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Vol.43 | Issue 1 Fall 2020

ReC Re COGnition

Newsletter of the High Country Council of Governments


Executive Board Members Minority Representative Paul L. Robinson, Jr.

Alleghany County

Bill Osborne, Chair, Commissioner Wes Brinegar, Mayor Sparta

Ashe County

Todd McNeill, Chair, Commissioner Mark Johnston, Alderman, Jefferson Jim Blevins, Alderman, Lansing Tom Hartman, Mayor, West Jefferson

Avery County

Dennis Aldridge, Commissioner Brenda Lyerly, Mayor, Banner Elk Kelly Melang, Council Member, Beech Mountain Eddie Yarber, Mayor, Crossnore Joel Whitley, Mayor Pro Tem, Elk Park Valerie Jaynes, Mayor, Newland Gunther Jรถchl, Mayor, Sugar Mountain

Officers Chair Valerie Jaynes Vice Chair Todd McNeill Secretary Doug Matheson Treasurer Dennis Aldridge

Mitchell County

Vern Grindstaff, Chair, Commissioner Charles Vines, Mayor, Bakersville Rocky Buchanan, Council Member Spruce Pine

Watauga County

Larry Turnbow, Commissioner Doug Matheson, Council Member, Blowing Rock Rennie Brantz, Mayor, Boone Larry Fontaine, Mayor, Seven Devils

Wilkes County

Gary D. Blevins, Commissioner Sandra P. Simmons, Commissioner, Ronda Robert L. Johnson, Mayor, North Wilkesboro Andrew Soots, Council Member, Wilkesboro

Yancey County

Johnny Riddle, Commissioner Theresa Coletta, Mayor, Burnsville

Advisory Committee Dennis Aldridge Gary D. Blevins Rennie Brantz Wes Brinegar Valerie Jaynes Robert L. Johnson Brenda Lyerly Doug Matheson Todd McNeill Johnny Riddle Charles Vines


What’s Inside

HCCOG Advisory Committee Members

New Board Officers 2020-2021 4 The Executive Board of the High Country Council of Governments installed new officers at their February 2020 meeting. Town of Newland Mayor Valerie Jaynes will serve as Chair; Ashe County Commissioner Todd McNeill will serve as Vice Chair; Town of Blowing Rock Council Member Doug Matheson will serve as Secretary; and Avery County Commissioner Dennis Aldridge will serve as Treasurer.

Tarleton Reappointed to NCDOT Board........................................................ 5 Avery County Growers Named NC Small Farmers of the Year................ 5 Learning from Firewise USA Sites: Buck Mountain.................................... 7 Regional Highlights............................................................................................. 9 Œ Ashe County Acquires Land for Industrial Park Œ Avery County Community Room Œ Bakersville Town Hall to be Named After Longtime Mayor Œ Beech Mountain Moves Forward During a Pandemic Œ Blowing Rock Memorial Park’s New Playground Œ New Hires for the Region Œ Notable Retirements Œ Seven Devils Fire Department Receives State Fire Marshall Grant Area Agency on Aging Š Department Highlights and Projects.................................................................17 Š Residents’ Right to Vote and Ombudsman Advocacy...............................21 Š AAA Looks to Add Services for Granparents Raising Grandchildren.........22 Š Senior Centers Adapting Services During Pandemic.................................23 Planning and Development Š Department Highlights and Projects................................................................24 Š Banner Elk Installs WiFi Downtown........................................................ 27 Š Mobile GIS Applications.......................................................................... 28 Š Bakersville and Burnsville - Successful Closeout of CDBG-I Projects...... 29 Š CDBG Neighborhood Revitalization Program Update.............................30 Workforce Development Š Department Highlights and Projects................................................................ 31 Š Sarah McKemy........................................................................................ 36 Š Connecting Youth with Working Smart................................................... 37 Š Businesses Receive Funding to Train Employees......................................38


New HCCOG Executive Board Officers Get to Know Our Chair, Valerie Jaynes Valerie Calloway Jaynes currently serves as the Mayor of the Town of Newland. She has served as mayor and has been an active part of the HCCOG Board for 15 years this November. Valerie was awarded “Outstanding Local Elected Official” by the HCCOG in 2018. She’s an Avery County native that has served her community with 32.5 years of service at Mountain Electric Cooperative, and the Newland Volunteer Fire Department as Secretary for 20 years. Valerie has one daughter, Lauren, who is a current Alderman for the Town of Newland. “I am so very proud of the direction our region is heading. I feel that the HCCOG is a huge part of local success in the areas of tourism development, local infrastructure, and the creation of job opportunities.” “I count it an honor to have the opportunity to work alongside the Executive Director of the HCCOG in an effort to promote our beautiful region.” Executive Board Chairwoman, Valerie Jaynes

Also Serving for the 2020-21 Term: Ashe County Commissioner Chair, Todd McNeill will serve as Vice Chair, and has served on the Executive Board for almost 2 years. Town of Blowing Rock Council Member, Doug Matheson will serve as Secretary, and has served on the Executive Board for almost 3 years. Avery County Commissioner, Dennis Aldridge will serve as Treasurer, and has served on the Executive Board for almost 2 years. Learn more about these three officers here: hccog.org/leadership/.

Vice Chair, Todd McNeill 4

Secretary, Doug Matheson

Treasurer, Dennis Aldridge


Tarleton Reappointed to NCDOT Board

Cullie Tarleton has been reappointed as a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Tarleton will continue representing Division 11 which consists of Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties. He originally joined the board in 2017. Tarleton brings decades of leadership experience in communications and broadcasting to the board as a retired senior vice president and general manager of WBT, WBTV and WCCB-TV. He also served in the N.C. General Assembly from 2007 to 2010 and served on various boards of directors for nonprofit and charitable organizations. He will work with NCDOT staff to make decisions about transportation policies and priorities. He serves with 19 others from across the state who represent NCDOT’s 14 highway divisions and six areas of statewide interest. Cooper appoints members representing the 14 highway divisions while the speaker of the N.C. House and the N.C. Senate President ProCullie Tarleton, Photo Courtesy NCDOT Tempore each appoint three at-large members. Tarleton is a native of Union County and resident of Blowing Rock. He is also a veteran of the N.C. National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves.

Article from ncdot.gov

Avery County Growers Named NC Small Farmers of the Year

Amos and Kaci Nidiffer, the owners of Trosly Farm in Avery County, are the 2020 North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year. It took a bad car accident for the Nidiffers to commit to farming.

“We were lucky to survive,” Kaci Nidiffer said. “The day after we crawled out of the wreck, I said, ‘I’m quitting my job and we’re going to farm full time.’ That was our eureka-type moment when we realized what’s really important.” Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University presented the award to the Nidiffers Sept. 30 during an online ceremony. “They live and breathe this business, and they work it Amos and Kaci Nidiffer on Trosly Farm constantly,” said Avery County Cooperative Extension Agent Bill Hoffman, who nominated them for the award. “They make it look easy. Everybody who comes out here is impressed.” “We couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” Amos Nidiffer said. “This is what we love to do.” On less than five acres, the Nidiffer family grows greenhouse products, such as lettuces, greens and tomatoes; and livestock, such as hogs and pullets. The farm is also home to the family’s dairy cow and some pet goats for their three children. Trosly Farm is named for Trosly-Breuil, a French town that was home to Catholic theologian and

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Avery County Growers Named NC Small Farmers of the Year (cont.)

philosopher Jean Vanier. Vanier founded communities around the world for people with disabilities based on his beliefs about community and the worth of every individual. The Nidiffers call Vanier a hero figure to them. They strive to bring a similar sense of community and neighborliness to their farming. “One of the biggest things I see is their willingness to share what they do with their neighbors,” Hoffman said. “They are very free with sharing what they know. Extension has had a couple of workshops here, and they really enjoy teaching the community how to be small farmers.” As their farming know-how has increased, the couple has tried to move toward lower-tech farming, with hand operated tools replacing machinery when possible. They are also proponents of Community Supported Agriculture, a system in which people in the community pledge to support a farm operation, making it the community’s farm. Growers and consumers provide mutual support and share the risks, and benefits, of food production. After several years of focusing on the agricultural skill-building, Amos Nidiffer said, the couple spent the past year focusing on the community. “We had a couple of days scheduled for the CSA members to come and see where their food is coming from, and what we’re doing here,” he said. “That has become really important.” When people ask questions about what they do, it helps them remember why they grow food for their family and their neighbors, Kaci Nidiffer said. “Loving other people and recognizing everyone’s ability to contribute to society, and celebrating life together as much as possible,” Amos Nidiffer said. “That’s what we want to do.” The Nidiffers were presented with a plaque, monogrammed jackets and $1,500 during the Sept. 30 event. The Small Farmer of the Year Award is usually presented in March on the N.C. A&T campus during Small Farms Week, which recognizes the small-scale producers of North Carolina. This year, the award presentation was delayed due to COVID-19. Small Farms Week 2021, the 35th annual edition of the event, will be held March 21-27. Photos and article courtesy NC Agricultural and Technical State University.

