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News
Crimes against children case continued to December, Larry Dix's bond reduced

JEFFERSON — The initial appearance of an Ashe County man charged with crimes against children, Larry C. Dix, was Thursday, Sept. 3, in Ashe County District Court at the Ashe County Courthouse.

Dix, 69, of Grassy Creek, was arrested Thursday, Aug. 27, and charged with four counts of indecent liberties with a minor, according to court documents.

Dix’s case was continued to Dec. 10, and it was ordered that should he be released from law enforcement custody, he is to have no contact with his alleged victim.

Upon his arrest, Dix was issued a $200,000 secured bond and transferred to the Alleghany County Detention Center. At his court date, the bond was reduced to $24,900. Dix was transferred from Alleghany to the Ashe County Detention Center the morning of his court date, bonding out from there later in the day, according to Chief Jailor Linda Carrow.

According to the Ashe County Clerk of Court’s Office, the offer to reduce his bond from the district attorney’s office was agreed upon by the victim’s family.

According to the warrants for his arrest, Dix “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did take and attempt to take immoral, improper and indecent liberties” with a victim under the age of 16.

On July 3, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation began an investigation at the request of District Attorney Tom Horner, according to a release from the N.C. SBI. The SBI said the alleged offenses occurred between July 1, 2019, and June 19, 2020, adding that the investigation is still ongoing.

Dix is also an elected official. He was elected to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners in November 2018. His term is set to expire in 2022. Ashe County Manager Adam Stumb said the county and his office had no comment on the situation at the time of the arrest, but added, “I know we’re all trying to process this right now and are awaiting additional details regarding the charges.”

As of presstime, Dix is still a member of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, but did not attend their Tuesday, Sept. 8, meeting.

In 2009, Dix was awarded with one of the highest honors in the state, the Order of the Longleaf Pine.

Dix also served as the head coach of the boys and girls tennis teams for Ashe County High School from 2011 to this past summer, when he resigned, according to Superintendent Eisa Cox. Cox has said she was told by SBI that the current charges did not involve the school system.

Ashe Post & Times will provide updates for this story as they are made available.


News
Ashe County Board of Commissioners issues statement on arrest of current commissioner

From the Ashe County Board of Commissioners on the case of Commissioner Larry Dix:

On Aug. 27, Ashe County Commissioner Larry Dix was arrested and charged with four counts of Indecent Liberties with a Minor. These felony charges stem from an ongoing investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. As of the date of this release, the charges are still pending and the defendant has been released on bond.

Commissioner Dix was elected to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 5, 2016. As of the date of this press release, neither Commissioner Dix nor his legal counsel have made any statement in regards to his intent to continue his service as a commissioner or discontinue his service on the Board, which is set to end in 2022.

“At this time, it would be too early to make any statement on Commissioner Dix’s service. The county will consult with its own legal counsel as more information comes to light,” County Manager Adam Stumb said.

The North Carolina State Constitution, Article Six, Section Eight, states two prominent reasons an elected official becomes “disqualified” from holding office. One is being disqualified to vote for the elected position in which that person holds office. The second reason for being disqualified from holding office is being “adjudged guilty of treason or any other felony against this State or the United States, or any person who has been adjudged guilty of a felony in another state that also would be a felony if it had been committed in this State, or any person who has been adjudged guilty of corruption or malpractice in any office.”

The Board of Commissioners does have an established process for replacing any vacancies that may become open on the Board for any reason. An open position can be filled by the Board of Commissioners upon consultation with the relevant political party of the board member being replaced.

In that situation, a majority vote by the board is sufficient to fill the position. Because a vacancy creates an even number of board members, if no consensus can be reached on a replacement, state statute dictates that the Clerk of Court can make the appointment to the board.


News
Disaster assistance: SBA offers help to businesses and residents of NC affected by August earthquake

WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Carolina businesses and residents affected by the earthquake on Aug. 9 can apply for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Administrator Jovita Carranza said.

Carranza made the loans available in response to a letter from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Aug. 26, requesting a disaster declaration by the SBA. The declaration covers Alleghany County and the adjacent counties of Ashe, Surry and Wilkes in North Carolina; and Grayson in Virginia.

“The SBA is strongly committed to providing the people of North Carolina with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist businesses of all sizes, homeowners and renters with federal disaster loans,” Carranza said. “Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”

In accordance with health precautions for the COVID-19, the SBA will not establish a field presence to assist survivors. However, SBA will continue to provide first-class customer service and conduct outreach virtually with webinars, skype calls, phone assistance and step-by-step application assistance. To this end, SBA has opened a Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center to help survivors apply online using the Electronic Loan Application via the SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/.

