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At the retreat, Guilford County
Tax Director Ben Chavis gave a presentation on property tax collection efforts in the wake of the countywide revaluation last year. He said notices of new property values were sent out to taxpayers in March and since then the county has received about 2,700 appeals, which amounts to 3.6 percent of the parcels on the county's books.
Chavis said that was significantly less than counties usually see after a revaluation, and he added that the Board of Equalization and Review had been meeting very often to hear the appeals.
"Obviously, in a reval year, your board of E and R stays very busy," Chavis said. "They have done a phenomenal job this year."
Chavis named each member of the Board of Equalization and Review, and he pointed out that Frank Rakestraw had been chairman of that board until a few months ago, when health problems prevented him from continuing to serve. Rakestraw, the husband of former Greensboro City Councilmember and former Guilford County
Commissioner Mary Rakestraw, died last month at the age of 68.
Chavis said he expected the appeals process for the revalued property to be complete by the end of this month.
Late in the day, the commissioners briefly addressed the ongoing question of what to do about the Alamance County line. The Board of Commissioners has been discussing the line for nearly a decade now, and about five years ago it began taking action to attempt to resolve a long-standing dispute with Alamance County over what land is in which county.
About five years ago, the State of North Carolina surveyed the line and everyone now knows exactly where the line lies. However, adopting the new line will upset some residents who live on the border of the two counties, so Alamance County hasn't voted to adopt the county line that state surveyors found. Guilford County
voted three years ago to adopt that line.
The Guilford County
commissioners spoke briefly at the retreat with Gibsonville Mayor Lenny Williams, who's very familiar with the situation since the line divides his community, but the board took no action.
Commissioner Kay Cashion said she wanted to make sure that all the residents who live along the line continue to have access to emergency services.Guilford County
Emergency Services Director Alan Perdue said there was nothing to worry about in that regard.
"There's a responding agency for every home," Perdue told the board.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Linda Shaw said Guilford County
representatives would meet with Alamance County officials at a future date to determine where the issue stands.
At the Jan. 10 retreat, Fuller gave a presentation of the county's strategic plan. That grand plan was begun almost five years ago to offer policy guidance to Guilford County
commissioners and staff, and then, in 2008 when the economy fell apart, the plan died in its tracks. Former Commissioner Paul Gibson, who was the driving force behind the plan, acknowledged three years ago that the strategic plan was dead, but Fuller, who put a great deal of work into developing the plan, has been unable to let go.
Fuller is an intelligent woman so she must know that the plan is dead; however, each year at the retreat, for some reason that remains unclear, Fuller feels compelled to talk about it.
In her PowerPoint presentation, she explained what strategic planning is.
"Strategic planning determines where an organization is going and how it is going to get there," Fuller said.
She said the community polling process five years ago had led to firm visions for the county's future. For instance, citizens were very much in favor of "Further Community Achievement" as well as "Community Vibrance." They also favored economic growth and a "higher quality of life" over unemployment and a lower quality of life.
Fuller also said the county's citizens wanted the commissioners to work to "ensure community health and safety."
That's opposed to those counties where the citizens want fiscal collapse, fewer jobs and a more dangerous community – perhaps because residents in those counties find it more thrilling to live on the edge while unemployed, with no safety net, and with nothing to live on but their own wits. County commissioners in those counties have much easier jobs.
Former Board of Commissioners Chairman Skip Alston, who supposedly stepped down from the board last December after serving 20 years, caused quite a stir at the retreat when he showed up and stayed for nearly the entire afternoon.
County staff gave Alston handouts as though he were still a commissioner, and at times he looked as though he were going to jump in with a question or a comment.
Alston said there was a simple explanation why he came to the retreat.
"They need my knowledge," Alston joked. "They may have forgotten something."
A moment later, Alston gave a second explanation.
"I've got nothing else to do," he said.
At the meeting, Shaw recognized Alston, the former District 8 commissioner, and she said she was still mad at him for not running again.
Current District 8 Commissioner Ray Trapp, who ran uncontested for the seat after Alston decided not to run again, said he was of the opposite opinion.
"I want to thank him for not running," Trapp said.