LANSING — The Lansing Board of Aldermen is back up to five members after Teresa McCoy was sworn in by Mayor Mack Powers Wednesday, June 17, in Lansing Town Hall.
The was left with four aldermen for the meeting, following the announcement of Jack Brown’s resignation at the May 12 meeting, leaving only Cheyenne Blevins, Jim Blevins, Matt Cordell and Tom Richardson on the board.
After inquiring about the vacant seat, McCoy’s appointment was discussed and approved at the June 9 aldermen meeting, receiving votes of confidence from Maintenance Supervisor Larry Blevins and multiple aldermen.
“I had been thinking about it for a while and when the opportunity became available when Jack resigned,” McCoy said. She added that she had been asked about joining the board in the past, but decided now is the right time for her to try her hand at it.
McCoy said she has not made any decisions about whether or not she will run to keep the seat in 2021, waiting to see how it goes. In the meantime, McCoy said she has been very happy to see the town grow and prosper, looking forward to helping that progress continue with her role as an alderman.
McCoy’s first meeting is a special meeting Tuesday, June 23, where the board will vote to finalize and install the town’s budget for the next fiscal year.
TODD — Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Todd General Store has captured the hearts of both locals and visitors of Ashe County for more than a century.
On Saturday, June 20, the public was invited to attend a grand opening ceremony at the store, which is located at 3866 Todd Railroad Grade Road.
The ceremony lasted all day and a ribbon cutting by the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce also took place.
Members of the UNCTV production crew were present to film interviews and capture the atmosphere of the newly renovated store.
The newest owners of the historic landmark, the Connell family, have been working diligently on extensive renovations to the building and its property.
Matthew and Andréa Connell, along with their two children, Charles and Eleanor, moved to Boone from Richmond, Va., in 2017 after Andréa accepted a job at Appalachian State University teaching ceramics.
Both Matthew and Andréa previously taught full-time at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
Andréa said she and Matt often thought about what it would be like to have their own business and would frequently drive through Todd and see the building. However, they didn’t start entertaining the idea until they made the move to the area.
The Connells started pursuing the building in December 2018 and bought it in May 2019. They have been working for the past year to get the building to its current state.
Andréa said that between the age of the building and it sitting vacant since its previous closure in 2016, there was a lot to be done.
“There’s a lot more to do, but this is the healthiest the building has felt since we got it,” Andréa said.
She said Matt has done everything from taking down siding to clean out walls, picking up boards to clean out the floors, removing tarps upstairs and opening up the roof.
As far as the renovations go, Matt said “some things you can see and some things you can’t see.”
He completed a lot of the work himself and said he is glad the store is able to experience this shift from renovation to business.
Some of the notable maintenance to the building and its grounds includes the work completed on the kitchen, the foundation, the upgraded electrical system, exposure of older walls and the removal of bars from some of the windows.
Matt said he plans to add seating areas such as booths and horseshoe seating to the store. A section of the main counter will also eventually serve as a diner-style counter where customers can sit and eat.
The building itself received a great deal of community support during the renovation process since its acquisition by the Connells in 2019. In the week leading up to the event, there was a tight knit group of younger people who came in to help Matt and Andréa organize and prepare the space.
During the event on June 20, visitors were able to venture upstairs to the gallery which was previously still under renovation.
Once upstairs, people could walk around to admire the various pieces of art work while local potter, Millie Goodnight, was “throwing pots.” Plans are in order for workshop spaces to be added to the store’s interior for artists.
Goodnight is the owner of Goodnight Pottery and she sells her work in Boone and Blowing Rock. She graduated from ASU the semester that Andréa joined the faculty so they didn’t cross paths at the college. Instead, they later connected with each other through the High Country ceramics community.
Although Goodnight doesn’t come to Todd very often, she finds it to be very welcoming.
“They’ve done a lot of work and I think it’s gonna be a great place for people to come gather and do art and collaborate,” Goodnight said.
Items available for customers to purchase during their time at the store include staples such as ice cream, candy and cold bottled drinks. There are also fresh homemade biscuits with pimento cheese, which are a crowd favorite.
Other merchandise include t-shirts, hats, mugs, bottles and bags adorned with a Todd logo to be purchased as souvenirs, as well as handcrafted items such as wreaths and pottery.
Recent ASU graduates, Noah Smith and Gabrielle Knight, were ringing up customers at the counter and shared some details about the renovation process.
Knight was an art management major, who was one of Andréa’s students and completed her internship at the Todd General Store.
Smith and Knight said that only four days prior to the event the upstairs was full of items and none of the walls were painted. They said the night before the event one of the people who helped complete the renovation process, Elias Goebler, installed the shelving behind the counter.
According to Smith, friends of the Connells, carpenters, contractors and electricians have all contributed to the process of revamping the store.
Thomas Colantuono is another one of Andréa’s students who aided in the renovation process and was helping serve ice cream in the kitchen.
