1000 x 90

Avery Commissioners Retain Officers and Approve Delay of County’s Audit

By Tim Gardner

Election of new county officers and a delay in the preparation of the county’s 2017-18 fiscal year audit were among the action approved at the regular monthly meeting of the Avery County Board of Commissioners December 3.

All commissioners-Martha Hicks; Blake Vance; Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; Tim Phillips; and Dennis Aldridge were present. County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr.; Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Commissioners Cindy Turbyfill; Finance Officer Tim Greene; and County Attorney Michaelle Poore also were present.

It was the first meeting for Aldridge as a commissioner. He was the high vote-getter in the November General Election, being elected to serve a four-year term. He replaces Faith (Faye) Lacey, who did not seek re-election to the Board.

The Commissioners voted to retain Hicks as the commission’s Chairperson and Vance as Vice-Chairman by 4-0 votes with neither voting for their self. Both served the previous year in the posts.   Barrier, Jr., Turbyfill, Poore and Greene were also unanimously reappointed by the commissioners to serve another year in their positions. Additionally, Greene was sworn in, which is required of any finance officer in a county government by State of North Carolina law.

The Commissioners also unanimously (5-0) approved a request from the Young, Miller And Gillespie Certified Public Accounting Company of Spruce Pine to extend the deadline by three months to finish the county’s annual audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018. The new, modified deadline is January 31, 2019. The audit had an original deadline of October 31, 2018.

Young, Miller and Gillespie officials requested the deadline extension because the Other Post-Employee Benefits (OPEB) Report was not filed earlier this year by the county as required by Federal law. As a result of the miscue, the auditing agency does not expect the report be completed until mid-January 2019.    

Hicks said that former county Finance Officer Nancy Johnson did not file the mandated report.

The definition of OPEB includes healthcare and other non-pension benefits provided to employees. Reported OPEBs may include post-retirement medical, pharmacy, dental, vision, life, long-term disability and long-term care benefits that are not associated with a pension plan. Government employers required to comply with GASB include all states, towns, education boards, water districts, mosquito districts, public schools and all other government entities that offer OPEB and report under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

The commissioners also received a presentation by VAYA Health officials, headed by its executive Brian Shuping, about the State of North Carolina’s Medicaid Transformation program.

The North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) passed legislation (SL 2015-245 and SL 2016-121) to reform the state’s Medicaid and NC Health Choice programs. The stated intent of the legislation was to transform Medicaid and NC Health Choice to: Ensure budget predictability through shared risk and accountability; Ensure balanced quality, patient satisfaction, and financial measures; Ensure efficient and cost-effective administrative systems and structures; and to Ensure a sustainable delivery system.

The NCGA plan meets these goals primarily by moving from a current fee-for-service Medicaid payment system to a managed care system with capitated contracts. In Medicaid, people enroll in a health care plan that is run by the state government. In Medicaid Managed Care, people enroll in a health care plan that is run by a prepaid health plan or “PHP.” Most provisions will stay the same in Medicaid Managed Care. The main difference is that those eligible will get to choose a health care plan that best fits their personal situation.

Eligibility rules will likely remain the same, but some may change due to income and other causes. But there will be no new eligibility rules or restrictions under Medicaid Managed Care. The same health services will be covered. Essential health services will continue to be covered under Medicaid Managed Care, including:

  • Primary care and hospital services
  • Mental health and substance use services
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Prescription drugs
  • Long-term services and supports.

Most people will transition to Medicaid Managed Care beginning in July 2019. Children in foster care and adoptive placements are scheduled to enroll in year two, followed in year three by beneficiaries with certain behavioral health diagnoses and Medicaid beneficiaries in long-stay nursing homes. In year five, Medicaid CAP/C and CAP/DA waiver beneficiaries and individuals receiving Medicaid and Medicare will enroll in PHPs.

Currently North Carolina’s Division of Medical Assistance pays for all eligible physical health services on a fee-for-service basis directly through payments to enrolled providers and health systems. Under Medicaid transformation, North Carolina will contract with prepaid health plans (PHPs) to provide physical health benefits and services for a capitated, or fixed, amount per enrollee. The share of Medicaid costs, if any, will stay the same. And no one will pay premiums or deductibles in Medicaid Managed Care. Services that have a current co-pay will continue to have a co-pay under Medicaid Managed Care.