There are also virtual customer support representatives available to assist applicants with completing the online application. The VDLOC information follows:

Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center

Open: Monday — Sunday

Hours: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

FOCE-Help@sba.gov

Phone: (800) 659-2955

These services are only available for the North Carolina disaster declaration #16605 as a result of the earthquake on Aug. 9 and not for COVID-19 related assistance.

Survivors should contact the Disaster Assistance Professionals at (800) 659-2955 to schedule an appointment for immediate one-on-one assistance in completing their applications. Requests for SBA disaster loan program information may be obtained by emailing FOCE-Help@sba.gov.

The SBA will conduct extensive outreach to ensure that all impacted by the disaster are afforded the opportunity to seek assistance.

“Businesses and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets,” said SBA’s North Carolina District Director Thomas A. Stith, III.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.

“Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property,” said Michael Lampton, acting center director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes. Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter, sump pump, French drain or retaining wall to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.

Interest rates are as low as 3 percent for businesses, 2.75 percent for nonprofit organizations and 1.188 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amount and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Businesses and individuals may also obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Loan applications can also be downloaded at www.sba.gov.

Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Oct. 26. The deadline to return economic injury applications is May 27, 2021.


Community
Lansing welcomes new clerk in town

LANSING — Those visiting town hall in Lansing will be greeted by a new friendly face. Longtime resident Sandy Roten is enjoying her new role as Lansing Town Clerk. Former Town Clerk Marcy Little stepped down from the role in August.

Roten retired from United Chemi-Con after 39 years of service and returned to Wilkes Community College where she completed her accounting and business administration degree.

Prior to applying for the position as Lansing Town Clerk, Roten served as a substitute teacher at Ashe County Middle School for about three years.

Roten said she accepted the opportunity mostly because she has always lived in Lansing and been a part of the community. She attended the Historic Lansing School and graduated from Northwest Ashe High School.

“I felt like it would be a good fit for me and the community,” Roten said. “I could contribute to them and they could help me too.”

Roten is active in the Heart Association and enjoys reading, quilting and traveling. She loves sports and enjoys Ashe County High School sporting events and supporting student athletes. She also enjoys spending time with her grandson, Austin Hart who she is very proud of.

Roten’s two children, Jennifer Hart and Daniel Roten, are both Ashe County residents.

Roten said she is enjoying the new position so far, and there is a lot to learn being in a government role rather than a business environment.

She said she enjoys working with the public and is excited to continue meeting and working with the residents of Lansing.


Covid19
State moves into Phase 2.5, Ashe COVID-19 cases continue to rise

ASHE COUNTY — According to AppHealthCare, there are 18 active cases of COVID-19 in Ashe County as of presstime, with a further 63 individuals being monitored.

A second death linked to COVID-19 was confirmed in Ashe Aug. 30, the first since May 26, according to AppHealthCare. The two Ashe deaths are the only deaths related to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) that have been confirmed in Ashe, Alleghany and Watauga counties.

Toe River Health District announced Thursday, Sept. 3 the first death linked to COVID-19 in Avery County. Across the state, there have been 2,909 deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina has 178,635 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) as of noon on Tuesday, Sept. 8, according to the NCDHHS. This is more than 9,000 more cases than the same time a week earlier.

According to the NCDHHS weekly update of outbreaks in congregeate living settings, two residents of Margate Health and Rehab have active cases, two staff members and two residents have tested positive at the RHA Group Home and nine staff members have tested positive at a location on East Healing Springs Road in Crumpler as of Sept. 4.

As of Sept. 8 at noon, there were 230 total confirmed cases for Ashe, an additional 21 cases in one week. There have been 610 confirmed cases in Watauga County, with 78 active, and 210 confirmed cases in Alleghany County, with five active, according to AppHealthCare.

AppHealthCare held a drive-through COVID-19 testing event for Ashe County on Aug.1, where 370 tests were administered. Of those, 19 came back positive, according to AppHealthCare.

AppHealthCare has also reported, and are continuing to investigate, an outbreak at Bottomley Evergreens and Farms in Sparta. As of presstime, there have been 102 confirmed cases and results are still pending for some individuals. The majority of the positive cases are reporting no symptoms, according to AppHealthCare.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Sept. 1 announced that North Carolina would move into “Safer at Home Phase 2.5,” easing COVID-19 restrictions on more types of businesses and increasing the limits for gatherings.

