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By Kevin Griffin Hickory Daily Record
Posted October 3, 2016 

NEWTON -- The Catawba County Board of Commissioners met Monday to discuss economic development as part of their strategic planning process as well as regularly scheduled business.

Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) President Scott Millar gave a presentation on key considerations for economic development.

The importance of improving the marketing of the area’s assets is an important part of the process, particularly with regard to the area’s actual and perceived ties to Charlotte, Millar said.

Despite the close proximity of Catawba County to Charlotte, there are still issues with connecting Catawba County to Charlotte in the eyes of leaders and businesses in Charlotte.

"I think it's easy for them to look at us as the little brother, you ,now, that doesn't really bring a whole lot to the table sometimes," Millar said.

To illustrate the point, Millar referenced a "Living Here" publication by the Charlotte Observer which largely excluded mention of Catawba County.

"Catawba County has to be important to Charlotte," Millar said. "We have to bring something to the table

Commissioner Kitty Barnes brought up the issue of transportation, particularly the challenge of publicizing the links between Catawba County and Charlotte.

"We've got a great connector with 16, but Charlotte never talks about that roadway," Barnes said. "I think we've got to play up both 321 and 16 to try to make that inroad."

Board Chairman Randy Isenhower raised the issue of balancing growth with maintaining the area's character.

"I think we lose some identity, you know," Isenhower said. "Maybe I'm missing the bigger picture."

Millar assured commissioners local leaders would have control over the type of development that goes on in the county.

"We always have the ability to say no," Millar said.

In the coming decades, growth will be necessary to meet projected economic needs.

The EDC has projected a 20,000 person gap between available jobs and working age population in 2035.

To fill the gap, Catawba County would have to grow by 60,000 people -- or 18 percent growth per decade -- over the next two decades.

Other topics of discussion included human capital development, the construction and location of new speculative buildings and methods for publicizing the county's economic development incentives.

Following the strategic planning session, the commissioners entered into their regular meeting. Actions at the meeting included.

-- Proclaiming the week of Oct. 9 Fire Prevention Week. The proclamation urged citizens to check their smoke alarms and replace if necessary, particularly if the alarm is 10 years old or older. Some fire departments in the county give out free smoke detectors, and citizens are urged to call their local fire departments to see if they offer the free alarms, Assistant Emergency Services Director Mark Pettit said.

-- Approval of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. The schedule is used to determine when certain records held by the sheriff’s office may be destroyed. The destruction of any public records requires approval from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. The approved plan from the Catawba County Sheriff’s office will be provided to the state's Government Records Section.

-- Appropriated $70,000 from existing fund balance to remount the chassis of an ambulance belonging to the Newton-Conover Rescue Squad. The current 1991 ambulance has 27,000 miles on it, and the chassis will be replaced with a 2016 Chevrolet 3500 4x4. The $70,000 will go to the total cost $90,869, as well as radio installation and emergency striping. The deparment also received a $25,000 matching grant from the Volunteer Rescue/EMS fund for the new chassis.

-- Established a new fee for the Engineered Option Permit which is equivalent to 30 percent of the current fees. The EOP is used for owners who hire engineers to design and build wastewater systems outside the “direct oversight” of the health department. The new fee will range from $135 for systems that use 360 gallons per day or less to $315 for systems using 1,001 gallons or more.

-- Approved a $14 increase in the water sample fee for fluoride, lead, nitrate, Volatile Organic Analysis, pesticide and petroleum. This moves the fee for samples in those categories from $85 to $99 in those categories. Inorganic water sample fees will go from $114 to $128.

-- Appropriated an additional $27,450 to the Board of Elections to help cover seven additional days of early voting.


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