JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Commissioners met in regular session on July 6 at 9 a.m. in the third floor court room of the Ashe County Courthouse.
Those commissioners in attendance were Chair Todd McNeill, Vice Chair William Sands, Chuck Olive, Jerry Powers and Jonathan Jordan.
To begin the meeting, the commissioners approved the minutes for the month of June including the budget work sessions. They then added Lansing Mayor Powers to the agenda. The agenda was adopted.
Commissioners held a public hearing for the Building Inspections Ordinance Amendment, which amends the current code of ordinances to preference the fees on file with the inspections. This ordinance would prevent the Inspectors from having to adopt and revise every time there is a change in fees.
Planning Director Wesley Barker presented to the board and said he would like to for the fees to be based on the total area of the building and total costs of proposed work. The commissioners adopted the changes as needed.
The Ashe County Frescoes Foundation then held a special presentation for the board of Commissioners. Jeff Dryer, president of the foundation, began with explaining the mission of the foundation, which is to preserve and protect their works of art and churches.
Dryer presented to the commissioners a book which holds their mission and informs readers on local models and masterpieces.
“They generate an economic impact here in the county,” said Dryer. “Thousands of visitors every year grace those churches and look at those beautiful, beautiful frescoes.”
The foundation gifted each commissioner their own copy of the book.
“These frescoes are really an asset to our county,” said Sands. “They have a lot of visitors.”
Mayor Mack Powers of Lansing then wished a very happy birthday to his mother, saying he wouldn’t have had the success he has today without her.
He then requested help in mowing downtown Lansing.
“Our traffic has grown,” said Mayor Powers. “We have lot of people coming through Lansing, coming to the park and coming through town. In order to keep the momentum we have, we have to keep the park and the town looking really good.”
Powers then went onto say that he and his colleagues had realized that mowing comes in contract. He also found out that Lansing is the second largest green space in the county.
“What helps us, helps the county,” Powers said. “We’re pushing for more retail and more people to be a part of Lansing.”
The board of commissioners made a motion that they put $12,000 up for a new lawn mower for the town and approved the request.
The meeting then moved onto comments from the board.
“I hope everyone had a good Independence Day,” said Jordan. “I’m very honored to be here to represent the citizens.”
“Every time I ride through West Jefferson now, I have a different perspective after I started this,” said Olive. “I’m glad to see the county doing a great job.”
“The fireworks were really nice,” said Sands. “Where we’re doing it now couldn’t be better. We have so much going for us in this county with the (Ashe County) Chamber doing a tremendous job. We are really blessed in Ashe County.”
“I have to agree with Commissioner Sands, we couldn’t have had a better place to hold fireworks,” said Powers.
“We had a tremendous weekend,” said McNeill. “There are so many vantage points that are very successful. Surrounding counties came to see the fireworks and to shop in our stores. I’m glad everybody had a good holiday.”
County Manager Adam Stumb gave a congratulations to Kevin Anderson and Parks and Recreation for putting on the show.
ASHE COUNTY — On Thursday July 8, Ashe County received a visit from several state and federal officials, most notably Gayle Manchin, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The visit was part of an introductory trip to Western North Carolina for Manchin, who was sworn in as the 13th federal co-chair for the Appalachian Regional Commission on May 6. Manchin’s trip to Ashe County included a trip to Lansing, visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway and — despite the rain — an early morning tour of downtown West Jefferson.
“I think it’s wonderful what they have created and what they’re recreating. I believe that it’s important to maintain your history and the roots of the town, and yet create a new energy and dynamic that will bring in more people. And that’s what they’ve done here,” said Manchin, following her tour of West Jefferson. “They’re preserving their history while creating a new vitality.”
During her tour of West Jefferson, Manchin was brought up-to-speed on the history of the town and what factors are driving the area’s economy today.
Since the 1960s, the ARC — a federal–state partnership — has worked to bring self-sustaining, economic opportunities to the rural regions of Appalachia.
A lifelong resident of Appalachia herself, Manchin touched on several issues facing rural Appalachians today, most notably bridging the technological gap by bringing in new infrastructure such as broadband internet to mountain communities — a need which became more apparent with COVID-19 and the rise of remote learning.
“In the beginning of ARC the problem was our highways, to be able to get in and out of an area you need a good highway system. The highway system that we are now challenged by is the broadband system,” Manchin said. “There has to be equity. We deserve to be able to reach the world the same way that everyone else does.”
