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April 3, 2006

AGENDA
Catawba County Board of Commissioners Meeting
Monday, April 3, 2006, 9:30 a.m.
Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room, 1924 Courthouse
30 North College Avenue, Newton, NC

1.    Call to Order

2.    Pledge of Allegiance

3.    Invocation

4.    Approval of minutes from the regular and closed session meetings of March 20, 2006.

5.    Recognition of special guests.

6.    Public comment for items not on the agenda.

7.    Presentations:
a.    2006 Litter Sweep proclamation.  Presented to Henry Helton, Chair, Catawba County Litter Task Force and Tony Gallegos, Cooperative Extension Agent.

b.    National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week proclamation.  Presented to Jerry Boggs, Telecommunications Administrator.

c.    Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation.  Presented to Pam Brooks, Child Protective Services Supervisor and Deborah Johnson, Director,  Child Advocacy Center.

d.    Public Health Month proclamation.  Presented to Doug Urland, Public Health Director.

e.    Certificate of Commendation to Mark Logan for completion of Leadership Catawba program.

f.    Certificate of Commendation to Debbie Anderson, Purchasing Agent, as the recipient of the Hall-Wicker Award.

g.    Presentation of the Sustained Professional Purchasing Award.  Presented to Debbie Anderson, Purchasing Agent and Purchasing staff.

h.    Presentation of the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting.  Presented to Rodney Miller, Finance Director and Finance staff.

8.    Appointments.

9.    Consent Agenda:
Surplus Library Materials- Friends of Catawba County Library, Sherrills Ford and Newton.
10.    Departmental Reports.
a.  Planning
Approval Level and Authorization for signing Duke Power Relicensing Agreement-in-Principle.  Presented by  Mary George, Senior Planner.
   
b.    Utilities and Engineering
1.    Blackburn MSW Landfill Study Approval.  Presented by Barry Edwards, P.E., Utilities and Engineering Director.

2.    Catawba County Regional Eco-Complex and Resource Recovery Facility Project:  Preliminary Engineering and Project Feasibility Study for Bio-Energy Center, “Catawba County Bio-Energy Center Initial Assessment”.  Presented by Barry Edwards, P.E., Utilities and Engineering Director.
c.    Finance
Proposed Financing of a Catawba County Elementary School.  Presented by Rodney Miller, Finance Director.
11.    Other items of business.
State Legislative Agenda.  Presented by Joellen Daley, Assistant County Manager.
12.    Attorneys’ Report.
   
13.    Manager’s Report.

14.    Adjournment.


PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Individuals needing assistance should contact the County Clerk at 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 http://www.catawbacountync.gov.

CALENDAR
The next Board of Commissioners Meeting will take place on Monday, April 17, 2006 at 7:00 p.m.

PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
APRIL 3, 2006, 9:30 A.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, N.C.

The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will consider approving agreements for financing and construction of a new Catawba Elementary School; a report on a Landfill Site Study on land adjacent to the Blackburn Landfill, performed to insure the land is suitable for an expansion of the landfill; and whether to approve Catawba County's signing of a proposed Agreement in Principle regarding the re-licensing for Duke Power's hydroelectric projects along the Catawba-Wateree River chain, when the Board meets at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, April 3, 2006, in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse in Newton. 

The Board will also consider a State legislative agenda listing projects the Board will seek to work toward with the county's delegation to the NC General Assembly; a preliminary engineering and feasibility study of steam energy production which would be used in a proposed Eco-Complex Facility; a resolution authorizing the Sherrills Ford and Newton Friends of the Library organizations to conduct a book sale and use the proceeds for library purposes; present a Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association to the County Finance Department; present the County Purchasing Division with a Sustained Professional Purchasing Award from the Carolinas Association of Governmental Purchasing;  recognize Purchasing Agent Debbie Anderson on her recently being named the winner of the 2006 Hall-Wicker Award, given for outstanding professionalism and contributions to the purchasing field, and Senior Real Estate Appraiser Mark Logan on his completion of the Leadership Catawba program; and issue proclamations for Public Health Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, Spring Litter Sweep Weeks and National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

