Cherokee Board of Commissioners debate liquor privatization resolution

BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

MURPHY, N.C. -Cherokee County Commissioner C.B. McKinnon, District 2 (Republican), stated, “We shouldn’t be in the pot business or the liquor business” after the ‘Resolution of the Cherokee Board of Commissioners Opposing the Privatization of Retail Sale and Wholesale Distribution of Liquor’ was introduced at Monday’s meeting. Emotions were high as the Commissioners debated the issue.

The motion to oppose the resolution was passed due to a ‘Lack of Motion’ by the Board. They would not support the Resolution.

House Bill 971 (Modern Licensure Model for Alcohol Control) was introduced in legislature by Representatives Chuck McGrady (R), Jason Saine (R), Jon Hardister (R), and Pricey Harrison (D) on April 26, 2019. The bill, if passed, “would privatize the retail sale and wholesale distribution of liquor” allowing the minimum of 1500 permits statewide. Currently, the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) system operates 423 locations throughout the state. Two ABC locations are in Cherokee County: Murphy and Andrews.

The N.C. Department of Public Safety requires the certification of members recommended by the Board to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils. For fiscal year 2019-2020, the following persons, who had been recommended by the Board, were certified to serve on the council: Associate School Superintendent Kim Gibson, CCSO Lieutenant Justin Jacobs, District Attorney Office Legal Assistant Nan Copeland, AMH/DD/SA Clinician Karen Underwood, DSS Attorney Andria Duncan, Assistant County Manager Maria Hass, and ADA Kimberly Hayes.

The N.C. Department of Public Safety requires the certification of members recommended by the Board to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils. For fiscal year 2019-2020, the following persons, who had been recommended by the Board, were certified to serve on the council: Associate School Superintendent Kim Gibson, CCSO Lieutenant Justin Jacobs, District Attorney Office Legal Assistant Nan Copeland, AMH/DD/SA Clinician Karen Underwood, DSS Attorney Andria Duncan, Assistant County Manager Maria Hass, and ADA Kimberly Hayes.

EMS Station 1 has been in the center of Board discussion for months as additional room is needed for the expanding service. Recently, North Carolina Department of Transportation has offered a piece of property to house a possible new station. However, the current station is on five acres of level property.

Dr. Dan Eichenbaum, District 4 (Republican), said he would be more comfortable in having an engineer size up both pieces of properties before a decision could be made for which would be more feasible and less costly to pursue.

The Board agreed to have County Manager Randy Wiggins to consult with an engineer on the matter and report back with the needed information.

Nantahala Regional Library Board of Trustees will have a new member. The Board unanimously appointed Wendy Paige to fill the position.

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Cherokee County NC supports Cherokee Nation

BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, EASTERN BAND OF CHEROKEE INDIANS

MURPHY, N.C.- “Cherokee Indians are our Indian people,” stated Cherokee County (N.C.) Board of Commissioners Chairman Gary Westmoreland (R).

Westmoreland was speaking in reference to supporting the Opposition To Catawba Indian Nation Casino in North Carolina Resolution proposed at the April 2019 meeting of Cherokee County Commissioners.

The Resolution was passed.

While the [Eastern Cherokee] tribe respects and encourages progress for other Native American communities, including South Carolina’s Catawba Indian Nation, the recent filing of a bill in the US Senate to give North Carolina land to the South Carolina tribe for an off-reservation casino is nothing more than a modern day land grab by the federal government of Cherokee aboriginal lands, ” quoted in an earlier Press Release by the ECBI.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced the bill that would put land in trust for the Catawbas Casino. To wit:

“To clarify certain provisions of Public Law 103–116, the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act of 1993, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. GAMING FACILITY AUTHORIZED.

(a) Gaming Facility Authorized.—The Catawba Indian Nation (formerly the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina) is authorized to own and operate a gaming facility on the land described in section 2 of this Act, in Cleveland County, North Carolina.

(b) Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.—The facility described in subsection (a) shall operate in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.), except that section 20 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2719) shall not apply to the land described in section 2.

(c) Land In Trust.—The Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to take the land described in section 2 into trust for the purpose of conducting gaming, on behalf of the Catawba Indian Nation.

(d) Rights Preserved.—Except as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, nothing in this Act shall prevent any party from enforcing all rights, privileges, or prohibitions as contained within the Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act of 1993 (Public Law 103–116).”

Catawba Indian Nation Seal

The Catawba Nation, who gained Federal recognition in 1993 for the state of South Carolina, is seeking approval to build their casino in Kings Mountain, N.C. The battle over building the casino in North Carolina instead of South Carolina began about five years ago.

