NEWLAND — The Avery County Board of Commissioners held its first meeting electronically on Monday, April 6, to help encourage social distancing and stop the spread of COVID-19.
The meeting began with a presentation by Opposing Abuse with Service Information and Shelter (OASIS) representatives Sara Crouch and Sydney Harrison. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the two representatives from the organization, which are based in Watauga and Avery counties, were present to spread awareness about an issue that often goes unnoticed.
“OASIS was originally created to mourn the lives of those murdered by sexual violence, but to also raise awareness on the effect it has on our communities,” Outreach Coordinator Crouch said.
Crouch said that the organization provides education and advocacy to victims of sexual violence. The organization works closely with hospitals and provides resources such as child care to help victims to get back on their feet. In 2019, OASIS served more than 50 victims of sexual assault and made more than 300 contacts with those victims.
“If a survivor needs our services, they will continue to receive our services,” Crouch said.
OASIS provides a 24/7 crisis line to Avery residents. OASIS can be reached at (828) 504-0911 for those who need their services.
“Even in the middle of a global pandemic, we’re still answering the phone,” Crouch said.
In other business, the county made several appointments to various county boards. Emily Capps was reappointed to the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. Ken Walter, Dave Smith and Clayton Harpold were reappointed and appointed to the Economic Development Committee.
The board decided to postpone the appointment of Jerry Moody to the Economic Development Committee. Moody will finish out the term of David Pollard, who felt the need to resign due to other demands surrounding his landscaping business. Applications for appointments to the Community Child Protection Team were also postponed.
The board decided to postpone the approval of a resolution in support of the Heritage Park trail improvement project. A Recreational Trails Program grant would provide funding to accommodate handicapped trail users as well as reconfigure, widen and resurface the trail. The resolution will be decided on at a later date to give the board additional time to determine the amount of county funding it will take to complete the project.
The commissioners approved the resignation of finance officer Tim Greene, who will become the new county manager for Mitchell County later in April. County Manager Phillip Barrier said the county has received at least one application to fill the vacancy left by Greene and expects to receive more by Thursday, April 9.
“This has been a great place to work. It has been a true honor to serve the people of Avery County,” Greene said.
Ashely Cole Ingwersen was appointed by the board to serve as interim finance officer.
“We thank Tim for all he has done for Avery County. We hope he enjoys his time as Mitchell County’s new manager,” Commissioner Martha Hicks said.
As part of Greene’s last act as Avery County finance officer, the board approved several budget amendments. The Department of Social Services received an additional $1,986 in allocation for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. Due to the second primary election to be held on June 23, $10,000 was allocated to the Elections Department. The Avery Co. Sheriff’s Office received $7,504 due to an insurance loss settlement over a 2015 Ford Taurus. The county increased the jail’s medical expense line by $75,000. Lastly, the pool project fund was closed with $33,566 of the remaining expenditures being transferred to the general fund.
Before the meeting convened, Commissioner Blake Vance implored Avery residents to stop repeating rumors as it relates to COVID-19. He urged residents to refer to reputable sources. Additionally, Barrier thanked emergency service personnel, medical services and those in other county departments for their work and commitment during these unprecedented times.
“Together we are strong. Together we will beat COVID-19. Together we are Avery County,” Barrier said.
The county has also provided a hotline residents can call to learn about the county’s response to COVID-19. The county can be contacted at (828) 373-0091. The county’s website provides a running update of actions taken in response to the crisis, and small businesses can also find information about assistance on the website at www.averycountync.gov.