October 2021 ReCOGnition

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Vol.44 | Issue 2 October 2021

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 Jöchl, 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

Eddie Settle, Chair, Commissioner Kevin Reece, Commissioner, Ronda Robert L. Johnson, Mayor, North Wilkesboro Andrew Soots, Council Member, Wilkesboro

Yancey County

Jeff Whitson, Chair, Commissioner Theresa Coletta, Mayor, Burnsville

Advisory Committee Dennis Aldridge Rennie Brantz Wes Brinegar Valerie Jaynes Robert L. Johnson Brenda Lyerly Doug Matheson Todd McNeill Eddie Settle Charles Vines Jeff Whitson

What’s Inside

ARC Regional Tour: Making Strides in Western NC 4 In July 2021 ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin joined North Carolina ARC State Alternate Jim McCleskey, and ARC State Program Manager Olivia Collier, to visit partners across Western North Carolina. From renovating tourism destinations, to building recovery ecosystems and supporting small manufacturers, these projects cover nearly every ARC investment priority, and work together to create economic opportunities in communities.

Alleghany County Earthquake Recovery Efforts........................................ 5 HCCOG Hires New Finance Technician/Farewell to Kathy Combs ....... 6 Watauga County Broadband and Renewable Energy Projects............... 7 Wilkesboro Town Clerk NCAMC Member Spotlight................................. 8 Regional Highlights............................................................................................. 9 Burnsville’s First Town Manager New Hires for the Region/Notable Retirements North Street Park to be Renamed After Boone Mayor Ronda Roundabout Fall Festival Sunset Drive Entrance Beautification Poject Town of Seven Devils Summer 2021 Wrap-Up Updates from the Town of Beech Mountain Area Agency on Aging Department Highlights and Projects................................................................ 16 NC Lifespan Respite Program................................................................. 20 Supporting Family Caregivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic............. 21 COVID-19 Vaccinations Available for Homebound Individuals............... 23 Planning and Development Department Highlights and Projects................................................................24 Avery & Yancey County Dogwood Health Trust/ARPA............................. 27 Mitchell Co. Transportation Community Rides Grant Program Award... 27 Yancey County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) Update........ 28 Workforce Development Department Highlights and Projects............................................................... 29 Human Services Pathway for the Future Work Alliance.......................... 34 Success After Job Loss............................................................................. 35 NCWorks NextGen: Your Future Starts Here..........................................36

ARC Regional Tour: Making Strides in Western NC In the High Country region, Co-Chair Manchin toured locations in Avery, Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties. The first stop was Linville Falls Winery to learn how an ARC grant for fixed wireless supported this local business. In 2018, ARC provided a grant of $100,000 to the Avery County Chamber of Commerce to provide internet access to unserved and underserved portions of Avery county. For their story, watch this video. The second stop in Avery county was Crossnore Town Hall to discuss infrastructure challenges. Manchin joined local officials to approve nearly $250,000 for the Crossnore Water and Wastewater Improvement Project. The project will construct an additional public well, serving more than 90 households, and 4 Co-Chair Manchin meeting local elected officials businesses that employ over 250 community members. in Ashe County including West Jefferson Mayor, Tom Hartman and Commissioner Chair, Todd In Watauga county, Manchin visited Tsuga, a manufacturer McNeill.

