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Avery Commissioners Approve Radio Communications Service Agreement, Starting Bid Process for New Social Services Complex and Bonding New Sherrif

By Tim Garder

The Avery County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on November 22 to address three items-a service agreement with a radio communications company for all fire, rescue and law enforcement calls, bonding of new Sheriff Mike Henley and to further discuss plans for the new Department of Social Services complex.

Commissioners (Chairwoman) Martha Hicks, Tim Phillips (Vice-Chairman), Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr., and Dennis Aldridge were present.  Commissioner Blake Vance was absent.  Vance’s term as a commissioner expires on December 5.

The commissioners approved a service agreement (4-0 vote) with the Radio Communications Company (RCC) from Cary, NC

Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. said that he, Assistant County Manager Cindy Turbyfill, Emergency Management Director Paul Buchanan and Communications Director Mike Edmisten were all pleased with what the RCC offers the county. 

The new digital radio system is approximately 70 percent compatible to the new radio system and that work is underway to bring it to 100 percent compatible, Barrier, Jr. noted. 

He added that because the new radio communications system is digital, the system cannot be misused, meaning unauthorized people cannot communicate within the system and any who try can be quickly booted off of it, be easily identified and trace their whereabouts to take legal charges against.

Also, by a 4-0 vote, the commissioners approved bonding for new Sheriff Mike Henley and his staff.

An Indemnity-to-Sheriff Bond (aka Marshal Bond) provided to Henley is a type of surety bond that guarantees protection to law enforcement officials and agencies seizing property on orders of the court on behalf of a plaintiff from a defendant. This bond prevents sheriffs or marshals to incur any liability should the defendant seek damages against the officers who seized the property.

This type of bond also called the marshal bond ensures that sheriffs or marshals are reimbursed for any financial loss because the plaintiff failed to fulfill his or her contractual obligation.  The financial costs include items such as labor, services or materials that were used to enforce the seizure of the property.

An Indemnity-to-Sheriff Bond provides protection to law enforcement agencies during their action when enforcing a court order to seize or repossess the property of a defendant on behalf of a plaintiff. The bond guarantees that law enforcement agencies are indemnified against all legal action that the defendant might take because of damages incurred on the property during the legal and lawful seizure of the property.

When the sheriff or marshal removes the property in question, other property that belongs to the defendant could be damaged. For example, the law officer might cause damage to the defendant’s premises, on which the plaintiff’s property is located while seizing the property.

On a date next year still to be finalized in 2023, the Social Services Department will move from the ground level of the County Administration Building and from the Avery County Health Department in Newland to a building currently being renovated and expanded at 358 Beech Street–just a few blocks away. The move will consolidate DSS services into one building and provide much more needed space for its staff and operations.

The commissioners approved (4-0) starting the advertising process for taking bids for the renovation to the existing building as well as expansion to the building. Its total projected cost is in the $2,500,000 range, according to the County Manager. The commissioners can accept or reject any bids for the project, depending on how the eventual total costs match the $2.5 million estimate.

Barrier, Jr. said that once all DSS relocates into its new complex, the Board of Elections will move from its small quarters in the Avery County Courthouse and be housed in part of the current Social Services offices in the County Administration Building. That will provide the Board of Elections staff with plenty of space for its operations, including a section to conduct early voting each election instead of at other locations.

Barrier, Jr. also shared that it will be later determined what other county operations will be relocated to the remaining space in the County Administration Building and Health Department currently housing DSS staff.

The next regular monthly meeting of the commissioners will be held Monday, December 5, starting at 3:30 p.m., in their board room suite, located on the second floor of the County Administration Building, 175 Linville Street, in Newland.