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BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FY2012/2013 GOALS


1) Support a coordinated effort to create jobs and property tax base by investing in infrastructure, the development of the County’s quality of life, and educational opportunities. Participate with the private sector in determining a long-term vision.
Specific strategies include:
a. Aggressive recruitment of most favored industries;
b. Support of and participation in a multi-jurisdictional business park;
c. Advocating for the widening and completion of Highway 16;
d. Insuring that County regulations support orderly growth and business development;
e. Supporting an environment for entrepreneurship, emphasizing the development of small business;
f. Continued support of public education, Economic Development Corporation, Convention and Visitor Bureau, CVCC and the Chamber of Commerce.


In keeping with the County’s broad and long-term approach to funding water and sewer infrastructure needs countywide, the Board approved an agreement between the County and the City of Hickory for the Hickory-Catawba Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion. This expansion will increase treatment capacity to service areas including the Town of Catawba and the commercial and industrial areas along Highway 150, as well as providing needed service provisions in the southeast Catawba County service area in anticipation of growth. Additionally, the Board entered into an interlocal agreement with the City of Newton resulting in the Balls Creek Water Project to service Highway 16 South, Balls Creeks Road and Buffalo Shoals Road, and the Board’s application and acceptance of a Community Development Block Grant funded the extension of the Old Shelby Road Water Line which will provide water to 131 persons and 63 households, the majority of which have severe water needs.


Continuing with this broad and long-term approach, the Board entered into a new exclusive solid waste management franchise agreement with Republic Services of NC, LLC to ensure a substantial increase in the number of items collected for recycling, with further expansion of items collected as needed over time, the initiation of “single stream” collection of recyclable commodities so recycled materials would no longer have to be separated at curbside and the enhancement of the collection of yard waste, while increasing Republic Services’ investment in Catawba County by $13 million and protecting over 150 local jobs. In an effort to maintain the continued, long-term economic health and viability of the County’s solid waste management enterprise, the County entered into agreements with the Cities of Hickory, Newton, Conover and the Town of Long View for the continued acceptance, management, and disposal of municipal solid waste collected with the municipalities’ jurisdictions.


With an eye on all aspects of services which impact the County’s quality of life, County staff and the Board were well aware that the County’s current animal shelter built in 1985 did not meet the capacity needs of the County’s animal population. The Board addressed the need to increase the capacity of this facility which receives animals from both the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the County by awarding a bid for construction of a new shelter. The new facility will be able to handle the volume similar to the 7,050 animals received in fiscal year 2012, with a new design which includes separate adoption and relinquishment services areas which will help control disease by reducing cross contamination.


In January 2013, the Board held a special session to review the overall design of the Sherrills Ford Library to ensure that this much desired branch which will impact the quality of life for those in the southeastern part of the County had a flow and design that met the needs of the community and was visually warm and inviting.


Further actions taken to improve the quality of life of county citizens included the Board’s approval of the appropriation of existing fund balance in the amount of $30,000 to assist Bandys Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department in construction costs for replacing one station and building one new fire station as well as the Board’s action which enabled Propst Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department to acquire a more favorable interest rate when financing the purchase of a new pumper-tanker and self-contained breathing apparatus. Additionally, Board action resulted in the donation of a surplus county vehicle to the Western North Carolina Epilepsy Association to assist with use at their HOPE (Help Our People Eat) Garden. The Board also amended the Unified Development Ordinance regarding setbacks for principal structures on corner lots, thus allowing homeowners more flexibility in placement of structures on these lots. Further, in response to an issue that arose in a municipality, the Board revised the Unified Development Ordinance to address setbacks from gravesite’s crypts, vault or grave markers in cemeteries in unincorporated areas of the County. This clarification of County ordinances and proactive efforts before issues arise is evidenced in this cemetery setback ordinance as well as the Board’s adoption of a revised ordinance on assembly for purposes of expressing constitutionally protected speech on County-owned property and public use of Meetings Rooms and the 1924 Courthouse.


When floods in May 2013 threatened the quality of life of the northern and eastern parts of the County, the Board’s action to waive solid waste, building permit, zoning and flood plain development permit fees associated with the affected property eased some of the burden caused by this natural disaster.


During the Board’s retreat in December 2012, the Board received an interim report from the Southern Growth Policy Board on the ongoing joint effort of the areas’ public and private sectors to identify opportunities for economic competitiveness. This effort has resulted in a public/private project named Innovate Catawba that has identified six work areas: Inspiring Communities, Reinventing Spaces, Workforce Connectivity, Entrepreneurship, Building for Jobs, and Leading and Communicating. The Board also received an update on a food and farm sustainability plan and what that long term vision was for this partnership with the farmers of the County to sustain agricultural land in the County; recruit younger farmers and provide tools for farm transitioning; focus on agricultural economic development and agri-tourism and ensuring local food sustainability by developing and marketing a “Farm-to-Fork” initiative. In April, 2013 the Board adopted this Farm & Food Sustainability Plan that had come to fruition after a series of community meetings for citizen input and over 310 man-hours by Committee members to develop a plan to enhance agriculture and promote local foods.