of outdoor gear to learn about their shift to producing PPE last spring in response to COVID-19. ARC issued emergency grants to help partners pivot operations and respond to community needs. Among the first emergency grant recipients was The Industrial Commons in Morganton, NC. They, alongside partner Carolina Textile District, used $300,000 to help member companies like Tsuga quickly shift to PPE production. Through the grant, nearly 600 sewers across 60 textile and furniture companies were engaged to produce face-masks and medical grade gowns for hospitals across Appalachia and the nation. Read the full story of this investment here. The next morning, Co-Chair Manchin participated in a walking tour of downtown West Jefferson to hear about their downtown transformation, including the benefits of a recent ARC Wi-Fi grant. The $22,191 ARC grant has enabled businesses, vendors, tourists, residents, and students to have reliable internet access downtown. The second stop in Ashe county was the Town of Lansing to learn about this tiny town’s plans for redevelopment, along with challenges due to their size. Local officials and residents gathered in The Barn at Historic Lansing Creeper Trail Park to meet with Co-Chair Manchin. In Alleghany county, Co-Chair Manchin spoke at The Bluffs Restaurant on the Blue Ridge Parkway, highlighting the economic impact reopening The Bluffs has had on the region. Participants enjoyed lunch and fellowship after the presentation and tour of the newly renovated/reopened restaurant. Built in 1949, The Bluffs Restaurant served as a beloved destination and informal visitor’s center for Alleghany County, orienting travelers to 7,000 acres of outdoor recreation at Doughton Park. It operated successfully for 60 years, but ultimately closed in 2010 when its owners retired. In 2017, a $300,000 ARC grant helped the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation renovate and reopen the restaurant. Now under the ownership of the National Parks Service, visitors and community members alike can enjoy its famous fried chicken and beautiful scenery. “The Bluffs Restaurant revitalization grant is characteristic of what goes into a successful ARC project,” Manchin said. “This project is indicative of preserving a key cultural and historical asset of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.” Local Articles on the ARC Federal Co-Chair’s tour of the region: • Event to Highlight Parkway’s Economic Importance, Wilkes-Journal Patriot • Ashe County see’s visit from Appalachian Regional Commission, Gayle Manchin, Ashe Post & Times • ARC Federal Co-Chair visits local business on Western NC tour, Watauga Democrat • Appalachian Regional Commission Co-Chair Manchin visits Linville Falls Winery, The Avery Journal • More than a drop in the well: ARC provides assistance to Crossnore, The Avery Journal • ARC: Progress comes through partnerships, The Alleghany News 4

View photos from the Tour by HCCOG Communications Manager, Victoria Potter here.

Alleghany County Earthquake Recovery Efforts In August of 2020, Alleghany County experienced a 5.1 magnitude earthquake. Due to invaluable relationships with our local advocates, Senator Deanna Ballard and Representative Sarah Stevens, the state legislature approved $24 million toward aiding earthquake recovery efforts. The NC Office of State Budget and Management – Disaster Recovery quickly moved in and are continuing to work through the hundreds of claims submitted by residents of Alleghany County. In addition to helping the residents, we were able to repair our courthouse located at 12 N. Main Street which suffered extensive earthquake damage. In the first quarter of FY21/22, we received notification that the Local Government Commission removed Alleghany County from its Unit Assistance List. NC State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, who chairs the LGC said “Alleghany County officials demonstrated a willingness to find out what’s right, get it right and keep it right, and were able to quickly work their way off of the Unit Assistance List.” “This accomplishment says volumes about the management of the county, which includes the Board of Commissioners, the County Manager’s Office, our Finance team, department heads and all employees for helping us turn this serious concern around in such a short time,” said Alleghany Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Osborne. David Spicer, Public Works Director pursued and was awarded a $30,000 State Recycling Grant in May 2021. With this money, we have purchased a comingled recycling compactor and will resume household recycling for Alleghany County residents. In the first quarter of FY21/22, Alleghany County Emergency Management Coordinator, Daniel Roten prepared and delivered a presentation to the NC 911 Board identifying the county’s need for grant funding to assist in the relocation of our dispatch center. Ultimately, Alleghany County was awarded a NC 911 Board Grant for $135,000.


HCCOG Hires New Finance Technician & Bids Farewell to Kathy Combs Caroline Briggs was hired as the Finance and Compliance Specialist for the Workforce Development Board early in 2021 and quickly demonstrated her finance and accounting knowledge and expertise. Caroline brought tremendous value to the High Country’s Workforce Development Board. When Finance Technician, Kathy Combs, announced her retirement effective December 2021, Caroline was subsequently selected as Kathy’s successor, and we are so pleased to transition her skills to benefit the COG’s finance department. Caroline grew up in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC and graduated from George Mason University. After graduation, she moved to Asheville where she met her husband, Josh. Several years after moving to North Carolina, Josh convinced Caroline to move to Boone, where he had previously attended Appalachian State. It was not very hard to convince her! Caroline worked and honed her accounting skills at a local resort for nine years before joining the High Country COG team. Caroline says, “I am excited for this next step in my career, and to have joined such a wonderful team.”

Caroline Briggs, Finance Technician.

