February 4, 2019 Regular Session
NORTH CAROLINA – MITCHELL COUNTY
The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners met in Regular Session on February 4, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Conference Room, Administration Building, Bakersville, NC. Those present for the meeting were: Danny Burleson, Chairman; Vern Grindstaff, Vice-Chairman; Jeff Harding, Member; Steve Pitman, Member; Jacob Willis, Member; and Kathy Young, County Manager. Also present were: Mavis Parsley, Finance Director; Lloyd Hise, County Attorney; and Cory Spiers, Reporter with the Mitchell News Journal. The Mitchell County Board of Education was present for the meeting.
- CALL TO ORDER – Chairman Burleson called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.
- INVOCATION – Commissioner Willis gave the invocation.
- PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – Commissioner Grindstaff led the Pledge of Allegiance.
- ETHICS AWARENESS AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST REMINDER:
In accordance with the State Government Ethics Act, it is the duty of every Board member to avoid both conflicts of interest and appearance of conflict. Does any board member have any known conflicts of interest or appearances of conflict with respect to any matters coming before the Board? If so, please identify the conflict or appearance of conflict and refrain from any undue participation in the particular matter involved.
- ADDITIONS OR CHANGES TO THE AGENDA – Commissioner Grindstaff moved to remove Item 9. C. YMCA Update from the Agenda. They have requested to be on the March Agenda. Commissioner Pitman seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
- ADOPTION OF AGENDA – Commissioner Grindstaff moved to adopt the Agenda. Commissioner Willis seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
- APPROVAL OF MINUTES – Commissioner Grindstaff moved to approve the minutes for January 7, 2019 DSS Regular Session and January 7, 2019 Regular Session. Commissioner Pitman seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
- PUBLIC COMMENTS/BOARD COMMENTS – Andy Burleson said that he was here to discuss the new school. He stated he liked the situation with Bowman and Harris. He said he felt like it was a community thing. Two schools were closed in the past and there was only a twenty-eight thousand dollar a year savings when they were closed. Mr. Burleson stated the new proposal was a new 3 – 8 grade school. He stated Harris is the school with the most issues. He suggested that the Mining Companies be contacted and see if they would help build on to Greenlee to make it a K-4 School, move Harris to Deyton and build a new school on the Harris property. Then sell Deyton to BRP. He suggested taking that money and do renovations at Bowman. The High School is forty years old. There are issues with it. Mr. Burleson said there were other options that need to be looked at. He felt that having 3-12 on the same property was not smart. There would be a lot of traffic issues with Ledger School Road. The schools are a part of the communities. He asked that in whatever decisions are made to think about it and make the best decision for the children.Chairman Burleson thanked Mr. Burleson and stated he was glad the School Board was here and able to hear his comments.
- Tax Collector – Tax Collector Presnell provided the Board with the January Tax Collection report (a copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes). She also presented to the Board the total unpaid 2018-19 taxes that are a lien on real property in accordance with G.S. 105-369(a). A copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes.
- Order to Advertise Tax Liens – Chairman Burleson read the Order to Advertise Tax Liens to Tax Collector Presnell (a copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes).
- ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION
- Dates for Board of Equalization and Review – Tax Administrator Hyder discussed possible dates for the Board of Equalization and Review. The dates will be April 1st, April 2nd and adjournment on April 4th.
- Mitchell County School Project
- Memorandum of Understanding – Commissioner Harding moved to approve the Memorandum of Understanding (a copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes). Commissioner Pitman seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
- Form of Agreement – FY 2018-2019 – County Manager Young reviewed the Form of Agreement with Board. Commissioner Pitman moved to approve the Form of Agreement FY 2018-2019 (a copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes). Commissioner Willis seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Commissioner Harding thanked the staff of the school system, the architect firm for being here.
Superintendent Calhoun stated they were here mainly for Q&A. He presented The Board with a copy of the predicted enrollment from DPI (a copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes). He stated the gentleman who does the prediction is a statistician with DPI. Superintendent Calhoun informed the Board that this year is the only year that we have been above his prediction. The reason for that is several students from our charter and private schools enrolled back into our schools. He stated our enrollment is declining. We are getting smaller and smaller and it affects our funding. Superintendent Calhoun used Bowman as an example. Bowman has 3, 3, 3 and 3 teachers. Bowman only earns funding from the state for 2, 2, 2 and 2 teachers. He stated you can’t do that because of certifications. We are currently using small rural and local funding to make up the difference. He explained that when there is a raise the state funds the raise for state paid teachers but not the teachers who are paid with local funding. Superintendent Calhoun stated they had gone into their fund balance for $163, 000 last year and they could not continue to operate the school system out of your fund balance.