The new phase began at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, and expires at 5 p.m. on Oct. 2 unless extended or modified. Limits on mass gatherings will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, Cooper said. Gyms and other indoor exercise facilities — such as yoga studios, martial arts and rock climbing, as well as skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor basketball and volleyball — can open at 30 percent capacity.

Playgrounds will be allowed to open, and museums and aquariums can open at 50 percent capacity. The age requirement for mask wearing will include children down to age 5.

Facial coverings are required for all employees and customers of retail businesses and restaurants as well as workers in manufacturing, construction, meat processing and agriculture settings.

Exceptions are made for people with medical conditions and children younger than 11, those at home and people walking or otherwise exercising outside when not within six feet of others.’

Government

Ashe County declared a state of emergency March 22, which was followed by the towns of West Jefferson, Jefferson and Lansing.

An amendment banning short-term rentals in the county expired May 8, and was not extended.

The Ashe County Courthouse is observing normal business hours, but residents are encouraged to take advantage of online resources or to call the needed office. Upon entry to the courthouse, each visitor is required to wear a mask and have their temperature checked.

West Jefferson Town Hall reopened Tuesday, June 2, following approval from the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen the night before.

At the Jefferson Board of Aldermen meeting March 16, the board voted unanimously to close Jefferson Town Hall to the public. Jefferson Town Hall has since reopened.

According to then-Lansing Town Clerk Marcy Little, Lansing Town Hall reopened July 26. There is a limit of two people at a given time in the building.

Healthcare

On March 12, Ashe Memorial Hospital’s expanded visitor restrictions went into effect. The hospital asks that those who are not members of a patient’s immediate family refrain from visiting unless absolutely necessary, regardless of the visitor’s age or health status.

Local assisted living centers Margate Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ashe Assisted Living and Forest Ridge Assisted Living have enforced visitation restrictions to protect residents from possible exposure to COVID-19.

Recreation and Entertainment

The N.C. State Parks announced Elk Knob State Park, Grandfather Mountain State Park, New River State Park and Mount Jefferson State Natural Area are closed as of March 27. Grandfather Mountain announced it would reopen in a limited capacity May 15, with all ticket sales moving online.

Also closing are recreation facilities at recreation sites in the National Forests in N.C. were temporarily shut down. The closures include picnic pavilions, shooting ranges and all restrooms.

These shutdowns are in addition to previous announcements about developed campgrounds, several large developed day use areas, visitor centers and Off-Highway Vehicle trail systems, which remain temporarily shut down.

The Ashe County Public Library re-opened Monday, June 15, with limited hours, services and building capacity. The Ashe County Public Library’s hours of operation will be Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The first hour of service each day is currently being reserved for people most at risk of dying from COVID-19.

The library will still be offering curbside pickup options and there will be no in-person programs or meetings. For more information about Ashe County Public Library, visit the website at www.arlibrary.org/ashe or call (336) 846-2041.

The Ashe County Arts Council re-opened the Arts Center Thursday, June 25. The Arts Council announced June 16 that the Ashe County Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention and the 2020 Ashe County Studio Tour were canceled. The Ashe County Little Theatre’s 2020 season has also been cancelled.

The Florence Thomas Art School reopened on June 2. The art school has announced plans for events, classes and workshops.

Ashe County Park reopened May 11, and all facilities including bathrooms, playgrounds, courts, skate park and shelters will remain closed.

The NCHSAA announced it would allow the start of summer activities on June 11. Ashe County High School began off-season sessions July 6.

Family Central’s park office is closed but staff can be contacted at (336) 982-6185 or by email at kevinanderson@ashecountygov.com. The gym and workout room at Family Central will be closed until further notice.

Emergency Services

At the Ashe County Detention Center, new inmates are being quarantined for anywhere from 15 to 30 days upon arrival. Air filters have been added in between the Detention Center’s four pods, hopefully keeping any disease contained should it arrive.

Ashe County Sheriff’s Office deputies are now doing as much as they can remotely, and have also been instructed to avoid entering confined spaces, instead opting to conduct business outside. Sheriff Phil Howell said the ACSO still wants people to know they are in the community.

According to Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill, citizens can call (866) 462-3821 for more information.

Education

It was announced July 14 that the state would have a school year following Plan B, with Ashe County Schools stating they planned to alternate students’ days in the classroom when the year begins, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

Students went back to school for the first time since March Monday, Aug. 17.

For continued updates and more information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.ashepostandtimes.com.

Bailey Little contributed reporting to this story.