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JEFFERSON — Instead of its usual courtroom locale, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners met in the second-floor conference room of the Ashe County Courthouse Monday, Dec. 2 at 9 a.m. The change of venue was due to the multitude of things going on at the courthouse, including Superior Court and energy assistance program sign-ups.

Interim County Manager Adam Stumb was the one to open the meeting, since the board was set to elect a chairman and vice chairman of the board. Commissioner William Sands immediately nominated current Chairman Todd Mcneill to serve another term, which was seconded by Larry Dix and unanimously approved.

Next was the vote for vice chairman, with Commissioner Paula Perry nominating Dix, which was seconded by McNeill, and Sands nominating Commissioner Larry Rhodes, which was also seconded by McNeill. Perry and Dix voted in favor of the latter, while the other three members voted for and elected Rhodes to be the next Vice Chairman.

Ashe County Board of Elections Director John Shepherd came to the commissioners with a request for approval of new voting equipment. Shepherd said the equipment the Ashe BOE currently uses is horribly outdated, being in-use since 2005.

“It’s served us well, but it’s dying,” Shepherd said. He described the difficulties of using the memory cards, which by now are no longer sold and incredibly difficult to find. He suggested the purchase of new DS 200 machines, which are currently being used by 34 counties in North Carolina, while another 30 are looking into them.

Shepherd said he received a quote for $220,000, which will instantly drop thanks to a $13,000 loyalty discount. On top of that, the BOE is currently paying a $19,000 annual service agreement, which will drop to $10,000 with the new equipment. The final sweetener to the pot was that the payment can be made in two halves, with no interest on the second.

Shepherd said the new equipment would have an expected lifespan of 10-15 years, would allow voting totals to come in quicker and be available for the March 2020 primaries to boot. Sands made the motion to approve the purchase, which was seconded by Dix before a unanimous vote sealed it.

The commissioners then heard an update on the Museum of Ashe County History’s roof repairs from museum Board of Directors Chairman Lonnie Jones. Jones said Northwestern roofing was able to get the job done in one-and-a-half weeks, and the project was easier than first feared. Jones said the wood underneath the leaking roof was wet, but not destroyed, and the final cost of the project came out to $19,337.

Next was Stumb, who asked the board for approval of the Five Year Work Plan. The plan was created in October, and creates a roadmap for the future of issues like the impact of U.S. 221’s widening, economic development, a new facility for the Ashe County Department of Social Services, what to do with Ashe County Middle School and the general vision for the future of the county.

Stumb and Dix both agreed the plan is essentially a working document, with Stumb noting that all plans are contingent on change. The plan itself references this, noting that it is to be assessed annually at the mid-year budget review and amended as needed. Dix made the motion to approve the plan, which was seconded by Perry, and the plan was unanimously approved.

The board then looked at a proposed agreement between Ashe and Yadkin County over Yadkin’s need for child welfare legal services. The county has an opening for an attorney to handle child welfare matters, but needs someone to fill the role while the search goes on. The agreement states that Ashe would provide a qualified attorney, Grier Hurley, as is needed.

Stumb said that while this is going on, Ashe DSS Executive Director Tracie Downer has been working with Yadkin DSS and their County Manager. A rate of $150-an-hour will cover salary and other expenses, and the agreement will continue through June 2020, but the hope is it is not needed by the end of January. Yadkin won’t be paying the attorney, but Ashe, who will still pay Hurley at a standard rate. Rhodes made the motion for approval, which Sands seconded, and the agreement was approved unanimously.

The next Ashe County Board of Commissioners meeting will be Monday, Dec. 23 at 9 a.m.

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