PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2009, 9:30 A.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, NC
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will consider appropriating funds for improvements to the system that collects methane gas, produced naturally at the Blackburn Landfill, and converts it into electricity; a resolution opposing the possible consolidation, by the US Postal Service, of some mail processing to Greensboro which would result in job losses in the Hickory metropolitan area; and acceptance of a grant from the Carolina Thread Trail, which would be used to create the County’s master greenway plan for its portion of the Trail, a planned network of greenways, trails and blueways in a fifteen county region of North and South Carolina, when the Board meets at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, October 5, 2009 at the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board will also present a report to the public on the status of its goals for fiscal year 2008-2009; and consider revising the County’s Solid Waste Management Fee Schedule to account for a new State law, effective October 1, 2009, that bans used motor oil filters, plastic bottles and wood pallets from landfills in the state; proposed reductions to the Catawba County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council budget in response to mandated State budget cuts; the acceptance of a Help America Vote Act Grant for required signage to help make polling places accessible for persons with disabilities; and the delegation of authority to the County Tax Administrator to allow, on an individual basis, extensions for listing of personal property beyond the State’s deadline of January 5, 2010 upon written request and for good cause shown. The Board will also receive a report from the County Tax Collector on the settlement of taxes for fiscal year 2008-2009, and issue a proclamation declaring the week of October 4 as Fire Prevention Week in Catawba County.
The Board will issue a proclamation recognizing October 4-10, 2009 as Fire Prevention Week and urging Catawba County citizens to protect their homes and families by practicing home fire safety and having a home fire escape plan in place.
A. The Board will consider proposed reductions to the current Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) budget in response to budget cuts mandated by the State of North Carolina for fiscal year 2009-2010. The State has required the Department of Juvenile Justice to implement a 5% budget cut of total allocations to help cover an anticipated revenue deficit. On September 1, 2009, JCPC received notice that each county had to determine where to make up the 5% reduction. The total dollar amount reduced is $17,494. The original allocation was $349,859. After the budget cuts, the total allocation would be $332,365. The JCPC Finance Committee met and decided to recommend to the full JCPC that the cuts be applied equally. If the required cuts were applied by dividing by the number of programs, the smaller programs would be cut significantly more than programs receiving greater funding, so the JCPC voted to apply a percentage reduction to each program. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of this budget reduction.
B. The Board will consider accepting an $11,322 grant, through the Help Americans Vote Act, as provided by the North Carolina Board of Elections. This grant will enable the Catawba County Board of Elections to purchase additional signage for each precinct to make polling places more accessible to individuals with a full range of disabilities. Accessibility at polling places continues to be a high priority at all levels of government and with different accessibility groups. Grant funds will be used to purchase signage to mark off curbside voting parking spaces at each of the County’s forty precincts and one-stop sites. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends acceptance of these grant funds.
C. The Board will consider a revision to the County’s Solid Waste Management Fee Schedule to include a Banned Materials Removal and Handling Fee of $100 per load, effective January 1, 2010. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has banned motor oil filters, plastic bottles and wood pallets from all Municipal Solid Waste landfills in the state, effective October 1, 2009. Aluminum cans, antifreeze, appliances, beverage containers from ABC-permitted facilities, lead-acid batteries, motor oil, oyster shells, scrap tires and yard waste are also banned from landfills under North Carolina General Statute §130A-309.10(f). Bans planned for 2011 include computers and televisions.
Staff recommends the Solid Waste Management Fee Schedule be revised to include a Banned Materials Removal and Handling Fee of $100 per load, for items banned from landfills now and in the future, to be effective January 1, 2010. The effective date of January 1, 2010 will provide citizens with a grace period to become accustomed to separating banned materials from other waste. During this grace period, Landfill staff must adhere to the State law and remove the banned items from waste after it is deposited onto the face of the landfill, but before it is buried. Landfill staff currently removes banned materials from deposited loads, but without penalty to customers. With more items being banned now and in 2011, it is no longer feasible for staff to perform this service without charge to the customer. The Banned Materials Removal and Handling Fee will encourage citizens to do their part to keep banned items from landfills, in accordance with State laws.
