Commissioners seek to establish new home for McDowell Transit

On Monday, the McDowell County Board of Commissioners took the first step towards creating a permanent and separate home for the McDowell Transit Department.

Since its beginning, McDowell Transit has been housed at the Foothills Industries office in the county’s industrial park. The county pays $900 a month for that space. While renting that space works for now, county officials said they are looking to establish a permanent home for the agency, apart from Foothills Industries.

During Monday’s regular meeting, the commissioners heard from Transit Director Randall Conley about the process. The N.C. Department of Transportation will provide funding for a site recommendation report as well as funding for the construction of a building. Both the study and construction require a local match. The county has to apply by Feb. 1 in order for the site recommendation report to be done, according to Conley and County Manager Ashley Wooten.

This report will take several months. The findings would be presented to the commissioners to decide if they would like to move forward with the next steps in seeking funding for construction. The local match for the study is $9,500 and would be paid in the next budget year, according to Wooten.

After hearing from Conley, the commissioners agreed to apply so the report can be done.

In other business, the McDowell County Commission:

» Heard a presentation from Kendall Waugh of McDowell High School about a new program called #FinishWhat YouStarted. This program is intended to increase the graduation rate among high school students. Waugh said the high school has an 83.2% graduation rate but is constantly seeking to improve it. She added this program encourages employers not to hire high school dropouts because getting a job is a major incentive offered to these students to stay in school. “The schools can’t do this by themselves,” she said.

» Heard an overview of the operations at the transfer station and the convenience centers. Director of Public Services Terry DePoyster talked about the county’s collection of garbage and recyclables at the transfer station on N.C. 226 South and the convenience centers in Nebo, Woodlawn, Greenlee, Crooked Creek, Sugar Hill and Dysartsville. The transfer station on N.C. 226 South is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The convenience centers are open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

» Heard a report from Fire Marshal Craig Walker about changes to the Sugar Hill-Montford Cove Fire District. Walker asked the board to make changes to the fire district lines to account for a new substation in that district. The substation covers areas that were previously located outside the rated district. It serves residents of Zion Hill, Nix Creek and Lytle Mountain areas. This change should help lower the costs for homeowners insurance for people living in those places. But before this can be done, the board has to hold a public hearing, under state law. After a discussion, commissioners approved scheduling such a hearing at the regular February meeting.

» Heard a request from Health Director Karen Powell about increasing fees for clinical services at the Health Department. Most of these fees are covered by Medicaid. The Foothills Health District’s board voted to increase the fees subject to approval by the boards of commissioners in the two counties of McDowell and Rutherford. Powell said if a person doesn’t have Medicaid or health insurance, then the department would charge using a sliding scale based on the person’s income. The commissioners approved the higher fees.

» Approved the reappointment of Joyce Poplin, Linda Mystic and Dawna Goode Ledbetter (Chamber of Commerce representative) to the Transportation Board.

» Approved the hiring of the Wooten Company (no relation to the county manager) to do the design work for the construction of water and sewer lines to the undeveloped property at the Universal site. The county received state grant money to construct water and sewer lines there and an engineer needed to be retained to do the design, permitting work and other details. The Wooten Company did much of the work for the grant and county staff recommended that this firm be hired to perform the project administration and design work. The administration is estimated to cost $8,000 and the design/permitting is estimated to be $83,000, which is covered by the state and local funds already committed by the board. After a discussion, commissioners approved hiring the Wooten Company.

» Talked about a runway agreement with the Marion Airport Commission. For decades, McDowell has had an agreement with the commission to provide runway access at Shiflet Field to the county and its partners in exchange for a small payment tied to the amount of taxes paid. That current expense is approximately $2,300. But county staff has searched for the old written agreement for the arrangement and have not yet found it. So a newly written agreement was created about the runway access and the commissioners voted to adopt it.

» Talked about the status of the old Hendrix farm property in Nebo which is now owned by the county. Several years ago, the county purchased approximately 40 acres in the Nebo community for a future water treatment plant. The property, which cost $191,000, came with an old farmhouse and associated farm structures. Recently, county staff received an unsolicited offer from family descendent Alan Ledbetter who wants to purchase the area around the old home. The offer of $75,000 would be for the structures and about three to five acres. The county has previously sold an easement across some of the same area to an adjacent property owner for $60,000. The county’s engineer recommended that the county not sell the land due to the uncertainty of how the site will be developed. After a discussion, the commissioners declined the offer from Ledbetter but agreed that the county would maintain the site so that the house and buildings would stay in good shape.

» Approved a series of administrative items and tax matters.

» Heard an announcement from the county manager that the Board of Commissioners has been invited to the annual Martin Luther King Day service to be held Monday at Addie’s Chapel United Methodist Church.

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