to sick leave at retirement. The Board will also present Distinguished Public Service Awards to Deputy Sheriff Tammy Johnson, who was recently named National School Resource Officer of the Year and Deputy Sheriff Dennis Smith, recipient of the 2008 American Police Canine Association President’s Award.
A. The Board will present a Distinguished Public Service Award to Deputy Sheriff Tammy Johnson, who was recently named National School Resource Officer of the Year by the National Association of School Resource Officers. The award recognizes Deputy Johnson’s commitment to ensuring the safety of the students and staff at Maiden Middle School and her work to promote good character traits, excellent behavior, good attendance and passing grades in the students at the school.
B. The Board will present a Distinguished Public Service Award to Deputy Sheriff Dennis Smith, recipient of the 2008 American Police Canine Association’s President’s Award, in recognition of his continuing efforts to enforce drug interdiction laws, which resulted in the seizure of over $100,000 in drugs and cash from September 2007-July 2008.
The Board will conduct a public hearing and consider a request to amend the County’s 2006 Community Development Block Grant Scattered Site Housing Grant, to replace two targeted beneficiaries who have withdrawn from the program and add one new beneficiary. The County was awarded a $400,000 Scattered Site Housing Grant Program in 2006 to rehabilitate seven homes and construct one new home in the county. The beneficiary amendment change would replace two of the targeted applicants in the original 2006 application with one new applicant. One of the applicants is no longer qualified for the program, because they owe back taxes to the County. In order to be eligible for this program, all County tax payments must be current. The other applicant being replaced had to move out of her home into a nursing home.
The County will not be able to complete eight houses as originally planned, due to the increasing costs of construction materials. To date, two houses have been completed, three are under, or will be under, contract soon, one application is still pending and one application would be processed if this amendment is approved, for a total of seven houses. If funds are available after these five houses are rehabilitated and time allows, another house may be targeted for rehabilitation.
A. The Board will consider an increase in Home Health fees requested by the Catawba County Board of Health. North Carolina’s Home Health Medicaid Rates increased as of September 1, 2008. Due to this increase, Catawba County Home Health has been advised by Larson Allen LLP, the County’s Home Health cost accounting consultant, to increase County fees to bring them level with or above the Medicaid rates. If approved, Skilled Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy fees will increase by $4 and the Home Health Aid fee will increase by $5. The Board of Commissioners’ Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommended approval of these fee increases.
B. The Board will consider allocating insurance funds received for two wrecked patrol vehicles, totaling $40,346, so the Sheriff’s Office may purchase two replacement vehicles. A 2007 Ford Crown Victoria was totaled on April 11, 2008 when an officer swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle, which illegally entered the lane to pass a vehicle stopped for the blue lights and siren. Insurance paid $30,449.55 for the Crown Victoria. A 2005 Chevrolet Impala was totaled on May 27, 2008 when it was unattended and rolled into Lake Hickory. Insurance paid $9,896.49 for the Impala. The total of $40,346 paid on these claims was added to the County’s Self-Insurance Fund. The officers who drove these vehicles are currently assigned spare cars with very high mileage. Allocation of these insurance funds would provide the Sheriff’s Office with enough money, along with funds already in the department’s budget, to purchase one replacement vehicle and full patrol equipment including digital camera, roll bar cage, lights, siren and decals. The second vehicle will be an electric vehicle and would be used by a deputy at CVCC’s East Campus to patrol the campus and parking lot. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommended allocation of these insurance funds for the purchase of two replacement vehicles.
C. The Board will consider accepting and appropriating a Help America Vote Act grant in the amount of $23,600 from the North Carolina Board of Elections for one-stop voting operations and additional equipment. Due to the expected heavy voter turnout during the November 2008 General Election, the North Carolina Board of Elections made available one-stop site operations grants for all 100 North Carolina counties. The Catawba County Board of Elections has been awarded a grant in the amount of $23,600. The grant will provide operating funds to open a one-stop voting site at the Southwest Library for eleven days, and additional equipment to the other sites, and will cover 100% of the cost of operating the Southwest Library precinct. As more citizens became aware of this and the County’s three other one-stop sites during the May Primary, County officials expect heavier voter turnout at these one stop precincts for the November election. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommended accepting and appropriating this grant for the purposes outlined above.
D. The Board will consider a revision to the County’s Personnel Code, Section 28-197, regarding annual leave. The revision would allow an employee to transfer annual leave hours over 240, as of their last day prior to retirement, to sick leave regardless of the month in which they retire. This would benefit some retiring employees but would not result in any cost to the County. Catawba County Personnel Code Section 28-197 provides for employee leave benefits. Annual leave benefits are commonly known as vacation leave. Employees who work 20 hours a week or more every week earn annual leave on a pro-rated basis, depending on the number of hours scheduled to work. During a calendar year, employees accrue annual leave. The maximum number of annual leave hours that will be carried over to another calendar year is 240. Any hours over 240 are added to the employee’s sick leave balance.