The Catawbas lived along the banks of the Catawba River dating back for what is now believed to be at least 6,000 years. Their ancestral land includes most of the Piedmont area of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The Piedmont region is land lying between the Appalachian Mountains to the west and the Atlantic Coastal Plain to the East.

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Cherokee County NC chooses Advanced Disposal Mineral Bluff for temporary waste transfer

BREAKING NEWS

MURPHY, N.C. – The Cherokee Board of Commissioners has agreed to allow its Solid Waste Department to transfer materials to Advanced Disposal Waste Transfer Station in Mineral Bluff.

Robert Ward, Cherokee County NC Solid Waste Director speaks to Commissioners urging immediate waste transfer to Mineral Bluff, GA.

Robert Ward, Solid Waste Director, stated there had been an 11 percent increase in local waste in the last five years, helping to fill the current cell faster than was originally planned. But, until the new Phase Five cell can be constructed, waste was needed to be transferred out to another location to ease the burden on the current landfill.

He told the commissioners that as of April 12, 2019, there “was only 12 weeks of air space left”. He further added the loss of the compactor within the last year is the main reason the landfill was being filled to capacity. Landfill track hoes simply “could not compact trash as needed” as a compactor does.

County Manager Randy Wiggins agreed with Ward saying, “The loss of the compactor result(ed) in the loss of air space.”

Ward said immediately transferring waste would be at a cost of $56.14 per ton to the Mineral Bluff facility where Advanced Disposal agreed they would accept all loads.

It was further agreed Cherokee County could cancel the transfer at any time thus not tying the county to a long-term obligation.

A new compactor has recently been purchased, but has not come in time to alleviate the air space situation which is in its critical phase at this time.

Hauling to Mineral Bluff will begin next week.

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Cherokee BOC in opposition to SB 179 and HB 278

BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

MURPHY, N.C.- County Manager Randy Wiggins explained to the Cherokee Board of Commissioners how Senate Bill 179 and House Bill 278 would affect the county if passed, possibly costing Cherokee County taxpayers large amounts of money in the future.

According to the resolution before the Board at its bi-monthly meeting on Monday, April 1, 2019, “Taxpayers would bear the entire cost of this new retirement benefit without local elected officials having a say in this decision” and “would be paid solely by the last employer creating a deterrent to the hiring of late-career firefighters and rescue squad members reducing the benefit to (Cherokee County) and towns from seasoned hires.”

A copy of the Resolution submitted to BOC for signature on 04/01/19.

SB 179 and HB 278 would pay firefighters and rescue squad workers an annual separation allowance equaling eighty-five hundreths percent (0.85%) of their annual base rate separated into equal payments under the following conditions:

  1. The firefighter or rescue squad worker has either completed 30 or more years of creditable service or attained the age of 60 with 25 or more years of service.”
  2. Has not attained age 62.”
  3. Has completed at least five years of continuous service rendered on or after July 1. 2019, immediately preceding in retirement service.”

In question is a service employee meeting the above requirements prior to retirement with possibly a few years left in the current system in another county relocating to Cherokee County. Should the County pay for the separation allowance once the firefighter, rescue squad worker, or EMS worker this benefit once relocated here for the remainder of their service years and has retired?

Upon some discussion by the Board, weighing the facts of the bills and its affect on the County, they voted unanimously to pass their resolution opposing SB 179 and HB 278.

The North Carolina bill’s primary sponsors were State Senators Brent Jackson (R), Danny Britt (R), and Tom McInnis (R) and was filed on March 4, 2019.

Other items the Board approved were:

  1. The adoption of Updated Local Government Records Retention and Disposition Schedule after records “do not and will not have further use or value for official business, research, or reference purposes after the respective retention periods.”
  2. Valley River Pickleball Association requested to “install two permanent nets on the other two designated pickelball courts.”
  3. The budget revision by Cherokee County school system for cameras mentioned at the March 18 meeting for an increase of $30,614.
  4. Applicants for Boards/Commissions/Committee were chosen. Christie Standish will be the permanent member with Shannon Greathead as the Alternate.

Valley River Pickelball Association request for permanent new nets.

The next Commissioners meeting will be held on Monday, April 15, 2019, at the County Courthouse.

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Cherokee County NC-Gun Sanctuary Resolution adopted

BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, BREAKING NEWS

Cherokee County First County in North Carolina to become a Gun Sanctuary County

On March 14, 2019, in Dr. Dan Updates, by FreedomForum

At its regular meeting on March 4, 2019, the Cherokee County (NC) Commission passed a Resolution declaring Cherokee County to be a GUN SANCTUARY COUNTY.

The resolution is patterned after similar resolutions and ordinances already passed by counties in the states of Oregon, Washington, and Illinois and are also being considered in many other locations. 

