Michael Bobbitt: Notes from the Peanut Gallery (VC BoC April 7th, 2014)

Monday night’s Commissioners’ meeting was long on content, longer on revelations, and did not follow the scripted agenda. The meeting started with recognition of Leadership-Vance participants and a thank you to the members of boards and committees. The presenter for the only scheduled appointment was not on time, opening the floor to the public comments period.

Editors Note – This piece references times in the audio, you can listen to the audio file here:  http://homeinhenderson.com/2014/04/09/news/county-business/audio-vance-county-board-of-commissioners-meeting-monday-april-7th-2014/

Water District Board

Mr. Lawrence Brame was again standing before the Board, before it metamorphosed into the Water District Board, speaking about the county’s management of the water project. In the newest marketing brochure for county water Mr. Brame noted that brochure incorrectly compares the county’s $30 base fee to the city’s ETJ base fee of $25.18. Mr. Brame pointed out that the ETJ base fee includes 3,700 gallons of water (499 cubic feet), the county’s base fee does not include one drop of water. Mr. Brame added he did not know the source for the $7.62 per 1,000 gallons the brochure indicates is part of the city’s ETJ fee. Mr. Brame continued on saying he recently learned taps are not installed when the pipe is initially laid. Taps are installed some weeks or months after the pipe is buried. This means the same effort is required to install a tap pre-construction as post-construction. Mr. Brame asked why a post-construction tap costs $1,670 more than a pre-construction tap. When Mr. Brame concluded his public comments, Chairwoman Brown asked if the water committee had addressed the issues in the brochure. If you have been following along you may recall that at the February 17th, Special Called Meeting county management did not present a mockup of the updated brochure for the Board to review and discuss. The Board approved the new marketing brochure sight unseen. I digress. Commissioner Brummitt answered that the committee was unaware of the first issue. He added the “second issue is explainable within the fee schedule as far as construction phase and so forth the USDA sent us.” Chairwoman Brown asked that the issue(s) be on the agenda for the next water committee meeting. (You can listen to the Public Comment period on the audio recording from 13:17 through 17:50 minute marks.)

When the Board morphed into the Water Board Mr. McMillen and Mr. Tim Carpenter, the project’s chief engineer, both made verbal status reports. Neither submits a written status report for inclusion in the Board’s meeting packet. Mr. McMillen said a lot had been accomplished in Phase 1, including the March 20th notification from the State DOT that six out of seven roads were certified allowing the placement of taps. Which roads, he did not say. Why one road was not certified, he did not say. Specifically how many customers are actively connecting, he did not say. Nor did he discuss the major water main break causing draining damage. Strangely not one commissioner asked for those answers. During Mr. Carpenter’s status update he attempted to assuage the Board of the revelation that pre-construction and post-construction tap installation require the same effort. Mr. Carpenter stated after service proofing the lines (pressure testing and sterilization) a different crew installs the taps. Following the verbal status reports, the Board was briefed on the $186,292.40 Phase 1A change order #7. After much discussion the Board with a 6 – 1 vote (Commissioner Wilder the sole nay vote) approved only $159,337.40 of the change order. The other $26,915 will be approved when the work is completed. After a briefly discussion the Board approved refunding of $19,500 for 156 wet tap fee deposits where County Wide Water is not going to flow. Chairwoman Brown asked Envirolink how many paying customers are on the system. Envirolink’s representative said 260 paying customers as of their undated report. Commissioner Brummitt obtained clarification that the 260 paying customer are part of the 619 wet taps in Phase 1A. Envirolink’s representative added that they are on track to have 346 paying customers by June 30th. Next month Envirolink will be bringing a new issue for discussion who pays for the water that leaks from large and small breaks in the pipe. The Board spent more than an hour discussing the pros and cons of transferring 106 wet taps to the Kittrell Water system. Commission Wilder opened the discussion saying that transferring the taps to Kittrell will greatly hinder County Wide Water flowing deeper into parts of Phase 1A. Since the audio of the meeting is available I encourage readers to listen to the recording. From the Peanut Gallery’s point of view this was one of the most intense and informative discussions on the County Wide Water. (You can listen to the entire Water Board segment on the audio recording from 50:06 through 2:43:41 minute marks.)

Finance Director’s Report

Big news in this report was the revelation that local CPA firms did not bid to work the County’s financial audit. The real reason will never be known. A local firm did bid on the five fire departments’ financial review and audit.

Committee Reports

Selling of the Armory was the big topic of discussion. The plan now is to contract a real estate auction firm to sell the Armory to the highest bidder. The Peanut Gallery wonders who would want to buy a building that has sat neglected for 20 plus years. Maybe the value of the parts is greater than the whole.

County Manager’s Report

Almost three hours into the evening the innocuous Intergovernmental Committee request opened decades old city and county governmental distrust. At the behest of the Board, the County Manager asked the City Manager to ask the City Council to reactivate the Intergovernmental Committee as “a means of adequately planning for future success.” The City Council responded with a question and a demand. The question, what is the County’s intent “to replace the liaison arrangement with a committee approach.” The demand, the Board had to submit a formal request with reasons for the change. Listening to the audio you can hear the animosity expressed by some of elected towards the city’s elected. (Audio recording from 2:54:05 – 3:07:05 minute marks)