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Avery County Commissioners Approve Operational Consulting Contract, Various Budget Amendments and Honor Long-time Employee

By Tim Gardner

The Avery Board of Commissioners approved a contract with a consulting service for its general and emergency operations plans, approved five budget amendments and honored a veteran communications department employee to highlight its January 3 meeting.

The commissioners held their monthly meeting then instead of their usual first Monday of each month due to the New Year’s Holiday being observed in federal, state and county offices on January 2 since New Year’s Day (January 1) was on a Sunday this year.

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

All votes cast by the commissioners were approved by a 4-0 vote.

The contract is with Specialized Consulting Services of Shelby, NC to establish a Continuity Operations Plan for the county and to evaluate and upgrade its Emergency Operations Plan.

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 is not to exceed $50,000.

Karen Shrader Laws, dispatcher in the communications department was honored for her graduation from a Public Safety Answering Point Managers Certification Course. The course is an intense five-class course from introduction into 911 to technology that makes an emergency communications system work effectively. Laws received a Certificate of Achievement from the commissioners for completing the course. She has rendered 15 years employment to the county of which Hicks called “stellar and exemplary service through her dedication to, and expertise in, her work.”

The budget amendments the commissioners approved were:

*The Sheriff’s Department received two grants—one for $24,500 from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Governor’s Crime Commission that is being used for computer and other departmental needs and a $2,000 grant from the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk to fund expenses related to its Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Program.

*The Parks and Recreation Department received a $8,065 grant from private donations to be used for its Sled and Sliding Hill Project.

*Another lease truck for the Department of Solid Waste to add to its fleet at a cost of $17,000 due to the cost increase in repairs and maintenance of its 2010 Peterbilt heavy duty truck and the need to have at least three trucks fully operational at all times due to operation demands.

*A temporary position in the Register of Deeds office at a salary of $17,185 so the office will be adequately staffed in the spring.  Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. said the position is needed due to a staff member’s retirement and other employees taking a leave of absence during that time.

In other business:

*Barrier, Jr. told the commissioners that $5,394,655.39 was collected in county taxes for the month of December 2022.  Tax Administrator Andrea Turbyfill said 2022 yearly tax collections for the county through December 31 were $18,623,000.17. She added that approximately $4 million in taxes are still owed to the county and she expects a large sum of that total to still be paid by the end of day on January 5.  Those owing the county taxes for the 2022 year can still pay through then before interest fees are accessed.

*Aldridge was appointed by his fellow-commissioners to serve on the High Country Workforce Development Consortium, which includes a chief elected official from each of the seven counties the organization encompasses—Avery, Ashe, Alleghany, Wilkes, Watauga, Mitchell and Yancey.

Also, the commissioners entered executive or closed session, but took no further action upon returning to open session.

The commissioners will next meet on Wednesday, January 11, beginning at 1:00 p.m. for a special meeting and workshop.  Their next regular monthly meeting will be on Monday, February 6, starting at 3:30 p.m.  Both meetings will be held in their Board Room on the second floor of the County Administration Building, located at 175 Linville Street in Newland.