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Board of Commissioners adopt April awareness declarations, discuss county updates and environmental health

JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Commissioners met for its monthly meeting on April 5 to discuss county updates, April awareness and local aviation.

The meeting began with a presentation of April awareness declarations, starting with Partnership of Ashe Finance Director Tonya Roark asking the commissioners to adapt Child Abuse Prevention for the month of April.

A Safe Home for Everyone Advocate Anna Clawson then requested that the commissioners proclaim the month of April to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month, to bring awareness to the issue and allow the community the information and resources they may need.

Marilyn Agnew, Early Childhood & Education consultant then closed the presentation, asking that the commissioners allow April 10-16 to be the Week of the Young Child in Ashe County.

Commissioners approved all of the declarations for the month of April.

County Manager Adam Stumb then discussed possible names for different properties around the county, including Family Central and Ashe Park.

The commissioners voted to further discuss the names, some wishing to honor Scott Turnmyre, former Parks & Recreation director who passed in Feburary of 2019, and Jan Cadell, a former program director for various radio stations who passed away in October of 2012.

Stumb then discussed the Frontier Gas line easement at the campus Family Central. The initial line was going to run through the ball fields and playgrounds, but will not go around the field, past the High Country Commercial Kitchen and through a small neighborhood. The board voted to further look into the line and discuss the timeline and what will have closures.

Airport Advisory Board Member Richard Sherill and Chairman Thomas Bregger then presented what the airport means to the county and discussed the grants they have received. Bregger said that the airport grants have been giving individuals job opportunities.

Sherill provided a document to the board to show the economic benefits of the airport to the county. He discussed how many see airports for fun and recreation, but they should be seen favorably as they bring opportunities in aviation and education to the community.

Board chairman Todd McNeill added that the county has a great facility and the commissioners appreciated the information given.

James Moose, regional manager of AVCON, Inc. then asked for approval of a partial parallel taxiway and apron expansion at the airport. He discussed the different bidding that has been received. The commissioners voted to waive the irregularities in the bids in order to keep from postponing the process.

To end the meeting, Director of AppHealthCare Jennifer Greene presented on environmental health permitting and inspections. She discussed the increase in water protection applications and increase in activity, which has been most beneficial for service and time.

Environmental Health Supervisor Andy Blethen joined Greene in discussing more of the water protection services offered throughout the counties of Ashe, Alleghany and Watauga.

They then discussed how COVID-19 has impacted the services as the year of 2020 saw a large rain impact, preventing evaluation of sites. This called for a higher volume of applications due to the delay.

Blethen said that they nearly always experience a slow down in winter, but record rain had caused a handful of delays. He said they have continued to work on staff training and precautions.

The commissioners continued holding discussion of the environmental health situations and thanked both Greene and Blethen for informing the board and community on the impact of their work.

Undefeated champions: Huskies take final conference victory

WEST JEFFERSON — Following six triumphant games, the Huskies rounded out their final nail-biting conference game 27-20 against the Starmount Rams (3-4) on April 9, taking an undefeated title and presenting themselves as MVAC 2A conference champions.

As the contest ensued on the Ashe County High School football field, the championship title was up for grabs as the Huskies, now 7-0, held a tight race with Elkin (5-1) who was also up for the title, just inching up toward No. 1. A possible tie would have been the outcome if the Huskies were to take defeat against the Rams.

Beginning the game, neither the Huskies or Rams could make it through the goal line in the first 12 minutes: both had a hard time handling the ball and risky plays were taken, ending in returning punts for each.

The offensive line took advantage quickly as the crowd of parents, fans and supporters cheered for the blow-out team. As their defenders rushed at the ball, the pack could not be taken down, even with four men against one. Ashe came close to the goal line a number of times, but could not break through the wall as Starmount began to gain strength and incomplete passes were thrown.

Heading into the second quarter, the Rams took hold of a turnover within the first 20 seconds, prompting the Huskies to tighten their defensive line.

Middle linebacker Ryan Blevins had an eye for the ball as he made his way through the players, chasing it for tackles. During the course of the game, Blevins totaled eight solo tackles, eight assisted tackles and one sack.

As the clock ticked down with 10 minutes left in the half, Andrew Peterson intercepted a pass on the Huskies’ 20-yard line.

