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OASIS Progress, New Strategic Plan and High Tax Collections Key Topics at Avery Commissioners Meeting

By Tim Gardner

A detailed report of the 2018 work of OASIS, the organization dedicated to ending, and helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Avery County, information about a new five-year strategic plan for input from county citizens and tax collections being close to two million dollars higher this past year than in 2017 were among the topics discussed at the regular monthly meeting of the Avery County Commissioners January 7.

All commissioners attended, including: Chairperson Martha Hicks; Vice-Chairman Blake Vance; Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; Tim Phillips; and Dennis Aldridge. 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.

Tiffany Moon, spokesperson from OASIS, which serves both Avery and Watauga counties, addressed the commissioners with a detailed update of the organization’s activities involving Avery County for 2018.

She said OASIS (Opposing Abuse with Service, Information and Shelter) served 159 clients from Avery County in 2018. Their age ranges included: Age 18-24: 8 clients; Age 25-59: 65 clients; 60-plus: 5 clients.

Moon added that OASIS provided Court Advocacy 107 times for 57 different cases; Crisis Related Services: 347 times for 108 clients; and shelter for 13 Adults and 12 children.

According to Moon, the services OASIS gives to those clients besides court advocacy includes medical advocacy, case management, direct client services, shelter intake, long term housing support and/or crisis support. Of the 159 clients, 78 were adults and 81 were children either served indirectly or directly through the OASIS advocacy programs.    

Moon cited OASIS’ goal for the upcoming year as being to broaden its Outreach, Education and advocacy services in Avery County for victims and survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and to support prevention efforts to stop the cycle of violence within its homes and throughout its community.

Moon further noted that OASIS’ continues to feel supported in this mission through its close work with Avery community partners such as Cannon Memorial Hospital, Avery Sheriff’s Department, Avery Clerk of Court’s Office, District Attorney Seth Banks’ Office, Avery Department of Social Services, Lees-McRae College, various non-profit agencies and Daymark Recovery Services.

Among the many activities the OASIS staff organized or participated in for its Outreach and Education outputs during 2018 included:

  • Avery’s first state of the child event.
  • Preventing Abuse Response Team met and reviewed the information circulated from the N.C. Attorney General’s office regarding the rape kit backlog across the state. Avery has 25 untested kits in its custody and the team agreed to begin to develop a plan to work together regarding the notification to survivors and submission of kits to the crime lab once further directives have been provided by the state.
  • Lees-McRae College Sexual Assault Awareness Events with the criteria of-
  1. “What were you wearing?” Art Installation to combat the myth that clothing causes rape and 2. Candlelight vigil and Silent walk on campus
  • Scenario training for BLET classes at Mayland Community College for the Domestic Violence section.
  • Renewed its contract with Mountain View Correctional Facility to provide services in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
  • Presented to Leadership Avery on the Impact of violence to a community
  • Presented to 9th Grade students at Avery High School about Healthy Relationships & Consent
  • Spanish services coordinator gave a bilingual presentation for female Latina middle school students at Avery Middle School about healthy relationships.
  • Presented to the New Opportunity School for Women on healing after domestic or sexual violence.
  • Provided packets of information regarding victim’s rights to all law enforcement entities within the county to be available in each patrol car so that officers are able to provide victim’s with information on scene about their rights and resources in the community.
  • Concluded pilot project with the N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Office of Violence Against Women in providing routine Intimate Partner Violence screening in a primary care setting. OASIS partnered with the Baker Clinic at Cannon Memorial Hospital to produce this project and was the only rural OASIS entity to participate. As a result, the clinic will continue to implement an evidence-based screening and offer warm referrals to OASIS.
  • Assisted with hosting the first annual State of the Child event to work toward becoming a trauma informed community.
  • PART met and discussed obtaining baseline data regarding the number of IPV and sexual assault cases each agency had been involved with in 2018 in Avery County.
  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month Events: l. Decorated the entrance of the Avery Court House with purple bows in honor of survivors. 2.Walked in the Avery High Homecoming Parade to raise awareness about the month 3. Participated in Treat Street in Newland & Health Halloween 4.Co-hosted a free webinar for Healthcare providers for “Health cares about DV Day.” 5. Co-hosted a “Take Back the Night” event at Lees-McRae College to honor survivors
  • Awarded a grant from High Country Charitable Foundation that will assist with the cost of OASIS’ new office location and providing routine services to clients in Avery County.
  • Collaborated with the N.C. Department of Justice regarding the Rape Kit backlog and assists local government entities in submitting kits to the crime lab.
  • Applied for and received a scholarship to attend a conference in Chicago, Illinois concerning how to improve the services OASIS extends to sexual assault survivors.