Chairman Burleson stated, “The Board was interested in the new school. Tell us what we are looking at and the Commissioners would like to discuss adding a couple of things to the plans. What are you planning on building? What will it take care of? Where are the savings coming from? How are you going to pay for it?
Superintendent Calhoun turned the program to Cope Architecture. Mr. Jim Hinton, Principal with Cope Architecture reviewed the plans (a copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes) that they presented to the Board in August. He stated, “They were tasked to do was to the find the best solution to get a school for grades 3-8. We looked at a number of sites throughout the county and determined it might be the best solution to put it on the existing High School property. The plan calls for turf and lighting at the High School”.
Commissioner Willis asked if the gym would be a gym/auditorium. Mr. Hinton stated they had not gotten into that level of detail. He said the current plan has enough seating for five to six hundred as they currently have it blocked out. He stated that yes it could very well could be. Commissioner Willis said that on the auxiliary gym, he thought the Board of Commissioners had discussed the possibility of having a walking tract and classrooms for afterschool. He asked if that was on the table. Mr. Hinton replied that it could be on the table, but they had not gotten to that level of detail yet. Mr. Hinton stated the estimates provided did not include any soft costs only the construction costs. Commissioner Willis asked if the project had to be reduced, what would be reduced. Mr. Hinton stated that maybe the gym, the media center, or they might look at the special classrooms.
Commissioner Grindstaff asked if the price included any paving, landscaping or is it just the building. Mr. Hinton stated that it included site development but did not include a lot of landscaping.
Commissioner Willis asked if middle school ball would be played at this facility. Ms. Hodshon said they could be but maybe not.
Commissioner Harding asked about the segregation of the students. Mr. Hinton reviewed the layout of the grades and the classrooms with the Board. Mr. Harding asked about the cost of the removal of the sand filter trench system and did he see any issues about the stream on the property. Mr. Hinton did not see any issues with either of them. Discussion was held on the location of the building in reference to the stream. Commissioner Harding asked if they would be doing core-drilling testing. Mr. Hinton stated that they would absolutely would be.
Commissioner Harding asked if the site (the parking lot at Mitchell High School) on this presentation had been voted on by the Board of Education. Brandon Pitman, Chairman of the Mitchell County Board of Education, stated it had not been. He stated it had been voted on to use that site for the purpose of applying for the grant, but we have not voted on.
Commissioner Grindstaff said so you have not approved this building site. Mr. Pitman said we approved the site only to apply for the grant. Chris Campbell, School Board Attorney stated the school board would have to deed the property to Mitchell County to use as collateral. They will have to vote on the site so that the property can be conveyed to Mitchell County.
Commissioner Harding stated it has been said that the Board of Education has looked at property across from the Board of Education building, with an asking price that is four hundred and twenty percent higher than the tax value listed on that property. He stated that as a Commissioner that concerned him a little bit with him not knowing that the school might not be on the high school property and we might step down the road and spend another six hundred thousand dollars out of the fifteen million dollars to buy a piece of property. Commissioner Harding said that was a concern of his, because at the end of the day, you all are putting a little bit of money in to it, but we are the ones with our neck in the noose. He said I am very excited about the school and it is a great thing for Mitchell County. Commissioner Harding stated he heard the young man speak, but we have aging buildings and I think it is time we be progressive. He said he was excited about this, but it is a concern about the property.
