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Avery Commissioners Approve Funds for Crossnore Elementary School Roof and Receive Notice of Forthcoming Federal COVID-19 Funding

By Tim Gardner

The Avery Commissioners approved the use of lottery funds for the Crossnore Elementary School roof renovation project and received notice that the county will receive Federal funding due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at their monthly meeting on Monday, July 6.

Avery Commissioners are Martha Hicks (Chairperson); Tim Phillips (Vice-Chairman); Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; Blake Vance; and Dennis Aldridge. Other leading county officials include County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr.; Interim Finance Officer Ashley Cole Ingwersen; Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Board Cindy Turbyfill; and County Attorney Michaelle Poore.

The commissioners unanimously approved authorizing the release of lottery funds in the amount of $350,000 to move forward with the roof renovation project at Crossnore Elementary.

The commissioners also approved a financial amendment to provide $1,048,760 of the total cost of $1,598,760 for the roof project. The remaining commitment is contingent upon the Avery County Board of Education covering the amount of $350,000 through the use of lottery funds.

Barrier, Jr. said that more COVID-19-related funding coming to the county from the Federal government. He informed the commissioners that the first round of funding provided through the CARES Act has been spent except for salaries, and he is collecting receipts from county departments in order to submit the required paperwork for the new funding.

“In the words of Toe River Health District Director Diane Creek, this COVID-19 is a very mean virus,” Barrier said. “It’s not playing by any rule and does not discriminate against anyone. And certainly, the county can use every bit of funding we can get to help combat it.”

The commissioners also approved the lease of property to Daymark Recovery Services. The county owns real property located in both the Linville Township and the Town of Newland. Daymark Recovery Services provides mental health and substance abuse services to residents of Avery County and will pay a monthly rent of $2,000 to the county.

Avery County Forest Ranger Joe Shoupe gave his annual report to the commissioners and noted that his department responded to 23 wildland fire calls. Nine were false alarms. Of the 14 fires responded to, the Forest Service and local volunteer fire departments were able to contain the fires and protected 29 homes and other structures valued at approximately $4,820,000.

Shoupe advised landowners and landscapers to be aware of invasive plants and insects, such as the Emerald Ash Borer and the Beech Scale insect, which causes Beech Bark Disease. Shoupe added that many invasive species can spread rapidly and are difficult to kill and need to identify and root out such plants.

In another report, Avery County Humane Society Executive Director Gwynne Dyer told the commissioners about the shelter’s operations. She said that during the past two years, the shelter has cared for more than 1,300 animals, many of which have been stray animals brought there by local residents.

Dyer noted that more than 1,000 animals have been adopted from the shelter over the past two years. She added that the shelter’s euthanasia rate qualifies it to classified as a “no-kill shelter.”

The shelter typically keeps 55 cats and about 40 dogs, depending on litter size and the number of animals that can be kept together, according to Dyer, who then shared a liberal statistic about the volume of reproduction among cats with these remarks: “We don’t have animal control, so we’re the only [regulated placed in the county] for stray animals. One cat that has a litter of kittens, and then those cats have litters of kittens, and that keeps going, in four years that one cat can turn into 20,736 cats.”

Dyer said the shelter also provides a spay-and-neuter service and offers a free service to those who are on welfare or food stamps.

In other business-

*Tax Administrator Bruce Daniels reported that the county collected $79,486 in taxes for the month of June.

*The commissioners recognized the following employees who reached the 15-year mark in employment with the county: Jack McCloud and Casey Lee (Sheriff’s Department); Jason Markland (Jail); Joielle Calhoun and Jean Stamey (Emergency Medical Services); Robert Woody (Solid Waste), Cecily Avery, Amy Greene (Social Services) and Jennie Jarrett (Social Services); Mark Forbes (Soil and Water); and Dellmos Vance (Transportation).

The commissioners announced they will further honor these employees for the years of dedicated service during one of their future meetings after COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

*Barrier, Jr. said the county will be pursuing the Home and Community Care Block Grant once again. The grant is utilized to offset the costs for transportation for in-home aid, home-delivered meals, congregant meals, and senior center operations that is usually between $3,000 and $5,000.

Senior Services Director Phillip Adams said the Senior Service Department is expecting to receive $129,445 in grant funding to continue meal-delivery and other services.

Barrier, Jr. said that SkyLine/SkyBest has begun construction of its Wide Area Network for Avery County Schools, which will provide remote connections and data network access to the public schools as well as opportunities for expansion of fiber in underserved areas.

Barrier, Jr. added that he also going to push with the CARES Act to try to get funding for broadband expansion.

The county manager also said Avery County Transportation received a $20,430 grant from the Avery-Mitchell-Yancey (A-M-Y) Wellness Foundation to be used for coordinating managed care transportation.

The commissioners will next meet on July 20 in their Board Room in the County Administration Building in Newland.