PRESENTATIONS
A.  The Board will issue a proclamation declaring April 17-30, 2006 as Litter Sweep Weeks in Catawba County.  During these weeks, citizens who bring trash collected from roadsides, parks, lakesides and other common areas in special orange bags, or recyclable materials collected from the same areas in blue bags, to the Blackburn Landfill or one of the County's five convenience centers may dispose of the bags free of charge.  Citizens may also call the North Carolina Department of Transportation Office at 828-466-5519 to arrange for pickup of bags.  The bags are available at the Utilities & Engineering Department on the second floor of the Government Center in Newton; the Cooperative Extension Office off Highway 321 Business in Newton; the NC Department of Transportation's County Maintenance Office at 1302 Prison Camp Road south of Newton; and at Garbage Disposal Service's office at 4062 Section House Road in Hickory.

B.  The Board will issue a proclamation declaring April 10-16 as National Public Safety Telecommunicatiors Week.  Problems resulting from crime, fire and other disasters effect all segments of our society and, if unabated, can undermine and erode the moral and economic strengths of our community. The men and women working in the Catawba County Communications Center are responsible for responding to hundreds of telephone calls from the general public each day for police, fire, and emergency medical assistance, and for dispatching assistance to help save lives and property.  The proclamation recognizes their invaluable contribution to our quality of life, through their dedication and hard work.

C.  The Board will issue a proclamation declaring the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.  The proclamation acknowledges that child abuse is a community problem and that finding solutions depends on involvement by people throughout the community.  Approximately five million children are reported as abused and neglected in the US every year.  The effects of child abuse are felt by whole communities, and need to be addressed by the entire community.  The proclamation recognizes that effective child abuse prevention programs succeed because of partnerships created among social service agencies, schools, religious and civic organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the business community; and calls on all citizens to become more aware of the negative effects of child abuse and its prevention within the community, and become involved in supporting parents in raising children in a safe, nurturing environment.

D. The Board will issue a proclamation declaring April as Public Health Month to recognize the immeasurable contribution to the quality of life in Catawba County from public health services to citizens.  The benefits of the public health approach exist everywhere, everyday, for everybody regardless of religious, ethnic or socioeconomic background.  Public health efforts to control and eliminate infectious diseases, improve environmental sanitation, and promote healthy lifestyle practices have been the greatest cause of improved health status & increased life expectancy for our citizens.

E.  The Board will recognize Mark Logan, a Senior Real Estate Appraiser with the County Tax Office, who recently graduated from the 2006 Leadership Catawba program.  The program is developed annually by the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce to improve awareness of key issues facing the county, and educate and motivate business people to greater involvement in the community.

F.  The Board will recognize County Purchasing Manager, Debbie Anderson, who was recently awarded the 2006 Hall-Wicker Award by the Carolinas Association of Governmental Purchasing.  The award was established by the association in 1996 to recognize outstanding contributions and service to the cause and advancement of the purchasing profession.

G.  The Board will formally present the County Purchasing Division staff with a Sustained Professional Purchasing Award from the Carolinas Association of Governmental Purchasing.  The award is presented annually to government purchasing departments which are members of the CAGP.  Winning this award is “a statement that the purchasing department and staff are committed to a high level of professionalism and leading-edge development in the field of purchasing”, according to the CAGP’s web site, www.cagponline.org.  Catawba County's Purchasing staff has won the award every year since 2004.

H.  The Board will formally present the Catawba County Finance Department with a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), for the County's financial report for fiscal year 2004-2005.  The Finance Department has now won this award for 24 consecutive years.  Only about 10% of the more than 4000 governments in the GFOA have won the award for twenty or more consecutive years.  The certificate is presented to governmental units which the GFOA says "prepare and publish an easily readable, understandable comprehensive annual financial report covering all funds and financial transactions during the fiscal year."