The entire Nidiffer family on Trosly Farm in Avery County 6

Amos Nidiffer with N.C. A&T Cooperative Extension Agent Bill Hoffman tend to pigs on Trosly Farm


Learning from Firewise USA Sites: Buck Mountain

The largest subdivision in the county, Buck Mountain is a 3000+ acre development, with approximately 236 homes, and 351 unimproved tracts of land, with over 30+ miles of gravel and partially paved roads. In 2000, over 800 acres burned in the community which provided a wakeup call to potential wildfire risks. However the path to Firewise USA recognition took time. Buck Mountain achieved that status in 2017 and is one of thirty eight active sites in North Carolina and the only current participant in Wilkes County.

Fire mitigation on our mountain is an ongoing, challenging Buck Mountain Firewise Presentation endeavor. Buck Mountain has a Firewise Committee, has held Firewise Fairs for our POA, created a SAFE Zone, a secondary Emergency Vehicle access road, a Helipad, and posted Buck Mountain community gathering to promote Firewise USA and wildfire risk reduction efforts by residents evacuation signage around the mountain. If the attendance of our recent Firewise Fair is any indication, our POA seems to be starting to understand what a Firewise USA designation means, and that it is an ongoing process. For a community our size, I believe they are also starting to realize that community participation is an absolute necessity, in order to be successful. Buck Mountain Firewise awareness is impacting our own POA, and our hopes is that of surrounding communities, as well. We are fortunate enough to have a strong group of supporting partners (e.g. CFD, NCFS, BRRCD, Wilkes EM, etc.). Completed Firewise Projects & Noteworthy Dates *11/2017- Buck Mountain Property Owners Association (BMPOA) members attended NW Fire & Rescue College Buck Mountain Firewise Fair (S215: Fire Operations in the Wildland/Urban Interface) *12/2017- Buck Mountain became a Firewise USA site *2017- Fire evacuation signage put in place throughout the community *2018- Deer Run Medical-Fire Access/Evacuation Road completed *2018- Staghorn Road MM 4.5 Fire Evacuation Route completed *3/2018- awarded the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Award ($500.00) *5/2018- Firewise Fair with mock ATV rescue, and mock evacuation for BMPOA, Champion Fire Department (CFD), and Wilkes Rescue using new Evacuation road. Firewise packets with evacuation plan and map, and policies given out to BMPOA. *8/2018- Buck Mountain awarded the NC Community Firewise Mitigation Grant (value $8,000.00). This grant was used for “Firewise Coupons� for members to help off-set the cost of fire mitigation around their home, 2-Chipping programs (fall/spring) for our members, tree removal at Safe Zone, canopy removal and trimming for emergency vehicles, widening of switchbacks on new emergency vehicle access road, and a community Firewise fair. *11/2018- Helipad completed

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Learning from Firewise USA Sites: Buck Mountain (cont.)

*12/2018- Firewise FEDERAL personnel tour of Buck Mountain. *Spring 2019- Blue Rock 12,000-gallon water tank installed.

*9/2019- Wildfire & Wildfire Mitigation Presentation to BMPOA by Justin Query & Mickie Parsons, North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS). This was a 3-hour presentation held in our club house, and 19 members attended. Awesome presentation! *11/2019- Individual Home Assessment Training for BMPOA members, by Mickie Parsons & other NC Forestry personnel. Three POA members attended the training, hoping to help other POA members assess their homes. *3/2020- Awarded the NC Forestry Fuels Chipping Program Grant (value $9,125.00). 18 homes participated in this chipping program. 73 piles of brush were removed and chipped. *3/2020- Buck Mountain was awarded the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Award ($500.00). Our original event was to be held in May, but postponed due to COVID. We plan to hold an outdoor POA event at our Club House this fall, trimming bushes, raking leaves, and cleaning out gutters. The Buck Mountain Firewise USA committee presents the above projects to our POA and surrounding communities, via our POA website, POA newsletter, posting on information boards on Buck Mountain, posting in our local paper (Wilkes Journal Patriot), as well as local invitations to our Firewise Fair. Our hope is that Buck Mountain will set an example, not only to our own POA, but to other communities, and inspire them to take the same responsibility, bringing awareness of wildfire danger and fire and fuel mitigation, to their communities. We plan on making our Firewise projects ongoing, hoping more Buck Mountain Chipping and more of our POA will participate, making for a safer place for us to live and play. Project Coordinators, Partners and Cooperators • Coordinator: Samantha Greeno, Full-time Buck Mountain resident, past full-time firefighter/EMT • Finance & Contract matters: Dana Warren, Buck Mountain POA President • North Carolina Forest Service • Champion Fire Department • Wilkes County Emergency Management • Appalachian RC&D Fire Adapted Communities Coalition While only in the program a few years, Buck Mountain appears to be all in. I asked Jonathan and Samantha what they attributed this success to. They both shared that having a passionate community leadership team and a great group of supporting partners is what made the difference in Buck Mountain moving forward, and that is the take away for me. Wildfire risk reduction efforts take time and people. It may take a while to build your team but once you have it, amazing things can be achieved. Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction? Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started. Article written by Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan Photos provided by Jonathan Hartsell 8


Regional Highlights

Ashe County Acquires Land for Industrial Park Ashe County has marked a significant economic development milestone, as the County is now the owner of a 41.8-acre tract with the goal of adding jobs and industry. The land is located off Ray Taylor Road in the West Jefferson extra-territorial jurisdiction, across from GE Aviation. The County plans on developing the tract into as many as six separate lots. “The prospect of having new jobs, having a new company in the area is important to our County’s future,” Economic Development Director Cathy Barr said. An economic impact analysis created for Ashe County by Creative EDC estimates that the industrial park can create 322 direct jobs and potentially attract five new companies. The total output from businesses in the County would increase by $202,000,000 and the County’s tax base would increase by $162,868.95 annually. WithersRavenel assisted Ashe County with preparatory work for the site, including a GIS-based site evaluation, preliminary geotechnical investigation, wetland delineation, Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, master planning, preliminary utility coordination and preliminary cost estimating. After completing these steps, WithersRavenel and Ashe Economic Development presented the Ashe County Board of Commissioners with the findings, which led to the property being acquired. To help fund quicker development of the property, Ashe County is applying for grants and loans from Blue Ridge Energy’s Rural Economic Development Loan Grant (REDLG) program, Appalachian Regional Commission and Golden LEAF. The next steps in the process that started nearly two years ago involve earth-moving and road-building, Barr said. When the site is ready, the County will have a finished product to show potential companies. The County also hopes to capitalize on the US 221 road widening project that is expected to spur further growth in the area. The County plans to work with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina’s recruitment team while also utilizing website promotion, site brochures, social media and other publicity to drum up interest in the new site. By having a County-owned piece of property dedicated to attracting companies, Barr is hopeful the County can grow and increase opportunities. “I’d love to see our youth coming out of high school have more options as far as good companies to work for,” she said.