Enforcement of these bans will be applied at disposal facilities, such as landfills and transfer stations, by the North Carolina Division of Waste Management, which may assess a range of administrative and/or civil penalties for violations. Another way for counties to ensure compliance is to start recycling programs to provide citizens with an alternative to landfills. Catawba County has recycling programs for all the items on the list of materials banned now and after October 1, 2009, except for oyster shells. With the exception of tires, which are handled under separate State regulations associated with a Scrap Tire Tax, all materials banned by the State are now accepted and recycled free of charge, when separate and clean of solid waste. Landfill customers will be informed of this fee change by letters to current customers, messages in monthly invoices/statements, the County’s website and e-newsletter, and notices posted at landfill scales. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends this revision to the Solid Waste Management Fee Schedule.
D. The Board will consider authorizing the County Tax Administrator, on an individual basis, to allow extensions for listing of personal property up to April 15, 2010, upon written request and for good cause shown. Businesses and corporations whose business year ends on December 31 of each year, and some individuals, can have difficulty completing their listing abstracts by January 31 of each year. This is due to the fact that they are unable to calculate an inventory taken on December 31 and submit this figure to the Tax Administrator by January 31. North Carolina General Statute 105-307 allows the Board to grant individual extensions of time for the listing of personal property upon written request and for good cause shown. A written request must be postmarked no later than January 31, 2010 and must include the reason the extension is being requested. Extensions granted on an individual basis cannot extend beyond April 15, 2010.
PLANNING, PARKS AND DEVELOPMENT
The Board will consider appropriating $60,000 in grant funds for Carolina Thread Trail planning. In 2005, the Trust for Public Land, Catawba Lands Conservancy and the Foundation for the Carolinas established a vision for preserving and connecting open lands in the Charlotte region. This vision developed into the creation of the Carolina Thread Trail (CTT), an initiative to create a network of greenways, trails and blueways in a fifteen county region that will connect 2.3 million people in North and South Carolina. Catawba County is one of the fifteen counties included in the Thread Trail project area. The Carolina Thread Trail project was established as a non-profit organization and is being financed with private donations and State and Federal public funding sources. To date, the CTT has raised $15 million in private funds and has been approved for $3 million in public funding. The CTT provides funding to local governments through a grant process to begin development of Thread Trail segments in each jurisdiction. On February 2, 2009, the Board adopted a resolution of support for the Carolina Thread Trail project and established a Steering Committee in Catawba County to begin the planning process for a countywide master greenway plan. The Steering Committee had an organizational meeting in March and established a subcommittee to review consultant RFQs and RFPs for the planning process. The subcommittee has interviewed and selected a consulting firm to work with the County on the greenway plan. Staff applied to CTT for this $60,000 planning grant to hire the selected planning consultant to prepare the County’s master greenway plan. The grant requires a 10% match ($6,000) which has been appropriated in the Planning Department budget. The match amount will be shared by the County and the municipalities participating in the CTT project, on the basis of population. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends the appropriation of these grant funds.
UTILITIES AND ENGINEERING
The Board will consider authorizing the County’s Landfill staff to use the County’s own forces for installation of the second phase of improvements to the Blackburn Landfill’s gas collection system, under N.C. General Statute §143-135.
The Blackburn Landfill methane gas collection system needs to be expanded so methane gas can be collected from new fill areas in order to meet requirements of the Landfill’s Air Quality Permit. Staff would install a new main header that will take gas from Landfill Units 1, 2 and 3. This header will give the current gas collection system an alternate route to the site where the gas is converted to electricity, and reduce the vacuum placed on the single header. The new header will also provide connection points for Unit 3 as new wells are installed. The new header has been designed to be outside of the area of future landfill expansions for at least 15 years.