Colantuono noted that the store had changed so much within the week leading up to the ceremony.
“They really put a lot of effort into taking care of the things that they could save,” Colantuono said. “These wood floors took a lot of extra elbow grease. They didn’t cut any corners and it just looks really good.”
The store had a soft opening on July 4, 2019 and was open until Christmas when they closed the building to begin renovations.
The Todd General Store will be opening the first week of July and the determined hours of operation will be posted on the website at thetoddgeneralstore.com, as well as the store’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
The store can also be reached during business hours by calling (336) 877-2881.
ASHE COUNTY — North Carolina’s COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) numbers are still rising, averaging roughly 1,000 new cases every day.
As of presstime, there are six active cases in Ashe County, with a further 10 people being monitored.
After the first case confirmed in the county by AppHealthCare April 3, the number of confirmed cases grew to five by April 29. In the month that has followed, the number has increased rapidly, with 34 total now confirmed for Ashe.
The Ashe numbers include one death, AppHealthCare announced Wednesday, May 26. As of presstime, it is the only death linked to COVID-19 in Ashe, Alleghany or Watauga counties.
On June 23, there were 54,453 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina, nearly 9,000 new cases in seven days, with 1,223 dead, according to NCDHHS. This includes 46 confirmed cases in Watauga County, 15 active, and 30 in Alleghany County, with just two active, according to AppHealthCare. Presumptive and confirmed positive cases are in all counties across the state.
According to NCDHHS, which keeps an updating list of congregate setting outbreaks, a facility in Ashe on Old Highway 16 in Grassy Creek is the source of 15 resident cases. The facility is listed as “other,” meaning it is not a nursing home, residential care facility or correctional facility, but can be a homeless shelter, migrant farm worker housing facility or other location with a multitude of people living there.
Organizations from the international to the local level are encouraging people who feel sick or are symptomatic to stay home and receive medical treatment.
In a series of executive orders beginning March 14, Gov. Roy Cooper closed schools, limited the size of gatherings, instituted a stay-at-home order, shut down non-essential businesses, limited the capacity of businesses still in operation and barred dining in at restaurants.
Cooper began the reopening process with an executive order that took effect Friday, May 8.
Under Phase 1, most businesses can open, retail stores can open at 50 percent capacity, parks and trails are encouraged to reopen, close-contact businesses (such as gyms, salons and movie theaters) will remain closed, restaurants will continue to be open for takeout and delivery only, and gatherings are still limited to 10 people, but gathering outdoors with friends is allowed.
The state entered Phase 2 on May 22, opening up more possibilities for businesses. Restaurants offering dine-in options, personal care businesses (including salons and barbers) and public pools are all allowed to have a maximum 50 percent capacity with distancing and cleaning requirements. Employees of personal care businesses will be required to wear face coverings.
Bars, indoor fitness facilities and indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters and bowling alleys are still to remain closed. Cooper vetoed H.B. 594 Friday, June 19, which would have allowed gyms, health clubs and fitness centers to re-open.
Ashe County declared a state of emergency March 22. The county was followed by the towns of West Jefferson, Jefferson and Lansing.
An amendment to the county’s state of emergency declaration shortly after banned short-term rentals in the county, with the goal being a reduction in travel by non-residents. The amendment expired May 8, and was not extended.
The Ashe County Courthouse will remain open as usual, but residents are encouraged to take advantage of online resources or to call the needed office. The county also announced they would be limiting the number of visitors to 10 at a time.
The Ashe County Airport will remain open, but no public visitors are allowed. The landfill and convenience sites will remain open to the public.
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. As in West Jefferson, Jefferson Town Hall will continue to operate and fulfill its normal duties, and can be reached at (336) 846-9368.
According to Lansing Town Clerk Marcy Little, Lansing Town Hall has been closed. She added it is being recommended people do things over the phone at (336) 384-3938 or via the drop box located out front. The town also closed the public restrooms in the Lansing Creeper Trail Park.
Meanwhile, meetings of local government boards including different boards of aldermen and the Ashe County Board of Commissioners have seen their meetings canceled or changed to being electronic.
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 and Forest Ridge Assisted Living have enforced visitation restrictions to protect residents from possible exposure to COVID-19.
Margate announced they are limiting visitation, making exceptions for cases involving significant issues, emergencies and terminally ill residents.
Forest Ridge Assisted Living announced that all visitation has been restricted, at any Ridge Care Senior Living’s assisted living and memory care communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Exceptions to these restrictions will only be made for extenuating circumstances and must be approved and scheduled by each community’s executive director. These restrictions will remain in place until further notice.
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 will be re-opening the Arts Center Thursday, June 25, while also unveiling the new exhibit, “Shadow of the Hills.” The Arts Council announced June 16 that the Ashe County Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention and the 2020 Ashe County Studio Tour were cancelled.