CONSENT AGENDA
A.   The Board will consider approving a resolution to authorize the Sherrills Ford and Newton Friends of Catawba County Library to conduct a book sale and use the proceeds for library purposes.  The Friends of Catawba County Library is a non-profit association interested in books and libraries that focuses public attention on library service, facilities and needs.  It works to stimulate gifts of books, magazines, desirable collections, endowments and bequests, engage in money making projects to supplement the income of the library for expanded service to the public, and provide volunteer help whenever needed.  Library materials that have been damaged, are out of date, contain information that is no longer relevant, or are no longer being used by the public are pulled from the collection and discarded to keep the collection relevant and useful.  Once materials are deemed surplus, they are sold by the Friends of the Library at a book sale.  NC General Statute 160A-279 states that a county may convey property without monetary consideration, if the recipient agrees to use the property for a public use.  The proposed resolution authorizes the transfer of surplus books to the Friends of the Library for a book sale and states that the proceeds will be used to benefit the Catawba County Library system.  The Sherrills Ford book sale will be held on May 20, 2006 and the Newton book sale will be held from August 10-12, 2006.  The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends the Board approve the resolution to declare books and materials as surplus, and authorize the Friends of the Library to sell the surplus items and use the proceeds for library purposes.

DEPARTMENTAL REPORTS

PLANNING

The Board will review a proposed relicensing Agreement-In-Principle (AIP) offered by Duke Power as a part of the ongoing Federal relicensing of Duke Power's operation of hydroelectric projects along the Catawba-Wateree river system, determine its level of acceptance, and consider authorizing County representatives to sign the AIP.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requires that all non-federal hydroelectric projects obtain a new license for its dams when a project’s current license expires.  Duke Power obtained its current license for the Catawba-Wateree system in 1958, and it will expire in 2008.  The Catawba-Wateree project encompasses thirteen hydropower dam facilities and eleven reservoirs in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin. 

Duke Power began its relicensing process in February 2003 when it filed a “First Stage Consultation Document”, outlining the process Duke would follow for the relicensing.  Duke chose to proceed with an “enhanced traditional” approach, which allows an opportunity for public input during development of the license terms, rather than a process under which Duke would have included terms in a license agreement presented to FERC and then mitigated them afterwards by a limited public process.  Duke Power established a stakeholder process to review the results of 32 studies Duke conducted, addressing such issues as water quality, recreation, habitat, shoreline guidelines and land preservation.  Based on the findings of the studies, stakeholders negotiated specific terms of a new license application which will be submitted to FERC by Duke Power.  Commissioner Barbara Beatty and Senior Planner Mary George were appointed as primary stakeholders for the Metro and Foothills advisory groups, respectively.  Planning Director, Jacky Eubanks, was the County's designated alternate for both groups and Ms. George served on four study teams: shoreline mapping, shoreline guidelines, recreation and land identification.

After three years of review and negotiation, Duke Power incorporated stakeholders’ interests into a final document called an Agreement-in-Principle (AIP), which addresses fourteen broad areas such as lake levels, recreation amenities, water quality, shoreline management and resource enhancements.   These are the typical areas which FERC addresses for a new license.  With submission of its final AIP, Duke Power is now requesting that stakeholders, such as Catawba County, decide their level of acceptance of the AIP.  Stakeholders must sign the AIP at a level between 1 and 5.  Level 1 means agreement with the AIP.  Level 5 means a stakeholder disagrees with the AIP and is removing itself from the stakeholder process.  Stakeholders signing at Level 5 will not be allowed to participate in the development of a Final Agreement.  Signing at level 2 through 4 indicates the stakeholder has minor reservations, but can “live with” the AIP.  A level 4 signature allows stakeholders to submit statements to Duke Power & FERC indicating their areas of concern.

