PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
MONDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2006, 7 P.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, N.C.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will continue public hearings on a proposed Unified Development Ordinance until its January 16, 2007 meeting, when it is expected to take action on the proposed ordinance, and hold public hearings on a request to rezone a 1.79 acre tract at 5960 Highway 16 North in the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area from C-1 Commercial to C-2 Commercial and on proposed names for un-named streets in the Caldwell and Clines Townships, when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, December 18, 2006, in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room on the second floor of the 1924 Courthouse in Newton.
The Board will also consider an appropriation for a citizen’s alert notification system that would allow the County to contact needed emergency staff and notify effected citizens of emergencies by phone, e-mail, text message, fax, PDA, blackberry, etc. and a fee schedule for municipalities, school systems, hospitals and businesses that wish to use the system; approval of a single financing agreement for both a Voice Over Internet Provider phone system for County offices approved by the Board in November and the purchase of medical equipment for Catawba Valley Medical Center; a supplemental appropriation to the Catawba County School System to complete the Maiden High School project; a request from the State Fire Marshal’s Office to combine the Hickory-Viewmont and Hickory-Fairbrook fire districts into the Hickory Rural Fire Insurance District, which will not change the current response district boundaries or the tax rates for either of the existing districts; a proposed Federal Legislative agenda for 2007; an update to the Board’s State Legislative Agenda approved in September; and a tax refund request.
A. The Board will hold a public hearing on proposed road names for two unnamed streets located in the Caldwell and Clines Townships. The goal of the County’s E-911 Office is to assign individual E-911 numbers to all dwellings located in Catawba County. One step toward achieving this goal is to assign names to streets or driveways that meet the County’s road naming requirements, specifically that a road must be at least 1200 feet in length and/or access three or more parcels. In the continuing process of naming streets or driveways in Catawba County, the following streets or right-of-ways were found to be unnamed: 1) An unnamed street has been identified off Buffalo Shoals Road in Caldwell Township that provides access for five properties. After speaking with other property owners and determining they were all in agreement, Mrs. Vicky Whitmire phoned in the suggested name of Whitmire Lane. This name is not a duplication; therefore, staff recommends approval of WHITMIRE LANE as the street name. 2) An unnamed street has been identified off Highway 16 North in the Clines Township which is used as an access route by several households from the same family. The suggestion of JM Arndt Lane was received from Mr. Philip Setzer, to honor an uncle of all the property owners, Mr. Jack Arndt. Mr. Arndt was the only son of Mr. Harry M. Arndt, superintendent of the Catawba County Schools for many years. This suggestion is not a duplicate name; therefore, staff recommends approval of JM ARNDT LANE for this street. The Planning Board conducted a public hearing on October 30, 2006. There was no opposition to these proposed road names. The Planning Board unanimously recommends approval of the proposed names noted above.
B. The Board will hold a public hearing on a request of Mr. Bobby Little to rezone a 1.79-acre parcel, located at 5960 Highway 16 North in the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning District, from the C-1 Commercial District to the C-2 Commercial District. The subject parcel is currently vacant. The property immediately to the north is zoned R-2 Residential and is currently occupied by a stick-built single-family residential structure, while the property to the south is zoned C-1 Commercial and is currently occupied by a restaurant, the property to the east is zoned R-2 Residential and is currently in agricultural use, and the property to the west across Highway 16 is zoned R-2 Residential and is currently occupied by a church. Public water and sewer are not available, but public water is located approximately 2,235 feet
(0.42 miles) to the south near the intersection of Highway 16 and Shell Hollar Road. NC 16 North is designated as a major thoroughfare by the Hickory-Newton-Conover Urban Area Transportation Plan. Major thoroughfares are defined as primary traffic arteries of the urban area. Their purpose is to move traffic from city to city and within urban areas; therefore, strip development and multiple driveway access is to be discouraged.
