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Avery Commissioners Learn New Internet Service Details, Make Service Appointments and Honor Veteran Employees

By Tim Gardner

     Information about a desired Broadband Internet Partner , seven Service Board appointments and two long-time county employees being honored were highlights of the regular monthly meeting of the Avery County Commissioners March 5.

     All Commissioners– Martha Hicks (Chairperson); Blake Vance (Vice-Chairman); Wood Hall (Woody) Young, Jr.; Tim Phillips; and Faye Lacey were present. Other top county officials attending included: County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr.; Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Board Cindy Turbyfill; and County Attorney Michaelle Poore. Approximately twenty others attended the meeting.

     The commissioners were further advised through written correspondence about the $100,000.00 Broadband Internet Service grant awarded to the Avery County Chamber of Commerce to extend Internet service through the county and that the Chamber is seeking a Partner to match the funds to design and operate the broadband services.

     Barrier had previously informed the Commissioners about the Broadband Internet Grant being awarded to the Chamber of Commerce during their February meeting.

     The grant award letter reads: The Avery Chamber of Commerce has received a $100,000.00 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to extend broadband Internet service to residential and business customers in unserved and underserved areas of Avery County. The Chamber of Commerce is seeking a qualified Partner with the technical expertise and capacity to make available High-Speed Internet services to as many underserved areas as possible. The qualified Partner would be required to design, build, operate and maintain a broadband network to provide data services. The Partner also would be required to provide a minimum of $100,000.00 to match the ARC funds.

     Copies of the detail Request for Proposal, including a description of the services to be provided by respondents, the minimum content of responses and the factors to be used to evaluate the responses can be obtained by writing: Melynda Peeple, Executive Director, Avery Chamber of Commerce, 4501 Tynecastle Highway, Unit #2, Banner Elk, NC 28604; by phoning (828) 898-5605; via email (director@averycounty.com); or online at: averycounty.com/avery-county-press-releases. Proposals will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. on March 30.

     During the monthly Celebrate County Government segment originated by Barrier, Commissioners recognized Kim Davis (18 years) of the Agriculture Extension Service and Amanda Lowery (18 years) of the Emergency Management Services (EMS) for their contributions to the county through their respective jobs. They were given appreciation notebook-plaques with a county seal pin by Commissioner Hicks.

     In other business, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has mandated that the regional planner for transportation (David Graham) and Emergency Management (Paul Buchanan) be members of the Avery County Transportation Advisory Board. Also, the county’s Finance Director (Nancy Johnson) is mandated to chair the Finance Committee for the Transportation Advisory Board. The commissioners automatically (5-0) approved these appointments.

     In more Board appointments, the commissioners also unanimously approved: Karen Brown and Jacqueline Aldridge to serve on the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council; Carrie Shaffer to serve on the Child Protection-Fatality Team; and Stanley Norwood to serve (reappointed) on the Village of Sugar Mountain’s Extra Territorial Committee of its Board of Adjustment.

     The Commissioners also unanimously adopted A Memorandum of Understanding resolution with Avery County Little League, Inc. The County desires to use the property leased to Avery County Little League, Inc. for players to participate in the Tarheel League Softball and Baseball programs; and Avery County Little League is agreeable to the County using the land for such purpose.

     Barrier said that these softball and baseball programs will not hinder the Little League programs already in existence; just provide additional programs to children interesting in playing softball and baseball.

     Another resolution the Commissioners unanimously adopted regarded funding for non-profits and non-profit funding grant applications.

     Avery County Government has no statutory requirement to fund nonprofit agencies. However, the Board of Commissioners may consider providing funding to nonprofits that provide a vital service that the County does not provide, or if the organization can deliver the service at a reduced cost or in a more expedient manner or to better the community. Applications for funding will be considered for approval by the Board of Commissioners. Approved requests will be funded for one year and the organization must apply annually.

     Commissioner Vance said that this resolution will give the county more control of funding of non-profit organizations.

     Buchanan, also the county’s Assistant Fire Marshall presented a bell statue to the County that will sit on display in the Commissioners Board Room as a tribute to all those who have served, are serving and will serve in the future as county firefighters—particularly to those injured or killed in the line of duty.

* The following budget amendments were also unanimously approved by the Commissioners:

-Parks and Recreation Department-$45,000.00 for a new handicap lift at the Newland Rock Gym and $4,240.00 for new workout equipment

-Public Buildings and Grounds-$32,377.49 for repairs and maintenance. Johnson noted that the county has received an insurance check in the same amount for water damages to the Sheriff’s Evidence Room in the Courthouse.

-Sheriff’s Department-For $2,512.51 received from the county’s insurance company for vehicle repairs.

-Inspections Department-For $1,360.00 received from the county’s insurance company for vehicle repairs.

-Museum-For $3,500.00 to be used to repair the building’s roof, add guttering, repair the planter and make some patch paving.

-Department of Social Services-To recognize additional revenue of $4,370.00 received through the State for the Low-Income Energy Assistance program.

*Approved the following Line Item transfers by Department heads:

Transportation $8,000.00; Veterans $300.00; Sheriff’s $2,115.00; and Inspections $900.00.

*Johnson informed the Commissioners that Total Fund Balance Appropriations for the 2017-18 Fiscal Year so far (August 2017-February 2018) are: $246,082.00

     Tax Administrator Bruce Daniels told the Commissioners that the county’s tax collections were $305,690.48 in February 2018.

     The Commissioners will hold a special meeting concerning the new county swimming pool Thursday, March 9, at 1:30 p.m. They also scheduled a Public Hearing on March 22, beginning at 4:30 p.m., for input about hiring Capital Development Services of Winston-Salem, NC for

services to the County and the Co-Op Agricultural Extension Service to help facilitate fundraising to build additional needed buildings and grounds for the its new complex.

     The Commissioners next regular monthly meeting will be Monday, April 2, at 3:30 p.m.

     The two meetings and Public Hearing will be held in the Commissioners Board Room at the County Government Administration Building in Newland.