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Little done at QC meeting

By John Miller, 11/10/22 12:25 PM

PRESCOTT – November’s meeting of the Nevada County Quorum Court got off to a flying stop.

The meeting had been moved from Monday, after first being moved from the second Tuesday when it’s regularly held because of the election, to Wednesday. The move was also because of election preparations. However, not everyone was notified of the change.

Nevada County Judge Mark Glass missed his third consecutive meeting, with Nevada County Clerk Julie Oliver facilitating it.

The only real business conducted was the passage of the annual millage ordinance the court must approve to continue getting turnback funds from the state. However, the ordinance wasn’t read, as required, but was still passed by the seven members present.

Most of the meeting dealt with questions from the Justices of the Peace. Pat Grimes kicked things off asking where the money collected from the trash fees for the Solid Waste Department is going.

Oliver said she could provide a printout showing where all the money has been spent, reminding the court the county is allowed to use the funds for other things than just purchasing equipment for solid waste.

Grimes said when the ordinance was passed it was supposed to be only for solid waste, and the equipment the department needs hasn’t been purchased yet.

Herbert Coleman asked how many trash trucks the county has, adding several bags had broken open on NC 200.

Oliver said one is broken down with mechanical problems and another broke down Wednesday, with road and bridge employees using county trucks to collect trash so solid waste employees could attend Wayne Gouley’s funeral.

Grimes followed by asking how the jail was doing.

Oliver said someone from the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office was supposed to attend the meeting, but no one showed up.

Lisa Loe, interim Nevada County Treasurer, said the jail has $5,800 in its budget and will be in the red after payroll. Grimes asked what happens then and was told the money could be transferred from county general.

Loe said the department usually lets it run out until money comes in, and the county holds off on paying bills, but some things had to be paid to keep them from being shut off.

Oliver chimed in saying when funds come the the jail, it’s usually only enough to cover the expenses due, and there isn’t enough to pay anything else back.

Chris Fore said if the jail has money in other accounts, it should be used for payroll instead of taking money from county  general.

Further talk about the jail was tabled until the December meeting.

Oliver said she’d talked to Kent Hendrix about the Nubbin Hill Bridge project and was told it could take two or three months to complete the job.

At the October court meeting, Oliver said, the question of trash fees was brought  up and it was asked if the Nevada County Collector could be on hand to address the situation.

Trish Steed, county collector, said under the ordinance the court passed, those who don’t pay their trash fee can’t get their vehicle tags and, according to the ordinance, must be 90-days current. The fees can be paid in advance at $100, or monthly at $8.34. She continued, saying because of the turnover in the office, the fees haven’t been kept current and the office has been working to bring things up to date. This year, she continued, the office began locking accounts on unpaid personal taxes.

In June, the office ran a second set of bills over 90 days past due, locking those who hadn’t paid. This was done again in October in an effort to get everyone and all accounts current.

Kenneth Bailey said the idea, when the ordinance was approved, was for people to be able to pay their tax bills without being persecuted if they were late, but now the county is saying they have to be paid the first of the year.

Steed said this isn’t the case and people can pay any amount at any time, so long as they keep their accounts current. People are blocked, she continued, because the computer systems aren’t compatible with trash fees and taxes. Since June, she added, the county has collected more than $40,000 and there’s less than $100,000 owed the rest of the year.

Oliver said auditors say the exemptions for churches, businesses and deer camps has to be removed from the ordinances and charged a trash fee as well. This is something the court will have to address after the first of the year, she added.

Steed pointed out trash collection isn’t a tax, but a service provided by the county.

Jeremy Jones wanted to know who’d be over the deer camps, adding the ordinance states all property owners must pay the trash fee.

Steed said owners pay the bill, and her office has received a lot of calls, making adjustments accordingly for those properties where there are no houses or houses in dilapidated conditions. Only houses with residents get billed. Steed continued, saying her office is going through the system weeding  out the places there are no houses, are nothing but timber or the houses aren’t livable. These placed will be removed from the list. She added Robbie Franks checks to make sure the list is accurate.

Jones suggested getting and using census information as well.

The court approved a second ordinance, also unread as required, concerning appropriating money to the District Court Clerk’s Fund. Oliver said the county isn’t collecting as many fins  and there isn’t enough to pay the clerk, with $2,595.61 needed for the remainder of the year. When asked if this would be a one-time thing, Oliver said it wouldn’t as the clerk’s fund isn’t to be used for salaries and this would have to come out of the county general fund. She added, this has been included in the proposed 2023 budget, also reminding the court the city pays 60 percent of the salary while the county pays 40 percent.

Fore asked where the $4,017.61in the county detention fund went. Loe said some funds can’t be used for salaries, but would have to check on this as a percentage of fine money goes to the court.

Dennis Pruitt said the court, at its October meeting, asked the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Executive Director, Mary Godwin about guidelines for buying equipment with ARPA money as they county has to spend this money or send it back. The county has $1.2 million in ARPA funds.

Grimes suggested if the county does buy new equipment it needs to hire responsible people to operate it.

Jones spoke up saying he came to the county in 2020, talking to Glass, saying he’d never received services for trash pickup and didn’t know the county offered trash pickup though he’s lived here since 2013. He asked for a refund of $291.63 for services paid for but not received. He told the court he was informed he was three years behind on payments, adding he came before the court in 2020 when  he was notified, adding the county isn’t supposed to wait three years before notifying residents they’re past due. He suggested the court look at the ordinance and make changes where there are grey areas.

Jones continued saying he has multiple properties, but was never notified by the county concerning trash pickup fees. When he wrote a check to pay for the fees, he noted on the memo line it was for services not rendered.

He also asked about grading roads, saying his has never been touched and he was told it was a driveway as the road has been abandoned by the county. Because of the condition of the road, he said, he can’t get his mail delivered properly because the drivers get stuck.

Further discussion was tabled until the December meeting.