McDowell County Commissioners consider banning smoking on courthouse lawn

FILE PHOTO

During Monday’s regular meeting, the McDowell County Commissioners took the first step in prohibiting smoking on the courthouse lawn. As it is now, smoking is not allowed within 50 feet of the courthouse doors. But you can smoke beyond the 50-foot limit. County officials are considering banning smoking from the courthouse lawn entirely.

During Monday’s regular meeting, the McDowell County Commissioners took the first step in prohibiting smoking on the courthouse lawn.

Several years ago, a previous board of commissioners instituted a smoking policy for the courthouse property. As it is now, smoking is not allowed within 50 feet of the courthouse doors. But you can smoke beyond the 50-foot limit.

Earlier this year, the commissioners agreed to accept the donation of a set of monuments displaying replicas of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Charters of Freedom display, covering a space of 24 feet by 8 feet, will be placed on county-owned property. The commissioners have agreed the display should be placed on the courthouse lawn in downtown Marion, rather than at the veterans memorial at the Senior Center.

Recently, Chairman David Walker and Commissioner Lynn Greene recently met with staff to review the proposed placement of the Charters of Freedom setting. Both requested that smoking be eliminated from the courthouse lawn entirely.

On Monday, the commissioners held a first reading of the new policy. However, a copy of the policy does not say anything about fines or penalties for those who smoke on the courthouse lawn.

This was only the first reading. The policy will be brought back for further action at a later meeting.

The commissioners also heard a report from Emergency Services Director William Kehler and other emergency officials about how this county responded during the flooding in May caused by Tropical Storm Alberto. Videos were shown that vividly depicted the mudslides and the flooding that occurred. He also introduced first responders who participated in the swift water rescue during the night of the event.

In other business, the McDowell County Commissioners:

• Heard an update from Transportation Director Randall Conley on where things stand with the new transit department, which has been in existence for seven months. They also approved a funding resolution for the department.

• Heard a presentation from Brian lngraham, CEO of Vaya Health, about the state of Medicaid transformation. This transition was initiated by the state of North Carolina several years ago and impacts clients and providers. He said it is the biggest change for the Medicaid program in North Carolina in our lifetime.

• Approved eliminating a restriction on the property for Mission Hospital McDowell. In the early 1980s, the county donated about 50 acres for the purpose of constructing a hospital to serve the people of McDowell. But the deed on that transaction had a restriction that it could not be conveyed or transferred. Mission Health, which is in the process of being acquired by HCA Healthcare, has requested this restriction be permanently eliminated so the current transfer can happen and any subsequent transfers can happen without the approval of the county. County officials consulted with the UNC School of Government about this matter. County Attorney Fred Coats said if HCA should cease using the property for a hospital, it would still revert back to the county. The commissioners voted unanimously to remove the restriction on conveying the property.

• Appointed Sam Dotson, Coy Edwards Jr. and Benny Stamey to the Planning Board.

• Approved a change in the vacation policy for county employees.

• Approved a slate of legislative goals for the N.C. General Assembly.

• Approved the donation of a surplus 2008 ambulance to McDowell Technical Community College for training.

• Approved waiving the tipping and building inspection fees for the Sugar Hill-Montford Cove Fire Department.

• Approved a road bond for a new development called The Enclave, which has been proposed for the far northeastern corner of Lake James. This agreement guarantees that the roads will be completed regardless if the developer remains in business or not.

• Approved an energy programs outreach plan. This plan lays out for the state and the public how McDowell Department of Social Services will provide information about its energy programs.

• Approved the amended McDowell County policy ensuring that accounting functions are adequately segregated and that financial transactions are properly monitored and reviewed.

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