After serving the High Country Council of Governments in various capacities for almost 17 years, Finance Technician, Kathy Combs will be retiring in December 2021. During Kathy’s tenure, she has repeatedly demonstrated her willingness to take on additional roles and responsibilities to support the organization and her colleagues. In 2019, Kathy was nominated as Outstanding COG Staff Member by her peers. This award recognizes an individual’s willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, contributing to a positive work environment, and promoting a healthy image of the COG in our region. Staff nominations stated that she is not only highly responsive, very helpful, a team player, and makes everyone feel appreciated, but she does so with a positive attitude and smile on her face.

Kathy Combs will be retiring as Finance Technician in December 2021.

Kathy says, “It has been a great experience working with such special and talented people. Thanks to everyone for giving me the opportunity to learn so much and be a part of the team.”

Thank you, Kathy for all you’ve accomplished over the years, you will be truly missed but we wish you all the best on this new journey!


Watauga County Broadband and Renewable Energy Projects

Article by Ian Taylor, Watauga Democrat

At the Watauga County Commissioners Meeting on August 3, 2021, Blue Ridge Energy and SkyLine/ SkyBest, proposed a major addition to the county’s broadband capabilities. According to BRE Chief Technology Officer Brad Shields, the plan would be to get 90-95 percent of the county access to broadband internet with an additional 75 miles of “trunk fiber,” with branches reaching 1,565 homes. Shields noted that the pandemic has only increased the awareness for quality internet connection with people working from home or taking online classes, adding that children “won’t have to go to the fire A map of phase two of the proposed broadband strengthenstation parking lot to connect to Wi-Fi.”

ing in Watauga County, reaching the Wildcat and Stoney Fork

The plan would cost $7 million and take an estimated areas, was shown at the Aug. 3 meeting. three years to complete. It would be built in four Photo by Ian Taylor. stages, the first reaching the Triplett and Powder Horn areas, the second reaching the Wildcat and Stoney Fork areas, the third reaching the Blackberry and Sampson areas and the fourth reaching the Howard’s Creek area. The companies were asking that funding for the project come from Watauga’s $10,911,724 in American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funding. At the same time, they asked that a final decision be made by September, citing current backlogs of up to 50 weeks on some of the necessary materials. The Board members were receptive to the idea, opting to table the discussion to their next meeting so county employees can look through the proposal and the ARP to make sure everything lines up before any action is taken. Also at the meeting were representatives from New River Light and Power, presenting the county with the chance to go to 100 percent renewable energy in 2022. According to General Manager Ed Miller, NRLP has begun exploring alternative options for wholesale power purchasing, eventually finding some that can offer renewable energy from hydroelectric facilities in Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee, beginning in January 2022. With the option on the table, the company offered the county the chance to change their electric sourcing from standard avenues to fully-hydroelectric when it becomes available. The changeover would cost the county $34,296 if they went to 100 percent renewable. Commissioner Billy Kennedy was the first to voice his support for the idea, noting that moves like this were the best choice for the environment. The board approved the switch unanimously.