Medicaid Managed Care is not new to North Carolinians. Currently North Carolina’s Medicaid program uses managed care in a limited way: for primary care case management through Community Care of North Carolina), the LME/MCO system for behavioral health services, and the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) (limited availability). However, the use of PHPs for coordinating all Medicaid benefits and services to enrollees will be new.

The Medicaid program serves approximately 2.2 million eligible individuals with low incomes who meet at least one other eligibility category (children, pregnant women, parents with dependent children, people with disabilities, or the elderly). The majority of these (1.9 million) are children and families who will be enrolled in MCOs upon the program’s launch.

In other business:

*The Commissioners made the following service board appointments: Dennis Aldridge to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and the High Country Council of Government Executive Board; Blake Vance to the Blue Ridge Partnership for Children; and Tim Greene to the Avery Transportation Advisory Board.

*Barrier, Jr. told the Board of Commissioners that the county’s November 2018 tax collections were $3,164,690.04.

*The commissioners also announced that the County’s Sheriff’s Department has received a Governor’s Crime Commission Grant for $63,000.00 from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety for body cameras. Hicks said the grant requires no matching funds.

*Barrier, Jr. told the commissioners that the county has obtained the old Avery Cares Building for substance abuse recovery groups to use.

*The commissioners were shown a video and received an update from Avery Airport Authority officials of the many improvements at the county’s airport in Ingalls from $2.5 million in grant monies received this year.

*Hicks announced that the county will observe Pearl Harbor Day this Friday, December 7. The County Commissioners will place a wreath at the Avery County Veterans Monument on the Newland Town Square in honor of those slain during the Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. The ceremony will commence at 12:00 noon and anyone who wants to attend is invited. Reverend Michael McKee, pastor of Newland Presbyterian Church will be the event’s guest speaker.

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, also referred to as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day or Pearl Harbor Day, is observed annually in the United States on December 7, to remember and honor the 2,403 citizens of the United States who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

On August 23, 1994, the United States Congress, designated December 7 of each year as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. On November 29, President Bill Clinton issued a proclamation declaring December 7, 1994, the first National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

On Pearl Harbor Day, the American flag should be flown at half-staff until sunset to honor those who died as a result of the attack on U.S. military forces in Hawaii.

Early Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii Territory, without warning and without a declaration of war, killing 2,403 American servicemen and injuring 1,178 others. The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and damaged four others. It also damaged three cruisers, three destroyers and one minelayer. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged.

On December 8, the United States declared war on Japan and entered World War II on the side of the Allies. In a speech to Congress, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the bombing of Pearl Harbor “a date which will live in infamy.”

Japan paid dearly for the surprise and cowardly attack on Pearl Harbor, suffering heavy military defeats and bringing deaths to many of its military personnel and civilians, especially from two atomic bombs used by the United States. On August 6, 1945, on orders of U.S. President Harry S. Truman, an American B-29 bomber dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure. Three days later, a second B-29 dropped another atomic bomb on the City of Nagasaki, Japan killing an estimated 40,000 people, with again, thousands more dying later from radiation exposure. Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II in a radio address on August 15, citing the devastating power of “a new and most cruel bomb.”

Victory in Japan” or “V-J Day” celebrations broke out across the United States and other Allied nations. The formal surrender agreement was signed on September 2, aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay. It ended the Second World War that had begun in Europe in 1939.

President Truman ordered the atomic weapons used against Japan to accelerate the end of the war and to stop an invasion by U.S. forces, which would have cost an estimated two million lives of American combat fighters and Japanese soldiers and civilians as the war that would unquestionably been won by American forces, still could have lingered on for another year or longer.

Barrier, Jr. also announced that county offices will be closed on December 24th, 25th and 26th for its employees to observe the Christmas holidays and that the offices will again be closed on January 1st for the county’s employees to observe the New Year’s Day holiday.

But Barrier, Jr. added that the county’s trash sites will be open on December 26. He said that he and other county officials want to remind Avery’s citizens that Christmas tree recycling collection is available at the Linville, Banner Elk and Landfill garbage sites.

The next two Board of Commission meeting will be Monday, January 7, 2019, beginning at 3:30 p.m., in the Board Room at the County Government Administration Building in Newland.