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Avery Commissioners Appoint Tax Admin. and Adopt Community Development Block Grant Program Service Agreements

By Tim Gardner

The Avery Board of Commissioners appointed a new Tax Administrator and approved two service agreements through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to highlight its February 6 regular monthly meeting.

Commissioners–Chairwoman Martha Hicks, Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips, Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. and Robert Burleson–were present.  Commissioner Dennis Aldridge was absent from the meeting due to being in Raleigh attending government meetings there.

The commissioners unanimously appointed Andrea Turbyfill as the county’s Tax Administrator, effective immediately, which removes the interim tag from her job title.

Turbyfill also reported that the county’s tax collections for January 2023 were $2,567,493.15. That’s a collection percentage of 94 percent.

Turbyfill also provided documentation that the county collected $23,428,715.58 in taxes for the 2022 year (January through December).

The Housing and Rehabilitation Inspections Service Agreement through the Community Develop Block Grant (CDBG), Neighborhood Rehabilitation Grant the commissioners approved is effective immediately through August 2024, unless amended.  The county shall pay the contractor $65.00 per hour, not to exceed $6,000.00 per dwelling at completion of the final draft of the work write-up.

The second approved contract was the County and the High Country Council of Governments (CDBG) Reentry Housing Project.  It is for a 32-month period—February 2023 through September 2025. Also, under its terms, the county will pay the Planning Agency a maximum sum of $90,000.00, which includes $3,500.00 for grant preparation and $86,500.00 for the satisfactory performance of all services related to the administration of the project.

Hicks said the State of North Carolina has mandated that the County of Avery tear down or demolish the old Avery CARES Building in Newland due to it having potentially harmful substances such as mold and exposed asbestos and numerous physical defects, including a leaking fireplace, decaying floors and steps.  She added that tearing down or demolishing the building would cost much less than trying to dispose of the mold and fix any places where asbestos is exposed as well as to fix its physical defects and then renovate it completely.

In other business, the commissioners:

*Approved the Westridge Subdivision at Eagles Nest, Lots 36 and 53 through 72 as recommended by Allison Kidd, County Inspections and Planning Director

*Approved a resolution establishing a Special Board of Equalization and Review.

*Approved the following budget amendments as requested by Finance Director Caleb Hogan:

-The Agricultural Extension Department has closed its account monitored by North Carolina State University and has requested that the County hold the funds and handle all deposits and disbursements, and the county received additional revenue from the account in the amount of $3,687.73.

-The Department of Emergency Management received $35,440.26 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for various expenses related to the pandemic response.

-The Register of Deeds office has received an automation grant in the amount of $2,166.00 from the State of North Carolina for the preservation of historic records.

-The Department of Public Grounds has incurred additional expenses due to various repairs and maintenance which has largely been comprised of necessary Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) repairs and diagnostics and $45,564.00 is needed to cover the expenses.

-The Department of Central Dispatch requested $36,657.27 in funds to purchase a generator to power communications tower in case of a power outage. This was already planned during the budget process to be purchased using fund balance.

-County to reimburse the Emergency 911 (E911) North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) $7,603.85 for ineligible expense.

All votes approved by the commissioners during the meeting were 4-0.

Mayland Community College President Dr. John Boyd also provided the commissioners with a project update of the school, which includes: 

-Blue Ridge Boutique Hotel-

  • 32 rooms fully opened
  • Landscaping project underway with estimated completion in Spring 2023
  • Restaurant & Kitchen underway with estimated completion in Fall/Winter 2023

-Three Peaks Enrichment Center-

  • Cosmetic Arts Center opened in 2022
  • Resource Center from Entrepreneurs estimated open in Spring 2023
  • South Entrance renovation estimated completion Summer 2023
  • Temporary Event Space estimated completion Summer 2023 – in time for the Mineral and Gem Festival
  • North End/YMCA in design work

-Earth to Sky Park-

  • Arthur Planetarium opened in Summer 2022
  • Children’s Discovery Center estimated completion Fall/Winter 2023
    • Includes the Altec Styslinger Engineering Discovery Center and the Environmental Science Discovery Center
  • Expanded Parking Lot in design
  • Gardens and Landscaping are on going

-Fire Training Center-

  • Renovation is underway
  • Located on Spruce Pine Campus

-Yancey Campus Parking Lot Expansion-

  • Completed, added 42 spaces

-Pollinator Meadow – Spruce Pine Campus-

  • Working with Blue Ridge Resource, Conservation and Development (RC&D) on stream restoration and adding a pollinator meadow with walking trail in the lower field along the entrance to the Spruce Pine campus. Estimated completion date Summer 2023.

County Manager Phillip Barrier said that the Great Grant-American Rescue Plan to have Broadband Internet service throughout the county cannot move forward until all required paperwork is completed, which should be in early March.

Barrier also informed the commissioners and others present that Avery County will receive an additional payment of $11,243.56 in the Opioid Drug Settlement funds.

The commissioners will hold their next regular monthly meeting on March 6, beginning at 3:30 p.m. in their board room on the second floor of the County Administration Building, located at 175 Linville Street in Newland.

They will also have a joint public meeting with the Avery Board of Education on Tuesday, February 21, at the Board of Education Central office, located at 775 Cranberry Street, Newland.