The Florence Thomas Art School announced it would be reopening June 2. The art school has announced plans for events, classes and workshops beginning in July.
Ashe County Parks and Recreation has suspended all sports leagues until further notice, refunds will be considered if leagues are eventually canceled. Ashe county Park reopened May 11, however all facilities including bathrooms, playgrounds, courts, skate park and shelters will remain closed.
In line with major sports leagues around the world, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced Thursday, March 12, it would suspend high school athletics until at least Monday, April 6. It was later decided to cancel the season entirely, following Cooper’s decision to cancel schools entirely April 24. The NCHSAA announced it would allow the start of summer activities on June 11. Ashe County High School Athletic Director David Koontz announced the school would begin 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The gym and workout room at Family Central will be closed until further notice.
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.
Cooper declared April 24 that the spring semester would not resume, after one month of cancelled classes. Students were left to take classes only before the school year ended.
NCDHHS released health guidelines on June 8 as the first step to help North Carolina public schools find safe ways to open to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 academic year. Schools are asked to plan for reopening under three scenarios — Plan A, which calls for minimal social distancing; Plan B, which calls for moderate social distancing; or Plan C, which would result in remote learning only.
NCDHHS and the State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction will announce by July 1 which of the three plans should be implemented for schools to most safely reopen. The remaining plans may be needed if the state’s COVID-19 metrics change over time.
For continued updates and more information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.ashepostandtimes.com.
Bailey Little contributed reporting to this story.
ASHE COUNTY — The Ashe County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting was held Wednesday, June 17, where they elected new board members, awarded scholarships and honors and celebrated the Chamber’s year. Instead of the usual, large celebration, this year’s meeting was conducted via Zoom video call, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was sponsored by LifeStore, with president and CEO Bob Washburn thanking the employees of the Chamber for their hard work through difficult times.
Chamber Board Chairman Andy Guion introduced the meeting, welcoming everyone in attendance while also speaking proudly about how the Chamber has worked with local businesses during the pandemic. He added the education committee’s work has allowed the Chamber to hand out a record number of scholarships this year.
The Chamber announced the awarding of 10 scholarships to Ashe County seniors, totaling $14,500. The scholarships, as well as awards presented later in the meeting, were done with pre-recorded videos produced by Germain Media.
Kayla Bare received the Jerry Absher Memorial Scholarship for $1,000, Leah Harrold was given the Cabot Hamilton Memorial Scholarship for $1,000 and Isaac Miller and Janie Solis-Ledezma each received Keith and Sarah Reeves Scholarships for $1,000. The chamber handed out five additional scholarships for $1,000 each to Karoline Keith, Cierra Burgess, Gabe Powers, Shaylyn Ramirez and Hallie Treva. Finally, the L. Coulter Foundation scholarship for $5,000, given by Laura Jones of Saloon Studios, was awarded to Blake Lacroix.
Next up were awards for the nonprofit of the year and the Cabot Hamilton Community Advocacy Award.
Dr. Cameron Current presented the nonprofit of the year award, which went to the Ashe County Sharing Center.
“This year, as many families in our communities are dealing with many financial setbacks, the demand for our most basic need has increased. Residents in our community who are normally able to provide for their family are without work, all families had to stay home more and all senior citizen meal sites were closed,” Current said. He added that despite the obstacles in their way, the sharing center continued to work and help out many families in the area.
The second honor, the Cabot Hamilton Community Advocacy Award, is named for Cabot Hamilton, who served as the Chamber’s executive director for eight years before his death in December 2016 at the age of 74. Chamber Executive Director Kitty Honeycutt said the award goes to someone in Ashe County who puts others above themselves, and continues the work of helping the community that Hamilton strived for.
Presented by Karen Powell, this year’s award went to Don and MaryAnne Moore, owners of the West Jefferson McDonald’s. Powell said the Moores are “synonymous with what makes our county so unique.” She said the couple are being honored for their engagements in activities that benefit Ashe County, provided leadership with local organizations, mentored youth through the boy scouts, career day programs and other groups and the many other ways they have made positive impacts in the lives of Ashe citizens.
“We could not be more humbled and honored in being recognized. We love Ashe County; we’re so glad we found our way here to build our business, to raise our family and to give back to the community,” MaryAnne Moore said.
The meeting then shifted to the approval of new board members for the year. Guion took a moment to thank and honor board members who were on expiring terms, including former Arts Council Executive Director Jane Lonon and former Ashe Memorial Hospital CEO Laura Lambeth. The Chamber members then approved the additions of First Baptist Church of West Jefferson’s Michael Lea, Mary Kay’s Rita Schaefer, Dr. Cameron Current of Current Chiropractic, Tracy Tullish of Go Postal, Steve Katz of United Chemi-Con and Lambeth’s successor at AMH, Brian Yates.
After approving the board members, there were some door prizes with gifts provided by Chamber members, before the meeting was adjourned.