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Thanksgiving is expected finish for two U.S. 221 sections

ASHE COUNTY — The U.S. 221 widening project continues is nearing another checkpoint, five years after it began.

As follows is a breakdown of progress on the U.S. 221 widening project as of oct. 29, according to NCDOT Division 11 Construction Engineer Trent Beaver:

Sections A and B — starting from the junction of U.S. 421, continuing past Idlewild Road and across South Fork New River — are clustered into one contract worth $46 million, handled since December 2015 by James R. Vannoy & Sons of Jefferson.

Beaver said the pair of sections should be completed by Thanksgiving, Nov. 26.

Section C — past the bridge over South Fork New River to the N.C. 194 junction at Baldwin Road — is contracted for $53 million to Vecellio and Grogan of Beckley, W.V., which began work in February 2017, according to Beaver.

Beaver said the section is nearing completion, but traffic flow should change before then.

“With good weather, the contractor may be able to get traffic in the final four-lane pattern by the end of the year,” Beaver said. “However, it will be the spring before the project is totally complete.”

Section D — from N.C. 194 to the four-way stoplight in West Jefferson — was completed by Vannoy & Sons between March 2015 and January 2019.

The $21.3 million contract price for Section D went over budget by about $1.3 million, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

Section E — North of the four-way stoplight in West Jefferson to U.S. 221 Business and N.C. 88 in Jefferson — James R. Vannoy & Sons Construction was awarded the contract in the amount of $27.4 million

Beaver said construction on the section is scheduled to begin in the Spring. Completion of the section is expected by late 2024 or early 2025, Beaver said.

Ashe Post & Times will continue to provide updates on the U.S. 221 widening project as they are made available.

Election Day hits Ashe County

ASHE COUNTY — The voting spirit has swept through Ashe County like an autumn wind, with citizens continuing to cast their ballots as of presstime.

As of 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 11,252 votes had been cast in Ashe County, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Working out to 57.5 percent of registered voters, 9,237 votes were cast at one-stop voting while 2,015 were done by mail.

In the 2016 general election, 13,637 votes were cast in Ashe, coming from 71.62 percent of registered voters

At the state level, 4,578,269 ballots have been cast as of 5 a.m. Nov. 3, 62.2 percent of the registered voters in North Carolina. In 2016, 4,769,640 voters turned out in N.C., working out to 68.98 percent of registered voters.

According to Ashe County Elections Director John Shepherd, the voting process in Ashe was going smoothly, with no problems to report as of noon, Nov. 3.

According to Wesley Barker, running the West Jefferson precinct polling site at the Ashe County Arts Council, the voting numbers had been steady but not overwhelming as of 10:30 a.m. At the time, 176 votes had been cast there, but Barker noted they expected to see more going on at lunch and after work.

According to Michelle Obenchain who was working at the Jefferson precinct polling site at Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department, the turnout had been steady that morning and everything was running smoothly with no issues.

Obenchain said there were 170 voters as of 10:40 a.m. and the Jefferson precinct finished above two-thirds done as of the last day of one-stop voting on Oct. 31.

Greeting voters and handing out materials outside at the Jefferson precinct polling site on the morning of Nov. 3 was Chairman of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners Todd McNeill, Ashe County Board of Education candidate Kim Simmons, N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard, Cindy Schindler and Lee Franklin.

For full Election Day coverage and live results, visit ashepostandtimes.com.

Ashe County gets into the Halloween spirit

WEST JEFFERSON — Despite the cancelation of several staple Halloween events, festivals and gatherings this year due to COVID-19, Ashe County residents still enjoyed an afternoon of trick-or-treating thanks to local organizations and businesses.

The Ashe County Sheriff’s Office hosted a drive-through trick-or-treating event for children and their families.Two of their jail vendors, Pay Tel Communications and Oasis Management Systems donated candy for the event. They also received a generous donation of candy from the county’s Walmart location. Members of the community and ACSO staff also stepped up and donated treats to be handed out at the event.

According to the ACSO, more than 50 organizations participated in an interactive Halloween map. The map was created to ensure a safe and fun Halloween for local children and their families by providing them with locations of businesses, organizations and churches hosting trick-or-treat events.