Brenda Sparks, Mitchel County School Board Member, said, “I have great concerns about putting this school in the parking lot of the high school. I have many reasons for my concerns. Some of my reasons would be safety for the children. Yes, you can you can do it, but should we do it. I don’t think we should. I think it would be a disaster waiting to happen for a number of different reasons. There is only one way in and one way out. I have taught at this school and I know how hard it is to get in with the numbers of students we already have there and you are talking about putting more students in that area. I think trying to use the facilities that the High School has for middle and elementary schools will not work. I worry about the safety of the children. I worry about sharing these facilities. I worry about our middle school children walking over to the High School to use their auditorium. I appreciate the work and I appreciate everything. I want a school. I want to use this money. I just want to use it in the right way. There is fifteen acres down the road that we made an offer on. However, no one ever tried to negotiate on it any further. We are trying to get this fifteen acres for the people of Mitchell County for a Mitchell County School. We are talking about putting artificial turf on the football field because it is going to be worn out. You can come down to the fifteen acre tract and put another field. We talked about the price for developing the site on the fifteen-acre tract; you don’t have to develop the whole tract at one time. You can develop multiple entrances on the fifteen-acre tract not off School Road. I cannot approve this unless we have crossed every opportunity we have to see if we can do better for Mitchell County than putting a new school in a parking lot. If we can’t do any better then I would do it. But we do have some options and I don’t think the people of Mitchell County know that we have options. If we can’t afford the fifteen acres, then we back up and punt. Therefore, as of right now, I want to exhaust everything before we put it on the parking lot. Yancey County is building a new school at Cane River; they negotiated the asking price down from 1.2 million to seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. I don’t want to go by there and see that school and just be sick because they have a beautiful site for their school and ours is stuck in a parking lot. We can negotiate with those people; I believe and get that property for the people of Mitchell County. If it won’t work, it won’t work and I will back off. I want to exhaust all possibilities for our students and the people of Mitchell County.
Commissioner Harding asked if they were talking about the same piece of property. Ms. Sparks stated they were. She stated an offer of three hundred thousand had been made to the property owners before she come on the board. She stated that she had another thing to say about it. When you get appraisals you have to use like comparable, I am a licensed Real Estate Broker and have been for years. Commissioner Harding asked before the Board made an offer on the property did you do a site test. He said it appears that property appears to be full of water so if you buy a piece of land and you can’t build a school on it, have you lost three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Ms. Sparks said that you could make an offer contingent on the diligence and getting things done. I never seen anyone buy anything in the real estate world that didn’t get the testing done before closing on the deal.
Chairman Burleson stated the School Board needs to make that decision. He said the Commissioner’s role was to see how to pay for it and not to decide the location of the school. Chairman Burleson said the School Board need to make that decision and get back with the Commissioner’s pretty quick. He asked Chad about the savings and how we were going to pay for the school and what the soft costs are. Chairman Burleson stated, “As County Commissioner’s we need to know what the soft costs are because we have to pay for it. We have to make sure there is enough savings and a way to pay for it because this is going to stretch out for many years”. Superintendent Calhoun said that “the savings was based on is current staffing. As you know, we don’t know what our budget will be next year so we were very conservative (a copy of the information is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes). The total cost savings would be about $770, 730, but we would like to add back the Spanish program, SRO, Technology Curriculum Coordinator, Alternative Classroom Teacher, for a cost of $231,500 from the $770,730. Capital Fund contribution added $300,000 just on repairs of those three schools over a ten-year period yearly. The net available for debt payment would be $689,230. With enrollment drop we have to consider that to, also the QZAB payment of $142,857 could possibly be available after 2022. Lottery funding would come back after five years in amount of $130,000 per year. I told this Board back when we met before, we feel comfortable as a school system we could make a payment between $650,000 to $700,000 per year. That is a conservative payment. Could it be more? Possibly, but I want to be on a conservative level so that I don’t have to come back in three to five years from now and say we can’t make the payment. We have teachers that travel between schools, that we pay mileage to and it isn’t considered in the cost savings. The heating costs, call system, athletic savings and bus savings are consider in the estimate. The figure of $650,000 to $700,000 per year payment is a conservative amount.”
Chairman Burleson asked if the school could be built for thirty million dollars. Mr. Hinton stated he felt they could, but there were always the unknown.
Commissioner Willis asked Mr. Travis Pitman “what he would need to practice middle school soccer, football, JV football, Varsity football, high school soccer. Is it going to be sufficient if we turf the field or are you going to need another field?
Travis Pitman stated, “You will have to turf it and probably have to have another field. We have baseball used by men in the fall, softball, which would compromise middle school football. I don’t even know if the school has facilities for locker rooms, etc. I haven’t even seen the plans for it. We always need fields wherever we can get them. When you start looking at it with a turfed field, you are going to be able to take that field and half it to be able to use it. Football being able to share that field is going to be a problem. Avery County does half field football and half field soccer. If another school is up there, you have to figure out you are going to work around this stuff to make workable. What I want is the best thing for our kids. I agree with everything that has been said here, but I don’t want to see this money gone. We need to find the best solution is and the best thing for our kids. As the Athletic Director and Head Football Coach, I work a lot of hours on the field to make it pretty. If you come on Friday night, I have Jeff Gouge who doesn’t charge us a dime comes and mows. I have five people who come and help me paint the field for two days. There is a lot of effort put into it. I have prices for the football field and the baseball and softball fields (a copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes). I would rather see turf on those fields rather than have lights put up. Scheduling will be an issue. We have discussed the combing of the middle school athletics. There is a lot of planning that needs to be done.
