Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

The last few meetings of the Macon County Board of Commissioners  have been standing room only, with dozens of residents sharing their concerns surrounding the Macon County Grading License Program.

A year to the day that commissioners first suspended the county’s grading license program with the intent of reviewing the program and either eliminating it or improving it, Macon leaders were not satisfied with proposed changes and voted to continue the suspension of the program.

Commission Chair Jim Tate said that he wanted to see the program’s suspension continued and amendments delayed, pending a revision of the state’s Sedimentation and Erosion Control Ordinance. Macon County Manager Derek Roland informed the board Tuesday night that the state is currently in the process of completely revising the ordinance, which was adopted by Macon County in 2001.

The county’s grading license program, which was enacted in 2008, relies on definitions in the state ordinance such as the definition of “land disturbing activity.” Tate said he didn’t want the county to continue spending time and effort on revisions to the local program, only for it to be all for naught if the state’s revision supersedes the county’s.

The vote to continue the grading license program suspension until the state finalizes its review was passed in a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Paul Higdon voting against the measure. According to Hidgon, there isn’t a need to temporarily suspend the program, because in his opinion, the entire grading license program serves no purpose. Higdon made a motion to permanently cancel the entire grading license program and eliminate it all together. Higdon’s motion failed due to the lack of a second by another commissioner.

While the grading license program will remain suspended, commissioners don’t want to stop working on the educational intent behind the program. In 2008 when the program was first started, it was done so to educate the public who perform grading work or projects that are less than $30,000 on the correct practices and safety regarding the process. The program was intended to reduce sediment and soil erosion that was common in 2008. The program, which distributed 85 license in 2016 the last year it was in effect, requires individuals wanting to perform grading work without an NC Grading Contractors License, an open book test so they are better educated on the process. While 85 permits were distributed in 2016 and the program hasn’t ever received any complaints from the public, Higdon believes the program to be ineffective and led the charge in February 2017 to reevaluate its purpose.

Grading contractors in Macon County, however, disagree and support the program’s intent. Without the program, in Macon County anyone can rent equipment and complete grading work on projects that are less than $30,000 without any training or experience. According to dozens of grading contractors, the county’s program cut down on the number of inexperienced, uneducated individuals performing the work, which often resulted in sedimentation and soil erosion in local creeks.

Tate and the entire board of commissioners said that while the program is suspended, they want to explore ways to continue to provide education for those performing grading work, but rather than requiring such a program, look at making it voluntary and a resource rather than a requirement.