BOC approves $1 million airport contract
New land use laws require board action
The Ashe County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved a $1 million contract for airport improvement, were presented with a summary of new land use legislation requiring board action, and voted to waive an airport hangar lease fee.
Eaglewood Construction’s $1,014,750 bid for the Ashe County Airport runway extension project was unanimously approved by the board.
Based in Denver, N.C., Eaglewood will complete all earth moving and fill-in for site preparation, pave the extended runway section, and install required runway lighting.
The 90-day contract will not be signed until the county has an executed grant contract from the state, according to County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell. Until then, the county has only a verbal agreement from the state, she said.
Eaglewood’s bid was the lowest of two bids considered for the project.
New laws affect land use
Director of Planning Adam Stumb presented a summary of new bills passed by the General Assembly that will require action by the board.
“The big one was House Bill 74,” Stumb said. The ‘Regulatory Reform Act’ changes rules for outdoor advertising, requiring the board to modify the county sign ordinance to allow for billboard replacement.
House Bill 276 requires notice of meetings for Board of Adjustment hearings for variances and appeals. The board will have to amend ordinances, evaluate fee schedules for variances and propose changes for the next fiscal year, Stumb said.
“The Cell Tower Deployment Act” allows telecommunication companies to increase tower sizes without local permitting. County ordinances must be amended to reflect changes, he said.
Under the new state budget, all Deed Stamp Tax proceeds will be credited to the state’s general fund. Seventy-five percent of this revenue was formerly credited to the Parks and Recreational Trust Fund, so the county will now have to find new funding sources for parks projects, Stumb said.
Hangar fee waived
A 20-year lease on a county-owned hanger at Ashe County Airport expired Aug. 1. Held by pilot and aircraft mechanic John Greer, the lease fee was $1 per year, but would now increase to $1,800.
Greer rents another privately-owned hangar for $1,800 per year. County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell said, according to conversations with the Airport Advisory Board and Greer, he could not afford $3,600 per year in hangar fees.
Greer provides a range of airport services, including aircraft inspection and repair, and flight instruction, which make it an attractive facility for civil aviation, and important infrastructure for economic development, Mitchell said.
“The concern of the AAB is if (Greer) were to give up his hangars…you’re not able to provide for someone that flies in,” she said.
The board voted 3-2 to waive Greer’s $1,800 fee for one year, stipulating the hangar cannot be sublet or used for storage.
Casting a dissenting vote, Commissioner Judy Poe said, “Mr. Greer is providing a service to the county, but it’s amounting to the county giving somebody a building to do their own personal business in for one dollar.”
Commissioner Gerald Price, also opposed, said he was not against an economic incentive for Greer, but given taxpayer dollars spent on runway extension, he was not in favor of setting precedent with a waiver.
Board meets AMH CEO
Ashe Memorial CEO Laura Lambeth’s first official meeting with the board Monday came three days after her first official day of work Friday.
“I’m thrilled to be in Ashe County. The welcoming has been overwhelming,” she said.
Lambeth’s focus during her first few weeks in the county has been to seek community input: “What do you like about (the hospital), what don’t you like about it, what sort of advice can you give me?” she said.
“We are looking to recruit additional physicians. You are certainly underserved in this county. In fact, we have three new hospitalists coming in September,” she said. Physician recruited to AMH would be required to reside in the county.
Board Chair Larry Rhodes asked Lambeth to highlight the nature of AMH’s agreement with her employer Novant Health, the not-for-profit health care system that assumed management of the hospital Aug. 1.
Novant Health’s three-year, shared services contract, negotiated with the hospital’s Board of Trustees, ensures that AMH has access to specialty services associated with a large heath care system, she said.
“We’ll get better pricing on supplies. They’ll assist us with physician recruitment. They’ll assist us with consulting,” she said.
“I believe we need a new emergency room,” she said, adding “It’s an excellent time for Ashe Memorial to be associated with a large health care provider.”
Commissioner Gary Roark proposed that the board “revisit” the county’s 2013-14 budget to find possible cuts.
Poe agreed, suggesting a budget amendment session to identify cuts that might be made from “expenses that’s not already been committed to.”
Commissioner William Sands also saw need for budget review “in light of the fact that Gates (is closing)…we really need to go back and see what we can do to cut expenses.”
A budget amendment meeting is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 19, according to Mitchell.
Volunteer coordinator Glenda Luther gave a year-to-date overview of volunteer achievements, and announced the upcoming Volunteer Fair in September, and National Make a Difference Day in October. Sands commended Luther for her work, estimating that volunteer hours in Ashe County save taxpayers $8 million per year.
The board voted unanimously to waive a $500 fee for the Old Hospital Development Project. The building is being converted into senior housing.
School Resource Officers at the high school and middle school, who reported to the Board of Education, will now be reporting to the Ashe County Sheriff’s office. Rhodes said, “The majority of the expense (for the SROs) will still come from the school board.”
Buffalo Meadows Road or SR 1228 was added to the Department of Transportation’s state maintenance system.
Citing community feedback and his own research, Roark asked the board to reconsider shutting down Animal Control’s carbon monoxide gas chamber. The issue was put on the agenda for the board’s next regular meeting.
“Personally, from what I’ve seen, I’d like to see it closed. I can’t stand to see an animal suffer,” he said.
Eagle Scout recognized
Rhodes read a proclamation recognizing Anderson Lee Moore, 18, of Jefferson who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
Joining the four percent of all Boy Scouts who complete requirements for Eagle rank, Moore has earned 29 merit badges and is an Order of the Arrow inductee.
Mitchell said the Moore family, operators of West Jefferson’s McDonalds franchise, had served as “good role models” through their comminity service.
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