Chairman Burleson asked if he would be able use the other schools if this school is built. Mr. Pitman stated we could if we still own them.
Commissioner Willis how it would work if rec was pulled into the auxiliary gym with offices for them and then running our little league through this campus. Do you think we could make some money during the summer if we had the turf and lights? Mr. Pitman said that was a possibility to make money for the school system.
Commissioner Harding asked what the annual cost for the upkeep of the football field. I have a budget of $7,000 but I am already in the hole for $3,000 for field maintenance.
Chairman Burleson stated we are looking at two million for turf and lighting.
Superintendent Calhoun gave the following example of declining funding, “My last year as a principal had $60,000 for supplies, this year Mitchell High School received $25,000. We are having to use supply money to fund teachers. That money is going to be more and more. I can see the writing on the wall. If a school is not built, I would have to come to the County Commissioners and ask for funding for a teacher per grade level for Bowman and Harris. The writing is there. If we were gaining kids and getting bigger, I would never say close a building, but we are not getting bigger. We are getting smaller. This guy’s prediction is right. We use supply money, fund balance and beg you for local money. We can use fund balance for the next three to four years and never have this conversation and the next superintendent could. I can do justice to this county and say in three years what can we start cutting.
Angie Burleson stated, “Thirty years teaching plus serving a term as a Board member, I probably have three years left because I am not going to run again. I watched this school system make decisions that have not been in the best interest of the children. That is why I ran. I want us to do what is best for the children. I am one hundred and ten percent behind this project. I know that we have new folks on our Board that are not in support yet. But I have worked in all the schools. I know these buildings. They have problems. You are going to have to build a new school or fix the schools and I don’t think you are going to like the price of it.
These buildings are not going to stay together much longer. When we get information from the State that says we should close Harris already and Bowman should be closed in the next year or so because of their age. We talk about putting all our kids in one location, I think that’s pretty sound. They are behind a fence, with a guard, in buildings that have the best technology for security we can give them with two armed law enforcement officers protecting them. What do they have now, not any of that. Everything that is a negative, I can turn around and make it a positive. Putting kids on the same campus, look at Avery, Enka, and Reynolds. In all of those schools, their middle schools are in walking distance of their high schools. They are able to share resources. I don’t know why all of a sudden we think that the young ones are going to pick some bad habits from the old ones. We used to all ride the same buses”.
Chairman Burleson said, “that all the Board of Commissioners know and realize the needs. We want to see the school. Our biggest thing is can we pay for it. You all have issues and I think the next step that you all need to do is decide where you are going to put the school. If there is a division about not putting it at the high school, you all need to make a decision and come back to us with that decision. We need hard figures if we can get them. This Board is not going to try to tell you where to put the grades but they would like to see a gym and auditorium. I think we would like to build the auxiliary gym to be used for the senior citizens, outside agencies, have a walking track in it, and to have our recreation department in it. I think this Board would like for the these other schools be utilized for sports, use the fields and gyms. We don’t want the children practicing at 10:00 o’clock at night. The biggest thing the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners has to do is make sure we can pay for this”.
Chairman Pitman of the Board of Education, stated that “there wasn’t anyone who would disagree on the need to make sure that the school system financially can make the payment without using all the fund balance. But as we are looking at these plans and discussing the soft costs and the other needs, it costs more than what we as a school board can afford. We have to look at the whole picture”.
Commissioner Harding stated, “He had a question for the Architect. You leave the meeting tonight and you know you are going to get paid, how quick can you get us a price on the school”. Mr. Hinton stated they would need to go through some conceptional studies and there had been discussion on getting a Construction Manager at Risk. This person needs to be involved as early as possible. He felt that within a month he could have very good information and come back to the Board of Commissioners. He said he did not feel there would be a Construction Manager at Risk hired by that time.
Commissioner Pitman said he realized the Board of Education had to go back and make the decision on the location of the school, but you are saying you will bring back a conceptional design.
