Commissioners Deadlock on Vote to Reserve $500,000 for Ag Building Community Center

Published Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 9:11 am

Plans are underway for the proposed 5.700 ft community center addition attached to the right of this building at a cost of nearly a million dollars. A motion for the County to set aside $500,000.00 to help construct a new community center on the County’s Agricultural Extension Service facility grounds failed at the regular monthly meeting of the Avery Board of Commissioners October 1.

By Tim Gardner

     A motion for the County to set aside $500,000.00 to help construct a new community center on the County’s Agricultural Extension Service facility grounds failed at the regular monthly meeting of the Avery Board of Commissioners October 1.

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

     Commissioner Young, Jr. made a motion to set aside the half-million in funds. Commissioner Vance seconded the motion. But Commissioners Lacey and Hicks voted against creating a 2-2 deadlock vote. With Commissioner Phillips absent, at least three of the Commissioners present would have had to vote for the motion to create a majority vote for it to pass.

     Hicks and Lacey both cited wanting to make sure new construction and renovations at Avery High School are paid for before designating money for construction of the community center as the reason they voted against the motion.

     Avery Agricultural Extension Service Director Jerry Moody told the Board of Commissioners that his department had been awarded a $25,000.00 grant to be used for construction of a community center.

     Commissioner Young, Jr. said that he believes the facility would be well-used and would be beneficial for the County. He also remarked that he believes the current Board of Commissioners may have “done more than any (Avery) Board of Commissioners in history.” Young, who termed himself as a “Progressive Conservative,” cited some of the current Commission’s achievements including: demolition of the old Kelly Johnson Building in Newland and the creation of a parking lot at its site; construction of the Agricultural Co-Op Extension Service Building; renovation of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) headquarters; a new children’s playground on the old County swimming pool grounds, a new swimming pool; and the upcoming renovations and new construction at the high school . Young, Jr. also noted that most of the projects have been paid for and the ones that aren’t will be paid for.

     Also, during the meeting, Kevin Leonard, Chairman of the North Carolina Board of Commissioners, presented a plaque Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. for being chosen to receive one of North Carolina State Government’s most prestigious honors, the Edwin M. Gill Award.    

     The award recognizes Barrier as the 2018 Outstanding Graduate in the Municipal and County Administration Course at University of North Carolina-School of Government in Chapel Hill. Barrier graduated on April 27.

Celebrate Avery County Government October 2018 Awards recipients and the Avery Board of Commission Chairperson pose from left-to-right: Georgia Henry (Veterans Service Officer), Commission Chair Martha Hicks, Beth Hughes (Agriculture Department) and Renee Dellinger (Register of Deeds). Commissioners Blake Vance (left) and Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. are shown in the background.

     The Municipal and County Administration Course is an intensive, year-long program designed for city and county managers, department heads, and other city or county officials whose responsibilities require an understanding of functions beyond individual areas of specialization. 

     The award is given each year by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners in honor of Edwin M. Gill (1899-1978), who served as Chairman of the Local Government Commission and State Treasurer from 1953 to 1976. First given in 1965 and for 12 years given in the Association’s name, the award is presented each year to the student in the County Administration Course with the most distinguished record. It is based on merit, coursework, class participation and evaluations from classmates and the Institute of Government faculty who teach the course.

     Barrier, Jr. is the first recipient from the far Northwest North Carolina Mountains.

     In other action, the Commissioners unanimously (4-0) approved reappointing Matt McClellan to the County’s Fire Commission.

     North Carolina House Bill 673 established the Avery County Fire Commission. It consists of a five member board; two of the board members shall be consumers appointed by the Avery County Board of Commissioners; two of the board members shall be firemen approved by the Avery County Fire Association and appointed by the Avery County Board of Commissioners; and the other four sitting members of the Commission shall choose the remaining member.

     During the Celebrate County Government segment, County employees Beth Hughes (Agriculture Department), Georgia Henry (Veterans Service Officer) and Renee Dellinger (Register of Deeds) were honored for what Barrier said is their “hard work and dedication to their jobs in providing exemplary service to the county.” Barrier added that the three have a combined 46 years of work experience in their jobs.

     Hicks presented Hughes, Henry and Dellinger with appreciation notebook-plaques that include a county seal pin.

     Toe River Health District representative Dianne Creek also gave the Board of Commissioners a financial breakdown report about counties making up the Health District. The Commissioners praised the work of the health district employees and the efficient manner its officials use its funds.

     During his monthly report to the Commissioners, Tax Collector Bruce Daniels said the County’s September tax collections were $1,457,811.95.

     A Public Hearing was held at the meeting to receive public comment regarding the fare increase and schedule changes for the Avery County Transportation Department. Fare rates have not increased in the past 20 years while fuel and the costs to operate have continued to increase, according to Department Director Debbie Smith.

     Commissioner Hicks said the County had to purchase nine new transportation vehicles the past year with the County paying 10 percent of the cost (the State paid 90 percent), which created additional expenses involving the transportation department.

     The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Smith’s recommendations for fare price increases and modified routes.

     Smith also told the Board of Commissioners that the Avery Transportation Department still has low transportation fees compared to other counties and that any person finding it a financial burden to pay the fees may apply for reduced rates.

     The Board of Commissioners agreed with Smith that even with the increases, the rates are very low.

     Another Public Hearing was held to receive public comment on the proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Community Transportation Program Application. The Community Transportation Program provides assistance to coordinate existing transportation programs operating in Avery County as well as provides transportation options and services for the communities within this service area.

     The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved providing matching funds of $28,043.00 (twenty percent) to the $186,953.00 that the Avery Transportation Department received from a Federal and State grant.

     The Board of Commissioners will next meet on Monday, November 5, beginning at 3:00 p.m. in the Board Room Suite in the County Administration Building in Newland.

Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. received a plaque during the Avery County Commission October 1 meeting for earning one of North Carolina State Government’s most prestigious honors, the Edwin M. Gill Award. The award recognizes Barrier, Jr. as the 2018 Outstanding Graduate in the Municipal and County Administration Course at University of North Carolina-School of Government in Chapel Hill. Pictured from left-to-right are: County Commission members Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr., Faye Lacey, Martha Hicks, Blake Vance, County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr., Renee Barrier (wife) and Kevin Leonard, Chairman of the North Carolina Board of Commissioners, who presented the plaque.

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