Manchin noted that these types of changes would take the combined efforts of federal, state and local governments working together.
In the past the ARC has assisted Ashe County by providing a $22,000 grant for WiFi in downtown West Jefferson, half of what was a $40,000 project, as well as a $300,000 dollar grant for a water and sewer infrastructure project.
“It’s good to have her here. She was just a pleasure and a joy to have in West Jefferson,” said Brantley Price, town manager of West Jefferson. “She’s for rural American, she knows what we need and we’ll have her support.”
Likewise, West Jefferson Mayor Tom Hartman stated that it was nice to see an official such as Manchin visit the High Country.
“I thought it was very good to have someone of her caliber come to this county, not only to West Jefferson but to Lansing and the Boone area,” said Hartman. “We’re just happy to have the publicity and the support.”
Other notable guests to Ashe County on Thursday included Jim McCleskey, North Carolina Washington Office Director for Governor Roy Cooper, Jordan Whichard, Chief Deputy Secretary for the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and Olivia Collier, the ARC Program Manager for the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about the work of the Appalachian Regional Commission. visit www.arc.gov/.
WEST JEFFERSON — On the afternoon of July 8, friends and colleagues gathered in Backstreet Park to bid Ashe County librarian Suzanne Moore a fond fare well, as she prepares to take on a new position in Wilkes County. Moore, who has worked in Ashe County for nearly a decade will soon be continuing her career as the Wilkes County librarian.
During her career, Moore has at times referred to the public library as the “town’s living room” or the “people’s university.” This is due to the amount of public programming created by the library.
Through the years Moore — along with her staff — have worked to create a number of impactful programs through the library’s “Involving Books” campaign, a program which encourages patrons to read up on a topic in order to raise awareness, and then teaches them ways to make a meaningful impact in their community.
In the past, the “Involving Books” campaign has touched on topics such as healthy eating, addiction and recovery, and suicide prevention.
“So you’d read the book, you’d see the author, you’d find out how to be involved or how to be an ally and understand that we’re trying to break a stigma,” Moore said. “The program is serious, but we tried to make it interesting and fun. We raised awareness and tried to recruit peer support and recovery allies in our community. We’ve also done some programming through the National Alliance on Mental Illness, we’ve had a lot of great partners through the years with the Involving Books program.”
Other library programs have ranged from introductory crocheting, to opportunity fairs and the highly popular veterans history project which catalogues the stories of local service members. The veterans history project is currently in its fourth year.
According to Moore, the move to Wilkes will allow her to plan for future goals by building a relationship with the community college and possibly teaching in the years following her retirement from the library system. Nonetheless, Moore noted that she’ll miss working so closely with the Ashe community.
“I’ll miss the community, I’ll miss the staff, I’ll miss the beautiful scenery,” Moore said.
Despite continuing her career in Wilkes County, Moore stated that she intends to stay active on a personal level in Ashe County, continuing her book club, as well as her “Molasses Jams” a music program that encourages individuals to pick up their acoustic instruments and jam slowly with other musicians in the community on every third Saturday of the month.
“Since I have created my own private book club, that is not going to go away just because I moved to another library,” Moore said. “People keep saying, ‘we’ll miss you, we’ll miss you,’ but I’m not really going anywhere. I’m working in a different county but I’ll still be around.”
Moore stated that in the future she hopes to bring more programming to the Wilkes Library system, particularly to the library’s Trap Hill branch, as well as expand the veterans history project to a regional level.
Moore’s last official day at the Ashe County Library will be on July 17. A “Molasses Jam” session will be held that day from 2-4 p.m. at the West Jefferson Town Park, all are invited to join in.
For more information about the Ashe County Public Library and its programs visit www.arlibrary.org/ashe or call (336) 846-2041.
JEFFERSON — On July 9, the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Ashe County Board of Commissioners presented the Ashe Bash Concert with band Scythian.
Scythian consists of Alex Fedoryka on the fiddle, Dan Fedoryka on the guitar and accordion, Ethan Dean on bass and Johnny Rees on drums.
The band is located near the Washington, D.C., area and introduces a genre of Celtic/Rock American.
Hundreds of people attending the Friday night concert and were gifted different food options from Boondocks to Village Inn. Guests were encouraged to bring lawn chairs and cameras as the concert would become a staple in Ashe County.
Scythian said they had been looking forward to coming to Ashe County as it was their first time. They are continuing to tour across the country.
To learn more about the band, visit scythianmusic.com