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Avery County Community Room The construction of the Avery County Community Room addition at Heritage Park in the heart of Avery County is underway. The 5,000 square feet addition to the new Cooperative Extension building at 661 Vale Road is very exciting. Upon completion, the citizens of Avery County will be the owners of a multipurpose, meeting, performance and exhibit center that can host up to 280 people. This facility will host many different events talked about for many years. The bid on the project was accepted in March. March, if you recall, brought this thing called COVID. COVID changed the workplace, as we know it. Now the center is being up fitted to not only meet the needs as a Community Center but a virtual workplace. The timing of the construction could not be better. Before COVID, no one considered alternate office or workspace in the event that a building or office would have to be closed down. Today that is a reality and the community room will serve as an alternate space. Plans are to have the capacity to allow any of the county governmental offices to operate from the center if the need were to arise. Laptops and the software, as well as the furniture needed, will be available at the community room with 5,000 square feet of space allowing for 6 feet social distancing for employees to work temporarily in a safe workspace. The community room addition is slated to be finished in November and should the need arise, be ready to accommodate a virtual workplace for Avery County Government to continue its great service to its citizens.

Bakersville Town Hall to be Named After Longtime Mayor Bakersville Mayor Charles Vines will soon have his name on a building. At its regular meeting on Aug. 24, the Bakersville Town Council unanimously approved a motion to name the Bakersville Town Hall after the long-tenured mayor. Councilman Jordon Baker suggested naming the building after Vines after a speech about respect and recognition. “Whether you agree with him or not, whether you like him or not, he has shown respect,” Baker said. “He has gotten us this far in this town. So, I want to ask the board and the community to name the town hall the Charles E. Vines Town Hall of Bakersville.” Vines, visibly moved, said it was unexpected and an honor to have the idea even brought up. “That’s more than I ever dreamed or expected in any way whatsoever,” Vines said. “Jordon, I appreciate those words very, very much. They mean wonders to me. Thank y’all for just being able to consider something like that. It’s heart wrenching, I can tell you that.” 10

Councilmen Andy Palmer and Charles Nash both noted how kind the gesture was from Baker and how deserving Vines was of the honor.


Bakersville Town Hall to be Named After Longtime Mayor (cont.) “I’d like to make a motion that we do just that [name the town hall],” Palmer said. “I’ve never seen anybody out there as much as you [Vines] picking up trash, checking on the streets, walking up and down and talking to people every morning.” Vines, who has been the Mayor of Bakersville for 29 years, expressed his love for the town. “I do it because I love Bakersville,” Vines said. “I know I’m not a native resident of Bakersville, but I’ve lived here 20 years longer than where I lived as a young man. I left home at 16 and a half years old. But, this is my home and it will always be my home. My heart bleeds Bakersville and it always will.” Story by Juliana Walker from Mitchell News-Journal MNJ photo/Cory Spiers

Beech Mountain Moves Forward During a Pandemic Beech Mountain hosted a ribbon-cutting for the newly paved Buckeye Creek Road, an over 20-year project in the making. Residents and visitors now can come through the back way of the mountain on a paved road that was initially gravel. The scenic paved road with 40 turns opens an easier way to the beautiful Watauga Lake and provides better safety for townspeople as we now have more than one way off the mountain in case of emergency. Look for a High to Low Trail Brochure highlighting the different businesses along this scenic way. The town of Beech Mountain has many different projects that add to its already extensive outdoor trail system. Work is underway on the Shane Park Outpost, with overnight camping now available to the residents. The park will have primitive tent sites along with a bathhouse. Work on a new trail around the park is ongoing. Our new public works building is underway, and in front of the center, the town held a ribbon-cutting for a new greenway. The walkway now extends our walking trail from the Bark Park down past the Convenience Center. Another project years in the making was installing a public bathroom at Coffey Lake and bridges on Upper and Lower Pond Creek Trails. We recently renamed Buckeye Recreation Center to the Fred and Margie Pfhol Recreation Center in honor of the Pfhols, who have dedicated so much time and effort to make Beech Mountain a wonderful place to live. Public Works is currently hard at work on mountain projects. With budgeted $3,000,000.00 for Water, $3,000,000.00 for Sewer, and $1,500,000.00 for paving, work is well underway on different parts of the mountain.

Buckeye Creek Road Ribbon-Cutting

Renaming of the Rec Center, photo courtesy HC Press

Shane Park Outpost RibbonCutting

Shane Park Outpost

All other Photos courtesy Town of Beech Mountain Shane Park Outpost Overnight Camp Site

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Blowing Rock Memorial Park’s New Playground At the beginning of the year, Town Council decided during retreat that replacing the playground was one of the top ten items that needed to be completed in 2020. During the February Town Council meeting, Town Council voted unanimously on the design. The Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority (TDA) voted unanimously in March to share in the cost of the new playground and fund half of the project. The project began in March with removal of the old equipment, grading for the new equipment, and drainage installation. In May, the installation of the new playground began. The equipment installation was completed by the beginning of July, and the poured in place surfacing was completed by the end of July. The final touches of landscaping around the playground was completed the first of August. The playground consists of a 2-5 year-old play area that has a structure, slides, swings, and a mommy and me swing. There is also a 5-12 year-old play area with climbing structures, slides, and swings. Throughout the playground there are hills, tunnels, log steps, balancing logs, mushrooms, and a trout. There is something for all ages to play on and enjoy, as well as has a beautiful “natural” play design. The playground company, Landscape Structures, plants a tree in American forests for every square foot of carbon footprint of the playground they install. Landscape Structures has planted 71 trees in American forests because of The Town of Blowing Rock’s carbon footprint of the new playground. For more information and updates on our website: www.townofblowingrocknc.gov or our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BRParksRecreation/

Photos courtesy Town of Blowing Rock 12


New Hires for the Region Michael Carter was named the new Alleghany County Manager at the Jan. 6 , 2020 meeting of the Board of Commissioners. He comes to Alleghany after 24 years with Smyth County Va. government, the last 10 as county administrator. Carter grew up in Rich Valley, Va. and he holds a bachelor’s degree from Bluefield College in Virginia. Carter has always enjoyed a challenge. “Being confined or stuck in rut is not the way I like to operate. Once you enter a position, you do all that you can to understand and implement the task and responsibilities associated with it. For me, instead of just settling with what I knew and was comfortable with, I choose to be the kind of person that doesn’t just settle but continues to grow and climb at each level encountered. Each step that I have taken has Alleghany County Manager, Michael been a learning experience. I believe that all steps contribute to the person you become Carter –some steps are easier than others – but they all contribute to what you become.” Carter has been married to his wife, Kristin for 25 years and they have two children. In his free time, Carter works on the family farm and is an avid outdoorsman. Ryan Wilmoth comes to the Sparta Town Manager job from director of Cleveland County Emergency Medical Services. From a very early age, Wilmoth had a strong interest in public service. That interest became a reality in his later teens when he became a volunteer member of his local rescue squad. He became a paramedic shortly after graduating high school and has spent over a decade serving in various capacities of emergency medical devices in both rural and suburban EMS systems. Throughout his time in public safety, Wilmoth had the pleasure of serving as an EMS administrator, where his interest and experience in local government operations Sparta Town expanded. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee Manager, Ryan Wilmoth and several credentials in emergency medical services and public safety. He is originally from Elkin. He enjoys activities relating to fitness, being outdoors and spending time with family, friends and his two dogs. Wilmoth believes that having the ability to serve others is the greatest gift and the best job a person can be blessed with. Photos and articles from The Alleghany News.

Those visiting town hall in Lansing will be greeted by a new friendly face. Longtime resident Sandy Roten is enjoying her new role as Lansing Town Clerk. Former Town Clerk Marcy Little stepped down from the role in August. Roten retired from United Chemi-Con after 39 years of service and returned to Wilkes Community College where she completed her accounting and business administration degree. Roten said she accepted the opportunity mostly because she has always lived in Lansing and been a part of the community. She attended the Historic Lansing School and Lansing Town Clerk, graduated from Northwest Ashe High School. “I felt like it would be a good fit for me and the community,” Roten said. “I could contribute Sandy Roten to them and they could help me too.” Roten is active in the Heart Association and enjoys reading, quilting and traveling. She loves sports and enjoys Ashe County High School sporting events and supporting student athletes. She also enjoys spending time with her grandson, Austin Hart who she is very proud of. Roten’s two children, Jennifer Hart and Daniel Roten, are both Ashe County residents. Roten said she is enjoying the new position so far, and there is a lot to learn being in a government role rather than a business environment. She said she enjoys working with the public and is excited to continue meeting and working with the residents of Lansing. Photo and article by Bailey Little from The Ashe Post & Times.

