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Avery Commissioners Vote to Continue to Assess and Update County’s Emergency Operations Plan

By Tim Gardner

The Avery County Board of Commissioners renewed a six-month agreement for its Emergency Operations services during times of disruption of service or a disaster to highlight its June bi-monthly meeting on Monday (19).

Commissioners present for the meeting were: Martha Hicks, Chairwoman, Tim Phillips, Vice-Chairman, Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr., and Dennis Aldridge.  Commissioner Robert Burleson was absent.

The commissioners unanimously (of members present) approved (4-0) hiring Specialized Consulting Services, LLC (Limited Liability Company), of Shelby, North Carolina for another six month period, beginning on July 1, 2023 and running through December 30, 2023, to establish a Continuity Plan and evaluate and update the county’s Emergency Operations Plan.  An original contract between the county and Specialized Consulting Services, LLC, was approved in January 2023 and is set to expire on June 30, 2023.  

Under terms of the contract, the county will pay Specialized Consulting Services $55.00 per hour and 57 cents per mile for travel by its representatives related to services provided the county.  The contract also states that the county’s payout to Specialized Consulting Services, LLC is not to exceed $50,000.

The duties of Specialized Consulting Services, LLC to the county is to identity crucial job functions and alternative methods to maintain operations in the event of a disruption of services or disaster.  It will also specifically address what the job functions are, realistic alternatives, recovery goals and processes, assumptions, communication methods, and a system for implementing a Continuity of Operations Plan.

Additionally, the Emergency Operations Plan that Consulting Services, LLC evaluates and updates will address all of the hazards and threats likely to require a response in Avery County. The plan will describe the policies, strategies, and concept of operations to be used by Avery County Emergency Management in the command and control of any incident from the onset of response through the recovery phase.

The commissioners also unanimously (4-0) approved an agreement between the Avery County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Avery County Transportation with the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games for its 2023 event. 

Under terms of that agreement, the county will provide Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games from July 6 through July 9, with the number of technicians not to exceed six at any given time during the four-day period. Technicians will be present at the Highland Games, beginning at 2:00 p.m. on July 6 and at 6:00 a.m. on July 7, 8, and 9. They will remain present at the Highland Games until 8:00 p.m. each of those days.

The Highland Games will pay the county $10.00 to make the agreement legally binding and what the agreement lists as other “good and valuable consideration.”  Then, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will pay the county an amount equal to the salary, overtime, and other total compensation for such Emergency Medical Technicians who work at the Highland Games during its 2023 event.

The agreement specifically excludes the transport unit and crew of the Avery County Emergency Medical Services.

Also, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will also pay the county $10.00 to make the agreement legally binding for “good and valuable consideration” for using the Avery County Transportation Service.

The Avery County Transportation Authority will then provide handicapped transportation service to the Highland Games at the rate of $2.20 per mile, per van.  Additionally, the Highland Games will pay the county an amount equal to the salary, overtime, and other total compensation for such transportation drivers who work at the Highland Games during course of the 2023 event.

Handicapped transportation services will be provided using one or two vans on July 7 and two, three, or four vans on July 8 and 9.

Additionally, the commissioners unanimously approved adopting a new contract with the Inmate Medical Services Correctional Healthcare Company of Charlotte, North Carolina at a rate of $140,000.00 per year for the medical and mental healthcare as needed by inmates held in the Avery County Jail. 

Federal law requires that inmates must be provided with proper healthcare.

In other business, the commissioners also voted unanimously (4-0) to appoint the following individuals to service agencies:

*Mayland Community College Board of Trustees-Jennie Harpold

*Juvenile Crime Prevention Council-Linda Webb

*Avery County Agricultural Advisory Board- Larry Smith (Newland), Jim Phillips (Toe River), Jack Wiseman, Jr. (Altamont), Michelle Eggers Garner (Elk Park) and Nick Boone (At Large).

County Manger Phillip Barrier, Jr. also informed the commissioners that the county received a grant of $350,000.00 from Dogwood Trust to be used for the county’s re-entry house.  The county will also use funding it received from the National Opioid Settlement and the Community Development Block Grant for the Avery Country Reentry House.

Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. said that the estimated cost and sketch of the re-entry house would be between $950,000 to $1,250,000.

The planned building site for the Avery County Re-Entry House will be on a portion of the 102-acre old State of North Carolina Department of Corrections grounds on Prison Camp Road in the Three Mile Community. The property has easy public road access and private water wells.

According to county officials, the concept of an Avery County Re-Entry House will be in partnership with the county’s Freedom Life Avery program. The county is committed to the Freedom Life program as a way to combat the drug crisis facing some Avery County citizens. 

The Avery County Re-Entry House will be an approximately 3,072 square- foot facility. It would have six bedrooms and baths for clients. The facility will also have a community kitchen, dining and living areas, laundry rooms, and a small office. The bedrooms will be equipped to accommodate two people for maximum usage. The facility could potentially house up to twelve clients at any given time.

The re-entry house would be erected on the property along with a housing administration single-wide for employees. Remodeling of a warehouse would also be conducted to allow Freedom Life Avery’s re-entry program to facilitate meetings for housing clients as well as other recovery clients in the community. 

Due to the Independence Day (July 4) holiday falling the day after the Board’s normal regular monthly meeting date of the third of each month and several county officials planning to be away on trips the first ten days of July, the commissioners moved their July regular monthly meeting date to Tuesday, July 11 at 3:30 p.m. It will be held in their Board Room on the top floor of the County’s Administration Building, located at 175 Linville Street in Newland.