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Avery Board of Commissioners Adopt County New Emergency Operations Plan 

The Avery County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the County’s 2024 Emergency Operations Plan during their regular monthly meeting May 6.

All commissioners—Chairman Tim Phillips, Vice-Chairman Dennis Aldridge, Martha Hicks, Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr., and Robert Burleson—were present for the meeting. County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr., Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Board Cindy Turbyfill, County Finance Officer Caleb Hogan, and County Attorney Michaelle Poore were also in attendance.

The 2024 Emergency Operations Plan was prepared by Avery’s Emergency Management Director and Fire Marshall Paul Buchanan, his staff, and the County’s emergency support personnel and agencies.  The development of this plan was funded by a grant through the High Country Council of Government.

Details of Emergency Operations Plan include:

Executive Summery

The Avery County Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is a comprehensive, all-hazards operations- oriented document that establishes the framework for an effective system to ensure that Avery County will be adequately prepared to deal with the occurrence of emergencies and disasters. The plan outlines the roles and responsibilities of state and county agencies, municipal governments and volunteer organizations. The EOP unites the efforts of these groups for a comprehensive approach to reduce the vulnerability to a host of identified hazards. It establishes the Incident Command System (ICS) as the basic operational philosophy for all phases of emergency preparedness and response and cross-references the Emergency Support Functions described in the National Response Framework and State of North Carolina Emergency Operations Plan.

This document meets the recommendations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) planning guidance, “CPG 101 (version 3)”, and the legal responsibilities identified in North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 166-A. It provides all the necessary elements to ensure that local government can fulfill its legal responsibilities for emergency preparedness.

This plan is structured to parallel planning activities set forth in the federal and state emergency plans and describes how other outside resources will be coordinated to supplement resources and response. It incorporates the guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in March 2004, and updated in December 2008, as a part of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and adopted by the Board of County Commissioners on April 3, 2006.

The EOP also draws upon the experience gained by the Avery County Board of County Commissioners’ staff members, Avery County Emergency Management and emergency response personnel countywide, in responding to a variety of disaster situations.

The EOP is divided into five major sections:

• The Basic Plan (Section I) addresses the demographic characteristics and vulnerabilities of Avery County and outlines the concept of operations and the organization for direction and control of emergencies. It defines the responsibilities of all agencies and identifies resources to be mobilized by the County to assist citizens in recovering from a disaster.

• The Preparedness section (Section II) Addresses the emergency management preparedness phase and provides a summary of the County’s preparedness programs and activities. Preparedness is any activity taken in advance of an emergency to develop, support, and embrace operational capabilities, to facilitate an effective and efficient response, and recover from a disaster.

• The Response section (Section III) establishes Avery County’s strategy for disaster response. It outlines the Emergency Support Function (ESF) concept established in the National Response Framework and State of North Carolina Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). The planning guidelines for each ESF contain a concept of operations, assign responsibilities to the primary and support agencies and establish procedures for a coordinated response to any type of emergency. Annexes and Attachments augment this section.

• The Recovery section (Section IV) provides for the rapid and orderly initiation and effective execution of actions required for the restoration of persons and property affected by a disaster. Procedures for obtaining state and federal disaster relief and coordinating volunteers and donated goods are included.

• The Hazard Mitigation section (Section V) defers to the FEMA-approved, detailed information pertaining to the hazard mitigation program which is contained in the Toe River Local Mitigation Strategy (LMS).

In addition, the EOP contains additional information that may be used in executing emergency response actions:

• Emergency Support Function Annexes describe specific actions common to most emergencies. Detailed information about Recovery operations (debris declaration process, damage assessment and debris management) are included.

• Incident Specific Attachments provide reference checklists agencies can use to ensure basic procedures are implemented prior to beginning response and recovery operations.

A promulgation letter with a consensus statement from the county commissioners about it support of the 2024 Emergency Operations Plan reads as follows:

“Avery County, in cooperation with the County’s constitutional officers, local municipal governments, the private sector, and private nonprofit organizations, has revised the County’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) in a continued effort to improve our ability to protect the people and property within the County in an emergency. The EOP provides for coordination and allocation of resources for an effective disaster response, as extraordinary emergency measures must be implemented quickly to reduce impacts to life and property.

While no plan can eliminate hazards and risks, effective plans carried out by knowledgeable and well-trained personnel can reduce losses, injuries, and damages. The objective of the EOP is to coordinate the facilities and personnel of the County and its stakeholders into an effective organization capable of responding effectively to an emergency.

The Avery County Board of County Commissioners gives its full support to the EOP and urges all officials, employees, and citizens to do their part in the emergency preparedness effort. This letter promulgates the County EOP, constitutes the adoption of the EOP and the adoption of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

The “Avery County Emergency Operations Plan” dated 2024 supersedes all previous County EOPs.”