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New Hires for the Region (cont.) The Ashe County Board of Commissioners (BOC) unanimously selected Adam Stumb as the new Ashe County Manager at their December 16 , 2019 meeting. Stumb has been functioning as interim county manager since June 4, 2018, while also serving as Ashe County Planning Director. Stumb joined Ashe county government in December of 2012. He and his wife grew up in Watauga County and graduated from Watauga County High School. Stumb holds degrees in Planning and Geography from UNC Greensboro. According to BOC Chair Todd McNeill, “Adam stepped into a big role a year and a half ago and has been impressive throughout that time. He has earned the trust of county staff and the public. He has demonstrated sound and fair judgment as well as exceptional management skills, which made this an easy decision for our Board to make.”

Ashe County Manager, Adam Stumb

Photo and article from Ashe County Line.

The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners at a special meeting Monday, March 19, 2020 announced Timothy Greene as the new Mitchell County Manager. Greene, a Mitchell County resident, has a degree in business administration from Mars Hill University. He formerly served as the county manager of Avery County and vice president of administrative services at Mayland Community College. Most recently, he served as the finance officer in Avery County. Greene replaces Charles Vines, who was serving as interim county manager. “Tim has many years of experience in county government in the area,” said Steve Pitman, Mitchell County commissioner. “Mitchell county is his home, and we’re happy to get him back to help us out.” Photo and article by Juliana Walker from Mitchell News-Journal.

Mitchell County Manager, Tim Greene

The Town of Bakersville has a new town clerk, finance officer and tax collector. Mitchell County native Abby Garland was sworn into office to serve all three positions on Tuesday, July 28. In the regular meeting of the Bakersville Town Council on Monday, July 27, the council approved a resolution for the dual appointment for the finance officer and tax collectors roles, which had to be approved by the state because the positions are solely held. Garland is a graduate of ETSU with a degree in accounting. She previously worked at United Community Bank. In her new role, Garland’s duties will be in charge of billing, payments, budgets, audits, meeting minutes and more. Garland replaces Sarah Hughes who served as Bakersville Town Clerk for nearly three years. Photo and article by Juliana Walker from Mitchell News-Journal.

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Town of Bakersville Clerk/Finance Officer/ Tax Collector, Abby Garland


New Hires for the Region (cont.) The Town of Burnsville has hired Heather Hockaday as a full time administrator. The town council voted unanimously at last Thursday’s meeting to hire her. Hockaday has served as a contract attorney for the town for the past six years and will continue as inhouse counsel. She is also a former town council member. Hockaday graduated from Mtn Heritage High School, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Campbell University School of Law. She has practiced law, along with her husband in Burnsville since 1992. She currently resides in Buncombe County with her husband and five children. Hockaday Burnsville Town Administrator, is the granddaughter of Mark Bennett, who served many years as Mayor of Burnsville. Heather Hockaday Mayor Theresa Coletta said that she has advocated for a full-time administrator for years and that Hockaday is extremely qualified for the job with her knowledge of town and county government, her experience as a former council member, her commitment to her hometown and her desire to see the town progress. Article from Our Local Community Online, photo submitted by Heather Hockaday.

Notable Retirements The Order of the Long Leaf Pine was bestowed upon Bryan Edwards on Saturday, September 26th in a small ceremony in Crouse park. Edwards is retiring after 15 years as Sparta Town Manager and is slated to head up the new Alleghany Chamber of Economic Development. Both Mayor Wes Brinegar and his predecessor John Miller praised Edwards for his help and guidance during their terms in office. Maybe the most moving testimony to Edwards’ character and work came from his son-in-law, Zachary Barricklow. Calling his service a “labor of love,” Barricklow said, “His heart is in this community.” He recalled Edwards tearing up whenever someone in Alleghany did well, adding, “He feels that way Former Sparta Town about every person here.” Manager, Bryan Edwards with Judge Richard Doughton

In presenting the award, Judge Richard Doughton reviewed Edwards’ career as Alleghany County Manager, as an executive with Sparta Pipes and later NAPCO, and as a real estate agent before taking the town position. “It’s amazing how he could get along with so many elected officials for that long. I don’t understand it,” he quipped. He mentioned organizations Edwards serves, including as a member of Blue Ridge Electric and Skyline Bank’s boards, and chair of the Virginia-Carolina Water Authority and lauded the eight years he spend bringing the Streetscape project to fruitation. Edwards expressed his thanks and recognized his mother who was on the stage with him. Photo and article from The Alleghany News.

After serving 28 years in local government with the Town of Spruce Pine, Richard Canipe announced his retirement to the Town Council in August. Canipe said, “I began my career as a city council member serving seven years in that capacity and then transitioned to the manager’s position which I have held for 21 years. Spruce Pine is a great town with much potential. The council is a very progressive-thinking group of people, which makes this a rewarding job.” Canipe’s last official day will be December 31, 2020. Photo submitted by Richard Canipe.

Spruce Pine Town Manager, Richard Canipe

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Seven Devils Fire Department Receives State Fire Marshall Grant Seven Devils Fire Department has received a NC Office of State Fire Marshall grant for a total of $60,093.00; this is a 50/50 matching grant ($30,093 from the fire department budget, and $30,000 from the State grant fund). Proceeds will be used for firefighting, medical, and rescue equipment, as well as a propane generator for Town Hall, which will automatically power up if electrical service is lost. We are grateful for the State grant, and recognition of small fire departments in our area with budget limitations.

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Fire Chief, Bobby Powell and Mayor Pro-Tem Brad Lambert when Seven Devils received the New District Rating of 4/9S, effective 9/1/2019.


Area Agency on Aging Staff Nicole Hiegl

Stevie John

Director nhiegl@hccog.org ext.122

Amber Chapman

Family Caregiver & Health Promotion Specialist achapman@hccog.org ext.113

Pat Guarnieri

Caregiver Program Coordinator pguarnieri@hccog.org ext.139

Regional Ombudsman sjohn@hccog.org ext.126

Sarah Price

Special Programs Coordinator sprice@hccog.org ext.141

Tim Price

Aging Programs Compliance Officer tprice@hccog.org ext.140

Department Highlights | www.highcountryaging.org | Diane Tilson Celebrates Retirement and 10 years of Service to the High Country AAA With over ten years of dedicated service to older adults of the High Country, Aging Program Assistant, Diane Tilson, has retired. Diane is a true gem and “jack of all trades.� Her willingness and ability to step in on any project and take it to the next level has been vital to the AAA over the years. Diane has been an active volunteer in the High Country community for almost 40 years and worked with the Area Agency on Aging since 2010, offering a wealth of knowledge and experience with Advocacy and the Senior Tar Heel Legislature, programmatic monitoring, and special projects. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Diane. We wish her all the best and know that retirement will be filled with new adventures and opportunities!

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FAMILY CAREGIVER SUPPORT PROGRAM

Area Agency on Aging Welcomes Special Projects Assistant

YEAR IN REVIEW

THE HIGH COUNTRY AREA AGENCY ON AGING FAMIKLY CAREGIVER SUPPORT PROGRAM IS DEDICATED TO HELPING CAREGIVERS KEEP THEIR LOVED ONES SAFE AT HOME WHILE LIMITING CAREGIVER BURDEN. HERE ARE SOME FACTS FROM THIS PAST YEAR!

6320 CAREGIVERS Served through information and assistance in the past

43 CLIENTS Currently enrolled in the Family Caregiver Support Program

year!

199 RESPITE 20 HOURS CAREGIVERS Provided to Caregivers in the past year!

Served through supplemental services. EX: Home repair, incontinence supplies, liquid nutrition, etc.

