Avery Commissioners Honor Airport Authority as Part of ‘Celebrate County Government’

Published Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 12:53 pm

By Tim Gardner

The Avery County Airport Authority has been honored by the Avery County Commissioners.

As part of Avery’s “Celebrate County Government,” originated by County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr., the Airport Authority members were recognized at a Board of Commissioners meeting last week.

The Airport Authority directs operations for the Avery County Airport at Morrison Field, which encompasses approximately 70 acres and is located on Brushy Creek Road, one-fourth mile off U.S. Highway 19-E in the Ingalls Community.

The Airport Authority members are appointed by the Avery County Commission. Each member is known to possess high volumes of expertise about the many intricacies of airport procedures in general and Avery’s Airport in particular. They include: Sam Calvert (Chairman), a retired United States Navy Flight Engineer; Jack Riley, a pilot, retired Nuclear Engineering Manager at the Charleston, SC Naval Shipyard and a United States Merchant Marine Academy alumnus; Dean Harris, another pilot, whose multiple professional experiences includes serving as a North Carolina State Judge Advocate at Veterans of Foreign Wars, President of the USS Arizona Reunion Association and as a United States Naval Aviator; Dempsey Clark, a long-time professional businessman and financial broker who handles much of the airport’s mandated paperwork in preparing contracts and grant applications; and Sam Ray, Jr., a retired United States Air Force Colonel and Fighter Jet Pilot who worked out of the United States Defense Headquarters at the Pentagon in Washington, DC for many years. Doug Jennings, also a licensed pilot, is the on-site administrator at the Avery County Airport at Morrison Field.

They were given appreciation notebook-plaques with a county seal pin by Commission Chairperson Martha Hicks.

“The County deeply appreciates the dedication, time and efforts of the Airport Authority members,” said Barrier, Jr. “Our Airport Authority members are known specialists at their craft and have gotten the County various grants for improvements for the Avery County Airport at Morrison Field. We’re lucky to have each of the Authority members.”

Architect Rob Johnson of Boomerang Design in Charlotte, NC appeared before the Commissioners at the meeting with updates about the ongoing construction at Avery County High School. Johnson has said that there are monthly construction meetings between the architect, contractor, county and local school officials. Those meetings include reports of the progress made toward completion of the project and its upcoming work. Johnson added that Boomerang Design also performs on-site reviews and that progress is going about as expected.

The high school project, which is being paid for by the county and totals approximately $20 million, will add a number of updated classrooms and a new physical plant to meet the school’s utility needs as well as the demolition of some portions of the existing building.

The construction has totally obstructed the front parking lot that normally serves as the student lot at this point. Most of the traffic at the school during the school day has been redirected to the lots around the sides, rear and the old tennis court lots just off high school road and behind the visitors stands at MacDonald Stadium.

The project’s estimated cost had risen from $19.1 million to $23 million this year. Part of the estimated increase has been attributed to the need to replace equipment at the school. However, the bids came in much lower—more than 17 percent—than anticipated.

The project was originally scheduled to proceed to bid after a vote by the Board of Commissioners during their May 7, 2018 regular monthly meeting. A specific reference was made then to a motion for an amount not to exceed $19.5 million compared to the initial estimate of $19.1 million after County Attorney Michaelle Poore said that a particular dollar value should be provided with the motion.

The Commissioners ultimately permitted the project to proceed to bid and use $1.7 million in education lottery funds to pay for its initial phases.

During his County Manager’s report, Barrier Jr. informed the Commissioners that he is checking with contractors about estimated costs of renovations that need to be done outside the front entrance to the County’s Administration Building and to the overhead exterior immediately above the Clerk of Court’s office at the Courthouse. The Commissioners unanimously (5-0) adopted the following resolutions at the meeting:

*To celebrate the Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America and the Founding of the League of Women Voters. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.

*Declaring certain real property surplus and authorizing its sale by sealed bid.

*To support funding to meet the Mental Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Substance Use Disorder Service Needs of the Citizens of Avery County.

Also, three appointments were unanimously approved to Service Boards by the Commissioners. Scott Heath was appointed to the Avery Fire Commission by the Commissioners vote. Heath is a former Avery County Commissioner. The Commissioners also approved the Fire Association’s internal appointment of Mark Taylor to the County’s Fire Commission. Additionally, Edward Hinson was selected to the High Country Workforce Development Board.

In other business, Richard Thornburgh, United States Forest Service District Ranger, appeared before the Commissioners and told them that the Forest Service has installed new safety signs at Elk River Falls in Elk Park. Various accidents, including some that have claimed lives of humans, have occurred in the falls and around the surrounding areas.

Besides Hicks, the Board of Commissioners consists of Vice-Chairman Blake Vance; Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; Tim Phillips; and Dennis Aldridge.

The next regular monthly meeting of the Commissioners will be Monday, October 7, at 3:30 p.m. in their Board Room on the second floor of the County Administration Building at 175 Linville Street in Newland.

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