North Carolina’s Local Government Retirement System allows a sick leave credit, which is counted towards eligibility for retirement or helps build creditable service. If an employee has more than 240 annual leave hours on December 31, the hours over 240 are transferred to sick leave, and if the employee is retiring on January 1, this helps with retirement. If an employee has more than 240 hours annual leave during any other month, and retires during the next month, the employee currently loses the annual leave time. At present, many employees who are retiring in this situation have to take time off to reduce hours to 240 or below before retirement. This may cause some workload or training issues for a given department. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of the revision to the Personnel Code allowing annual leave over 240 hours, as of the last day prior to retirement, to be transferred to sick leave regardless of the month in which an employee retires. The maximum the County would pay a retiring employee is 240 hours at retirement, with proper resignation notice, or similar situations. This policy change would become effective on the date of Board approval.
E. The Board will consider waiving solid waste tipping fees for two 40 cubic yard waste containers for the Lake Hickory Association’s participation in Litter Sweep in October. The Lake Hickory Association, as part of the State and Catawba County’s Litter Sweep Programs, will sponsor its annual waterway cleanup event on Lake Hickory and Lake Lookout on Saturday, October 4. Mr. Jim Carr, President of the Association, has requested a waiver of solid waste disposal fees for two 40 cubic yard waste containers. Garbage Disposal Service/Republic Services will donate the cost of the containers and hauling of the containers to the Blackburn Landfill. Effective July 1, 2008, State legislation placed a $2 per ton tax on solid waste disposal. This tax is applicable to the waste from the October event. Garbage Disposal Service will be charged the $2 per ton State tax on the waste disposal from this event. Catawba County must bill Garbage Disposal Service since it is the waste hauler and account holder. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends waiving the solid waste tipping fees for the Lake Hickory Association’s participation in Litter Sweep Weeks in October.
A. PLANNING, PARKS AND DEVELOPMENT
The Board will consider a budget transfer in the amount of $30,000, from the Catawba County Parks Trust Fund, for completion of the St. Stephens Park renovation project. The nine-acre St. Stephens Park was created in 1979 and developed by a $75,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Grant provided to the County. This facility was operated by the City of Hickory from 1980 until it was closed by the City in 2005 due to the need for extensive repairs to a swimming pool at the park, with a cost estimated by the City of Hickory at $300,000. In September 2007, County staff began planning the renovation of the site, filling in the swimming pool and changing the park from an “active” to a “passive” facility. The facility must be renovated and operating in order to comply with the contract and terms of the LWCF grant and achieve eligibility for future state or federal grant funding.
The original budget appropriated to convert this park from an active recreation center to a passive park was $180,000. Due to dramatic increases in construction costs, the original architect’s estimate of approximately $80,000 for structural renovations was exceeded by $54,465 in the lowest bid submitted. The contract for renovations was awarded to the lowest bidder, Moss Marlow Building Company, Inc., for $134,465. Although the original budget can absorb the significant cost increase for this renovation, the increase strains the County’s ability to make other necessary improvements called for in the LWCF grant requirements. It also does not take into account the replacement of a roof, or contingencies or any additional change orders that might be necessary. Funds needed for this budget amendment are available in the Parks Trust Fund through fees totaling $33,797 collected from developers in lieu of their reserving natural space in various development projects. This revenue was not anticipated and has not been built into the current fiscal year Capital Improvement Plan, nor has it been earmarked for an upcoming grant project. The estimated balance remaining in the Parks Trust Fund, if this requested transfer of $30,000 is approved, would total $106,013.
Several factors are responsible for the increased construction cost. The dramatic increases in petroleum and petroleum products have affected all sectors of the construction industry and the economy in general. Steel and stone prices are increasing almost weekly. The existing bathhouse roof must be replaced and was not a part of the original project estimate provided by the architect. The existing picnic shelter could not be renovated as a result of extensive water damage and deterioration and must be totally reconstructed using only the existing masonry and concrete work.
The Board of Commissioners appropriated $180,000 from the County’s Parks Trust Fund on January 22, 2008 to complete the renovation project. In February 2008, County staff applied for a North Carolina Parks And Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) Grant in the amount of $53,250 to assist with park renovations. The County has since received letters from the United States Department of the Interior approving the removal of the swimming pool and conversion to a passive park, and from the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation acknowledging the federal government’s approval of the conversion. On August 4, 2008, staff was informed that the County did not receive the PARTF Grant for the St. Stephens Park conversion. In August 2008, an informal construction contract was awarded to the lowest bidder, Moss Marlow, for $134,465. All other elements of the project have been in the range of the originally estimated project budget.
In an effort to offset the increased construction costs, staff has minimized all other required project elements necessary to achieve compliance with the LWCF contract. A proposed trail has been shortened and narrowed. Park staff are constructing the required trail, performing all rough grading “in house” and installing 400 tons of stone trail surfacing. The size of a proposed dog park has been reduced. Educational landscaping will be installed in phases over the next few years using volunteers. Park staff will perform renovations to an existing playground. These efforts by County staff have reduced the overall project cost significantly when compared with the cost to contract the work with an outside vendor.