15 HOME ASSESSMENTS Provided to ensure the safety

COMITTED TO Constantly improving our program tp ensure caregivers in the High Country have a

of our older adults and

resource to turn to. We are

caregivers in the community.

proud of our caregivers in the High Country and aim to serve

Sarah Price joins the High Country Council of Governments as the new Area Agency on Aging’s Special Projects Assistant and will be focused on developing COVID-19 related programs and services. Sarah’s passion for the health and well-being of the people of the High Country led her to join the Area Agency on Aging in September of this year. She has a background in public and non-profit management and is a graduate of Appalachian State University with a master’s degree in Public Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Development. She joins the COG with a background in public and non-profit management, including experience in programmatic and fiscal administration. Sarah comes highly recommended and brings a variety of new skills to the Area Agency on Aging team. We are excited to have her on board! When not spending time with her three cats, you can catch Sarah cheering on the Mountaineers or enjoying a hike on one of the many wonderful trails around our region.

you!

GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN We are currently working on revamping our

Aging Well With Appalachian State University

grandparents raising grandchildren program to ensure Grandparents in the High Country have access to resources, education, and information.

The High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) has worked with Appalachian State University for years in various capacities. We are thrilled to be involved with the new Aging Well Support Program, which is a formal collaboration between Appalachian State’s Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services and the High Country AAA, along with numerous other community collaborators for the various projects. The goal of the Aging Well Support Program is to collaborate with community partners to support healthy aging in adults throughout the High Country. The program offers developing programs that support cognition and brain health, social isolation, access and awareness of technology, community health screenings, caregiver workshops, and programs to support mental and physical wellness. In addition, we offer individualized aging support services to provide ongoing care coordination for concerns related to memory, fall risk, nutrition, and behavioral health. For additional information please email Nicole Hiegl, Aging Director at nhiegl@hccog.org or The Aging Well Program at ipc@appstate.edu. 18


Alleghany Council on Aging’s New Senior Center Completed! The new Alleghany Council on Aging Senior Center is now complete, and staff are looking forward to welcoming back seniors once the pandemic begins to ease. Located across from the Alleghany Wellness Center, the new Council on Aging building had been discussed since 2016 and has been under construction for about a year and a half. Due to the pandemic, the Senior Center is not yet open to the public, but it is home base for the Council on Aging’s community-based services including the home delivered meal program. Director Karon Edwards said that they are waiting for Governor Cooper to transition the state’s closure status to Phase 3 before reopening. Karon and her staff have begun planning for reopening and have developed extensive procedures to do so safely. The location of the new Alleghany Council on Aging Senior Center will allow for expanded services, including access to the Alleghany Wellness Center, congregate dinning, computer lab, meeting spaces, and two game rooms. Stay tuned for their official grand opening! For additional information on the Alleghany Council on Aging, contact Karon Edwards at acoa7986@skybest.com.

North Carolina Lifespan Respite Program Continues Through 2021 The North Carolina Respite Voucher Program provides caregivers who qualify with a reimbursement-based voucher of $500 to be used over a 90-day period. The program has been administered by High Country Area Agency on Aging since 2017. Funding is made possible by a grant to the NC Department of Health and Human Services from the U.S. Administration for Community Living. Respite is a break for unpaid caregivers who provide ongoing care for an individual of any age who needs help, care, or supervision due to disability, chronic condition, or other special needs. Respite is intended to provide relief to the caregiver. Approximately 200 respite vouchers are available this fiscal year of 2020-2021 and 22% have been awarded as of September 16, 2020. This program is flexible and centered around what will meet the caregiver’s needs. The caregiver may hire a professional in-home provider, adult day center, facility, or a familiar individual to care for the loved one while the caregiver takes a break away from the home. The caregiver must be at least 18 years old and a NC resident, be providing unpaid care to someone of any age with special needs, and both the caregiver and the care recipient cannot be receiving other publicly-funded in-home care or respite care. An application must be submitted by a referring agency. A referring agency is an organization who works with caregivers and know about local resources and may also know the caregiver’s situation. These include doctors’ offices, departments of social services, school administrators or guidance counselors, senior centers, area agencies on aging, or other health and human services professionals. The referring agency can apply online at the Lifespan 19 Respite Voucher Apply link on https://www.highcountryaging.org/services/lifespan-respite-project.


North Carolina Lifespan Respite Program Continues Through 2021 (cont.) Please review the program information more fully on the website above prior to contacting a referring agent. For further information contact Pat Guarnieri at pguarnieri@hccog.org or call 828-265-5434 extension 139.

Contact Person: Pat Guarnieri, Caregiver Program Coordinator

pguarnieri@hccog.org

(828) 265-5434 ext.139

www.highcountryaging.org

Residents’ Rights Month 2020 October is National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices many longterm care (LTC) residents have made to better our community and to call attention to the rights of residents in long-term care facilities. The theme for Residents’ Rights Month 2020 is - “Connections Matter”– to emphasize connections – to family, to friends, and to the community – as an essential component of good health and quality of life for residents. The months of restrictions on visitation in long-term care facilities and the inability of residents, families, and friends to be together during the coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the importance of connection, of relationships, and the impact they have on all of our well-being. During this crisis, many creative ways of staying connected were shared that can be replicated and built upon in all communities. Residents’ Rights Month is an opportunity to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the rights of each resident. The federal Nursing Home Reform Law guarantees residents’ rights and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity, choice, and self-determination. The law also requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident”. Residents’ Rights Month is a time to raise awareness of these rights and celebrate residents. Celebrate and acknowledge these rights by participating in Residents’ Rights Month events and calling on your elected officials, community members and local facilities to show their support by attending or organizing activities. During Residents’ Rights Month, we recognize our local long-term care ombudsman program staff and volunteers, who work daily to promote residents’ rights, assist residents with complaints and provide information to those who need to find a long-term care facility. In this area, Stevie John, long term care ombudsman, serves a seven-county region, covering 26 long term care facilities. Our community is also served by a citizen advocacy group, the long term care community advisory committee, that advocates for improved quality of care and quality of life for those who live in long-term care facilities. As the High Country celebrates Residents’ Rights, I encourage community members to connect with those they know who live in long-term care facilities, participate in Residents’ Rights Month events, or inquire about becoming a volunteer long-term care ombudsman. Your assistance and attention help to ensure that the voices of long-term care residents do not go unheard and demonstrates to residents that they have not been forgotten.

Contact Person: Stevie John, Regional Long Term Care Ombudsman

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sjohn@hccog.org

(828) 265-5434 ext.126

www.highcountryaging.org


Residents’ Right to Vote and Ombudsman Program Advocacy The right to vote is a cornerstone in our society. However, the process of voting can sometimes be complicated and confusing. Long-term care facility residents and other consumers receiving long-term care services and supports retain their voting rights no matter where they live or what type of care they receive. These individuals often face unique challenges when attempting to participate in the political process. As advocates, Ombudsman programs support all residents’ right to vote and advocate on behalf of residents to ensure that they have the opportunity to participate in the election process. It is imperative that ombudsmen emphasize the importance of voting to residents and staff of LTC facilities. It is a right and empowers the residents, who sometimes feel they are no longer part of the world. Voting helps to preserve dignity and keep residents engaged in life. Examples of how Ombudsman programs can support residents’ right to vote: • Discuss residents’ rights, including the right to vote, with residents, facility staff, and family members. • Provide information about the voting process such as when to register, how to register, how to request an absentee ballot, how to locate accessible polling places, how to find transportation to polling sites, and how to connect with outside organizations that could assist residents directly. • Remind facility staff about their responsibility to assist residents in exercising their right to vote including finding transportation to polling sites or identifying other ways residents can cast their ballot (e.g., mobile polling, becoming a polling site). • Create and distribute educational materials about voting rights. • Encourage resident councils to invite candidates to their meetings to speak and visit with residents. • Investigate complaints regarding residents’ rights and access to information, including the right to vote. For more information about supporting voting rights and activities, call Stevie John, Long Term Care Ombudsman at (828) 385-4452.

