ASHE COUNTY — The Ashe County Board of Commissioners voted to make an amendment to the board rules and procedures during their regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 17.
Commissioner Larry Rhodes originally made the motion that the amendment require non-emergency items only to be added to the agenda by unanimous vote.
In his motion Rhodes stated:
“Emergency items may be submitted by board members for addition to the agenda and voted on by the board during the agenda item ‘adoption of the agenda.’ Items for the agenda that are not emergency items may be added to the agenda only by unanimous vote of the commissioners. Otherwise they may be discussed and considered by the board for addition to the next agenda during agenda items.”
The amendment follows a recent vote taken by the board during their regular meeting on July 20 to approve a resolution supporting House Bill 875.
According to Rhodes, he was not aware that the resolution would be on that meeting’s agenda and therefore didn’t have enough time to research the issue.
H.B. 875, sponsored by Rep. Jonathon Jordan (R-Jefferson), titled “Restrict Municipal Eminent Domain,” would require municipalities to obtain county consent before attaining a property through condemnation.
The bill was passed by the N.C. House of Representatives and has remained in a committee in the N.C. Senate since April 30.
The bill has direct correlation to Boone’s Water Intake Project. If passed, the town of Boone would have to seek approval from Watauga County Commissioners before they could condemn the land needed for the project.
“Something as important as voting on an item on the agenda, I feel like it is our responsibility as elected officials to go out and research.” Rhodes said.
Other commissioners noted that the Boone Water Intake Project has been a well-known issue to the board for many years.
According to Commissioner Gary Roark, the board has been fighting against the Boone Water Intake Project for nearly five years.
Commissioner Jeff Rose said he agreed that the commissioners should research agenda items but also said that since the board was familiar with H.B 875, it wasn’t a problem.
“We should research it. Last time though, on that bill, we were all familiar with that anyway,” Rose said. “Had it been something new that come up, I wouldn’t have voted on it until everyone did their research.”
Before calling for a vote on the amendment, members of the board questioned if an unanimous vote rather than a majority vote should be required to add an item to the agenda.
According to Rose and Roark, one commissioner could use his vote to hold things up or control the process.
“We don’t need a unanimous vote because one man could come in here and he could say ‘well I’m not for that’ and they can keep from adding it to the agenda,” Roark said.
“Why I said unanimous, that way its a contention of all of us saying we are comfortable with it at that meeting rather than having time to research it,” Rhodes said.
“If you can recall, when it first came up about a month prior to that, we voted on it and then I asked to change my vote and then you kind of said ‘no, we’ve voted’ 3-2 in opposition to the House Bill 875,” Roark said to Rhodes. “After about a month later I got out in the public and talking to a lot of the people in the public and I decided it would be better for us to support Watauga County commissioners and their effort to oppose this water intake and it would be to oppose them with voting against the House Bill 875. So that’s the reason I brought that back up and had it put on the agenda that day.”
“We’re elected to do a job here and represent the people of Ashe county and if we don’t get out in the public and associate with people here in the county, how are we going to represent?” Roark said. “We need to show up.”
Roark also referenced an incident in which the board voted twice on an ambulance contract with Commissioner William Sands changing his vote.
“When you get into this agenda business, we can’t have a double standard,” Roark said. “We need to set a rule down and go by it and I feel like with the majority of the board, we can pass a budget with three votes and surely to god we can add something to the agenda with three votes.”
The board voted 2-3 to allow non-emergency items to be added to the agenda by unanimous vote. Roark, Richardson and Rose voted in opposition.
Another motion was made to allow non-emergency items to be added to the agenda by majority vote. The motion carried by a 3-2 vote with Sands and Rhodes in opposition.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.