JEFFERSON — Ashe County residents opposed to a planned asphalt plant in Glendale Springs voiced their concerns during the Ashe County Board of Commissioners regular meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, June 3.
Among the concerned taxpayers who spoke out against the asphalt plant, one was Pat Considine — facilitator of a local movement called Protect Our Fresh Air and Clean Water — and another was Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Executive Director Lou Zeller.
“Our mission is to stop the stop the Appalachian Materials asphalt plant from producing asphalt on Glendale Springs road,” Considine said. “Our goals are to keep the air and water in Glendale Springs clean and to protect the health of our neighbors, particularly the elderly with respiratory issues and the young children — especially those who are terminally ill and attend camp with their families at Camp New Hope, which is located less than half of a mile from the proposed site of the asphalt plant.”
Additionally, Protect Our Fresh Air and Clean Water aims to protect the tourism industry, land values and agriculture of Ashe County, all of which are at risk by the proposed asphalt plant, according to Considine.
On behalf of Protect Our Fresh Air and Clean Water, Considine presented a $2,000 check to the commissioners to support the county’s legal efforts litigating the asphalt plant. A continuous fundraiser to raise more money for the Ashe County side of Ashe County v. Ashe County Planning Board is under way, according to Considine.
“We strongly support your continued efforts to stop Appalachian Materials from polluting our lungs, our land and our community,” Considine said.
More than a dozen in attendance at the Ashe County Board of Commissioners meeting stood to show their support for Considine’s comments.
Zeller of BREDL spoke in support of Considine’s comments, and encouraged the commissioners to continue supporting what he called a countywide issue with impacts on public health, the protection of local communities and ability of the county to determine its future.
Others who spoke up during the public comment session — among them being Ellen Pesco, Jerry Paul, Gurney Wike and Michael Bell, representing local home and storeowners — voiced their concerns regarding the proposed asphalt plant’s impacts on air and New River water pollution, increased traffic from heavy trucks on small country roads and potential detriments to the Glendale Springs economy.
The commissioners remained silent through the testimonies, listening but not responding to the public comments. Chairman Todd McNeill said the board would hear a legal update regarding Appalachian Materials during titseir closed executive session at the end of the meeting.
The closed executive session began at 10:08 a.m., and ended at 10:52 a.m., with no action taken other than to adjourn the meeting.
On Tuesday, June 4, Ashe County Attorney John Kilby scheduled an emergency closed session meeting with the Ashe County Board of Commissioners for 12:45 p.m. that day — in the middle of a previously scheduled special budget workshop session.
Following that session, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners unanimously authorized Ashe County attorney John Kilby to petition the N.C. Supreme Court for a discretionary review of the N.C. Court of Appeals ruling in Ashe County v. Ashe County Planning Board. See page 1 for a related story.
Last to speak during the public comment session was Sandra Warren, who distributed paperwork to the commissioners alleging she had been abused at local senior assisted living and rehabilitation centers.
Also during the Ashe County Board of Commissioners regular meeting June 3, budget amendments presented by county finance officer Sandra Long were unanimously approved without discussion or question.
The commissioners also unanimously agreed to Priscilla Norris’ $45,000 county audit contract, which includes a separate Medicaid audit with DSS.
DSS Director Tracie Downer presented her monthly report for May, highlighting the department’s energy programs outreach plan.
“We are humming along in every direction,” Downer said.
DSS employee Saundra Day read about long term care Medicaid, of which Ashe DSS has 375 active cases at various facilities across the state, Day said.
Given the complicated nature of long-term care Medicaid, Downer recommended the commissioners invest in Medicaid eligibility insurance for the county, to prevent costly litigation in case a mistake is made. Downer’s DSS report was unanimously approved by the commissioners.
According to Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell, a $10,000 grant from the state to combat opioid abuse will be spent on police bodycams, because many of the cameras currently used by ACSO do not work or have storage issues. New cameras would save the sheriff’s office around $10,000 per month, Howell said.
The board unanimously approved the grant expense for new ACSO body cameras.
Laurel Springs Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department has been added as a county ambulance provider, while Helton has been discontinued and other county ambulance services — Ashe Medics, Ashe County Rescue Squad, Fleetwood Volunteer Fire and Rescue and Warrensville Volunteer Fire and Rescue — have had their franchise contracts extended until noon of June 30, 2024, according to a resolution presented by Ashe Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill and passed unanimously by the commissioners.
Prompted by acting county manager Adam Stumb, the commissioners briefly discussed raising the starting pay for its director of parks and recreation. As of Monday’s meeting, the starting pay was $45,705, which is less than comparable positions in comparable counties, Stumb said.
The following people were unanimously reappointed to 2-year terms on the Ashe County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council: Scott Perry, Zachary Shepherd, Paige Stephens, Pam Barlow and Doug Goss. Furthermore, the commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in support of increasing JCPC funding.
Steve Katz and JoAnn Crawley were reappointed to the Ashe County Library board, and Kyle Hall was appointed to fill a vacancy.
During commissioner comments, each of the board members commended and encouraged the young people of Ashe County who graduated Friday, May 31.
“Good job graduates, and good luck as you are released out into the world,” McNeill said. “I can only hope and encourage all of them to either stay in Ashe County, or either go and get your degree and come back, because we’ve got cool stuff going on here.”
After closed executive session, the commissioners adjourned their regular meeting at 10:52 a.m., assembling again at 11:06 a.m. to begin a special annual budget workshop session that continued until 3:30 p.m. June 3.
As of June 4, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners were still working through the county budget, and expected to complete their line-by-line review mid-week. AP&T will provide updates as they are available.