JJ Mannan received a 44-yard pass from Quarterback Dawson Cox, good for the first Husky touchdown with seven and a half minutes left.

The Rams attempted a comeback for the first half, but Ashe’s defensive line was too secure, forcing the visiting team to a returning punt.

Keenan Witherspoon held the second touchdown of the night with only a minute left in the second quarter, ending it with 14-0.

The momentum had shifted as both teams made their way back onto the field following halftime and everyone in attendance had felt it.

The Rams regained possession and ran for a touchdown with a flag on the play, calling back the touchdown as Starmount had initiated two forward passes.

Following the call, the Rams came back once again with a six point touchdown.

Ashe’s offense had become loose and Starmount intercepted with six minutes left in the third quarter, running for their second touchdown of the night and gaining two extra points through the conversion.

Attempting to regain ground on their home field, Cox threw a long pass to Matthew Peterson, only good for a few seconds as Peterson fumbled and the Rams recovered near their own 45-yard line.

The Huskies had yet to see an overtake this season, but as the fourth quarter began, the Rams managed to take advantage, leading 20-14. On the extra point attempt, Austin Poe blocked the kick, leaving the Rams to a six-point lead.

Poe held confidence with the ball after his team regained possession and took a long run for a touchdown with around eight minutes left, tying the score 20-20.

The energy throughout the stadium left fans on the edge of their seats as the clock wound down, many hoping for overtime.

The clock hit 41.9 seconds and the ball was in possession of the Rams. Hope had been dwindled throughout the team until Starmount fumbled. Poe recovered the ball and ran for the final Husky touchdown.

Cox totaled 219 passing yards, Poe had 193 total yards and Matthew Peterson had 53.

Following the game, the Husky pack won a bet with head coach Brian Hampton — and gave his beard a trim.

Hampton said this team is like none other.

“This team is very special,” said Hampton. “They just make things happen. This group loves each other and plays for each other like no other bunch I have had. I have enjoyed the free ride and hope the ride will last a few more weeks.”

In the first round of the NCHSAA 2A playoffs, the Huskies will go up against the Oak Grove Grizzlies (5-2) who are second in their conference. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. on April 16.

BOE discuss upcoming events, school adjustments and considerations for ACS

JEFFERSON — On April 12, the Ashe County Board of Education met for its regular monthly session in the annex of the Ashe County Schools offices, discussing updates, considerations and giving honors to students and schools in the county.

Board Members Kim Simmons, Polly Jones and Keith McClure, along with Superintendent Dr. Eisa Cox, Finance Officer Amanda Coldiron, BOE Chair Josh Roten and Vice Chair Dianne Eldreth were present for the meeting.

Cox began the meeting through recognizing students and school awards.

Two students have been accepted into the North Carolina Governor’s School for their annual five and a half week summer residential program. Wyatt Cox, junior at the Ashe Early College and Angel Philips, junior at Ashe County High School have been accepted in the mathematics program.

According to Dr. Cox, the acceptances have been impressive as the students’ academic acceleration has been continuously beneficial for themselves and their schools.

Only 335 students are accepted into the program and it is open to rising seniors with the exception of the arts program through auditions. One residential area is located at High Point University and the other is located at Meredith College.

Last year, Rebekah Blair was accepted for social sciences. Eldreth also participated in this program when she was in school.

Luke Poe from the Early College also received a fully paid scholarship with the YES! Program for Young Eisner Scholars to London, England, in ethics this summer.

Cox then recognized the awards and successes of the schools, namely the Battle of the Books competition, won by both Blue Ridge and the Middle School in the district elementary and middle proportion. Both teams went on to the regional competitions and placed second.

“It’s impressive to see students read 22 books and be able to answer all kinds of questions about them,” said Cox. “It’s also impressive to see students who love to read.”

Elizabeth Wallace, senior at the Ashe Early College was awarded the Wilkes Community College AECHS Award.

Going further than Battle of the Books, ACMS was re-designated for the seventh time as a National School to Watch. These schools focus on accelerating middle school reform and academics. ACMS will accept the award in June.

After a closed session, the board reconvened and discussed updates to the new middle school. Larry Green and Vannoy’s Construction said they want to team up with Cox and Roten to develop a full timeline for the new school, hoping to break ground this July. Discussions of site development and field budgets will be further discussed this month and Cox would like to provide a clearer picture for what the school will look like.