The Catawba County Zoning Ordinance states that the C-2 Commercial District “is intended to provide land for the provision of convenience shops and specialty retail goods and businesses and personal services to the traveling public and the residents of neighborhoods. The C-2 District shall be located with direct access to arterial and collector streets. Generally the C-1 Commercial District is considered a rural commercial district, while the C-2 Commercial District is considered a highway oriented commercial district.
The St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Plan serves as the current land use plan for this area. The plan identifies the intersection of Highway 16 North and Springs Road as a Rural Commercial Node. Staff considers this request to be in conformance with the adopted land use plan, and recommended the rezoning of this property from C-1 Commercial to C-2 Commercial based upon 1) the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Plan recognizing this area as a Rural Commercial Node; 2) the intent of the C-2 Commercial District and 3) the close proximity of properties currently zoned C-2 Commercial and E-2 Intensive Industrial. The Catawba County Planning Board conducted a public hearing on November 27, 2006. No one present opposed the rezoning. The Planning Board recommends the request to rezone this property from C-1 Commercial to C-2 Commercial be approved for the reasons stated above.
C and D The Board will continue public hearings on a proposed Unified Development Ordinance and on adoption of new zoning maps based on that ordinance. The Board held public hearings on the proposed ordinance on August 21 and September 18, when it continued the public hearings to this meeting. The Board will act to again continue the public hearings until its meeting on Tuesday, January 16, 2007, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board has held three work sessions on issues of concern raised by citizens during the first two public hearings. The Board focused on minimum lot sizes at a work session on October 2nd; on cottage businesses at a work session on November 7th; and on affordable housing at the third work session on December 11, 2006. During each of the three work sessions, the Board discussed changes to the proposed UDO and asked staff to provide more information on those changes. At the work session on December 11, staff was asked to create a list of all of the changes to the UDO discussed by the Board and to amend the language of the proposed ordinance to reflect those changes. That list of changes, and the entire amended UDO, will be available for public review on the County’s web site at www.catawbacountync.gov, and at the County Office of Planning and Community Development, in early January 2007.
A. The Board will consider financing in the amount of $1,700,000 towards the purchase of medical equipment for Catawba Valley Medical Center (CVMC) and up to $1,450,000 for telephone and computer equipment for the County. CVMC is requesting funds in the amount of $1,700,000 to be used towards the purchase of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment for its outpatient imaging center. In July 2006, CVMC sought proposals from four different banks for financing the equipment. The proposal from BB&T was the most competitive with a 59-month term and a fixed interest rate of 4.59%. Since the County was considering other financing between then and the end of the calendar year, a decision was made to delay the financing until the end of this year.
On November 20, 2006, the Board approved the lease/purchase of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) equipment in the amount of $1,016,806. The agreement consisted of paying a monthly lease payment to BellSouth through a financing agreement with BSFS Equipment Leasing, a component of General Electric Capital Corporation. The original interest rate offered was 5.21% with a 60-month term. After the County informed BSFS that it had the ability to finance the equipment at a much lower rate, BSFS agreed to lower its interest rate to 4.80% for 60 months. The project includes new phones for all County employees using a base model; however, some phones will need to be upgraded to include speakerphone and/or wireless capability. The total amount financed will not exceed $1,030,000.
The County also plans to purchase computer equipment to consolidate under-utilized servers, to help reduce administrative and hardware costs, consolidate storage and reduce the number of servers required to run some applications while ensuring that an alternate site can provide backup in case of a disaster, and maximize the efficiency of running fewer computer servers. The cost of the equipment is $550,931 with $130,000 available in the current year’s budget for this purchase. By purchasing the equipment now, the County will forego the need to replace current servers, at a cost of approximately $900,000 over the next five years, a savings of almost $350,000. By combining these three purchases into one loan, the County would finance all this equipment through BB&T at a rate of 4.29%, a savings of 30 and 51 basis points over the previous proposals, respectively. The VoIP and MRI equipment will be financed over 59 months, and a total of $420,000 would be financed for the server equipment over 48 months. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of the proposed financing of County equipment, in the amount of $1,450,000, and MRI equipment on behalf of Catawba Valley Medical Center in the amount of $1,700,000, through BB&T.