Wilkesboro Town Clerk NCAMC Member Spotlight

James K. Byrd, MMC/NCCMC/CTC

This Clerk considers themselves a lifelong learner, continually taking classes to improve in order to serve their community in the best possible way. They enjoy spending time with their family, which includes two adult sons and their wives. They also enjoy getting together with close friends. Their hobbies include reading for pleasure and working in the garden. Their formal education includes an Associate in Commerce from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Michigan, attended Eastern Michigan University and received their Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Lenoir-Rhyne College (now University). Town Clerk for the Town of Wilkesboro, James K. “Jim” Byrd is an encourager, and his desire is for everyone to continue learning. He is thankful to God for the ability to serve others. Jim believes there is always something else to find out. He and his wife, Paula have traveled James K. Byrd. Photo Courtesy, Stone to 48 of the continuous states and most of the counties within North Photography. Carolina. In December 2003, Jim was hired for the position of Tax Collector/Accounts Payable for his jurisdiction, beginning a career in Local Government. Previously, their background was in Office Management for banking and textiles. Having been hired as the Town Tax Collector, with guidance from the Town Manager, classes needed for their career in government were identified. In March of 2004, the first of many classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government began the education process. This was the first of several classes required in order to become a Certified Tax Collector, which was awarded at the Annual Spring Tax Collector Conference in April 2006. In December 2007, with continued responsibilities, the position changed to Tax Collector/Front Office Finance. The following year the position became Tax Collector/Front Office Manager. In 2010, the former Town Clerk/ Finance Director announced her upcoming retirement. In December 2010 the Town Council appointed this individual to the position of Town Clerk/Tax Collector. Excitement grew as a seat in the 2011 UNC School of Government Clerk Certification Institute Class was secured. Over the years, the following educational recognitions with the Clerks Association were achieved: Certified Municipal Clerk – 2013, North Carolina Certified Municipal Clerk – 2014, Master Municipal Clerk – 2016 and Athenian Fellow – 2021. Encouraged by fellow Clerks over the years, they submitted their name to volunteer on many committees of the North Carolina Association of Municipal Clerks (NCAMC) including Director of District 10 (four years), Program & Education (six years with one year as Chair and one year as Vice-Chair), 2019 Site Selection (three years as Chair), Membership (three years with two years as Chair), 2022 Site Selection (two years) and We Share Our Services (two years). Other committees they have participated on include State Certification, Legislative, Nominating and Scholarship. They hosted a Spring Regional and in 2019 was the Host for the Annual NCAMC Summer Conference. Encouraged to participate with joint organizations, they served with the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) on the following committees: Tax and Finance Legislative Action (four years), General Government Legislative Action (three years) and Legislative Policy (two years). As a Municipal Tax Collector, this Clerk served the North Carolina Tax Collectors Association (NCTCA) on their Resolution Committee for two years. View the full member spotlight here.


Regional Highlights

Burnsville’s First Town Manager: Heather Hockaday Burnsville’s Town Council at their September 2, 2021 regular meeting voted to appoint Heather Hockaday as the first-ever Town Manager for the Town of Burnsville. The motion by Mayor Theresa Coletta received a unanimous vote from board members present. “I applaud my fellow board members for their support of the action taken appointing Heather as our town manager. She will continue providing the same unwavering service she has given to our town in the past. We are fortunate to have a town manager with her exceptional qualifications and dedication,” said Coletta. “Having a Town manager form of government assures our town of solid leadership as Burnsville continues to grow and prosper as a leading small town in western North Carolina,” she added. Coletta has advocated for changing to a council-manager form of government since her first term as mayor. Burnsville was one of only a few municipalities in the state without a town manager or town administrator until Hockaday took on the role of administrator in February 2020 in addition to her role as town attorney. She has previously served as a member of town council and as town attorney. Supervised by a five-member town council, the town manager has broad responsibility in developing and overseeing the town’s budget, financial planning and management, personnel administration, facility management, procurement, public works, community development, grant administration, and public relations. Burnsville’s town council approved a Resolution of Intent to Consider An Ordinance Amending the Charter of the Town of Burnsville, NC at their May 3, 2021 regular meeting. The Town Council set a public hearing at their June 3, 2021 regular meeting, offering the public an opportunity to comment and give the Council input on the change in form of government. On July 1, 2021, the town council approved an ordinance, amending Burnsville’s Charter, to adopt the councilmanager form of government for the town. No referendum was petitioned for during the 30 day period and the ordinance went into full force and effect at 5 p.m. on August 6, 2021. Hockaday said she became acutely aware while serving as town attorney that the municipality needed administrative leadership to keep up with growth and deal with the issues that change brings. For the past couple of years she has been working with the mayor and council to put policies and procedures and checks and balances in place so the town is in a good position to address growth and change positively and professionally. Hockaday is a native of Burnsville and a graduate of Mountain Heritage High School, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Campbell University School of Law. She and her husband Danny have practiced law in Burnsville since 1992. They have five children. Article and photo from Yancey Common Times Journal.


New Hires for the Region The Town of Jefferson Welcomes Charity Shatley as new Town Manager. Shatley is a native of Ashe County, graduate of Ashe County High School, Appalachian State University with a degree in business administration and marketing, and GardnerWebb College, MBA. “I am an Ashe County native, raised along the South Fork of the New River,” said Shatley. “I attended and graduated from Appalachian State University, where I studied marketing from the Walker College of Business. I was previously working with SkyLine SkyBest as an Outside Business Sales Executive in which I gained an incredible amount of insight and knowledge about our area in terms of commerce, economic development and infrastructure. I have a great passion for the High Country in preserving and nurturing what makes our home so special. My goal is to ensure that taxpayer money is being handled with the utmost respect and integrity.”