The Board previously received an overview of the AIP with an analysis of key objectives met and unresolved stakeholder issues.  At today's meeting, staff will discuss how the County’s specific interests have been addressed in the AIP and any outstanding issues.  There are several outstanding issues that have not been resolved in the AIP.  Key issues of concern to Catawba County include:

1)  Aquatic habitat flow below Oxford Dam- Catawba County is requesting a minimum continuous flow of 450-500 cubic feet per second (cfs), instead of 150 cfs below Oxford Dam as provided in the AIP.  Duke Power is proposing to mitigate the reduced flow by acquiring land in the riverine section of the Catawba River in Burke and Caldwell counties. This mitigation package gives no direct benefits to Catawba County with regard to the loss of aquatic flow.  Catawba County has requested additional funding for a Mountain Creek tract, gamelands and/or the trail easement below Riverbend Park, but these have not been included in the mitigation package.  The County is being asked to accept mitigation for flow at two locations in Catawba County, Oxford and Lookout Shoals, without any corresponding benefits to the county.  One of the major recreational activities at Riverbend Park, located below Oxford Dam, is fishing.   It is important to have higher flow, as recommended by the aquatics study, to support fisheries for the next forty years and/or provide other land and recreational opportunities in the county to mitigate for the loss.  Staff met with the Secretary of the NC Division of Environment and Natural Resources and other State staff prior to this meeting, and will update the Board on how the State has responded to the additional mitigation opportunities staff has requested for Catawba County.

2)  An additional Lake Hickory swim beach- The County is requesting Duke Power’s commitment to construct and maintain a second swim beach on Lake Hickory in the second five year period of the license.  The AIP indicates one swim beach will be provided by Duke Power on Lake Hickory, either at the Wittenburg Access Area in Alexander County or the Oxford Access Area in Catawba County.  The recreation study conducted by Duke Power indicates a need for two swim beaches on Lake Hickory so staff has requested Duke provide and maintain the second swim beach at Oxford.

3)  Mountain Creek acquisition deadline- The County has requested that a proposed Mountain Creek purchase option deadline of December 1, 2007 be deleted, with only an August 1, 2009 deadline for final acquisition included.  This would allow the County more time to negotiate the acquisition and obtain funding from grant sources. 

4)  Catawba gamelands-The County is requesting a first right-of-refusal for gameland properties in the county, to give the County an opportunity to secure grant funds to purchase gameland properties for future recreational opportunities.

5)  Inconsistency with jurisdictional agencies- Duke included language in the AIP to allow it to withdraw from the Final Agreement if a jurisdictional agency, like the US Fish and Wildlife Service, requires additional flows as a mandatory condition.  This statement could undermine the entire Final Agreement, negotiated by over 150 stakeholders.  Catawba County recommends Duke Power work with these agencies to address their concerns and develop a mutually agreeable contingency plan with stakeholders that won’t affect non-flow related terms of the Final Agreement.

Staff made presentations to several interest groups across the county to obtain input on the AIP, including the Catawba Valley Heritage Alliance, Hickory City Council, Waterwatch-Lake Hickory and Sherrills Ford Lions Club.  Input from these groups showed overall support for the AIP, including the recreation offerings.  The Waterwatch group requested additional funds from Duke for land preservation opportunities to protect water intakes and stream restoration projects on Lake Hickory.  Both Waterwatch & the Heritage Alliance supported the need for a second swim beach on Lake Hickory.

The Board may consider including these additional comments in its signing statements to Duke Power.  The interest groups and interested persons may also forward comments on Duke Power’s Final Agreement directly to FERC.  After Duke Power files its license in August 2006, FERC will set a time period during which interested parties may register to provide comments.  FERC will have official public comment periods in 2007 and 2008 as it begins to prepare required environmental documents and again when environmental documents are completed.   After stakeholders sign the AIP in April 2006, Duke Power will submit the Final Agreement for stakeholder review. It will be a legally binding contractual agreement which includes the terms of the AIP.  Duke will submit the Final Agreement to stakeholders in June 2006 and ask them to sign it by August 2006.  Staff will present the Final Agreement to the Board during this time period for official action. Staff recommends the Board authorize stakeholders Barbara Beatty and Mary George to sign the AIP at level 4 based on the areas of concern noted above. 