The resolution passed in our county defines, explains, and affirms the moral and legal basis for local officials to uphold and support the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of North Carolina.  The resolution then designates Cherokee County (NC) as a Gun Sanctuary County to preserve the Second Amendment rights of its citizens as defined by the body of laws outlined in the preamble of the resolution and by governmental authority. 

The resolution concludes by prohibiting the government of Cherokee County from using taxpayer funds to support any actions that infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms as defined by law.  The resolution does not change any state or federal laws.

The Sheriff spoke at the commission meeting in support of the resolution, urging the commission to adopt it.  He further stated that, as a constitutional sheriff, he would not support or assist in actions that infringed on our Second Amendment rights as defined by law. 

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Board approves temporary off-site fitness plan for Station 1 first responders

News

MURPHY, N.C. – The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved a temporary off-site fitness plan for on-duty emergency personnel at Station 1 at the board’s June 4 meeting.

The plan will now allow only Station 1 personnel to use nearby fitness centers at their own expense while on duty in an effort to improve health and strength of the emergency personnel and provide the best service to citizens, according to information provided by the Cherokee County Emergency Services.

As Chairman Dr. Dan Eichenbaum explained, “(The agreement) is only until they get a new facility. It has been shown this will not cause a delay in response time. Both truck workers must agree and only one truck at a time (may leave Station 1). This is to allow them because they do not have adequate space to work out in (at the station).”

Brian King, of the Cherokee County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), explained to commissioners there has been a “movement” within the department to work out and exercise to increase physical strength and improve job performance over the past five years, but limited space at Station 1 has disallowed its personnel from doing so.

According to information presented to the commissioners from EMS concerning response times for personnel at a fitness center, “Crews are very adept at being able to meet our required chute times during all situations. Any delay would no different than eating showering, using the restroom, being at the hospital, or sleeping.”

Commenting on the benefits of the plan, Commissioner Gary Westmoreland stated, “Personally, I would rather somebody healthy pick me up than somebody out of shape. And I think it’s good for them. It’s good for their morale.”

Commissioner C.B. McKinnon stated while he himself can see the benefits of the plan to the county’s emergency personnel, he is also concerned about public perception.

“I understand that we’ve been in this location for a lot of years and I don’t know what’s been done in the past … but the optics of it – the public just doesn’t understand it. We’ll have the other facility up soon, and for that reason, I’m just not willing to support it,” McKinnon explained.

Ultimately, the board approved the temporary plan 4-1, with McKinnon voting against.

The board also approved a contract with Turner & Company CPAs (certified public accountant) to conduct the county’s fiscal year 2017-18 audit in the amount of $44,900.

County Finance Officer Candy Anderson explained to the commissioners the cost of the audit is the second lowest among seven counties in western North Carolina.

“I checked with surrounding counties … and a lot of them are seeing 12 to 41 percent increases in their audit fees,” Anderson stated.

The contract was approved by the board unanimously.

A capital project ordinance for the phase 5 construction project at the Cherokee County Solid Waste facility in Marble was approved by the commissioners. The ordinance appropriates $2.5 million to the project for permitting, construction, engineering, and contingency funds. According to the ordinance, revenues from the general fund are anticipated to be available to complete the project.

The board approved a number of 2017-18 budget revisions including a revision in the total amount of $31,043 to allow the use of the restricted/designated school sales tax fund balance for various projects. The amount will cover the purchases of a generator replacement at Ranger Elementary School ($19,207), bus cameras and camera systems for five new buses ($4,925), fertilizer for Bermuda turf for the football fields at Andrews and Murphy high schools ($2,653), approximately 225 lbs. of refrigerant for a compressor at Hiwassee Dam School ($2,517), and diagnostic services from Trane ($1,741).

A budget revision in the amount of $800 was approved to transfer funds from the fund balance to the detention center trust account for legal settlements.

A budget revision in the amount of $94.14 was approved to cover half the cost of new carpeting at the Martins Creek Community Center. Previously, the board approved an amount of $261; however, actual costs for the carpeting came to $710.27, which increased the county’s half share to $355.14.

In other business, commissioners also voted to allow Lewis and Clark Circus to again use Heritage Park Sept. 22 and 23 of this year.

The board also voted to allow North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission law enforcement officers to enforce laws concerning spotlighting wildlife from the right-of-way of any public road, street, or highway.

A number of upcoming Board of Commissioners are slated for June. On June 21 and 25, the board will hold fiscal year 2018-19 budget work sessions in the boardroom of the Cherokee County Courthouse at 6:30 p.m. The Board of Commissioners next regularly scheduled meeting is set for June 18 at 6:30 p.m. In addition, the board will have a special called meeting June 28 at 6:30 p.m. to officially adopt the new county budget. All meetings are open to the public.

