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Commissioners allocate funds for unexpected expenses

NEWLAND — The Avery County Board of Commissioners dedicated funds for unexpected expenses for the new pool complex and for vehicles for Avery County Sheriff’s Office.

The commissioners pulled $22,000 out of fund balance to cover bills for work done at the pool complex to fix several issues including electrical work and the installation of an additional fire alarm among other small tasks at the project which had just been billed.

Finance Manager Tim Greene said the county should only expect to spend about half of that amount, but the allocation would allow any other unexpected expenses for the project to be covered.

In a discussion amended to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting and not discussed until the very end, Greene and Sheriff Kevin Frye revealed a miscalculation in the budget for the cost of new vehicles for Avery County Sheriff’s Office.

In error, for seven new vehicles only $30,000 was allocated for each. That figure represents only the base cost per vehicle, not the additional $5,000 required per vehicle for outfitting and a total of $9,000 for administrative fees. In total, funding for the seven vehicles was short a total of $44,000.

Frye covered most of the expenditures by moving around funds in the current budget for ACSO, but the commissioners had to allocated another $17,000 from the fund balance to cover the remainder of the expenses.

There were also a number of reports presented at the meeting. Carmen Lacey, president of Cannon Memorial Hospital, made an appearance to discuss the ongoing construction project at the hospital and allay fears that the facility would not be providing medical care in the future.

Lacey noted the construction includes a new medical unit with enough beds to meet the hospital’s current medical bed usage.

Avery County Department of Social Services Director Barbara Jones presented on the state of foster care in the county, noting there are currently 12 foster homes in the county, and called for more interested homes to go through the process to provide foster care.

Foster parents must be vetted and trained to provide temporary care for foster children who have had traumatic experiences. Jones said foster parents are compensated on a sliding scale based on the age of the child.

Avery County Cooperative Extension Director Jerry Moody presented about an $18,000 grant the Extension received for a new greenhouse project.

Avery County Senior Services Director Philip Adams presented the funding plan for the services, and recounted some recent events when meals being delivered to homes prevented potentially disastrous events. In one instance, a woman was discovered after having fallen and broken her hip, and during another delivery an oven was found to be left on.

County Manager Philip Barrier also unveiled a new user agreement for county facilities. The agreement outlines conditions for use of any county facility.

ACHS culinary program receives $20,000 donation

NEWLAND — The culinary program at Avery County High School received a total of $20,000 after a group of alumni from the Leadership Avery program fundraised and received a donation match.

The program teaches high school students all about food and restaurant service.

Helena Kitchin, the culinary teacher at ACHS, said the funds will be used in a few ways. There will be scholarships available for students who plan to continue on into the culinary field, and funds to help students afford the supplies they need to work in food. The funds will also be used for classroom equipment and field trips.

Kitchin added she wants to continue working with area chefs for classroom demonstrations as well as trying to place students in local kitchens for internships, something that has also resulted from the alumni group.

“We really need to connect more students and local people to the resort areas,” Kitchin said. “So many of the resorts are bringing people in from outside of Avery County, but there’s a lot of people that are just not making that connection, so I’m hoping that this type of program will bridge the gap.”

Kitchin said even though there were only three advanced culinary students last year, all three are now working in the industry, adding about half of the students who take the foods and nutrition class will enter the culinary track afterward, with a few more students dropping away as they move up through the class levels.

Lesley Platek said after her alumni group graduated from Leadership Avery, a program run by the Avery Chamber of Commerce, her alumni group was implored to give back to the county. One of the ways they benefited the program at the high school was holding a fundraiser.

Platek said Stonewalls Restaurant co-owner Scott Garland agreed to match $10,000, resulting in the $20,000 total.

“$20,000 to go into a high school department really changes lives,” Platek said.

Platek explained if the 2018 Leadership Avery class is proud of anything, it is bringing awareness to the program at the school and helping give students careers that would allow them to stay in Avery County.

Platek said the idea came about at the beginning of last year, when alumni members met with Kitchin and some local chefs, and reconvened this year to make the fundraiser happen.

“The potential for everybody is pretty amazing,” Platek said.

Fund board established to administer $1.2 million trust payout

NEWLAND — Late last year, the Morrison Charitable Trust dissolved and the remaining funds for the fund’s two beneficiaries, Cannon Memorial Hospital and Avery County Morrison Library, was paid out and the fund was disbanded.

More than $1.2 million was allocated for the library in Avery County.

Before the trust was abolished, it had a three-member voting board which included the bank administering the fund. The fund was originally banked with Wachovia, which was later purchased by Wells Fargo.

Each year AMY Regional Library would submit a funding proposal for services and programs at the Avery branch, and the trustees would vote on providing funding. Now that the trust has been dissolved, a new board with three voting members and a nonvoting member from the county, which is appointed by the local library board, has been created and the $1.2 million paid out by the defunct trust is being invested.

AMY Library Director Amber Westall Briggs said it was important to the trustees and board members that the funds carry on as they had in the trust.

Westall Briggs added that a resolution was drafted by an attorney and passed through the regional board stipulating the funds can only pass through the Avery branch of the library.

“That was really important to me and the board members,” Westall Briggs said, noting her position is permanent but board members tend to change, and the way the funds will be used will be similar to when it was administered by the trustees.

The funds are being invested via North Carolina Capital Management, one of the few options for investing as a public institution, and a common way for local government entities to invest.

The new board will be composed of a member of the Avery branch board, an attorney or business person from the county and a community member with nonprofit board experience. A fourth member from county government will serve on the board as well, but without voting privileges.

“It does change in the sense that these are not trustees. These are individuals who represent Avery County, who want these funds to be used for Avery County systems,” Westall Briggs said. “And having them as the individuals who decide how this money is used is fantastic.”

One of the projects at the library that has been funded by the project is digitizing all the historical documents in the library’s collection.