UTILITIES AND ENGINEERING
A.  The Board will get a report on a Catawba County Landfill Site Study prepared by the engineering firm of McGill Associates, and consider accepting the study.  On February 2, 2006, the Board accepted a Catawba County Landfill Alternative Site Study, prepared by Camp, Dresser and McKee, which is required by State law before a county expands its present landfill.  That study compared a proposed site for expansion of the current Blackburn Landfill with alternative sites, and recommended expansion of the existing Blackburn Landfill as the preferred site for the County.  The Board will now receive a report entitled “Expansion Properties Site Study Report, Blackburn MSW Landfill, Catawba County, North Carolina” dated February 28, 2006, and prepared by McGill Associates.

The expansion of the landfill involves several pieces of property adjacent to the Blackburn Landfill that have been purchased by the County from five landowners in recent months.  Portions of the properties will be permitted for use as landfill areas in the future.  Other portions will be used to provide soils needed to cover solid waste buried in the landfill each day, as required by State law, and to provide required buffer areas bordering on the active part of the landfill.  The study provides detailed information on the proposed future use of the expanded landfill areas.

B.  The Board will consider accepting an Eco-Complex Bio-Energy Center Preliminary Engineering and Project Feasibility Study performed by Petra Engineering PLLC and whether to authorize staff and Petra to proceed with Bio-Energy Center design.  Staff has studied the concept of a Regional Eco-Complex and Resource Recovery Facility, to be located adjacent to the Blackburn Landfill.  The purpose of the complex would be to promote economic development and create new jobs in the green energy and business, agricultural and environmental sectors. The Eco-Complex design would take the waste stream created by existing business near the landfill, and by the landfill itself, and convert it into materials used by other new businesses.  As examples, the County has been in discussions with a company that makes wood pallets that is interested in locating in the proposed complex and would use the wood waste not needed by Gregory Wood Products, which is already operating adjacent to the landfill, to make pallets.  A brick and pottery kiln is also a possibility, which would use waste produced in other parts of the complex in the production of bricks.  A greenhouse has been discussed which would use carbon dioxide produced in other segments of the complex to promote plant growth, and a turf research farm is another possibility that would benefit from soil composting facilities, yet another possibile feature of the complex.  At its February 6, 2006 meeting, the Board authorized Petra to perform a preliminary engineering and project feasibility study of the proposed Bio-Energy Center.

In the complex, the County proposes to provide energy (steam and/or electrical power) to multiple users by contracting with a private service provider through a long-term service agreement.  The County’s objective is to develop a high-tech energy facility, which will use the County’s wood waste to produce energy, primarily in the form of steam.  The Bio-Energy Center is fundamental to the design of the overall complex and essential to university research in the proposed turf research farm and the cooperative relationships between the complex's partners.  It is expected the all Eco-Complex partners will be able to reduce their operational costs by employing energy produced by the Bio-Energy Center and by converting waste streams to commodities.  Under the Letter of Intent with Petra approved by the Board on February 6,  the Board will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to proceed with the project at four decision points, as follows: 1) at this point, with the completion of a Preliminary Engineering and Project Feasibility Study.  If the Board chooses not to proceed with the project at this point, Petra will be compensated $25,000 for the preparation of the study, which will become the property of the County; 2) upon approval by the Board of design documents for the project; 3) when staff is ready to recommend that the County enter into a long-term service agreement with a private provider, as outlined above; and 4) at the time of the selection of the provider for operations and maintenance of the complex. 

