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Funding and Amended Gun Sanctuary Highlight Avery Commissioners February 3rd Meeting

By Tim Gardner

     The Avery County Commissioners addressed and took action on a number of issues during their regular monthly meeting February 3 including a grant to the Avery Community Paramedicine Program, funding for Mayland Community College and adoption of an amended resolution which declared Avery as a Second Amendment Gun Sanctuary county.

     All Commissioners–Chairperson Martha Hicks; Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips; Blake Vance, Dennis Aldridge; and Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. attended. Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr.; Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Board of Commissioners Cindy Turbyfill; County Finance Officer Tim Greene; and County Attorney Michaele Poore were also present.

     The Commissioners were also informed of, and discussed, a $290,000 three-year grant Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital in Linville received from the Duke Endowment for the Avery Community Paramedicine Program.

     These grant funds will allow Cannon Memorial Hospital and Avery Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to establish a Community Paramedicine Program to serve Avery County.

     Community Paramedicine is an innovative new healthcare model that seeks to provide underserved patients with improved access to public health and preventative healthcare services. Through the program, specially trained Community Paramedics visit patients in their homes to assess their overall health, living conditions, support structure and other social determinants of health. Avery EMS and Cannon Memorial Hospital will identify potential program participants through primary care referrals and by analyzing the highest utilizers of emergency services. By improving this populations’ health, the program will also reduce unnecessary EMS calls and emergency department visits, freeing up these services for true emergencies.

     Aptly meeting the medical needs of the Avery County community, Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital serves as the hub of healthcare in Avery County. The full-service medical campus offers inpatient medical care, imaging, laboratory services, primary care, surgery, rehabilitation, cardiopulmonary services and behavioral health services. Thanks to a $6.5 million grant provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Cannon Memorial Hospital has begun its two-and-a-half-year construction project to expand the availability of behavioral health beds from ten to thirty-seven. With the goal to provide the best care possible, Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital is fully accredited by the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare for Organizations.

     Cannon Memorial Hospital’s president Carmen Lacey stated, “We are very excited to work with Avery EMS to bring a community paramedicine program to Avery County, and we appreciate this opportunity given to us by The Duke Endowment.”

     Owned and operated by the county, Avery County Emergency Medical Services began operations on October 1, 1994. It currently operates at the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)-Paramedic level with twenty-four full-time employees and approximately twenty part-time employees.   Avery EMS is staffed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with at least two crews and a field supervisor.

     Monday through Friday, Avery EMS operates and schedules a day crew from part-time employees in addition to three full-time crews. The day crew is staffed from 8:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and responds from the main station in Newland. One twenty-four hour crew is assigned to the Newland base, one is assigned to the Banner Elk base, and one is assigned to the Green Valley Community base.

     Mike Edmisten, Avery EMS Director, added about the Community Paramedicine Program: “This will be a very important program for the county. It will not only improve the health status of hundreds of individuals, but it will allow Avery EMS to free up resources to better respond to emergencies.”

     Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $3.7 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

     “With growing concerns about health care costs and overcrowded emergency departments, community paramedicine is proving to be a promising way to connect vulnerable patients to the support and care that can keep them healthier,” says Lin Hollowell, director of the Endowment’s Health Care program area.

     The commissioners also adopted a resolution in support of establishing a Paramedicine Advisory Committee. Membership shall consist of seven (7) persons who shall be appointed by the Avery County Board of Commissioners. The membership shall consist of:


  1. The President of designee of Cannon Hospital
  2. The Director of Avery County Emergency Medical Services
  3. An Avery County Commissioner or designee
  4. The County Manager or Assistant County Manager
  5. A Healthcare representative
  6. The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System Care Management Director
  7. A Community Member

     Terms of Office-All members serve at the direction of the Board of Commissioners, and initially shall serve the following staggered terms: three (3) members shall be appointed for three (3) years; three (3) members shall serve two (2) years and one (1) member shall serve for one (1) year. Excessive absenteeism, that is unexcused absence from two (2) of three (3) consecutive, regularly scheduled meetings, or 33 percent of the meetings per year, may be grounds for removal. Recurring non-compliance with decisions or duly adopted policy enacted by a majority vote of the committee may be grounds for removal from the committee. The Avery County Board of Commissioners reserves the right to remove a member of the committee, with or without cause.

     Subsequent terms shall be three (3) year appointments.

     The commissioners also approved funding Mayland Community College $374,640 for the current year. MCC is also receiving funding in the amounts of $379,640 from Mitchell County and $365,000 from Yancey County.

     Additionally, the commissioners amended a resolution they adopted at their June 2019 meeting, declaring Avery as a Second Amendment Gun Sanctuary County. The amended section reads that: “The Avery County Board of Commissioners, in support of the foregoing, hereby declares its intent that Avery County shall not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of such acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms as described in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

     The amended resolution additionally states that: “The Avery County Board of Commissioners further declares its intent that Avery County Government shall utilize all legal means necessary to protect the Second Amendment rights of Avery County citizens, including but not limited to opposing any efforts by any entity to restrict these rights, and to use such legal means at its disposal to protect the rights of the citizens to keep and bear arms.

     In his County Manager’s report, Barrier, Jr. said approximately 122 additional clients are receiving Broadband Internet service in the county and that he expects the number receiving the service will continue to increase. The commissioners and Barrier, Jr. have all said that they will feverishly continue their efforts to have every home and business in the county that desires to do so, to have Broadband service.

   Barrier, Jr. also said that the Avery Court House roofing and renovation project has been completed and that NC Cares has expanded its services and will also transfer its clients to other agencies that can assist them with their particular needs while operating under the same organizational umbrella.

     In other business-

*The Commissioners honored the Board of Directors of the Avery Department of Social Services for their exemplary efforts of helping those in need in the county. Members of that Board of Directors include: Vanessa Wiseman Glidewell, Jerry Markland, Eva Trivett-Clark, Michael Watson and Commissioner Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.

*Were notified by Avery Tax Administrator Bruce Daniels that the county collected $4,289,148.73 in taxes from January 2-January 29, 2020.

*Approved a $20,000 check from the Duke Power Storm Grant to Linville Central Rescue Squad. Those funds will be used to provide equipment for Linville Central’s new Water Rescue Team.

     All action taken by the commissioners was by a 5-0 unanimous vote.

     The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners will be Monday, March 2 in the County Administration Building in Newland.