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JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Commissioners met in regular session on Feb. 15, at 9 a.m. in the Commission Meeting Room on the third floor of Ashe County Courthouse.

The meeting was open to the public, with all in attendance wearing face coverings in compliance with current COVID-19 precautionary measures. It was also live-streamed on the Ashe County Government website.

The meeting, along with all other previous meetings for 2021 can viewed at any time by visiting www.ashecountygov.com, clicking the “Commissioners” tab and then selecting “Meeting Agendas, Minutes and Videos” from the drop-down menu.

Chief Building Inspector Jeff Cornett provided an update on county building permits.

Cornett discussed the comparison of building permits in 2020 versus 2019. According to Cornett, there were 103 permits for new houses in 2019 and in 2020 they issued 118. Addition and remodels of houses increased from 137 in 2019 to 146 in 2020 and for garages and storage buildings they went from 74 to 81.

As far as commercial buildings they went from 19 commercial buildings in 2019 to 10 in 2020. Additions and alterations in commercial buildings went from 31 in 2019 to 21 in 2020. According to Cornett, there were not any new churches built in 2020 but there was one alteration completed. In 2019, there was one new church built. Permits for modular houses went from five in 2019 to four in 2020 and mobile home permits went from 20 in 2019 to 18 in 2020.

Ashe County Librarian Suzanne Moore discussed the 2020 Appalachian Regional Library accomplishments and plans for 2021.

Moore said in September of 2020 more than 800 new patrons of all ages registered for a library card.

“I feel like folks because of COVID are finding other ways to stay engaged and active in the community and take advantage of what we can do for them,” Moore said.

Some activities the library has provided for the community during this time are cooking shows and classes, take-home activity kits for all ages and virtual author talks.

ACPL went virtual with books series with an emphasis on social justice and race/ethnicity. According to Moore, the library received state recognition through “Innovation to Inclusion” (i2i).

All available programs and activities available to the community can be found on the library’s website at www.arlibrary.org/ashe. ACPL is also active on its Facebook page which can be accessed @ashecountypubliclibrary. For additional information about programs and available services, call the library at (336) 846-2041.

Ashe County Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Anderson approached the board to request approval to offer spring sports for youth.

He detailed protocols and also entertained any questions the BOC had. Anderson said he reached out Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill, AppHealthCare Director Jennifer Greene, Ashe County Fire Marshal Jonathan Stansberry and athletic directors at Ashe County Schools.

Anderson said protocols for any sports functions, including masking and social distancing would be very similar to guidelines followed by state and local school systems.

Baseball, softball, tee ball and soccer are the proposed spring sports that Ashe County Parks & Recreation would like to begin.

At sporting events, Anderson said any concessions would be packaged and bottled beverages only. There would be two lines, one for orders and one for pickup to ensure that large groups will not be gathering.

After the presentation, the BOC held two votes for both the approval of spring sports to take place and the approval of the COVID-19 waiver prepared by Ashe County Parks & Recreation.

Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell, Captain Linda Carrow and Sheriff’s Executive Assistant Jessica Vogler addressed the board with a request to transfer funds for the purchase of an inmate transport van.

Howell and Carrow discussed the mechanics of the proposed van. Carrow said the current inmate transport van has experienced issues such as damage by the inmates. The new van would allow the driver to see the passengers at all times and correct any issues that may arise. This van will include air conditioning and have cameras installed.

COVID-19 has also proved challenges when transporting inmates to court dates due to avoiding contact between quarantined inmates and others.

“We appreciate everything you all do for us, we know at times we ask a lot,” Carrow said. “We try not to ask anymore than what we need. But I really think at this point this is something that we really need to address for now and for the future.”

Commissioner William Sands added that this is a liability issue and they need to move forward with the purchase.

Cost figures for the van as presented by ASCO would be $28,655 for the van itself and the boxed insert from Dana Safety Supply to be installed by the company would cost $22,000. Therefore, the total cost would be $50,974.

Howell added that the Ford Transit 350 van would come from Ashe County Ford and they got four different quotes for the boxed insert, and the one from Dana Safety Supply was the least expensive.

The BOC voted unanimously to allocate $50,000 from its 2021 contingency fund toward the purchase of the van and equipment. Howell said the ASCO will take care of the remaining costs.

Prior to adjournment, County Manager Adam Stumb announced the advertisement for informal bids for the Highway 163 Convenience Center site.

Stumb said the county has budgeted roughly $250,000 for the project. He added that Scott Hurley received approximate quotes of $35,000 for fencing, $105,000 for paving, about $16,000 for the compacting recycling container, about $10,000 for a concrete slab to go under containers, containers would cost roughly $36,000 with an additional $20,000 for two-three rolloff containers.

According to Stumb, the site plan is to utilize the existing driveway but adjust it to be slightly widened to accommodate traffic flow from trucks. There will be a 9 foot fence around the perimeter and a gate for citizens to enter and exit. There is also a proposed plan to have an Environmental Services workshop located on the premises. There will be a larger berm located at the front of N.C. 163 and a smaller one to run on the smaller parts of the property. Stumb said landscaping is not included in the bidding, but they will invite landscaping professionals for assistance at a later date.

Stumb said an anticipated date for returned bids is March 5 and hopefully award the contracts at the scheduled BOC meeting on March 15.

The next meeting of the BOC will be Monday, March 1.

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