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Area Agency on Aging Looks to Add Services for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

The High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is excited to announce the current development of a Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) program. In North Carolina, grandparents and older relatives are the primary caregivers for nearly 1 in 10 children under 18 years of age. The average age of this population is expected to increase, therefore it is important that our communities work together to help older adult caregivers in the High Country. During the beginning stages of programmatic development, the High Country AAA has been working to distribute a regional needs assessment, which has been sent to hundreds throughout the region who are involved professionally with assisting grandparents or who have personal caregiving experience for children or adults with disabilities. After looking at responses, three needs have been identified the most frequently: technology education, childcare and respite hours, and access to resources. Rapid innovations in technology can be daunting for older adults who did not grow up surrounded by tablets and smartphones, which is only compounded for grandparents trying to help their grandchildren navigate an increasingly digital world. Another regional need includes childcare and respite for grandparents raising their grandchildren. The third identified need, access to resources, includes basic goods and everyday items such as clothing or school supplies. Due to COVID-19, more grandparents are being asked to act as educators for their grandchildren while maintaining their roles as primary providers of care. The High Country AAA is striving to find ways to help grandparents throughout the region feel more confident and comfortable using technology as well as assist grand families in our region obtain access to a short period of rest or relief. The High Country AAA is hopeful that through the GRG program, these grandparents and their loved ones will no longer lack access to everyday essentials. While these have always been needs for caregivers, these needs have recently been compounded in certain parts of the region. The High Country AAA is excited to utilize the opportunity to start a GRG program to assist grand families throughout the High Country. For more information about the Area Agency on Aging’s Family Caregiver Support Program, contact Amber Chapman at achapman@hccog.org or Sarah Price at sprice@hccog.org.

Amber Chapman, Family Caregiver & Health Promotion Specialist

achapman@hccog.org

(828) 265-5434 ext.113

www.highcountryaging.org

Sarah Price, Special Programs Coordinator

sprice@hccog.org

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(828) 265-5434 ext.113

www.highcountryaging.org


Senior Centers Adapting Services During Pandemic While the COVID-19 pandemic has suspended the opportunity for many of our region’s senior center participants to take part in congregate lunches with their senior center counterparts, this has not stopped the senior centers and congregate meal sites around our region from offering ways for our community to interact with one another. Under normal operating conditions, the senior centers and congregate meal sites around our region offer a variety of services, including meal and nutrition services, transportation assistance, health and wellness activities, and social events. To ensure those who normally visit these sites for meals can continue receiving those meals, meal providers around the region have begun delivering meals to participants who are unable to visit due to senior center closures because of the pandemic. In addition, to ensure social isolation is limited, senior center staff are regularly calling participants to check in and converse. Additionally, providers are offering social-distanced outdoor activities, such as drive-in movies and parking lot bingo. While it has taken some time to adjust to these changes, senior center participants have largely reported positive experiences when participating in the revised senior center activities. The challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have required flexibility and innovation. In the High Country, we are fortunate to have dedicated senior center staff continually working to ensure our older adult community remains involved and engaged. For more information on how you can get involved, please reach out to your local senior services organization:

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Planning and Development Staff Phil Trew

Kelly Coffey

Cory Osborne

Michelle Ball

David Graham

Jessica Welborn

Director ptrew@hccog.org ext.121

Regional Planner mball@hccog.org ext.115

Senior Planner kcoffey@hccog.org ext.114

Transportation Planner dgraham@hccog.org ext.135

Regional Planner cosborne@hccog.org ext.118

GIS Planner jwelborn@hccog.org ext.134

Department Highlights | www.hccog.org/planning Sugar Mountain BAS Sugar Mountain worked with staff from High Country COG to provide the Census Bureau with accurate corporate limits for the Village. Municipalities can update the Census Bureau’s maps by participating in the annual Boundary and Annexation Survey. Without accurate corporate limits, local governments risk population undercounts. The federal government relies on Census Bureau figures to allocate funding, meaning any undercount can result in lost revenue for municipalities. In Sugar Mountain’s case, the Census Bureau’s corporate limits were inaccurate for large portions of the Village. COG staff used the Bureau’s Geographic Update Partnership Software to digitally submit corrections. Fortunately, Sugar Mountain had filed all of their past annexations with the North Carolina Secretary of State, which made it easier to document the corrections. If you are unsure how accurate the Census Bureau’s corporate limits for your municipality are, reach out to the COG’s Planning Department for assistance.

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Yancey County Strategic Economic Development Plan When leaders in Yancey County noticed that most of the recommendations from their 2005 strategic economic development plan had been completed, they enlisted the aid of High Country Council of Governments to develop a new one. COG staff partnered with representatives from the County, Town of Burnsville, and Yancey Economic Development Commission to identify priorities and steps to advance economic development over the next 10-15 years. The planning process relied on seven meetings, each focused on a particular sector of the local economy and corresponding to a section of the plan – tourism, small business, industry, agriculture, quality of life, workforce, and infrastructure. Participants were challenged to identify assets and liabilities for each sector, then asked to develop a handful of goals and a series of recommendations to achieve them. The finished plan contains 15 broad goals and over 100 targeted recommendations for the community. Its format breaks these down into easily digestible sections and provides detailed background information to frame the recommendations. The Board of County Commissioners, Economic Development Commission, and Burnsville Town Council held a joint meeting in February to adopt the plan. Local leaders are already taking steps to implement many of the recommendations.

Yancey County and Next Generation 911 High Country COG contracted with Yancey County to assist with converting and preparing the County’s 911 GIS data for Next Generation 911 and ESInet compliance. Currently, 911 calls are mapped based on address range, street name and city information stored in a tabular Master Street Address Guide (MSAG). The Automated Location Information (ALI) and MSAG validate the address and route the 911 call to the correct Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). North Carolina is now moving towards statewide Next Generation 911 system that allows 911 calls to be mapped by coordinates and address locations. GIS data will be used to validate address data and geospatially route 911 calls to the correct PSAP. Therefore, the GIS data is essential and must be 100% accurate and updated. Each PSAP is responsible to build and maintain all required GIS datasets for NG911, and correct any errors or discrepancies identified. The NC 911 Board hired a contractor to develop a web-based Data Hub. Each local agency maintains their own GIS data and submits it to the State through the GIS Data Hub. The Data Hub identifies any gaps, errors and discrepancies in the GIS data that must be corrected by the local agency. The High Country COG converted Yancey County’s 911 data to the NENA standard data schema. The COG assisted the County with building all required data layers, populating each data layer with all required attributes and reconciling any errors or discrepancies within the GIS database. All discrepancies between the GIS data and the tabular telephone data (the MSAG and ALI) were also resolved. Thereby, the County reached the mandated 98% synchronization goal, were ESInet compliant and ready for NG911 by their deadline last winter. In the same capacity, the COG is currently assisting the Town of Beech Mountain. 25


Winkler Creek 205J High Country Council of Governments is partnering with New River Conservancy, Appalachian State, and the Town of Boone to develop a stormwater and restoration plan for Winkler Creek. The project will identify, design, and prioritize stormwater improvement projects in the vicinity of Boone Mall, Greenway Rd., Meadowview Dr., Publix, and Walmart. The area is heavily developed and largely covered by impermeable surfaces such as rooftops and parking lots. Uncontrolled stormwater runoff has triggered streambank erosion, sediment overloading, pollution, flooding, and habitat degradation along the three major streams in the project area. HCCOG secured $20,000 in grant funding from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s 205( j) grant program to supplement $41,100 in cash and in-kind contributions from New River Conservancy, Appalachian State, and the Town of Boone to complete the project. COG staff began work on the project in spring 2020 by mapping impermeable surfaces and stormwater infrastructure in the area. Appalachian State students will conduct field data collection and analysis of water conditions in the project area. New River Conservancy and its partners will conduct watershed modeling and develop conceptual proposals for stormwater infrastructure on private property. The project, which is scheduled to be complete in June 2021, HCCOG’s GIS Planner, Jessica Welborn, will provide a detailed blueprint for addressing water quality and performing field collection for the Winkler flooding concerns in the area. Creek project

Wilkes County Constructs Sewer Line to School Work was recently completed on a sewer line extension from the Town of North Wilkesboro’s wastewater system to Mulberry Elementary School. The school’s on-site septic system, which was over 50 years old, had been failing and could not be repaired or replaced because of space limitations on the school grounds. Wilkes County applied for and received over $1.0 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to pay for the infrastructure. The CDBG funds had been earmarked by the General Assembly specifically for schools with wastewater disposal problems. Additional funding for engineering and grant administration was contributed by the county government and the school system. The Town of North Wilkesboro has taken ownership of the line and will maintain it as needed. Demolition of the The new sewer pump station under construction on old septic system has given the school much needed space the right on school grounds. The existing septic sysfor other activities. tem behind the fence was later removed. CDBG grants are available only for projects where at least 51% of the beneficiaries have a low-to-moderate income. An income survey conducted by the school system revealed that 60.71% of the 300+ student and staff households had incomes below the low-to-moderate threshold.