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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

Commissioners’ budget talks lead to discussion over county trash sites

News

MURPHY, N.C. – Cherokee County Board of Commissioners met Wednesday, May 30, for a budget work session to review and discuss the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-19.

The budget, as recommended by County Manager Randy Wiggins, calls for a total of $44,212,558 with $38,083,967 designated for the general fund and $6,128,591 in special revenue funds.

On Wednesday, commissioners suggested further allotments to Wiggins to be added into the proposed budget. Commissioner Gary Westmoreland suggested adding $20,000 to purchase property across from the county senior center for a public-use dumpster site. This opened a discussion concerning the misuse of existing sites across the county.

Commissioner C.B. McKinnon suggested installing cameras at the Peachtree site and the Whitener Bend site in an effort to help enforce regulations at the sites and also to provide more 24-hour sites for county residents to use.

“I dare say nine of 10 times I’ve passed there (Peachtree site), there’s somebody there placing items … that’s not supposed to be there,” McKinnon said.

To this, Wiggins cautioned that opening more 24-hour sites across the county with no attendees and only security cameras to monitor activity could also encourage residents of surrounding counties to use the sites, which are supposed to be available only to Cherokee County residents. Wiggins specifically noted the Peachtree and Hiwassee Dam sites as two sites that are being misused heavily by residents from Clay County, North Carolina, and Polk County, Tennessee.

Referring to the Peachtree site, McKinnon asked, “How much garbage from Clay County is hitting the dumpsters that makes it worth inconveniencing the rest of the whole community in Cherokee County?”

Commissioner Cal Stiles stated that while he felt security cameras could help, monitoring of the footage would also be necessary to eliminate misuse at the sites. “Unless we have someone who has the time or we hire someone to actually view all this stuff to see … We really don’t know what’s going on there at two, three, four o’clock (in the morning),” Stiles said.

“I’ve never seen a group of people that fault a success so much,” McKinnon responded, referring to the existing 24-hour sites. “Usually when you have a success, you want to duplicate that success. I’ve never seen such a pushback from a success. ‘Oh, that was a success. Let’s not do another one.’ That is about a frustrating a thing that’s ever been.”

Wiggins clarified to McKinnon he was only sharing the complaints he had received concerning the sites. McKinnon suggested increasing the number of fines issued and also rotating attendants at sites.

“These are common sense things,” McKinnon added.

Additionally, Westmoreland suggested adding $80,000 to the budget for a new playground at Konahetta Park. Because the park is within the city limits of Murphy, McKinnon recommended meeting with the mayor and/or members of the city council about funding half of the cost for this.

“It’s time for the town of Murphy to step up in recreation and take the heat from the public like we take the heat from the public,” McKinnon stated.

Later, it was agreed that commissioners McKinnon and Westmoreland would meet at a future date with Mayor Rick Ramsey, of Murphy, about the town possibly funding half of a new playground at Konahetta Park.

The board also discussed the possibility of repairing the tennis and pickleball courts during the next fiscal year. According to Wiggins, the last time the courts had been resurfaced was over 20 years ago. He also stated several of the courts had received patching in August 2016, which cost the county approximately $27,000, and that the county has already received a quote in the amount of $114,825 to completely resurface the courts.

To this, McKinnon and Commissioner Roy Dickey agreed the town of Murphy should also assist with the financing of this potential project.

After Commissioner Stiles asked whether the needed repairs were a result of cosmetic issues or potential safety hazards, Wiggins stated further deterioration of the courts could pose safety hazards in the near future.

The board also discussed the budget line item for Tri-State Community College and addressed concerns over Cherokee County paying more than its fair share to the college than the counties of Clay and Graham.

The commissioners discussed the possibility of “holding the line” by not giving the college any additional funding than what the county has given in prior years.

“There’s got to be a point where you do hold your line and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,'” McKinnon stated and then asked rhetorically, “Are you going to step up and do a tax increase? Are you okay with the other counties not paying their share and going ahead and increasing the tax on your citizens because the other counties aren’t paying their share?”

After further discussion, the board agreed to review the Tri-County line item again at its next budget workshop to be held June 21 at 6:30 p.m. In addition to this meeting, the county budget is expected to be adopted at the June 28 regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

No county commissioners meeting tonight

News

MURPHY, N.C. – According to Maria Hass, assistant county manager and clerk to the Board of Commissioners, the regular Cherokee County commissioners meeting scheduled for tonight (May 21) has been cancelled due to a light agenda.

In addition, Hass added the public hearing concerning the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-19 that was also to take place will be moved to the next commissioners June 4 at 6:30 p.m.

Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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