JEFFERSON — Educational investments were the Ashe County Board of Commissioners’ focus during its regular meeting in the Ashe County Courthouse at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 5.

Acting County Manager Adam Stumb recapped a pair of special meetings between the board, Ashe County Schools and Wilkes Community College that took place Tuesday, Oct. 30. During these meetings, plans for the new middle school were finalized, thanks in-part to a $15 million needs-based grant awarded to ACS, and the board committed $7.4 million to WCC for its Ashe Campus expansion project.

“We did have two good meetings last Tuesday,” said commissioner Larry Rhodes. “Looking at the middle school and the addition at Wilkes Community College, we have both great projects.”

Rhodes then motioned to approve the recommended design of the new Ashe County Middle School, consisting of 149,924 square feet, and to move forward with getting the project out to bid, seconded by commissioner Jeff Rose and favored unanimously.

“With the addition of the grant we were able to go back into the design and put back some things that we had taken out,” said ACS Superintendent Phyllis Yates. “We had made the auditorium smaller, we had taken away the auxiliary gym and we had taken away some classrooms, but we were able to put all of those things back into the plans.”

“It’s an exciting time,” said Commissioner Todd McNeill.

“It’s a complete facility, rather than not having all the things that it actually needed,” Yates said. “My hat is off to all of you for your support.”

As for Wilkes Community College, discussion was brief.

“They too have a plan laid out, it’s going to be one that — from where we are and where we’re going to — will be a big, big help, and it’s going to be right next to the campus for the high school.”

Rhodes then motioned to approve the county commit up to $8 million for construction of a new more than 31,000-square-foot building at the Ashe Campus of WCC using construction plans that include a glass façade and shop wing, plus an alternate plan that includes a cosmetology wing for bidding as well, seconded by McNeill and approved by all five commissioners.

“We are proud to partner with Ashe County on this project, we are very pleased — our trustees are — to be able to offer parts of our bond money, $3 million, the majority of that bond money will be coming to Ashe County,” said WCC Vice President Chris Robinson. “I think that shows the confidence that our trustees have in growing the offerings we can have in Ashe County and we are very appreciative of the level of support.”

McNeill said ACS being awarded the $15 million grant enabled the commissioners to feel comfortable committing so much to the WCC expansion, to Chairman William Sands’ agreement.

Stumb said he was hopeful to get both school projects out for bid by early 2019 in order to break ground in the spring.

In other news at the Ashe County Board of Commissioners Nov. 5 meeting, the board adopted Tax Administrator Chris Lambert’s schedule of values ahead of the 2019 countywide property reappraisal.

DSS Director Tracie Downer provided her monthly departmental update for October and made the board aware of energy assistance programs available to help keep Ashe County citizens warm, expanded upon in a separate story in this edition of the Ashe Post & Times.

Travis Birdsell was officially named Ashe County Cooperative Extension Director and had his salary adjusted accordingly to $55,700 annually, split 50/50 by Ashe County and the state of North Carolina.

Ashe EMS Coordinator Patty Gambill had her resolution to be named as the primary agent for FEMA reimbursement in the wake of Hurricane Florence approved unanimously and without discussion.

On behalf of Ashe County Airport Director Eric Payne, the board unanimously renewed its adherence to the NCDOT Division of Airport Safety/Maintenance Program Agreement for a new five-year period.

Maggi Birdsell and Judson Blevins were appointed by the commissioners to serve on the Ashe County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

During commissioner comments, McNeill and Rhodes both congratulated the Ashe County High School football team on winning its division outright for the first time in school history, and Rhodes urged Ashe County to vote. Commissioner Paula Perry said November is national veteran’s month, and there will be a ceremony in recognition of Veteran’s Day at the courthouse at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11.

The board then went into executive session to discuss economic development issues at 9:41 a.m. and adjourned without making additional motions shortly thereafter.

The next meeting of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners is in the Ashe County Courthouse at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 19.

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