Moon said OASIS has opened a new office in Avery County, located at 215 Pineola Street, right beside the Blue Ridge Partnership for Children headquarters.

Hicks and the rest of the commissioners expressed deep gratitude to Moon and the rest of the OASIS staff for their work.

Tax Collector Bruce Daniels told the Commissioners that the County had a bountiful December and entire year of high collection rates. Daniels said $5,824,346.48 in taxes were collected for December 2018 and $20,964,562.88 for the 2018 year.

He added that the latter figure is an increase of $1,866,163.75 from the whole 2017 year.

During the County Manager Updates segment, Barrier, Jr. told of the Five-Year Strategic Plan he developed to get input from the county’s citizens of what they expect and want from Avery’s government during the next five years.   He said he would be attending various community and related meetings across the county to get feedback from citizens about how Avery’s elected officials and other county employees can best serve the county’s citizens. Barrier, Jr. met with residents of the Town of Beech Mountain Tuesday night and will meet with those from Old Beech Mountain (Fall Creek area) Thursday, January 10.

Barrier, Jr. also advised the commissioners that the new county pool is progressing on schedule and that there will be a naming contest for the pool among students in the county’s schools.

He added that the Avery Cares Center hosted its first recovery meeting January 5 for planning purposes in how the group will work to combat the alcohol and drug problem in the county.

Additionally, Barrier, Jr. noted that he will be meeting again with Charter Communications officials on January 16 about expanding Internet service in the county and that preliminary meetings between him and the company’s representatives have been very productive. Barrier, Jr. added that the ‘LightLeap’ internet service already being installed in parts of the county by North Carolina Wireless (NCW) has greatly helped the county officials’ quest to have Broadband Internet service throughout the entire 247-square miles in the county.

The “LightLeap” service was made possible through a Broadband Internet Service Grant awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to the Avery Chamber of Commerce.

The grant provides for $100,000.00 in matching funds for non-construction aspects of the project, including $3,000.00 in grant administration funds. NCW was selected as the entity to receive grant funds to implement the project, which has a total cost of $200,000.00, consisting of grant funds and like kind contributions by NCW. The agreement states that the maximum amount paid to NCW will be $97,000.00.

“LightLeap” provides an Internet connection via a wireless receiver and/or antenna system. An antenna is installed on a building’s roof or exterior wall with an attached radio receiver/transmitter. This antenna is pointed at a nearby Access Point tower, and must have a clear or near line‐of‐site (no thick forests, buildings, or hills blocking the path). When information is sent and received over the Internet, it goes over the wireless link from a receiver/antenna to Light Leap’s access points. From there that information travels over its “backhaul,” which is a point-to-point wireless link to its Network Operations Center hooked directly to the Internet. LightLeap service has very low “latency” (or delay) compared to satellite Internet, where signals must travel thousands of miles into space. LightLeap Tier 1/2 services are well suited for digital phone (also known as Voice over Internet Protocol/VoIP) and other uses such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), streaming or gaming.

“LightLeap” High-Speed Internet are all tower-based terrestrial wireless over relatively short distances and does not use any satellite links in the delivery of service and the latency on its network is very similar to Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and Cable Modem systems.

 In other business:

*County Finance Officer Tim Greene informed the commissioners that the Agriculture Extension Service has received a $5,000.00 grant from the Carolina Farm Credit Corporate Mission of Statesville, NC to purchase a livestock trailer.

Greene also told the commissioners that the Sheriff’s Department has received an insurance reimbursement in the amount of $1,403.00 for a 2011 Dodge Durango settlement and that the Transportation Department has received a private party reimbursement in the amount of $845.00 for a van accident.

*Barrier, Jr. told the commissioners that the county has been awarded $610,000.00 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

*The Commissioners unanimously (5-0) appointed Ella Trivett-Clark to the county’s Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

The County Commission’s next meeting will be held Monday, February 4, beginning at 3:30 p.m. in its Board Room on the second floor of the County Administration Building, located at 175 Linville Street in Newland.