Under the terms of the Letter Of Intent, Petra Engineering has completed the work necessary for the County to address decision point number two, project design documents.  Petra recommends that Catawba County proceed with Bio-Energy Center development and the project design documents.  Petra’s assessment has determined that the energy facility has minimal risk associated with development due to the multiple uses for energy outputs (hot air, hot water, steam, and electricity).  There is also flexibility to modify and change uses with ease and minimal cost, by increasing and acquiring additional bio-fuel.  Petra's study concludes that the Bio-Energy Center will provide the most economical short and long-term solution through the use of wood waste for fuel.  The steam cost from the Bio-Energy Center is projected to be at least 40% lower than the next best available option (natural gas).  Petra's financial assessment suggests four different financing options which could be used by a service provider, if the project advances to that point, to create the Bio-Energy Center.  Petra estimates the Bio-Energy Center project cost to a service provider would be $9,500,000, with an initial annual operation and maintenance budget of $750,000.  
 
Staff recommends the Board accept the Eco-Complex Bio-Energy Center Preliminary Engineering and Project Feasibility Study performed by Petra Engineering, and authorize staff and Petra to proceed with the Bio-Energy Center Project design. If the County chooses not to proceed at this point, Petra will be compensated $25,000 for the preparation of the Preliminary Engineering and Project Feasibility Study, which will become the property of Catawba County.

FINANCE
The Board will consider accepting the proposal of BB&T for installment purchase financing of $9.2 million for a new Catawba Elementary School; a resolution making certain findings and determinations regarding the financing; action to seek approval of the Local Government Commission; and the execution of a financing agreement and deed of trust, a construction and acquisition agreement, a lease agreement and related documents. The Board will also consider appropriating $9,252,900 for construction and furnishing of the school. 

In fiscal year 2003-04, the Board set aside two cents of the property tax rate to finance school construction over a four-year period.  Four projects have been completed or are under construction with these funds: a new Grandview Middle School, a new Maiden High School, a new Learning Library and Technology Center at CVCC and conversion of Tuttle Middle School to an elementary school.  These projects were identified by a Citizens’ Advisory Committee formed in 2001, and included in the first half of an eight-year school construction and improvement plan presented to the Board in 2002. The Catawba Elementary School project is the final project in the first four-year cycle.

At its January 17, 2006 meeting, the Board authorized the Catawba County Board of Education to proceed with bids for a new Catawba Elementary School. Bids were received in February at a total cost of $9.9 million. Almost $700,000 in funds have been secured, leaving a balance of $9.2 million to be financed. As required, a public hearing was held on March 27, 2006 to receive public comment regarding the financing.  No one spoke at the public hearing.

The County will finance this project under North Carolina General Statute 160A-20, which pledges the asset acquired or constructed as collateral for the loan, in case of default.  Since the County does not own the land on which the school will be built, the Catawba County Board of Education must convey the land to the County in order for the County to borrow the funds for the new school. The County will lease the new school and land back to the Board of Education for its use and, at the end of the financing term, transfer all rights to the property back to the school system.

All local governments in North Carolina that borrow funds greater than $500,000, and/or for a period longer than five years to maturity, must receive approval by the Local Government Commission (LGC), a division of the NC Department of State Treasurer. The LGC will consider this request on April 4, 2006 in Raleigh.

Requests for banking proposals were sent to four banks: Bank of America, BB&T, RBC Centura and Wachovia. The bid results are as follows: Bank of America, 4.69% interest; BB&T, 4.19%; RBC Centura, 4.36%; and Wachovia, 4.90%.  The lowest bidder on $9.2 million was BB&T with a rate of 4.19% for fifteen years.

Staff recommends the Board accept the proposal from BB&T for installment purchase financing of $9.2 million for a new Catawba Elementary School and adopt a resolution making certain findings and determinations regarding the financing and seeking approval from the Local Government Commission.  Staff recommends the Board authorize the execution of a financing agreement and deed of trust, a construction and acquisition agreement, and a lease agreement and related documents.  Staff also recommends the Board appropriate $9,252,900 for the construction and furnishing of the new school.  Catawba County Schools will receive two refunds, amounting to $52,900, from Trane Inc. and NC Department of Transportation, which will be reimbursed to the County upon completion of the school.