Further actions taken toward the specific strategies of this goal were:


a. Aggressive recruitment of most favored industries;

In its continued effort to aggressively recruit most favored industries to the County, the Board approved incentives, along with the City of Claremont, for Bed, Bath and Beyond to locate a disaster recovery facility/backup data center (later to become their primary data Center) in Claremont’s CenterPoint Shell Building. The new investments, equal or greater than $36,800,000, and a minimum of seven new jobs created by 2018 paying substantially above Catawba County average wages, will add this Fortune 500 company to our base.
Included in the Board’s 2013 Legislative Agenda was support to abolish the existing guidelines specific to State incentives, grants, and assistance programming. The existing system ranks North Carolina’s 100 counties based on economic well-being and assigns each a tier designation. Catawba County, with higher than average the State unemployment rate, is not well supported as the result of the tiering structure’s eligibility factors. Continued in the Legislative Agenda was emphasis on completion of the widening of Hwy. 16 from Newton to Tower Road in SE Catawba County to better facilitate transportation to and from Charlotte.


b. Support of and participation in a multi-jurisdictional business park;

The Board entered into a joint development agreement with the Town of Catawba, the City of Conover, the City of Hickory and the Town of Maiden to acquire, develop and operate a business park on a 70 acre tract of land off of US Interstate 40, Exit 132 at Highway 16 in Conover.

d. Insuring that County regulations support orderly growth and business development;
In an effort to support an environment for entrepreneurship and development of small business as well as support orderly growth and business development, the Board revised the demolition/rehab program it adopted in the last fiscal year to make the program less restrictive regarding the type of development and the minimum acreage required. This program will waive for one year certain landfill fees and erosion control permit fees to encourage development of pre-graded sites, demolition and removal of dilapidated buildings and rehabilitation of historic buildings in order to promote economic development.


Based on the fact that this waiver program produced significant re-investment through improved aesthetics, positive net tax income, and re-investment by private developers which spurred new job creation and new businesses, the Board acted to extend this waiver program for an additional 24 months.

e. Supporting an environment for entrepreneurship, emphasizing the development of small business;
The County’s continued support of the Chamber of Commerce’s Edison Project focuses on the need to identify and foster new small businesses.

f. Continued support of public education, Economic Development Corporation, Convention and Visitor Bureau, CVCC and the Chamber of Commerce.

The Fiscal Year 2012/13 budget authorized $25 million in school construction projects: a new Longview Elementary School, a major renovation to South Newton Elementary and Newton-Conover Middle Schools and renovations for Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC). The County’s funding of CVCC increased 2.6 percent to $3,712,188 in the FY 2012/13 budget which should maintain the County’s ranking in community college funding at 15th out of 58 community colleges.


The FY 2012/13 budget adopted by the Board also continues to support the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center and the Chamber of Commerce’s Edison Project. For the 10th year of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, the Board again waived applicable permit fees for the event. The impact of this event on the local economy is estimated at $15 million, with more than 65,000 spectator, volunteers and vendors as well as over 15 hours of live and replay coverage on the Golf Channel.


In support of the capital needs of public education, the Board appropriated an additional $824,670 to ensure the completion of the Longview Elementary School Project. Additionally, the Board approved installment purchase financing in the amount of $31 million for the construction of two new elementary schools, renovations to existing school facilities, improvements to Catawba Valley Community College and the animal shelter.


In further support of the Catawba County Schools, the Board acted to donate two surplus vehicles to the Schools for use by its locksmith and electrician.


2) Prepare a fiscal year 2012-13 budget which provides needed County services within available revenues, including no property tax increase, ensuring that the County addresses its short term needs while planning for long term growth and maintaining the Board of Commissioners’ policy of two months of operating expenses.


The Fiscal Year 2012/13 budget was adopted with no countywide property tax increase and maintains the tax rate at $0.53 per $100 of valuation, which is the 8th lowest tax rate of the 27 urban counties (populations over 100,000) and the 28th lowest of all 100 counties in North Carolina. This is the sixth year without a property tax increase. The budget reflected a 1.2 percent increase in County operations and maintains the Board of Commissioners’ policy of two month operating expenses. The County continues to examine the way it does business and meet service needs within available revenue.


With a sound and fiscally responsible budget in place, the Board continued to take action which benefited the financial security of the County. With the adoption of a resolution authorizing the refinancing of a portion of the County’s installment payment obligations and taking advantage of lower interest rates, more than $850,000 in savings will be realized over the next thirteen years. In another sound and fiscally responsible action, the Board approved installment purchase financing in the amount of $31 million at a low 1.96% interest rate over 15 years for the construction of two new elementary schools, renovations to existing school facilities, improvements to Catawba Valley Community College and a new animal shelter. When the construction of the Highway 150 sewer lines was excluded by the bank from the above financing, separate installment purchase financing was identified for this remaining $8 million construction project at a rate of 1.81% for twelve years.