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Ingwersen Appointed Interim Finance Officer During Social-Distancing Avery County Commissioners Meeting Held Monday

By Tim Gardner

     Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the main topic of news in Avery County and its commissioners have taken action, and may continue to adopt other measures to try to combat it locally. But they’ve also had other items of county business to address recently, many of which they did so at their regular monthly meeting April 6th.

     All Commissioners–Martha Hicks (Chairperson); Blake Vance (Vice-Chairman); Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; Tim Phillips; and Dennis Aldridge– were present. Other leading county officials attending included: County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr.; Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Board Cindy Turbyfill; and County Attorney Michaelle Poore.

     Some of the commissioners and county officials were in the Commission Chambers and at least six feet apart from each other during the meeting and others at remote sites such as their homes or offices. The meeting was streamed live via the Internet on YouTube and could be accessed on the County of Avery web site (averycountync.gov).

     Barrier, Jr. thanked his fellow county officials and employees as well as all other Avery County Citizens for their efforts in combating COVID-19. He said: “Everyone in the county has worked so hard and took the necessary precautions to stop the spread of the Coronavirus and through our continued efforts we will help defeat it. I deeply appreciate the hard work of so many as we combat this pandemic.”

     The key business item during the meeting was the appointment of an Interim Finance Officer to replace Tim Greene, who recently resigned to become Mitchell County, NC Manager. The Commissioners unanimously (5-0) voted to appoint Ashley Cole Ingwersen to fill the post. Ingwersen had been Avery’s Deputy Finance Officer.

     Another key item on the agenda was a presentation of details of the past year’s work of OASIS, the organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Avery and Watauga counties.

     OASIS stands for Opposing Abuse with Service, Information, and Shelter, and is a private, non-profit entity. Its spokesperson, Sydney Harrison, gave a report about the organization’s general work and mission.

   Headquartered in Boone, OASIS also has an office in Avery County, located at 215 Pineola Street, right beside the Blue Ridge Partnership for Children offices.

     April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and has been designated so since 2001. The month is used to mourn the lives lost to sexual violence. OASIS uses SAAM to raise awareness about sexual violence in local communities in order to prevent violence from happening.

   One in three women and one in six men experience some form of physical sexual violence in their lifetime (Source: National Sexual Violence Resource Center). The majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

     OASIS provide free and confidential services for victims of domestic and sexual violence. OASIS staffers advocates work remotely, but are available to meet face-to-face if necessary, and still provides Emergency Shelter for victims and children as they flee domestic violence.

     According to Harrison, the specific services OASIS gives to those clients besides court advocacy includes medical advocacy, case management, direct client services, shelter intake, long term housing support and crisis support.

     She shared that in 2019, OASIS served 55 victims of sexual violence and had more than 300 contacts with those victims.

     But Harrison said that OASIS can always use more support financially and through other ways. She said it accepts donations via its web site (www.oasisinc.org), at its offices or by mailing a check.

     More information about OASIS can also be obtained by calling (828) 785-5249. Additionally, anyone needing emergency help can call the Avery Crisis 24-hour line number: (828) 504-0911.

     Barrier, Jr. gave a presentation about the world-famous Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

     The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans bring the color of hundreds of tartan plaids, athletic competitions, food, music and the clamor of bagpipe bands to the North Carolina mountains. They are considered America’s grandest such Games because of the spectacular mountain setting that is so reminiscent of Scotland. The deep blue peaks of 6,000-foot high Grandfather Mountain tower above a grassy green meadow ringed by nearly 200 colorful tents. Thousands of Scots are dressed in tartan plaids, and the energy is amplified by the sounds of bagpipes and kettledrums echoing. And the Games provide a tremendous economic boost to Avery County.

   Barrier, Jr. said a decision by Highland Games officials about holding this year’s event is pending due to COVID-19. The 65th Annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are tentatively scheduled to be held July 9-12 at Macrae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain in Linville.        

     In other business:

*Barrier, Jr. said County Tax Administrator Bruce Daniels reported that $576,469.58 in taxes were collected by he and his staff for the month of March 2020.

*The commissioners unanimously appointed Emily Capps to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and Ken Walter, Clayton Harpold and Dave Smith to the county’s Economic Development Committee.

*In other personnel appointments, Edith “Dedy” Traver, Patti Tennille, Moses Braswell, Pat Dale and Christopher Byars were unanimously appointed to the Board of Equalization and Review. Traver will serve as Chairperson and Tennille as Vice-Chairperson.

*The Commissioners were advised that the county’s Department of Social Services (DSS) has received $1,986.00 in additional funds for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program that can be granted to county residents in need of such funds.

     The next regular monthly meeting of the Avery County Commission will be held Monday, May 4th at 3:30 p.m.