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Banner Elk Installs WiFi Downtown The Town of Banner Elk, with partial funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, recently completed installation of wifi in the downtown area and Tate Evans Park. The Town saw a need to make wifi available as a visitor amenity and, in turn, as an economic development tool. Chamber of Commerce president Jo-Ann McMurray says, “Immediate access to current information available on the internet keeps visitors in town longer, utilizing more of the amenities available, and makes for a more enjoyable overall experience.” Banner Elk’s economy depends heavily on tourism, as it lies close to several outdoor recreation attractions. Seven annual festivals/events are held in the town or nearby, some multi-day or recurring throughout the year. Most draw up to 5,000 visitors each; some more. Autumn leaf viewing, choose-&-cut Christmas tree farms, and events at Lees McRae College bring numerous tourists into town. A representative of the Banner Elk Tourism Development Authority says, “The proliferation of mobile devices has made connectivity imperative for travelers. If we provide connectivity, it will allow our tourists to seek lodging, dining, and entertainment options in real time. It will allow visitors to serve that all-important role of sharing photos, videos, and posts on social media about the positive experiences they are having in Banner Elk.” Wifi is increasingly seen as basic infrastructure that Towns are Quick & free access to information on food, lodging, & attractions facilitates expected to provide; as important to a downtown tourism economy as visitor spending. public restrooms and wayfinding signage. ARC has funded numerous wifi projects across the Appalachian region where Towns have been able to demonstrate that it will result in substantial economic benefits.

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Mobile GIS Applications Many of the region’s municipalities are taking their GIS data into the field with help from the High Country Council of Governments and ESRI’s ArcGIS Online deployable field solutions. In varying capacities, the Town Blowing Rock, Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue, Town of Banner Elk, Town of West Jefferson, Town of Wilkesboro and the Wilkesboro Fire Department are utilizing ESRI ArcGIS Online field applications set up and managed by the High Country COG. The Towns are analyzing, viewing and capturing utility data on smartphones and tablets. Utilizing the Collector for ArcGIS, Explorer for ArcGIS and Survey123 native applications, the Public Works, Administration and Planning Departments can access and collect password protected spatial data. The COG has previously mapped the water, sewer and stormwater systems in these towns. Now, the Town staff can view the detailed utility system GIS data and collect data to inventory new assets installed or discovered, and log corrections to the utility system data. The field apps are also used to track hydrant flushing programs, perform fire inspections, inventory fire pre-plan commercial building features, inventory locations of water main breaks, perform grease trap inspections, inventory maintenance and sewer line camera inspections, collect street sign inventories, etc. The data can be shared across the organization as maps or reports. The COG is also utilizing third party software for creating web hooks, whereby inspection forms populated in the Survey123 application will be automatically emailed to administrative staff once submitted from the field worker. The use of ArcGIS Online field solutions can be utilized across all Town departments to streamline workflows, share information, maintain spatial data and empower field workers with access to GIS datasets.

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Bakersville and Burnsville - Successful Closeout of CDBG-I Projects In March 2016 the Town of Bakersville was awarded $1,999,500 in Community Development Block Gant Infrastructure (CDBG-I) funding from the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ ) to conduct improvements to their water system. On August 31, 2020, the Town officially closed out the project. In conjunction with $51,500 in local matching funds, the CDBG-I project accomplished the following activities:

• Installed new public well, pump, and 1,446 lf of watermain to connect the well to the existing system • Installed a pre-fabricated well-house with back-up generator and chemical feed system • Replaced 5,037 lf of watermain along Buchanan Dr, Laurel St, Hillside Ln, White Oak Rd, and two alleyways at the main intersection in Town.

• Replaced 20 deteriorated fire hydrants throughout Town • Replaced 250 water meters throughout Town The project came in a little under the original estimate with the Town spending $2,031,868.49 of their $2,051,000 budget. In May 2017, the Town of Burnsville was awarded $900,000 in CDBG-I funds from NC DEQ to replace a failing sewer line within the Peterson Trailer Park on the west side of town. The project, which officially closed out on September 3, 2020, consisted of the installation of 2,000 lf of sewer line, 1,842 lf of service lines, 18 new manholes, and 52 service connections serving 45 households. As with the Bakersville project, Burnsville’s CDBG-I project came in under budget with the Town only expending $769,318.41 of their $900,000 award. As a requirement of receiving CDBG-I funding at least 51% of the homes in a defined project area must be lowor moderate-income (LMI) or in other words have household incomes less than 80% of the County’s Median Income as determined by HUD. For Mitchell and Yancey Counties that is $37,200 for a two-person household. The Bakersville Water System project provided benefit to the entire town and used US Census data which showed an area-wide LMI of 71.50%. Door-to-door surveys were conducted for the Burnsville Peterson Trailer Park project with an end result of 98.3% LMI. Both projects well above the 51% requirement. NC DEQ makes CDBG-I funding available each year to all non-entitlement Towns and Counties in North Carolina. Available funding depends upon the annual award from HUD, but on average DEQ will have approximately $25,000,000 for the CDBG-I program. Notices of funding go out in May or June each year with applications due around September.

Bakersville-new well, wellhouse generator.

Bakersville-new meter installed.

Burnsville-Peterson Trailer Park Entrance.

Burnsville-Peterson Trailer Park Work.

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CDBG Neighborhood Revitalization Program Update In 2018 Avery, Mitchell, and Wilkes Counties were awarded CDBG-Neighborhood Revitalization Funding (CDBG-NRP) to provide housing rehabilitation assistance to low- and moderate-income homeowners. Avery County was awarded $610,000. So far with these funds, four homeowners are in the process of receiving assistance. All four are receiving new replacement homes installed on the same site as their current homes which are feasibly beyond repair. There are two more homeowners remaining on the list to receive rehabilitation assistance and approximately 9 homes that will receive emergency assistance (repairs under $5,000). Mitchell County was awarded $750,000. With these funds the County proposed to assist seven homeowners, all with home replacements. To date two homeowners have been assisted with the other five homes on the calendar to receive assistance soon. Wilkes County was awarded $634,500. They proposed to treat seven homes; three homes to be replaced, three homes to be rehabilitated, and one homeowner to be completely relocated from one property to another. Funds were also set aside to provide emergency repairs for up to 10 homes. To date Wilkes County has replaced two homes, rehabilitated two homes, relocated one homeowner, and completed one emergency repair. Each year approximately $10,000,000 is available from the NC Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Division (REDD) to fund CDBG-NRP. The competitive program is available to all non-entitlement cities and non-urban counties in North Carolina and can provide up to $750,000 in funds for local governments to assist low- and moderate-income homeowners and residents. Activities include housing rehabilitation, housing development, infrastructure, water & sewer hook-up projects, and public facilities. Programs may include multiple activities, but all applications must have at least one housing component. Ashe County is the most recent local government to apply for CDBG-NRP funding, assisted by High County Council of Governments. The County submitted an application for $750,000 to replace four unrepairable homes and budget $100,000 to assist up to 20 homeowners with emergency repairs (<$5,000). The next cycle for CDBG-NRP funding is expected to be announced in April 2021, with applications due in July 2021. Limited grant administration assistance can be provided by High County COG.

Wilkes-Johnson home before. Wilkes-porch after.

Wilkes-porch before. 30

Wilkes-Johnson new home being installed.


Workforce Development Staff Rebecca Bloomquist

Keith Deveraux

Director keith.deveraux@highcountrywdb.com ext.130

Communications and Business Services Coordinator rebecca.bloomquist@highcountrywdb.com ext.136

Misty Bishop-Price

Lynda H. Greene

NCWorks Operations Manager misty.bishopprice@highcountrywdb.com ext.119

Financial and Compliance Specialist lynda.greene@highcountrywdb.com ext.120

Department Highlights | www.highcountrywdb.com | High Country NCWorks Career Centers Receive Certifications High Country NCWorks Career Centers were recognized for receiving their certifications during the March WDB meeting. Centers must meet state criteria around staffing, training, services, and accessibility. Congratulations and thanks to everyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard work! Certified centers include Ashe, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey NCWorks Career Centers.

