McDowell Commissioners to consider banning cryptocurrency mining

By MIKE CONLEY

The McDowell County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing next month on banning commercial cryptocurrency mining in McDowell.

On Monday, commissioners held their first regular meeting of the month at the County Administrative Offices on North Main Street in Marion. During the meeting, they heard an update from Planning Director Ron Harmon on commercial cryptocurrency mining at McDowell.

Earlier this year, commissioners implemented a moratorium on this activity. Cryptocurrency mining is defined as "the continuous process in which computers work to solve algorithms to maintain and build algorithms or blockchains, and in return are awarded cryptocurrency." Cryptocurrency is a form of currency that exists digitally. It is a digital payment system that does not depend on banks to verify transactions. Cryptocurrency mining uses significant electricity and water resources as part of its operations to power special servers and maintain a cool climate, local officials said.

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"Cryptocurrency mining requires considerable amounts of electricity use, noise, and other local impacts on communities living near mining facilities," a memo to commissioners reads.

County Administrator Ashley Wooten said The McDowell News Earlier this year there were inquiries from companies interested in starting a cryptocurrency mining operation in McDowell.

Commissioners voted earlier this year to enact a 12-month moratorium. They also directed the county Planning Board and staff to consider creating rules for cryptocurrency mining operations in McDowell County.

On Monday, Harmon presented a draft ordinance on commercial cryptocurrencies. It more or less prohibits the development of commercial cryptocurrency mining in the unincorporated areas of McDowell County. The townships of Marion and Old Fort may choose to allow this ordinance to take effect within their corporate limits and extraterritorial jurisdictions. Harmon said he would not ban cryptocurrency mining by individuals.

The commissioners agreed to hold this hearing at their December 11 meeting.

In a related matter, commissioners approved changing the county's telecommunications tower ordinance to comply with new federal regulations.

Commissioners also heard a report from Health Director Karen Powell of the Foothills Health District.

Powell filed a request to increase several environmental health fees. The highest rates are for the evaluation of new and existing wastewater systems. Powell also asked commissioners to support a policy of banning smoking and vaping in the Health Department building.

Under this policy, the Foothills Health District will prohibit the use of tobacco products in “any Health Department building and within 50 feet of the building, thereby preventing smoke from entering the ventilation system and circulating throughout the building.” ”. The ban will cover Health Department buildings, vehicles, playgrounds, outdoor grounds, hallways and parking lots. It will also prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco on Health Department property.

“The goal of this policy is to protect the health and safety of all people who use health department services; employed by the health department; and/or visit health department grounds. Specifically, to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and residual material from tobacco products,” reads a memo from health officials.

Commissioners did not respond to these requests, but asked for more information before taking action.

During Monday's meeting, commissioners indicated they will adopt a resolution in support of Israel in its brutal war with Hamas. The resolution will be presented to the board for consideration at a future meeting.

In other business, the McDowell County Commission:

  • I heard a report from Kim Case of myFutureNC. She provided an overview of that organization and her goal of seeing a statewide increase in the number of post-secondary education, whether college degrees, certificates or other credentials. The goal for McDowell County is for 51% of residents to have a postsecondary degree or credential. After hearing from Case, commissioners adopted a resolution supporting myFutureNC's goal of achievement.
  • A public hearing was held on the road name change. Property owners along two named roads off Hankins Road have requested a name change. Emergency Services staff have ensured that road names do not conflict with existing road names. The roads were renamed Drake Lee Drive and Jett Way.
  • He talked about the strategic planning process. Commissioners met in late August to begin the strategic planning process. Since then, county staff and North Carolina Commerce officials have worked to form a task force comprised of the following departments/agencies: County Administrator, Sheriff's Office, Emergency Services, Tourism Development Authority, Planning , Parks and Recreation, the Senior Center, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, the transit system, DSS, economic development, the Foothills Health District, the Foothills Regional Commission, McDowell County Public Schools and the McDowell Technical Community College. The group held its first meeting on November 1 to review the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats identified by the commissioners. The next meeting will focus on the vision set out by the board. In addition, a survey on public opinion has been developed.
  • I heard updates on construction projects, including the Recreation Center and the animal shelter. Commissioners recently rejected bids for the Recreation Center project. The architect is now reworking the scope of the bid to focus on the pool, parking/driveway improvements and any components that may be completed on the sports field. The animal shelter's architects will meet with staff this week to review and finalize plans for the shelter. A topographic study of the proposed location on NC 226 South was ordered. According to Wooten, there have been several positive conversations with donors about assisting the project.
  • Heard an update on water system upgrades. The Nebo IA and IB projects are being funded with the county's $11 million state allocation. The Universal Water and Sewer project is being funded by a combination of North Carolina Commerce funds and American Rescue Plan Act funds for McDowell.
  • He spoke about the HUD HOME Consortium. Several years ago, commissioners agreed to allow the county to serve as the lead agency for the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HOME Consortium. This agreement allows HUD to distribute funds to participating local governments. While the county is the lead agency and fiscal agent, the Foothills Regional Commission does the work behind the scenes. Commissioners approved the partnership agreement and receipt of funds from HUD.
  • Approved leases with the American Red Cross and McDowell Technical Community College.
  • He appointed Jim Williams and David Patneaude to the Planning Board, Nancy Moore to the Transportation Advisory Board and Conner Tolley to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

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