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Avery Commissioners Re-Appoint Board Officers and Top County Officials

By Tim Gardner

The Avery County Commissioners elected its Board’s officers and the county’s top officials for 2018 during their regular monthly meeting December 4.

All commissioners- Martha Hicks; Blake Vance; Wood Hall (Woody) Young, Jr.; Tim Phillips; and Faye Lacey were present.  County Manger Phillip Barrier, Jr. also was present.

By unanimous (5-0) votes, the commissioners re-elected Hicks as Board chairperson and Vance as vice-chairperson.  The commissioners also re-appointed (by 5-0 votes):  Barrier as County Manager; Cindy Turbyfill as Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Board; Michaelle Poore as county attorney; and Nancy Johnson as Finance Officer.

In the monthly Celebrate County Government segment of their meeting, commissioners recognized the following county employees for the services they provide to the county:  Jamey Johnson, Communications Department Director; Shannon Hughes, Communications Department; and Edward Barrier, Emergency Medical Services (EMS).  Those employees were given appreciation notebook-plaques with a county seal pin.

Sharon Gillespie of the Young, Miller and Gillespie Public Accountants Firm in Spruce Pine addressed the commissioners about the past year’s county audit report. Gillespie said the county received a favorable rating and passing grade in its audit.  She added that the county has a total governmental fund balance of $20,193,047.00.  Finance Officer Johnson noted that not all that money is available as pre-paid assets and restricted funds are taken from the amount.  She said the county’s working capital amount that includes all monies available to the county is $12,267,438.00.  She added that the county’s General Fund Balance Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 were $240,227.00 from July 31, 2017 through November 8, 2017.

Copies of the complete audit for 2017 and all years dating back to 2007 are available online for anyone who would like to review them at: http://www.averycountync.gov/departments/audit_documents/index.php#revize_document_center_rz237

During the public comment segment, Taunia Erno told commissioners that she and several other Linville residents still have complaints concerning excessive noise, alcohol abuse, traffic problems and what she termed “social issues” there that she says herself and other residents of the community feel are intolerable.

Erno has previously appeared at commissioners meetings about her complaints.

She read a letter to the commissioners that she wrote to Avery Sheriff Kevin Frye about her complaints and hopes he and his staff will take further action about them.

Erno added that she and other Linville residents also have concerns over septic issues at the Hampton Store.  Erno said that the state and county has issued citations against the store about its septic tank issues and that while the store has made some corrections with its septic system, certain aspects of it still remain a problem.

Hicks told Erno that the county is still working to address and properly handle her complaints and that county officials have made sure that the Toe River Health District is aware of her concerns about the Hampton Store’s septic system.

Also, Young left the commissioners podium and addressed the Board from the public speaker’s stand about this particular group of commissioners’ accomplishments.  Young said he was speaking “not as a commissioner, but as a county citizen and taxpayer.”  Young praised his fellow commissioners for their achievements for the county such as a new swimming pool, playground, and agricultural service building, renovations to the EMS and Senior Citizens headquarters, funding for a new domestic violence officer, an additional social worker, and the hiring of two “excellent” county leaders such as County Manager Barrier and Assistant County Manager Turbyfill.

Young added that county taxes were raised, but as a result, more services for the county and its citizens have been added. He said:  “The state would have taken over our county’s government in only a few short years because it would have deemed Avery unable to handle its finances and other business.  But we played catch-up and I truly think this particular Board of Commissioners has done more to advance our county and has surpassed anything that has ever been done in its history.”

In other business, the commissioners:

*Received general updates from Barrier about the new agricultural service building, the new swimming pool and surplus properties.

*Were informed by Tax Collector Bruce Daniels that November 2017 tax collections were 3,150,156.77.  The amount was approved (5-0) by the Board.

*Appointed (5-0) Cheryl Buchanan to the Transportation Board.  

*Unanimously approved a budget amendment to recognize a $3,000.00 Homeland Security Grant paid by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and awarded to the county’s Emergency Management Services (EMS) for the purchase of three identical mobile laptop computers.

*Were presented copies of a letter of thanks from Michelle Scott, Director of Resource Management for the Avery County YMCA, for the $7,500.00 second quarter grant allocation the county gave the YMCA.

The commissioners also discussed a policy about the naming of county buildings and its other structures, properties and facilities and a sponsorship policy in which the county will seek sponsors that further its mission by providing monetary or in-kind support for county programs or services.  But they tabled taking any action on both policies until their January meeting.

Additionally, the commissioners tabled discussion and taking any action about a resolution authorizing conveyance of the Old Beech Mountain School property until next month’s meeting.

The commissioners went into executive (closed) session for thirty minutes regarding a personnel matter with Barrier, Poore and Barrier’s administrative assistant, Dawn Carpenter, who was acting as Clerk to the Board in Turbyfill’s absence, also attending. The commissioners took no vote upon returning to open session, but by consensus instructed Barrier to handle the personnel situation. The next commissioners meeting will be held Monday, January 8 at 3:30 p.m. in their Board Room at the Avery County Government Administration Building.