Jefferson Town Manager, Charity Shatley.

Shatley’s first official day was Monday, Aug. 16, and she said she is very excited to take on the reins in her new position. Article by Chanda Richardson, Ashe Post & Times.

Notable Retirements Steven Moody recently retired from Watauga County Maintenance as Mechanic Crew Chief. Pictured to the right, Moody along with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Addison, pose together after being awarded with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine at the Watauga County commissioners’ meeting on August 17, 2021.

Photo by Ian Taylor, Watauga Democrat.


North Street Park to be Named After Boone Mayor Article by Moss Brennan, Watauga Democrat.

A local park will get a new name after Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz was surprised with a vote to name North Street Park after him at the end of a nearly four hour Sept. 16 town council meeting. At the end of the meeting, Boone Town Manager John Ward asked the council to amend the agenda to include the naming of a park, which came as somewhat of a surprise to council members and the mayor. Council member Sam Furgiuele quickly seconded the motion to amend the agenda, which was approved by the council. Ward then asked if the council would Boone Mayor, Rennie Brantz. make a motion to rename North Street Park to Mayor Brantz Park, which is within Photo courtesy Town of Boone. walking distance of Brantz’ house. Council member Connie Ulmer made the motion, which was seconded by Furgiuele — who Ward said had the idea to name the park after the mayor. “We’ve had a lot of discussions these last few years about recognizing people who have served this community and Mayor Brantz has served the community for a long time,” Furgiuele said. “We should take the opportunities that we have to recognize the people that have made huge contributions and we all know how much time it takes to serve on council and Mayor Brantz has been on the council and been mayor for many years and has volunteered and donated so much time. It’s incredible.” Ward jokingly said he hoped Brantz could forgive him because he promised he would never surprise him. “I’m overwhelmed,” Brantz told the council. “Thank you so much. I’ve just been honored to participate and be part of this community.” The council unanimously passed the motion to name the park in the Brantz’ honor. Ward said the sign would be ordered and a dedication ceremony would be planned for the upcoming weeks. The park currently has a playground equipment and a community garden. Ward said there are plans to add a community gathering pavilion at the park as well. Brantz has been a public servant in Boone for 18 years. Even though he is retiring at the end of his term, Brantz previously told the Watauga Democrat he still wants to be involved in the community as he hopes to get a position on the Historic Preservation Commission.

Photo by Moss Brennan, Watauga Democrat.


Ronda Roundabout Fall Festival Article from The Wilkes Record.

The inaugural Ronda Roundabout Fall Festival was held on Saturday, September 11, at Ronda Town Hall on Chatham Street. The event featured music, a parade, children’s activities, vendors, educational displays, and more. Pictured to the right, singer/ guitarist Cali Johnson of the Mulberry Cali Johnson, Tracy Romans, and R.G. Absher. Community performed the National Anthem to kickoff the event. Ronda Town Clerk, Tracy Romans was a key organizer of the festival. Romans said, “The event turned out wonderful. I really don’t think we could have asked for a better crowd or better weather.” R.G. Absher was there in Revolutionary War period dress with information about the Overmountain Victory Trail. The parade consisted of various vehicles including firetrucks, Wilkes School Board Chairman and businessman Rudy Holbrook in his South Eastern Cars & Parts truck, along with members of Wilkes Central High School Air Force JROTC who marched with the flags and presented the colors.

Wilkes Record Photos by Ken Welborn.