OTHER ITEMS OF BUSINESS
The Board will consider approving a State Legislative Agenda for the 2006 Short Session which will begin on May 9, 2006, listing projects the Board will seek to work toward with the county's delegation to the NC General Assembly and concerns the Board has regarding possible pending legislation.  After an agenda is adopted, it will be forwarded to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners for their information, as well as to the members of the local legislative delegation and the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce. For the Short Session, items that relate to the previous year’s session are included, along with several items that relate to funding.

Issues included on the proposed 2006 State Legislative Agenda are: 1) relief from additional funding for the County’s portion of Medicaid, which was also listed on the Board's 2004 and 2005 agenda; 2) additional revenue options for the county, which must largely depend on the property tax at present, such as have been granted to other counties (including Dare and Gaston) and calling on the General Assembly to allow all counties statewide to use any local revenue options granted to some counties; 3) continuing State funds for the Hickory Metro Higher Education Center; 4) additional State funding for childcare needs, since Catawba County presently has a waiting list of eligible persons seeking daycare and is looking for additional resources; 5) support for the concept of the State and local counties splitting the local burden of funding child welfare services on a 50/50 basis.  Presently, the Federal government and county governments fund child welfare services. It has been suggested that the State and counties split the local burden on a 50/50 basis; 6) the County's concerns that the Federal reconciliation budget could amount to a reduction of approximately $400,000 in funds for Catawba County, in the areas of child welfare, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), and child support.  The Board's proposed State Legislative Agenda calls on the General Assembly to assist in making up for this revenue loss because the programs offered by the County are mandated by the State; 7) the restoration of 2.5¢ cents of a sales tax refund available for schools that was rescinded in the last legislative session.  Staff understands that the intent of the law was to rescind only the 4.5¢ related to the State sales tax and that the 2.5¢ portion will be restored in the upcoming session; and 8) supporting a bill submitted in the last session increasing State funding for public library services by $4.7 million.  Only $1 million was approved last year.  State funds for the Catawba County Library System would increase by $38,444 to a total of $202,361 if the full amount was appropriated.

The agenda also addresses several proposed bills of concern to the County including 1) House Bill 1638 which originally was intended to expand the use of E911 funds and was amended in an attempt to eliminate the fees, to protect the County's interest as it relates to the E911 fees and the present availability of fee uses; 2) House Bill 648/Senate Bill 508, which would exempt from taxation the increase in value attributable to improvements in property, prior to sale, which staff and the Board believe is inconsistent with the practice of taxing residential property at fair market value; 3) Senate Bill 951, which would require local governments to provide extended notice to companies providing solid waste collection services before awarding franchises to other haulers or canceling franchises, which would make it more costly to change solid waste haulers and greatly limit local governments’ ability to provide the best services possible for citizens; 4) House Bill 900 which would permit issuance of permits for onsite subsurface wastewater systems (septic tanks) after evaluation by private soil sciences; 5) House Bill 1769, which would place a $2 per ton tax on solid waste with the intent of using the proceeds to remediate old, closed landfills statewide.  If passed, a tax would be charged in Catawba County and the proceeds used elsewhere in counties that have not monitored their landfills, while landfills in Catawba County are presently monitored; 6) show the Board's support for House Bill 1765/Senate Bill 1030, which would require that consumers pay a nominal tax when purchasing electronics items, provided the proceeds from the tax come back to Catawba County to address disposal of electronics waste; and 7) show the Board's support for a proposal of the State Champions of Education Cabinet to increase the age for compulsory education attendance to 18, or until graduation.

Items may be added to the agenda as they come up throughout the session, with the Board’s approval.  Staff recommends the Board adopt the proposed State Legislative Agenda.

CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER    465-8464