JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Board of Commissioners met for its second meeting of the month Monday, Nov. 18 at the Ashe County Courthouse. The board discussed the Appalachian Regional Library, New River Conservancy and the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office budget, among other things.
Appalachian Regional Library Director Jane Blackburn presented her annual report on the library’s work and progress. Blackburn talked about financial, membership and grant numbers the libraries in Wilkes, Watauga and Ashe have been seeing. This included the Ashe County Public Library receiving a $3,000 grant on its own and sharing two other grants with Watauga which totaled $9,000.
Blackburn spoke about three highlights for the Ashe County Public Library, selected by Ashe County Librarian Suzanne Moore. They were the Superhero Run, a day when the library set up obstacle courses for kids to do around the library in superhero costumes, the library’s parking expansion, which completed during the summer and the opportunity fair it held in partnership with the Ashe County Community Foundation.
Blackburn reported total revenues for the 2018-19 fiscal year for the library. This broke down to $460,378 for city and county appropriations, $38,777 in other revenue, $20,238 in fines and fees, $15,971 in gifts and donations and $4,500 in other grants. She also spoke about what the ARL is looking at in the future, such as year three of the Alphabet Ready program and the final year of their Five Year Plan of objectives.
Up next was Ashe Services for Aging Executive Director Patricia Calloway, joined by co-worker Lisa Osbornes, who spoke to the board about recent fundraising efforts by the organization. Osborne said the organization raised more than $5,700 for their heating and air assistance program.
Calloway spoke about the Taste of the Mountains Program, which raises money for multiple charitable programs in Ashe County. The organizations partners with restaurants in the community, and people who eat at those restaurants at the specified times raise money. The 2019 edition saw 20 restaurants in Ashe County donate a portion of their proceeds for a day, which Calloway said went over $2,500.
New River Conservancy President George Santucci gave an update on the Conservancy’s work over the past year in reservation, clean-up and restoration. Santucci spoke about the multiple river cleanups which has pulled more than 4,000 lbs. of trash out of the New River, the work put towards restoring Naked Creek, water quality monitoring and local land protection.
Santucci brought up Elk Shoals, the acquisition of it in Dec. 2018, the work done to give it a new lease on life and the positive public reaction to the Conservancy’s work with it.
The board then heard from United States Census Bureau Partnership Specialist Rick Farmer, who spoke about the upcoming 2020 Census, the work being done to prepare for it and the role the people in Ashe County have in it. One significant thing for the operation will be the elimination of the paper census, with it all being completed online. Farmer referred to this time of year as the “Paul Revere Phase,” where people like him are going around to let people know the census is coming.
The board then looked at a resolution to support the 2020 Census, promising to help in whatever way they can to make the census as successful as possible. Commissioner Larry Rhodes made the motion for approval, which was seconded by Commissioner William Sands and approved in a 5-0 vote.
Next up for the board was a presentation from Ashe County Sheriff Phil Howell. Howell went to the board to discuss a budget amendment in regard to insurance money going to the appropriate line items in the near future.
Howell said that multiple accidents in the months preceding combined with standard wear-and-tear has left the ACSO looking for new vehicles for their officers. Howell said they found a deal on a few, fully loaded Dodge Chargers, but it did not work out for the department while they tried to figure out the budget.
Rhodes made the motion to approve a budget amendment that will put the money received from insurance payouts to their capital outlay budget, which was seconded by Commissioner Larry Dix. The board voted 5-0 in favor of the decision.
Finally, the board looked at a proclamation to declare Nov. 15, 2019 as America Recycles Day in Ashe County. Board Chairman Todd McNeill read through the proclamation, which included statistics about recycling and its importance. Rhodes made the motion to approve the proclamation, which was seconded by Dix before the board voted 5-0 to approve.
During the commissioner comments portion of the meeting, Dix said the county needed to look into more childcare and after-school options in the county, and an increase in the quality of it.
The board entered executive session at 10:48 a.m., returning at 11:39 and adjourning the meeting at 11:40.
The next meeting of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners will be Monday, Dec. 2 at 9 a.m.