Avery is the first of the State of North Carolina’s 100 counties to participate in the “Completing Access to Broadband project,” which will bring a significant amount of new Broadband Internet service into the County.  To help to continue to expand Broadband in the County, the commissioners and Barrier, Jr. ask that any County resident or business without cable or fiber Internet service, to log online and complete the North Carolina Broadband Survey at: https://www.ncbroadband.gov/surveys/north-carolinabroadband-survey and also email the State Broadband Office at Jeffrey.brooks@nc.gov and include your name, address, and phone number and your email address.

A poster about this is posted with this commissioners meeting recap story.

The commissioners also unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the sale of the old Avery CARES Building on Cranberry Street in Newland to the last and highest bidder—CCEW Services, LLC—for the amount of $158,000.00.  Terms of the sale include:  It’s by cash only; the sale closing to happen within 30 days after May 6, 2024; the property is sold as is; and the appropriate County officials are authorized to execute the instruments necessary to convey the property to the purchaser or its assigns.

Additionally, the commissioners approved the following budget amendments requested by Hogan that includes their respective details and monetary amounts by 5-0 votes:

*The Department of Agricultural Extension has requested that the County become the fiscal agent for its 4-H Program.  This includes hiring part-time staff and the purchasing of supplies. The program is self-sustaining through registration fees and grant funding. A breakdown of this budget amendment includes:

*Debit-

Part-time staff-$14,100.00

FICA Administration-$1,000.00.00

Supplies-$2,000.00

Total-$17,100.00

*Credit-

4-H Summer Program-$15,000.00

4-H Summer Program Revenue-$2,100.00

Total-$17,100.00

*Approved a $3,371.77 insurance reimbursement to the Emergency Medical Services Department’s for its 2022 Ford Ambulance.

*Approved a $13,786.00 insurance reimbursement to the Department of Central Dispatch for damage to one of its radio towers.

*Approved the Department of Agricultural Extension receiving extra funds the amount of $15,385.50 since it has closed its bank account monitored by North Carolina State University in Raleigh.  The County currently holds all the department’s funds and conduct all its deposits and disbursements.

*Approved the Avery County High School Kitchen Renovation Project in the amount of $1,620,055, which will finance the construction and asbestos abatement from the current school kitchen. The funds will come from the Avery County Schools Capital Outlay and appropriated from the County’s fund balance.

In other financial news, the commissioners unanimously (5-0) approved the April 2024 Tax Report from Tax Administrator Andrea Turbyfill of $213,128.29 in taxes due the County collected by her and her tax collections staff on all days of that month except those on the month’s four weekends.

Tax Administrator Turbyfill said that a total of $4,144,692.99 has been collected for the months of January, February, March, and April this year. 

She also announced the collections for the whole 2023 year as being at a stellar 98.01 percent and in the total amount of $23,421,974.13.

The commissioners and the County Manager recognized the milestone achievements of the Avery County Transportation staff at the 2024 North Carolina Public Transportation Association’s Roadeo Transit Operator Driving Competition held on April 6 at the world-renown ZMAX Dragway in Concord and the other was officially announced there.  

Avery County Transportation’s team of drivers Chris Brewer, Jr., Tonia Cable, and Homer (Jack) McClean captured first place in the Transit Van competition, earning the agency a huge and impressive trophy, along with bragging rights for the next year. The trophy was on display at the commissioners meeting.

The North Carolina Public Transportation Association also honors four Drivers of The Year with a pair each from the Large Market or Urban Areas and the Small Market or Rural regions, the latter of which Avery County is located. 

Avery County Transportation driver Jeff Raimo, who has logged more than a whopping 500,000 miles while working for the agency, was chosen as a Small Market (Rural Region) Driver of The Year. 

Three citizens addressed the commissioners during their meeting’s public comment session, which is slated to consist of three minutes to give various people a chance to address the Board.   Kevin Holden, Director of the Pat Ray Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Newland, and organizer of the County’s Memorial Day celebration invited the commissioners, all other county officials, all Avery citizens and other who want, to attend this year’s celebration.  It will be held beginning at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, May 27, on the Avery County Square in Newland.

James Heaton, III of Banner Elk, told the commissioners that he is starting a petition drive, that he will also be sharing the same details of with the Avery County Board of Education, about social and religious issues he thinks the County and School System needs to address concerning what should not be discussed or be allowed by the County and School System.  Barrier, Jr. said the commissioners will consider adopting Heaton, III’s suggestions, but will follow federal and state laws about each issue.

Hannah Gragg Presnell, who was raised in the Cary’s Flats Community of the county told the commissioners that she believes there are serious problems in finding quality, and affordable housing in the County.  Barrier, Jr. said the commissioners and other county, and regionally-related housing agencies are continuing to collaborate and work together to address and solve all housing problems that may exist in the county and have already solved many.

In other County business, the commissionersapproved the service board appointments by two more 5-0 votes:

*Avery County Planning Board-Cheryl Buchanan, Jason Grindstaff, and Mike Lacey

*High Country Workforce Development Board-David Robbins

The commissioners will hold their next regular monthly meeting on Monday, June 3, beginning at 6:00 p.m. in their Board Room on the second floor of the County Administration Building, located at 175 Linville Street in Newland.