The $30,000 requested is necessary to offset increased construction costs, complete the project and meet the minimum requirements to comply with the LWCF grant and contract. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommended the transfer of $30,000 from the Catawba County Parks Trust Fund to complete the St. Stephens Park renovation project.
B. UTILITIES AND ENGINEERING
The Board will consider adopting a Water and Sewer Extension Policy for non-profit entities, for water and sewer extensions that are not subject to the Catawba County Code Chapter 42: Article II, Division 2 and Article III, Division 2. The policy is structured to address requests for water and sewer extensions not required by Chapter 42 of the County Code, which addresses extensions and connections for contaminated water sources, new development, or new construction within specific distances of an existing utility line. The proposed policy addresses extensions not subject to the Chapter 42 extension requirements, but are requests for water or sewer service which typically requires an extension to reach the entity requesting service. These requests are often spurred by development and construction of other projects by the County that bring water or sewer lines into an area but are not immediately serving the entire area.
In the past, these requests have been addressed in differing ways. In order for future requests to be addressed in a uniform and consistent manner, staff developed the proposed policy with very specific guidelines, as follows: (1) proof of non-profit status must be submitted with petition. Proof may be in the form of a petitioner’s 501c(3) documentation or other similar documentation; (2) the water and/or sewer line extension being requested is included in or directly connected to projects in the County’s current 8-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) ; (4) the water and/or sewer line extension being requested is not subject to County Code Chapter 42: Water and Sewer, Tables 1, 2, 3 or 4 requirements for utility extensions and connections; (5) the requested extension is no more than 1,320 feet in length; (6) the County’s financial share is no more than 50% of the total cost of the extension, including engineering; (7) the petitioner(s) sign a cost sharing agreement with the County, agreeing to make full payment of their agreed upon share of the total cost of the extension prior to the award of a contract for construction of the extension; (8) the requested water and/or sewer line extension will be located within North Carolina Department Of Transportation (NCDOT) or other appropriately established rights-of-way or easements, with any rights-of-way or easements outside of established NCDOT rights-of-way to be acquired by the petitioner(s) prior to the award of contract for construction; (9) the Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund has sufficient fund balance to support the County’s portion of the cost of the extension; (10) by funding the County’s portion of the cost of the extension, the fund balance in the County’s Water and Sewer Enterprise fund remains sufficient to fully fund years 1 through 3 of the current 8-year CIP and meet the required minimum balance of the fund; (11) the water and/or sewer line extension being requested must not negatively affect any grant applications; and (12) the water and/or sewer line extension being requested must meet all local, federal, and state laws and regulations. Petitioners must be aware that meeting all of these conditions does not guarantee project approval. All projects must be approved by the Board of Commissioners. The Policy & Public Works Subcommittee recommends adoption of the Water & Sewer Extension Policy.
The Board will receive a report on a justice system review conducted by TechSolve, a local government consulting firm, and consider instructing the County Manager to work with the chief judicial officials serving the county to implement the recommendations of the report and authorizing the County Manager to hire or contract staff to work full time at the Justice Center on the implementation of the report recommendations.
In 2007, Catawba County voters approved a quarter cent sales tax, part of which will be dedicated to facility expansion of the Catawba County Justice Center and other public safety building needs. Catawba County currently has a space consultant working to produce a plan to address court and ancillary space. As the County plans for needed physical space, however, it is also important to evaluate the current court process and ways to improve how business is done for the benefit of the different judicial offices; the public who are clients; and taxpayers.
In November 2007, Catawba County Manager J. Thomas Lundy convened a group consisting of Superior Court Judges Tim Kincaid and Nathan Poovey, Chief District Court Judge Bob Brady, District Attorney Jay Gaither, Sheriff David Huffman, Clerk of Court Al Jean Bogle, and County Attorney Debra Bechtel. The group agreed on the value of a study and identified several issues, as follows: how to maximize the use of existing courtrooms; identifying areas where technology could make improvements; other safe ways to implement alternatives to incarceration; conducting regular triage of the jail population for case disposition; speedier trials for inmates to reduce pre-sentence jail time; improving efficiency of moving the jail population into courtrooms when needed; better tracking of individuals who are incarcerated; alternatives to holding court when courtrooms are full; efficient scheduling of specialized courts; docket control; case management plans and exploring the unique system of having separate courtroom facilities in Newton and Hickory and whether that system continues to make sense or, in the alternative, is the most logical use of the secondary courthouse in Hickory.
TechSolve has now finalized its report and the report is ready for consideration by the Board of Commissioners. A copy of the final report has been provided to the chief judicial officials and they have been made aware of the October 6 presentation and have been invited to attend. Each of the chief judicial officials has committed to work as a group toward the implementation of the recommendations.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464