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Avery Commissioners Approve General Contractor to Perform New Construction and Renovations to Building to House Social Service Operations During Workshop

By Tim Gardner

The Avery County Board of Commissioners held a workshop on February 22 to address a multitude of topics, most of which will help them determine the various needs for funding in the county’s upcoming 2023-2024 fiscal year’s budget.

All commissioners were present at the meeting. They include: Martha Hicks, Chairman; Tim Phillips, Vice-Chairman; Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; Dennis Aldridge; and Robert Burleson.

During a workshop, the commissioners cannot take a vote on any issues by State of North Carolina law. However, they can approve any topic by a consensus. The commissioners also held a closed session during the workshop, but did not address any action discussed in it upon returning to
open session approximately 30 minutes later.

The highlight of the workshop meeting was the commissioners accepting (by consensus) the bid submitted by the Garanco, Incorporated (Inc.), General Contractor of Pilot Mountain, NC, in the amount of $2,219,800 to perform the added construction and needed renovations to the building on Shady Street in Newland that will begin housing Avery’s Department of Social Services (DSS) later this year.

Garanco, Inc.’s bid was the lowest of two the county received for the DSS construction and renovations project.

Avery Sheriff Mike Henley told the commissioners that three vehicles are needed for his department. He noted that he will no longer purchase cars, and preferably not trucks, but instead SUV’s as they are much better suited for the primary and secondary roads in the county as well as on its other
terrain that Sheriff’s Department personnel covers.

Henley said there are various other factors involved when purchasing vehicles for the sheriff’s department such as having sirens, blue lights, radio equipment and sheriff’s insignia on the vehicles’ exterior installed.

He noted that he tries to keep the sheriff’s department’s fleet of vehicles up-to-date in terms of model years, so the county won’t have to spend a lot of funds on repairs that are often needed on high mileage and older model vehicles.

“I’m most conscientious of the county’s taxpayers and not having them to have to spend any more money than is needed,” Henley said. Hicks told Henley that the county will include his funding request for vehicles in the county’s upcoming fiscal year budget, which starts July 1 of this year and expires on June 30 of 2024.

Hicks said that the commissioners did an on-site inspection of the Avery County Court House where repairs are needed to the building–especially in its front section, including the sidewalks, and that Avery and Mitchell counties are proposing constructing a new joint facility to house lost and
abused animals in each county on land provided by Mayland Community College.

Projected costs for the court house repairs and the animal facility have not yet been determined, according to Hicks.

County Finance Officer Cory Hogan noted that the county has paid a final payment of $746,559 to Branch Builds of Virginia for the construction and renovations at Avery County High School that the company performed and finished in 2022.

The total cost of the high school construction and renovations was $18,113,306, according to Hogan.

Hogan also said that the county received an additional payment of $11,243.56 in the Opioid Drug Settlement funds on January 31, 2023. His fellow-commissioners authorized Young, Jr., the Board’s representative on the Toe River Health District to speak on behalf of the rest of the commissioners during the application process and hiring a new Director to replace Diane Creek, who recently resigned from the post.

The County of Avery is currently accepting statements of qualifications from architectural firms interested in contracting with the county for architectural services related to the design and planning of a new parks & recreation complex.

Hicks said the commissioners are “supportive of a new parks & recreation complex and will proceed with one as the county can, and can afford to.”

The proposed complex is part of the 5 and 10-year plans and needs the commissioners, County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr., Assistant County Manager Cindy Turbyfill are formulating for the county.

Barrier, Jr. also reiterated 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.

The commissioners also noted that they approved two Community Development Block Grant Housing items at the February regular monthly meeting and that they will be working toward obtaining future CDBG funding for the county.

The Housing and Rehabilitation Inspections Service Agreement through the Community Develop Block Grant (CDBG), Neighborhood Rehabilitation Grant the commissioners approved is effective 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.

The commissioners will hold other public workshops each month until a new county budget is approved in June. But unless another workshop is scheduled before, the commissioners will next meet for their regular monthly meeting on March 6, beginning at 3:30 p.m. in their board room, located on the second floor of the County Administration Complex at 175 Linville Street in Newland.