Staff from the Ashe and Wilkes Centers

Staff from the Watauga Center

Staff from the Mitchell and Yancey Centers

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NCWorks Career Center Signage Makeover During the summer the High Country NCWorks Career Centers received a cosmetic update and had new signage installed that shows off the refreshed NCWorks logo. According to the official description of the new logo, “the horizon curve of the logo is future oriented alluding to the idea of moving today’s NC into the NC of tomorrow. The various triangles come together to form the larger letters and represent business leaders, job seekers, and NCWorks coming together to help move the state forward.” Be on the lookout in your community for the new signage!

Alleghany County NCWorks Career Center Signage

Ashe County NCWorks Career Center Signage

Avery County NCWorks Career Center Signage

Mitchell County NCWorks Career Center Signage

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Wilkes County NCWorks Career Center Signage

Watauga County NCWorks Career Center Signage

Yancey County NCWorks Career Center Signage


Helping Employees in Roaring River The NCWorks Career Center in Wilkes County assisted with the planning of an onsite job fair for soon-to-be laid off employees at Louisiana-Pacific Corporation located in Roaring River, NC in February 2020. The first day of the job fair started at 5:00am and had 23 businesses participating, and the second day started at 5:00pm with 26 businesses attending. Both job fairs were held at the Roaring River Fire Department.

Staff from the Wilkes NCWorks Career Center

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Special Workforce Development Funding Updates Year Two of Finish Line Grant Year two of the Finish Line Grant wrapped up in August. This special grant, established by Governor Cooper, is designed to help community college students with a financial emergency move forward and complete their degree or credential, without the worry of having to quit training. Students that find themselves facing a financial emergency, who are at least 50% through their training program and in good academic standing, may apply for Finish Line grant funds. Funds are designed to assist in paying the emergency need such as rent, car repairs, and testing fees. During Year two, nearly 100 students attending Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, Mayland Community College, and Wilkes Community College, received emergency financial assistance that assisted them with completing training. The Finish Line grant is now beginning its third year across North Carolina.

Unemployed Due to COVID-19? The High Country region has received additional funds to serve individuals who may have lost their job due to COVID-19. Funds are available through the NCWorks Career Centers to assist customers with services related to employment and training/ scholarships. Services may also include on-thejob training to assist local employers with the cost of training new employees. Interested individuals or employers should reach out to their local NCWorks office.

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Faith Bailey Stewart: Reaching the Top What do you do if you’re 22 years old and have an extremely rare condition that affects bone growth, skin elasticity, heart and healing ability (Ehlers Danlos syndrome)? If you’re Faith Stewart, you go for your dreams even when others say you can’t! Faith came to NCWorks seeking assistance to get an education in an area of her interest. She had gained her CNA certification while being a senior at Mitchell High School and had a strong desire for helping individuals in the medical field. After some assessments, the WIOA program helped Faith with the enrollment process at Mayland Community College for the Nursing Program. Not only did Faith overcome her health issues and succeed in her schooling, but she did so while planning a wedding and working part-time. Faith graduated this past May from Mayland Community College as a Registered Nurse and is now working in ICU at Johnson City Medical Center, where she started out earning $22 per hour.

Jacob Bacon: Helping Himself So He Can Help Others Jacob Bacon came to the Mitchell NCWorks Career Center seeking help to get a college education and to find a program that would align with his passion for helping people. At the time Jacob was 19 years old and struggling with health issues from Crohn’s disease, but he was determined to get an education. Staff worked with Jacob and discovered he is a very passionate young man and strives to help other individuals gravitate towards positivity. Jacob spent his first year of school at Montreat College looking for a program that would match his drive equally. After a summer camp in which Jacob worked at as a counselor, he set his major in Christian Ministries with a concentration in youth and family ministry. Jacob graduated from Montreat College with his degree in Christian Ministry. He was offered and accepted a full-time job at Montreat College working in the admissions office as a data coordinator. He will continue his education and passion for others by starting the master’s program at Montreat College this Fall. Congratulations to Jacob for his accomplishments and continuing his mission for helping others!

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Sarah McKemy Sarah is a participant in the WIOA young adult program who enrolled in January of this year when she completed her GED and wanted to look at next steps. She was unsure what to do and together with her career advisor, decided on a plan to help her explore careers while she also pursued school. Sarah had very little work experience having only worked for a few weeks at a motel and found it hard dealing with customers. Quiet and introverted, Sarah really enjoys working with cars and has an interest in mechanic work and auto body repair. She had worked some on her own car, but that was the extent of her mechanical experience. After an assessment showed she likes hands-on work, an internship became her next step. With the COVID-19 pandemic it was challenging to find a worksite, but the Avery County school systemâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bus garage was interested in having an intern to assist with its work. After interviewing Sarah, they decided to give her a chance, and she began work the first of June. From the day she started, her supervisor has bragged on her work performance reporting that she does what is asked of her and is willing to learn. Sarah has now assisted with almost every task from sanitizing, to changing oil and tires, and doing inspections. She is learning a lot and gaining experience in the basics of vehicle maintenance. She has done such a wonderful job that the garage has asked her work time to be extended. Avery County Schools bus garage has provided exceptional mentorship, and Sarah has gained skills that she will carry throughout her life.

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Connecting Youth with Working Smart The NCWorks Career Center in Wilkes County has established an outstanding partnership with Eckerd Youth Alternatives Inc. (Eckerd Connects). This partnership has proved beneficial for youth in the program, the NCWorks Career Center, and the community at large. Since June 2019, Charity Patterson Hamber and Kim Anderson have been a consistent presence on the campus in Boomer, NC. During their time there, 27 youth have completed the Working Smart course and earned a certificate. Charity and Kim have seen that the structured environment Eckerd offers, provides youth the opportunity to refocus and develop the skills needed to be successful. Working Smart was developed in response to employer feedback and designed to provide the work and life skills that enhance employee productivity.

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Businesses Receive Funding to Train Employees Three local companies â&#x20AC;&#x201C; B&R Service, Inc.; GE Aviation; and Southern Industrial Constructors - have received incumbent worker grants totally more than $25,000 within the past year to train 23 employees. These grants provide funding to established North Carolina businesses to provide skills training for current workers. It is designed to benefit businesses by enhancing the skills of employees, thereby increasing employee productivity and the potential for company growth. NCWorks Career Centers provide funding to assist employers seeking to â&#x20AC;&#x153;skill upâ&#x20AC;? their existing workforce because of changes to production processes or market demands. Training grants are available in increments up to $10,000 for companies with 12-month residence in North Carolina and for current workers with six (6) months or more on the job. In the past 15 years, more than $1 million has been funneled into High Country businesses to upgrade the skills of their workforces, thanks to the federal workforce development funding. Across the seven-county region, more than 2,200 employees have received training that has led to increased productivity and has made over 30 businesses they work for more competitive.

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Notes

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Administrative Staff and Meeting Schedule

www.hccog.org | (828) 265-5434 Administration Staff Julie Wiggins

Julie Page

Executive Director jwiggins@hccog.org ext.125

Finance Officer jpage@hccog.org ext.109

Kathy Combs

Victoria Potter

Finance Technician kcombs@hccog.org ext.103

Communications & Marketing Manager vpotter@hccog.org ext.101

Angie Holman

Receptionist aholman@hccog.org ext.100

Meeting Schedule High Country Council of Governments

Workforce Development

Executive Board Meeting 7:00pm on the 3rd Monday of the month (except January and September)

Workforce Development Board 2:30pm on the 2nd Thursday in January, March, May, July, September, and November

Area Agency on Aging

Planning & Development

Regional Advisory Council on Aging Meets Quarterly

RPO Rural Transportation Advisory Committee 2:00pm on the 3rd Wednesday in February, May, August, and December

Senior Tar Heel Legislature Meets in March, June, and October AAA Provider Meeting Meets Quarterly

RPO Rural Transportation Coordinating Committee 10:00am on the 3rd Wednesday of February, May, August, and November

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This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Profile for HCCOG

Fall 2020 ReCOGnition  

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