The use of County staff for the installation of these improvements to the gas collection system would result in a cost savings of as much as $87,739. On September 4, 2009, Catawba County received materials bids for these improvements from the following contractors: Isco Industries, $70,191; Lee Supply, $77,981.99; Waterworks, $87,595.09 and Consolidated Pipe and Supply, $106,183.66. The materials bid was awarded informally to Isco Industries in the amount of $70,191. Awarding the materials bid to Isco for $70,191, and utilizing County staff at a cost of $33,770, totals $103,961, a savings of $87,739 from a McGill Associates estimate of $191,700 for materials, installation and testing using outside staffing.
North Carolina General Statute 143-135 permits a local government to perform work with its own forces under limited circumstances: 1) all the work must be performed by permanent local government employees; 2) force account labor may be used if the total cost of the labor on the project does not exceed $50,000, regardless of the cost of other parts of the project, or if the total cost of the project, including all labor costs, services, materials, supplies and equipment, does not exceed $125,000; and 3) the force account work is subject to the approval of the board of the local government, and complete and accurate records of the entire cost of the work must be maintained by the responsible body for public inspection. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the authorization of the use of the County’s own forces to install the second phase of the gas collection system.
The Board will receive the Fiscal Report and Settlement of taxes levied and collected for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008 and ending on June 30, 2009. As required by North Carolina General Statutes 105-352, and 105-373, the Tax Collector is required to make an annual settlement for all taxes in his or her hands for collection. This report indicates the adjusted levy for real estate, personal property and fire districts, as of June 30, 2009, was $77,832,429 and the amount collected as of that date was $75,763,479, for a 97.34% collection rate.
OTHER ITEMS OF BUSINESS
A. The Board will consider adopting a resolution in opposition to a proposed consolidation, by the U.S. Postal Service, of some of the operations at its Hickory Processing and Distribution Center into the Greensboro Processing and Distribution Center, which would result in job losses in the Hickory area. The Postal Service is conducting an Area Mail Processing study to review mail volume and determine capacity needs, in order to increase efficiency and improve productivity. With the decline in single-piece first class mail volumes, realignment of processing and delivery networks is necessary, but the realignment raises concerns about job losses and loss of mail efficiency in the Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir area.
B. Chair Katherine W. Barnes will give a report on the Board of Commissioners goals for Fiscal Year 2008-2009. The Board’s goals were as follows: 1) continue to develop strategies to create jobs; 2) continue to support K through 12 educational opportunity; 3) build on the success of Catawba Valley Community College, the Hickory Metro Higher Education Center and the North Carolina Center for Engineering Technology; 4) support a greater presence of the State University system; and 5) begin implementation of a parks master plan with an initial priority of preparing to develop the Mountain Creek park in the southeastern portion of the county in FY 2009-2010.
The Board’s first goal on job creation included three sub-goals. One of those was to facilitate an analysis of skill sets missing in the workforce and insure that corresponding training and re-training is available and accessible. Catawba Valley Community College conducted a quantitative and qualitative analysis of employers in Catawba County in 2008-2009 to identify skill priorities, needs, and gaps in the county workforce. Professionalism and work ethic, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving were identified as the skills most valued by these employers. CVCC has recommended an action plan that includes the development of a graduate guarantee to potential employers of appropriate skill competencies; skills assessments in both public schools and higher education institutions; a collaborative marketing campaign by all county education systems to better inform business and industry of the education opportunities available in the County, and cultivation of employer involvement in the County’s educational systems.
