NEWLAND — Avery County Board of Commissioners held a board workshop on Wednesday, Jan. 11, to discuss ongoing projects, upcoming business and tie up loose ends.
County Manager Phillip Barrier said that the commissioners discussed the Community Development Block Grant, which is allowing the county to completely replace three homes and rehabilitate three more. Additionally, the grant provides $75,000 for the county to put toward repairs to homes in Avery, which will be done in conjunction with W.A.M.Y., as it has an existing emergency housing repair program, Barrier said. Avery has been successful in getting the Community Development Block Grant for two cycles, and the commissioners plan to apply for the grant again after the current one has been completed.
Representative Dudley Greene plans to reintroduce the occupancy tax to the North Carolina House during its short session, Barrier said. Along with Greene’s work toward getting the occupancy tax to pass through the House, Senator Ralph Hise is also planning to do parallel work in the North Carolina Senate, Barrier said.
Names of Avery County veterans from the American Revolutionary War and Spanish-American War will be added to the Veterans Monument soon, Barrier said. The company that adds the names requires a list of at least 50 names before they will revise the monument, he said.
At the workshop, the board discussed plans to make the North Carolina Opioid Settlement funds stretch to last 20 years. All 100 North Carolina counties and 17 municipalities received their first payments of the $26 billion national opioid settlement, which is from three of the nation’s major drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson, in June 2022. North Carolina received $750 million in total funding from the settlement, where 85 percent of those funds will go to local governments and 15 percent will be allocated to the state over the next 18 years. In total, Avery County will receive $1.7 million in a series of payments. The commissioners plan to not spend more than $85,000 a year of those funds to stretch them for 20 years rather than 17, Barrier said.
The county plans to put the opioid settlement funds toward criminal justice diversion, addiction treatment and reentry programs, he said. Barrier noted that Freedom Life will be a good partner in battling the opioid crisis, but the organization is currently searching for an office to work from in Avery. The organization was going to work out of the former Avery C.A.R.E.S. building, but the county has recently learned that that office is in disrepair and cannot be restored, Barrier said.
The commissioners discussed hiring an animal cruelty investigator. Barrier and Sheriff Mike Henley are working together to make that happen, Barrier said, and they are also discussing plans for a facility.
The next Avery County Board of Commissioners meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6.