Commissioner Grindstaff stated, “Clearly there is some confusion on where you all want to put the school. I would hope your Board would go back ASAP and make that decision. I would remind you that majority rules and sometimes we have to get on board with stuff that we may not necessarily agree with our self all the time but that it is the unity that the citizens expect of us to make. I encourage you all to make that decision so that you can move forward. I would also say on behalf of the citizens of this County, it is really important to us about the dollar cost because we have to work on our budget beginning in March so it is really important to us. We are looking at your sales tax dollars making that payment. I think I can speak for this Board that it is very important to us to know what it will take to make that payment. I would encourage you all to be speedy on this and get us all the information for our budget.
Commissioner Willis stated, “That looking at the closing of Buladean and Tipton Hill and the lack of foresight in the closing of those two schools in Mitchell County. We closed two gymnasiums and took away places to practice. I am going to be over at Bowman on Friday night at 9:00 p.m. to try to get into a gym for practice because we didn’t plan. I think it hurt us both academically and athletically by closing the schools without a vision and knowing what the future was going to look like. We have one shot at this and I hope you all look at everything when making decisions. We need to do it right if we are going to do it and it needs to suit the needs of every kid. We need a plan. We need Spanish back. We need art. We need a space for kids to play. I would encourage you to take a look at this and decide what best suits the needs of the children.
Brenda Sparks questioned Mr. Hinton about the ballpark figure that he gave for the site development on the fifteen acre. She asked if that figure included the purchase price of the property. Mr. Hinton stated they did not provide any estimate for the site development on that property because when they started it was off the table.
Chairman Burleson thanked the Board of Education for attending the meeting.
- Re-appointment of Ted Ollis to the WAMY Board – Commissioner Harding moved to reappoint Ted Ollis to the WAMY Board. Commissioner Willis seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
- NC Senior Tar Heel Legislature
- Norma Duncan – Delegate
- Charles Duncan – Alternate
Commissioner Grindstaff moved to reappoint Norma Duncan as the NC Senior Tar Heel Legislature Delegate and Charles Duncan as the Alternate. Commissioner Pitman seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
- CONSENT AGENDA
- Pay Plan Increase
- Vaya Health Financials as of 12-31-18
- Property Releases/Refunds/Discoveries for January 2019
- Vehicle Releases/Refunds for January 2019
Commissioner Willis moved to approve the Consent Agenda Items (a copy is hereby attached and becomes a part of the minutes). Commissioner Grindstaff seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
- CLOSED SESSION – Commissioner Grindstaff moved to enter into a Closed Session in with NCGS §143‑318.11 (a) (6) which reads as follows: To consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee; or to hear or investigate a complaint, charge, or grievance by or against an individual public officer or employee. General personnel policy issues may not be considered in a closed session. A public body may not consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, appointment, or removal of a member of the public body or another body and may not consider or fill a vacancy among its own membership except in an open meeting. Final action making an appointment or discharge or removal by a public body having final authority for the appointment or discharge or removal shall be taken in an open meeting and any other business the Board deems necessary. Commissioner Willis seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Commissioner Willis moved to go out of Closed Session. Commissioner Grindstaff seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
Closed Session was held from 7:25 p.m. until 9:10 p.m.
No action was taken as a result of the Closed Session.
- COUNTY MANAGER’S REPORT – County Manager Young gave the following report to the Board:
- FEBRUARY 2019
- Worked on Energov Upgrade
- Worked on Bradshaw Fire Department Hazard Mitigation Grant
- Held Monthly Conference Meeting on the 911 Center
- Monitored progress of 911 Center Building
- Worked with Mickey Duvall on Economic Development potential projects
- Worked with NC Department of Administration on Locust Knob Tower Road
- Attended Comprehensive Transportation Plan meeting
- Participated in a conference call with Mission Health regarding the sale to HCA
- Attended Workforce Development meeting
- Met with Richard Canipe, Mickey Duvall, Danny Burleson and Darla Harding concerning potential EDC projects
- Met with Charles Vines on Town Projects
- Reviewed proposals from furniture vendor SBFI for 911 Center
- FEBRUARY 2019
- BOARD COMMENTS – Commissioner Grindstaff updated the Board on the cost of running Town water up to Mountain Holler.
- ADJOURNMENT – Commissioner Harding moved to adjourn the meeting. Commissioner Willis seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
The meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m.