Among the meeting agenda was the discussion of ASU Gear Up and the money given to ACS from extra funding.

Gear Up has provided $71,000 to purchase brand new calculators for sixth and seventh graders. The calculators will be Texas Instrument calculators that are used in eighth grade.

To end the meeting, the board further discussed situation updates and upcoming events.

A large majority of ACS staff has been vaccinated, both partially and fully and many are thankful for the opportunity. After Group 5 has opened up to receive vaccinations, the Board hopes to hold a special clinic for 16-17 year olds who wish to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

With the cooperation of board members, teachers, parents and community members, the Strategic Planning Committee continues to develop new ideas for the school system and will present their final mission document to the Board in August.

ACMS will participate in a Space X zoom with the first all civilian trip to space on April 23, something Cox, as a former science teacher, hopes can inform students and give them a look into the world above.

The board then discussed bus stop arms and they hope to further spread the word. Since Feb. 8, there have been seven incidents of vehicles disregarding school bus stop signs on US 221 alone.

“Safety is paramount,” said Dr. Cox. “We want to keep our children safe.”

Precautions have been taken to avoid these incidents and bus arms have been equipped with cameras.

Cox provided a COVID-19 update on the schools as well, something she says has been exciting with the decrease in active cases.

“Our staff and student numbers are low,” said Cox. “But even as some are fully vaccinated, we continue to follow safety guidelines and remain cautious.”

One staff member at Westwood, one student at Mountainview, three students at the middle school, one student at ACHS and two students at the Ashe Early College are in quarantine. At ACMS and Blue Ridge, two students have COVID-19.

The Fire Academy is being looked into after Kim Simmons brought the program to the board’s attention. They hope that this can allow students to explore opportunities within the curriculum and community.

Graduations have been set for May 27 for the Early College and May 28 for ACHS.

According to Cox, ACHS principal Amanda Hipp and her team have developed three graduation options that meet pandemic guidelines. The options will be given to seniors in survey form and the board will then make plans for the graduation.

The board of education will have a regular work session on May 3.

Ashe County sees 13 active cases and falls into 'light yellow'

ASHE COUNTY — Ashe county remains steady with a total of 13 active cases of COVID-19 as of April 9. Thirty-five individuals are currently being monitored actively as vaccines continue to roll out throughout the county. A total of 2,136 cases have been accumulated since testing began

AppHealthCare reported a total of 200 first doses being allocated the week of April 5. As of April 9, 6,630 first doses had been administered. In the same week, 500 second doses were allocated with 4,510 of those being given.

In Ashe, 27.2 percent of the county have been partially vaccinated and 21.7 percent has been fully vaccinated, according to AppHealthCare.

Watauga has 36 active cases with 51 individuals being monitored. Alleghany has 16 cases and 48 are being monitored. During the course of the pandemic Watauga has totaled 4,544 cases and Alleghany has the lowest of the three district counties, with 976.

Ashe County has fallen from significant impact to moderate impact over the course of the last two weeks. The county is currently in light yellow, and the state of North Carolina has continued to brighten over the course of the pandemic, Alleghany currently being in the green area of low impact.

Group 5, anyone older than 16, is now eligible for vaccination. The Pfizer vaccine has been made available for ages 16-17, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have been approved for those 18 and older.

To schedule an appointment for a vaccination, visit apphealthcare.com or call (828)-795-1970.

North Carolina has totaled 935,061 cases during the course of the pandemic as of April 12. More than 11,700,000 tests have been completed in the state, according to NCDHHS.

John Hopkins University & Medicine has reported 136,468,706 global cases. There have been 2,943,402 COVID-19 related deaths, about 560,000 of those being in the US.

AppHealthCare is offering equity throughout vaccinations. Anyone in need of transportation help can use the Ashe County Transportation Authority to get to and from vaccination sites. For residents, transportation. They are also offering interpreters to help with vaccine appointments.

“As COVID-19 continues to impact our neighbors and surrounding counties, we encourage everyone to do their part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands, and social distancing whenever possible. The safety and well-being of our community is our top priority. We have protocols in place to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of our patients and our community,” said a statement from Ashe Memorial Hospital.

AppHealthCare is continuing case investigation and contact tracing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If residents receive a call from a member of the case investigation or contact tracing team, AppHealthCare urges them 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.