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Error costs county more than $100,000 of High School contingency money

NEWLAND — An error by the architect on the Avery County High School construction and renovation project will require more than $100,000 to be moved from the project’s contingency fund.

Architecture firm Boomerang Design’s Rob Johnson came to the regular meeting of the Avery County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 3, primarily to discuss the error, which omitted engineering fees for the high school’s new physical plant from the total project cost totaling $104,975, according to a corrected cost shown to the commissioners at the meeting.

The error is approximately one-half of one percent of the total cost of the project.

The commissioners agreed to amend the project ordinance at its upcoming meeting on Sept. 16 to move the funds from the contingency fund for the project to cover the engineering fees.

There was contention over what action would be taken if the contingency fund, which represents 10 percent of the project cost, runs out. The county already secured financing for the project not including the error, so the ordinance amendment will allow the county to maintain the total project cost for the time being.

The project cost came in 12 percent below estimate when it was awarded to Branch Builds in May.

Johnson took responsibility for the error.

Boomerang is the firm behind a number of other recent county projects, including the new Cooperative Extension Offices at Heritage Park, the new county pool complex and the upcoming community center at Heritage Park.

Johnson also presented the commissioners with memorandums of understanding regarding the community center, which county attorney Michaelle Poore will review for approval at the next meeting. Johnson advised the commissioners to enlist the help of an engineer the firm recommends to advise the project’s acoustical design and needs.

The center is planned as a multifunctional space that could be used as a music venue.

The commissioners also received a report from Richard Thornburgh, National Forest Service ranger for the Appalachian District of the Pisgah National Forest.

The Appalachian district encompasses Elk River Falls, a landmark notable for its popularity as a tourist attraction and the number of deaths that have occurred at the site over the years. Last year two men drowned at the waterfall, though there have been no fatalities this year.

Thornburgh reviewed new signage that has been posted at the site warning visitors of the perils involved with jumping from the top of and swimming in waterfalls.

Thornburgh also reviewed the impending closure of the Overmountain Shelter, a shelter located near the Overmountain Victory Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The shelter was closed the following day on Sept. 4.

The reasons for the closure was structural damage. The shelter, originally a 1970s barn, has developed a lean and visual degradation of the support structures for the shelter. The shelter was not originally intended to house people. The future of the shelter, whether it will be repaired or torn down, is uncertain.

The area around the shelter is still open for camping and, in a press release about the closure, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy noted the Stan Murray Shelter is two miles from the Overmountain Shelter.

AMY Regional Library Director Amber Westall-Briggs presented the board with a change to the Avery County Morrison Library’s bylaws that would remove the cap on local library board membership. Briggs advised the change had been made at some of the other libraries in the system to open membership to more people who may want to get involved with the library. The change would require board approval. Poore advised she will review the changes and make recommendations.

Remembering September 11

AVERY COUNTY — Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center 18 years ago on Sept. 11. The incident would become known as the single largest terrorist attack on American soil in the country’s history.

The attacks killed nearly 3,000, injured more than 6,000, caused serious health consequences for others and stunned the entire country.

Avery County is hundreds of miles from New York City, but everyone was affected by the attacks.

“We were upstairs at the courthouse annex, probably where Avery Communications is right now, working in the tax office that morning,” County Manager Philip Barrier said.

Barrier was the county tax administrator at that point. He said the communications director at the time came to the tax office and said there had been a terrible plane crash in New York City.

“A couple of us gathered around and looked at the TV for a few minutes, and that’s when we realized that the second tower had been hit,” Barrier said. “It just gave you a feeling of uncertainty and fear, and a lot of prayers went up. You kind of didn’t know what to do for the rest of the day. We were just kind of all numb.”

Barrier said in the aftermath the same day it felt strange working when it seemed like you should be doing something for someone else, and there was a loss of purpose. He told his staff if anyone wanted to go home they should. That night, there were prayer vigils at flagpoles and places of worship across the area.

Barrier said in the days following there was a sense of patriotism and love for the country, that unimportant things fell to the wayside.

“I was in a teachers meeting,” Avery Middle School social studies teacher Mark Guinn said.

A call came in from the office saying to turn the TV on.

“Right when I turned the TV on, the second plane hit,” Guinn said.

His students were in Encore classes at the time, and were only a few minutes from returning to the regular classes.

“Here’s a teachable moment, but what do I even say?” Guinn said.

Guinn told his students a historic moment just happened. He left the TV in the classroom turned on for the students for a few minutes. The students had many questions.

“Nobody really understood what was going on at first,” Guinn said, adding the students were afraid and eerily quiet. Many students were signed out and went home that day. One student’s aunt was a flight attendant on Flight 93.

At the time, Guinn’s family was having the grade work finished on the yard of their new home they had yet to move into. When he got home that day, in an area where there is normally air traffic, it was eerily quiet. All flights were grounded in the aftermath.

“It was a beautiful day,” Guinn said. “Normally you’re going to see planes go through.”

His wife wondered if they would be able to move into their new house, wondering about the potential scale of a war and what implications the attacks would have for the country.

Guinn said the students were friendlier to each other in the aftermath and everyone at the school was more concerned with others.

“The good in people really did come out during that time,” Guinn said, adding sometimes we go day-to-day without realizing what a wonderful place we live in.

Annual A&H Fair attracts record crowd

NEWLAND — The hustle and bustle of the Avery A&H Fair could not be missed Sept. 4 to 7 in Newland. The fair drew in people all throughout the community and with free entrance, the fun and games could not be missed.

According to Avery County Cooperative Extension Office Director Jerry Moody, this year’s fair was the most successful, boasting more than 7,000 people in attendance during the four-day event.

“It was well worth it,” said Moody. “We couldn’t have done it without all of our sponsors and volunteers. It is truly a community event and we are absolutely thrilled with the outcome.”

The Avery Fair was able to bring a community together around rides, games, music and festivities. Not only did the fair have the entertaining activities, but also provided a space for local organizations to hold raffles and release information.

Organizations in attendance included the Avery County Sheriff’s Office, High Country Sportsman’s Coalition, Daniel Boone Bear Club and many more. The community was not only able to learn, but share an experience of fun around the fair.

Rhonda Arnold, a second-year volunteer for the Avery Fair, said the fair was a huge success and that the community really came together for this event. A large part of this success were results from events such as “carload night,” which offered discounted fair-related activities and brought in about twice the amount of people than in years past, according to Arnold.

Including the fair rides and games, livestock shows took place throughout the weekend. These shows included chicken, goats, horses and a variety of cattle. If one was unable to see the shows themselves, the public could say hello to their furry friends under the livestock tent.

While meandering through the fair, it was hard to miss the tempting smell of fair food. The festivities were accompanied by favorites such as funnel cakes and deep-fried treats. Alongside the sweets were many local vendors selling food, such as the Linville Central Rescue Squad with savory burgers and hand-cut fries.

More information and photos regarding the Avery A&H Fair can be found within this week’s print edition and online.