The second subset of the Board’s first goal was to continue to invest in the County’s quality of life, infrastructure (e.g., water and sewer, multi-jurisdictional park) and other necessary incentives to attract jobs. Board actions to address this goal included 1) continued support of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation’s efforts to coordinate a Multi Jurisdictional Business Park, a joint effort among interested municipalities and the County, and approval of economic development incentives anticipated to create 2100 new jobs in 2008 and 2009, with 1406 of those new jobs coming in 2009; 2) a new Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire-Rescue location, which assumed responsibility for what had previously been known as the Denver Fire District, improving the fire protection in that area of the county and decreasing fire insurance rates for homeowners and potential homeowners; 3) a contractual agreement between Catawba Valley Medical Center and the County to purchase a new neonatal ambulance to provide the only neonatal transport program in the State which offers nitric oxide therapy and high frequency jet ventilation, and room to transport the mother along with the newborn; 4) the awarding of contracts for the third phase of the Southeastern Catawba County Water Supply Loop, the design of the Blackburn-Plateau Supply Loop Project, and the design of the Rocky Ford Road/Startown Road Water Loop; 5) the adoption of a Voluntary Agricultural District and Enhanced Agricultural District Ordinance which encourages the preservation of farmland in the County.
The third subset of the Board’s first goal was to continue to insure that critical transportation needs are championed to the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Staff and Board members continue active participation and membership within the Greater Hickory Metropolitan Planning Organization/Rural Planning Organization, the Western Piedmont Regional Transportation Authority, comprehensive transportation planning and informal regional corridor planning.
In response to the Board’s second goal of continuing to support K through 12 educational opportunities, the County continues to support its three school systems with current and capital expense funding, with one-half of its local revenues going to the schools. Teacher supplements are provided to recruit and retain the best teachers. The Board approved an installment financing agreement, in an amount not to exceed $18 million, to provide funds for acquiring, constructing, improving, expanding and equipping Bunker Hill High School, Fred T. Foard High School, St. Stephens High School, Hickory High School and CVCC. These projects were approved in mid-2008 and have mostly begun.
The Board’s third goal was to build on the success of CVCC, the Hickory Higher Education Center and the North Carolina Center for Engineering Technology. In an effort to improve the County’s ranking in community college funding, the current County budget included a 13% current expense increase for CVCC, which will move the college to 16th in funding out of 58 North Carolina community colleges. The goal is to eventually be within the top ten to fifteen counties in providing support to the community college. The County’s fiscal year 2008-09 budget includes funding for capital projects for CVCC including general renovations, security cameras to be installed campus-wide, an HVAC/boiler replacement, and repairs to the cooling tower at the multi-purpose building.
The Hickory Metro Higher Education Center, now known as the Appalachian State University Center at Hickory, is in its seventh year of operation and is a model for the state. Since it was established in 2003, more than 500 adults have completed degree or licensure programs from one of the Center’s partners. Currently, seven colleges and universities, including Appalachian State University, Western Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Lees-McRae College, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem State University, and Mountain State University Engineering Center offer 23 undergraduate degrees, 48 graduate degrees, and a half dozen licensure or certificate programs to more than 600 students. In addition, approximately 100 different regional businesses and industries rent the facility each year for workforce development and staff meetings.
The North Carolina Center for Engineering Technology continues to grow with programs through Appalachian State and Western Carolina Universities and the Board of Commissioners continues to be supportive. In Spring 2009, Appalachian State began offering a Bachelor of Science in Building Science Construction Management degree program at the NCCET.
To meet the Board’s fourth goal of supporting a greater local presence of the North Carolina University System, the Board entered into a partnership with Appalachian State University for a biodiesel research facility. The Board approved the acceptance of grant funds in the amount of $150,000 from the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, Inc. to cover cost associated with a Feedstock Crushing Facility, which is needed to produce oils from seeds required in the production of biodiesel fuel at the facility.
The Board’s fifth goal was addressed through implementation of a Parks Master Plan with an initial priority of preparing to develop the Mountain Creek Park in the southeastern portion of the County in Fiscal Year 2009-2010. The County’s third passive park, St. Stephens Park, opened in December 2008. Amenities include a one-acre dog park, walking trail, playground, horseshoe pits, bird feeding station, picnic shelter and meeting room. The Board had received notice of $2.6 million in Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant funds for the development of the Mountain Creek Park, but the State seized these funds in March 2009 to meet State budgetary shortfalls.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464