B. The Board will consider an appropriation in the amount of $244,533, from interest earned on investments, to complete the Maiden High School Project. In 2004, plans were to construct a new Maiden High School at an estimated cost of $26 million. Bids were received for $32,027,330 or $5,255,330 over budget. The Catawba County Board of Education requested additional funds from the County in the amount of $2,562,408, and agreed to defer the purchase of furniture and technology equipment until the following two fiscal years. In negotiations, the County and the school system agreed that, to further close the budget gap, future projects to convert the old Maiden High School into a middle school and to convert Tuttle Middle School into an elementary school would be reduced from $3.1 million to $2.6 million. County funding in the amount of $28,562,408 was agreed to by both the County and the Catawba County Board of Education.
A June 21, 2004 budget revision added $2.8 million to the project, which included additional funds for Maiden High School, as well as financing costs for 2004 Certificates of Participation financing. Costs to finance this project and the CVCC Learning Library Project ($7 million) totaled $482,125, leaving a total budget for the Maiden Project of $28,317,875. At that time, County staff felt those funds were sufficient to meet the project needs of Maiden High due to the fact that $300,000 in contingency funds had been included in the project cost. In August 2006, Catawba County School personnel inquired about the difference in funding between the June 2004 agreement and the actual amount in the project budget, since the project was nearly complete. County staff explained the situation and asked for a summary of contingency funding. As of June 30, 2006, investment earnings in the amount of $1.6 million have been earned in the School Construction Fund, which consolidates funding from a two-cent property tax increase for new school construction, implemented in fiscal year 2003-04, as well as borrowed funds and is used exclusively for new school and community college construction. The Finance & Personnel Subcommittee recommends the appropriation of $244,533, from the interest earned on investments, to complete the Maiden High School Project.
C. The Board will consider a fee schedule for a planned citizen alert notification system and an appropriation to help fund the system. Catawba County obtained a Federal Homeland Security Grant in the amount of $145,110 and a $6,000 grant from Duke Energy in 2005 to be used for the purchase of an equipment based citizen alert notification system, also known as “reverse 911”. This system would allow the County to contact needed emergency staff and notify affected citizens about emergencies by phone, e-mail, text message, fax, PDA, blackberry, etc. Staff has actively worked to develop partnerships with local municipalities, the county’s three schools systems, CVCC, hospitals and interested businesses to maximize the potential of the system. The proposed fee schedule for those partners is as follows: Catawba County and municipalities, per capita fee of $0.25 per person; the three public school systems, $780 per school; Catawba Valley Community College, $5000 flat fee; Catawba Valley Medical Center, $2500 flat fee; Frye Regional Medical Center, $2500 flat fee.
The proposed fee for the county and municipalities is based on 2005 U.S. Census population estimates. The school fee is based on the cost to maintain one phone line per individual school. The community college will pay a similar fee based on student enrollment. The hospitals and any businesses that may wish to use the system will be limited to using it as an internal human resource tool and will pay a flat fee of $2500. Each partner would agree to a five-year financial obligation beginning with the start of fiscal year 2007-2008 on July 1, 2007, with the fee being prorated from January 2007 to June 2007. Dialogics Communications Corporation has been selected as the vendor for this project. Dialogics has assured staff it will be on site in 30-45 days from receipt of a purchase order. Staff anticipates a rollout for the system in late January or mid February 2007, with schools having access to the hosted service for emergencies until the local system is set up. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of the proposed fee schedule and a supplemental appropriation of $16,445 from the County’s General Fund as revenue for the citizen alert project.
