Furman talks to board

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners consult Watauga Planning and Inspections Director Joe Furman on a public hearing plan on Oct. 5.

BOONE — The Watauga County Board of Commissioners met for their first meeting of the month on Tuesday, Oct. 5, and did some schedule shuffling.

One of the items on the agenda was a request from Watauga Planning and Inspections Director Joe Furman to schedule a public hearing focused on proposed amendments to the county’s planning and development ordinance.

Furman said that some of the county’s ordinances and regulations — including erosion, floodplains and other related regulations — work with models provided by state and federal governments. With updated models coming out, the county will have to update its ordinances.

Updates include the addition of a definition for “tiny homes/houses” due to an increase in popularity, requiring two feet of base flood elevation instead of just one and making it so that “Substantial Damage” and “Substantial Improvement” affecting the values of structures is measured over five years instead of just one.

The proposed date for the hearing was Nov. 2, the date of the first commissioners meeting of the month. However, the board was already looking to alleviate an issue with that date, as there is a scheduled meeting of the Valle Crucis Historic Preservation Commission at the same time.

The VCHPC meeting would be about the new elementary school in the area, and County Manager Deron Geouque said he would likely be there given the subject, and Commissioner Charlie Wallin also said he felt he should be there.

The board opted to cancel its Nov. 2 meeting, and scheduled the public hearing for the Nov. 16 meeting. The Nov. 2 meeting was one of two — along with the board’s next meeting on Oct. 19 — that was scheduled to be held in the Community Room at the Watauga County Community Recreation Center due to the commissioners’ board room being an official polling site during one-stop voting.

Also presenting to the board was AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene, who gave an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Greene said that a recent clinic saw more than 140 Watauga residents get their vaccines, but there were still many more people that have yet to receive one. According to Greene, the 12-17 and 18-24 age groups are still the least vaccinated by a wide margin — 44 percent and 49 percent, respectively. For comparison, all other age groups have broken the 60 percent mark.

Greene also noted the disparity in the number of deaths between Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties. Ashe has recorded 56, while Watauga — which Commissioner Billy Kennedy noted has a much larger population and a higher vaccination rate — has recorded 37.

“I know everybody’s tired, the best thing we can do is get ourselves vaccinated and tell our friends and family that aren’t vaccinated to get vaccinated,” Greene said.

Project on Aging Director Angie Boitnotte presented the board with two requests. The first was for the board to approve the POA receiving $5,173 in Senior’s Health Insurance Information Program funding and the second was to allocate $23,592 from Supplemental Nutrition Funding that was previously approved by the board.

The board approved both requests unanimously.

Also on the agenda were two requests from Emergency Services Director Will Holt, with a third being added after the start of the meeting. The first was seeking approval for the purchase of seven new radios at a total cost of $40,000.

The second request was for the approval of a renewed lease with AT&T for communications equipment at Rocky Knob Park. The new lease will be five years long, a reduction from the last lease’s 10-year length. The lease also has AT&T pay the county $580 per month with a yearly increase of three percent.

The third request was for the approval of a 911 communications improvement grant that gives Emergency Services $154,930.

The board approved all three requests unanimously.

Commissioner Carrington Pertalion was not in attendance due to a death in the family.

The next meeting of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners will be Tuesday, Oct. 19, in the Community Room at the Watauga County Community Recreation Center.

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