Businesses listed that participated were Backstreet Subs, Badges of Ashe, Boondocks Brewing, Details Salon & Spa, Farmer’s Towing and Street Dreamz Tire, Genesis Salon, Gray’s Emergency Paint, Great Southern Gothic, Hardee’s, High Country Seafood Co., Kristin’s Hook’d on Smoke food truck, Lansing Foods Grocery, Mark of Eden Salon, Mountain Auction Company, Inc., Mountain Outfitters, Mountain Town Dental, New River Brewing Taproom & Eatery, Peek A Boutique, Pizza Hut, Priscilla L Norris, CPA, Quality Plus WJ, Rash Auto Sales/Cottage Treasures, RDR Kennels, Rusty Roots Boutique, LLC., Sollie B’s BBQ, Southern Slang Gift Shop, Sweets And Spirits Bakery Cafe, The Spice & Tea Exchange of WJ, The Vintage Locket, Unlimited Heat and Air and Village Inn Pizza Parlor.

Churches and care centers that participated in countywide trick-or-treating were Appalachian Church, Ashe Developmental Day School/Behavior Consultation and Psychological Services, Bethel Baptist Church, Bristol Baptist Church, Calvary Free Will Baptist Church, Christian Unity Baptist Church, Divine Hope Baptist Church, Fletcher Memorial Baptist Church, Generations Developmental Day Center/Triple P Program, Mt. Paddy Church, New Creation Church, Open Arms Fellowship of Ashe, South Fork Baptist Church, Warrensville Baptist Church and Welcome Home Church.

Government-related organizations that participated in the festivities on Oct. 31 were Ashe County Public Library, Ashe County Rescue Squad, Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, Ashe Medics, Ashe Memorial Hospital, Creston Fire Department, Jefferson Fire Department, Lansing Fire Department, Warrensville Fire Department and West Jefferson Business Association.

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Late October sees dip in COVID-19 cases, AppHealthCare warns against complacency

ASHE COUNTY — In its weekly COVID-19 situation update on Friday, Oct. 30, AppHealthCare reported a decrease in active cases and quarantines from Oct. 18-24 in Ashe County.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 3, there are 96 active cases in Ashe according to AppHealthCare, with a further 121 individuals being monitored and a cumulative case count of 577. There has been nine deaths linked to COVID-19 in Ashe County according to AppHealthCare.

While the numbers are down, AppHealthCare noted it does not mean efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 should be stopped or taken lightly.

Outside of Ashe, AppHealthCare has reported 66 active cases and 16 deaths in Watauga County and 43 active cases and one death in Alleghany County. Across the state, there have been 4,457 deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina had 280,377 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of noon on Tuesday, Nov. 3, according to the NCDHHS. This is more than 16,000 more cases than the same time a week earlier.

According to AppHealthCare’s situation update, 19 staff members and 40 residents have tested positive at Forest Ridge Assisted Living as of Oct. 30. The outbreak at Forest Ridge has seen six deaths.

AppHealthCare is continuing case investigation and contact tracing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you receive a call from a member of the case investigation or contact tracing team, AppHealthCare urges you to cooperate and provide information that will help conduct response efforts. Calls will be from (844) 628-7223 or (828) 264-4995. It may also show up as “NC Outreach” or “Contact Tracing.”

AppHealthCare encourages citizens to remember the three W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands.

North Carolina moved into Phase 3 of the statewide reopening plan beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2. Phase 3 was scheduled to end Oct. 23, however N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Oct. 21 that it would be extended by three weeks, pointing to case numbers’ continued rise.

Large, outdoor venues with seating greater than 10,000 may operate with 7 percent occupancy for spectators with other safety protocols, while smaller outdoor entertainment venues may operate outdoors at 30 percent of outdoor capacity or 100 guests, whichever is less.

Movie theaters and conference centers may open indoor spaces to 30 percent of capacity, or 100 seated guests, whichever is less. Bars may operate outdoors only at 30 percent of outdoor capacity, or 100 guests, whichever is less. Outdoor amusement parks may open at 30 percent occupancy.

The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors, Cooper noted. The 11 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales for in-person consumption in locations such as restaurants and outdoor bars will also be extended.

The statewide mask mandate for everyone over the age of 5 remains in effect, and adults over 65 and those with health risks are still advised to stay home as much as possible, the governor said.