Health district undergoes change; Rutherford, McDowell will continue without Polk

On Monday, the McDowell County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution endorsing a new arrangement with Rutherford County regarding the health department. This action is a result of Polk County officials deciding to leave the district health department previously shared by the three counties.

Last month, the Polk County Commissioners voted to withdraw from the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell District Health Department, effective June 30. As a result, both Rutherford and McDowell will now continue as a new department, which will be named Foothills Health District.

“Whereas, the Boards of Commissioners for Rutherford and McDowell Counties concur and jointly resolve to name the district health department that will be comprised of Rutherford and McDowell Counties as the ‘Foothills Health District” with this name to be effective immediately after midnight on June 30, 2019; and whereas, the Boards of Commissioners for Rutherford and McDowell Counties declare that the mission of the Foothills Health District is to promote and contribute to the highest level of health possible for the people that they serve…” reads the resolution.

With the new arrangement, the composition of the district board of health will change as well. The new board of health will have nine members appointed by Rutherford and six appointed by McDowell since the number is based on a per capita basis between the two counties.

The McDowell County Commissioners approved this resolution supporting the Foothills Health District with almost no discussion during Monday’s meeting. Health Director Karen Powell told them the health department here in McDowell will continue as before.

“Nothing changes except for the name,” she said to McDowell officials.

In January, the Tryon Daily Bulletin reported that Polk County Commissioners were exploring the idea of operating a stand-alone health department, mainly because septic permits had been running from seven to 12 weeks behind.

“Our citizens have been complaining about this for two years or more than that,” said Polk Commission Vice Chair Myron Yoder, according to the Daily Bulletin story.

Last year, the McDowell commissioners talked about the idea of operating a locally-run health department and no longer participating in the district department with Rutherford and Polk. This came after the commissioners expressed concerns about the backlog with environmental health inspections, which caused delays for new construction. During the Aug. 20, 2018 meeting, the commissioners came close to separating McDowell from the three-county district department but that motion failed by a 2-3 vote.

In other business on Monday, the McDowell County Commissioners:

• Heard another update about the proposed shooting range for McDowell. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission asked that the county have an appraisal for a proposed site along Ashworth Road. This is a 266-acre property owned by the county. Frank Dean, a general appraiser, completed the appraisal and estimated the market value to be $952,500. This appraisal has been submitted to state Wildlife Resources officials, who will work with the federal funding partners. Together, state and federal officials will review this appraisal and another one, which had a lower value, to determine how much funding will be made available for the project. Commissioner Tony Brown asked if any kind of time frame has been given by the state as to when this shooting range will finally become a reality. “It’s slow unfortunately,” said County Manager Ashley Wooten.

• Heard a brief update from County Assessor Tammy Wylie and consultant Tim Cain about the 2019 revaluation. The commissioners are now meeting as the Board of Equalization and Review to hear the formal appeals of the new values.

• Talked about the distribution method between the county and the city of Marion for sales tax revenues. Approximately 11 years ago, the county changed the distribution method for sales tax revenues. This change caused the city to lose funding they had previously been receiving. Previous commissioners put in place an agreement to lessen the impact over time to the city. That agreement reached a point several years ago where the city is guaranteed a payment of least $140,000. County officials have indicated they want to wind that agreement down over time but city officials have asked that any impact be delayed a year. As an alternative, the sales tax transfer transition could begin next year and the annual funding that is sent from the city to the county to support two 911 positions could be reduced for one year. The net effect of that change would be a wash to both parties, said Wooten. The commissioners did not take action on this matter.

• Approved a request from the Glenwood Ruritan to close a section of Polly Spout Road on Saturday, June 1 for the Gold Rush Run 5K race.

• Approved hiring the firm of Lowdermilk, Church & Co. of Morganton as the new independent auditor for the county. Several months ago, McDowell officials were informed that their longtime independent auditor Johnson, Price, and Sprinkle would no longer perform audits for counties.

• Agreed to increase the tipping fee for the hauling of garbage from $50 a ton to $60 a ton, effective July 1. Every year, Republic Services typically increases their hauling rates for the county’s garbage. This year is no exception with an increase scheduled for waste hauled after July 1, said Wooten.

• Approved several administrative items, which included EMS account write-offs, transfers between budget line items and the annual plan from the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

• Recognized the SkillsUSA students and the student interns with McDowell Emergency Medical Services.

• Held a closed session for less than 30 minutes to discuss a personnel matter. No action was taken after the closed session.

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