D. The Board will consider approving a request from the North Carolina State Fire Marshal’s Office to combine the Hickory-Viewmont & Hickory-Fairbrook rural fire districts into a single fire district, to be known as the Hickory Rural Fire Insurance District. There would be no change to the response district boundaries and the tax rates for both existing rural districts are currently the same, so there would be no change in the tax rates for those districts. The State request is based on the need to “clean up” a few areas in the state where multiple rural fire districts have become the responsibility of a larger district or municipality. When this occurs, they must be rated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office separately. Combining these two rural areas allows a much smoother rating response evaluation of the rural area.
This area will continue to be protected by the City of Hickory Fire Department under contract with the County. County Fire Marshal David Pruitt has spoken with the County’s Finance Department, Budget Office, GIS Department and Tax Office and explained this request. There was no opposition from any of those departments and they all reported they can make the proper changes as requested. The change will streamline the County’s budget process by reducing the number of fire district budgets from sixteen to fifteen. City of Hickory fire officials have indicated they are also in favor of the change, and have submitted a letter of support. The Board’s Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the approval of the combination of the Hickory-Viewmont & Hickory-Fairbrook rural fire districts into a single fire district, to be known as the Hickory Rural Fire Insurance District, which would take effect on July 1, 2007 pending the review and approval of appropriate maps and documents by the North Carolina Fire Marshal’s Office.
E. The Board will consider three tax refund requests totaling $3343.87. Records have been checked and these refunds verified, so the Tax Collector recommends approval. Under N.C. 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.
OTHER ITEMS OF BUSINESS
A. The Board will consider setting a Federal Legislative Agenda as it works in 2007 with the county’s delegation to the United States Congress. In 2004, 2005 and 2006, the Board adopted Federal Legislative Agendas and worked with members of the delegation in Washington to accomplish the priorities stated within the agenda. The Board had success with two stated priorities in 2004: grant funding for a Sawmills Industrial Project and funding for the Hickory Metro Higher Education Center, and was partially successful in securing funds for a new Highway 321 Bridge. In 2005, $9,000,000 was reallocated for the Highway 321 Bridge and $150,000 for a proposed Regional Public Safety Training and Education Complex. In addition, language was inserted into the EPA budget, which required that agency to respond to questions the County had concerning particulate matter pollution. The Board established a good working relationship with newly elected Representative Patrick McHenry, who proved to be very responsive to Catawba County’s agenda. In 2006, the County continued to maintain good relations with Representative McHenry and worked diligently to secure funds for other projects on the agenda, but no additional funds were secured this year.
In 2007, staff recommends the Board continue to pursue funding for some of the items that previously appeared on the 2004, 2005 and 2006 agendas, including a Public Health Dental Clinic, the Public Safety Training and Education Complex and a Regional Biosolids Processing facility. Staff further recommends the Board continue to work with the EPA and other related parties, including Federal officials and the County’s lobbyist in Washington, to continue to determine particulate matter abatement strategies that can be implemented in Catawba County to lift the county’s current “non-attainment” designation, and continue to advise Federal officials and the County’s lobbyist regarding the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s relicensing process for Duke Power’s Catawba-Wateree river hydroelectric system, and to forward to them pertinent information as it becomes available.
B. The Board will consider adopting an updated version of its State Legislative Agenda for the coming session of the North Carolina General Assembly. The Board approved a 2007 State Legislative Agenda at its meeting on September 5, 2006. Two changes are proposed to that agenda. The first is the removal of a Champions of Education proposal requiring an increase in the age for compulsory education attendance until 18 or graduation, as the item may be addressed in a study committee and County staff has learned there is no compelling evidence that supports raising the mandatory graduation age to 18 as a strategy to reduce the dropout rate. The second is the addition of an item to support a NC Citizens for Business and Industry request to clarify that industrial machinery that is not affixed to a part of a building or structure is not subject to a building inspection. The remainder of the 2007 State Legislative Agenda is unchanged from the agenda approved on September 5, 2006, except for a change in the County’s expected Medicaid savings, resulting from the General Assembly’s passage of one-time relief from Medicaid costs for counties, from $935,000 to $400,000-$450,000, which is the County staff’s current estimate of the actual anticipated savings.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 465-8464