Sunset Drive Entrance Beautification Project In 2014, Blowing Rock town leaders identified Sunset Drive as an essential corridor to connect Highway 321 to Main Street, however the street needed significant upgrades. The town established plans to replace the aging water and sewer lines, along with an update to the stormwater system and updates to the curb, gutter, and sidewalks. In 2019 Iron Mountain Construction completed all utility work on Sunset Drive. In total a $2m project that was funded utilizing bond monies issued in 2014, and passed by the citizens. Soon after the utility work on Sunset was completed, the Blowing Rock TDA along with town leaders decided to create a more inviting entrance to this most important corridor. Town Staff led by former Landscape Director Chris Pate designed and developed plans to create a beautiful natural entrance, mirroring the work completed in front of Town Hall and Broyhill Lake. On February 11, 2020 the Town Council approved the entrance project as presented by Mr. Pate, then COVID struck, delaying 12 the project until the summer of 2021. Current Landscape Director Cory Cathcart, along with Will Allison,

Sunset Drive Entrance Beautification Project (cont.) Justin Dishman, and Tyler Rodden began working with Diversified Landscaping out of Lenoir, NC to complete the project as approved in 2020. Diversified Landscaping completed the rock walls and structural work, while the Town’s Landscape Department designed and installed the plantings for the project. In total over 395 tons of rock were laid, 340 tons of dirt hauled, 20 yards of mulch spread, and over 400 perennials, shrubs and trees planted. The total project was around $140,000 and paid for utilizing 100% TDA monies. The Town is extremely excited to have such a beautiful entrance to Sunset!

Town of Seven Devils Summer 2021 Wrap-Up Despite the COVID restrictions this year, Town of Seven Devils residents decided to ramp up the outdoor activities, and celebrated our beautiful mountain by participating in these events:

• 3 Music on the Lawn Concerts

• Bear Decorating Contest with Summer Olympic Theme

• Dedication of the interior renovation of Old Town Hall (now the Seven Devils Community Center) complete with Exercise Facility


Town of Seven Devils Summer 2021 Wrap-Up (cont.) • Group Hikes in the local area

• Refresh Tennis Courts to include Pickleball

• Our Community Celebration Day combined our Arbor Day Celebration with a tasty BBQ lunch

• A new Town Park is in the planning stages at Town Hall, permitting and grading are currently underway


Updates from the Town of Beech Mountain Beech Mountain ended a hectic summer with an End of Summer Bash with the police and volunteer fire departments. Summer and full-time residents enjoyed meeting the two different forces on the meadows of Beech Mountain. Beech Mountain’s annual Mile High Kite Festival was a huge success! Provided by the Chamber of Commerce, both days sported wind, making the event fun for all. The Chamber even ran out of free kites halfway through the second day of the festival. Beech Mountain Resort ended its summer season on October 2nd with an Oyster Roast and free live music. The Autumn at Oz festival utilized the lift as well as shuttles to the park. This year the park opened for guests every weekend in September to significant numbers. In addition, a local’s night at Oz was held for the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department. Big thanks to the Leidy family for opening the park for residents of Beech Mountain.

Photo courtesy Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce.

Work continues on infrastructure on the mountain. Council is exploring combing Coffey and Santa’s Lake to create another reservoir for the town. The current water supply is Buckeye Lake. The town has also drilled three wells for alternative water sources with two wells providing water. Our first season of Shane Park Outpost was a great success. The outdoor primitive camping sites sold out regularly. The council approved the addition of a ropes course at the park. Shane Park Outpost now has camping, showers/bathrooms, AND a ropes course coming soon. Council is also looking into providing a full-time EMS station on Beech Mountain. This is a welcome addition as an ambulance ride from Beech Mountain to local hospitals could take, on some occasions, 45 minutes. The Town Manager is currently soliciting quotes for this service to Beech Mountain Residents. Beech Mountain relocated the free sledding hill to property owned by the town next to the Bark Park. The addition of a playground now rounds out offerings to residents and tourists—a dog park, a playground, and in the winter, a sledding hill. The town has also created parking on property owned by the town. Metered parking will be available. Adding “super” Wi-Fi will aid those paying to park, to pay for parking on their smart devices. Finally, a new trash ordinance has helped clean up Beech Mountain. Residents are encouraged to purchase bear-resistant garbage bins. Short-term rentals are required to have bear-resistant garbage bins. Public works has now moved trash pick-up to two days a week for Beech Mountain. The opening of the new public works facility and the use of an outside vendor for commercial businesses have helped lower tipping rates for the town trash.

Photo courtesy Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce.

Photo courtesy Beech Mountain Chamber of Commerce.


Area Agency on Aging Staff Zack Green

Stevie John

Director zgreen@hccog.org ext.122

Long Term Care Ombudsman sjohn@hccog.org ext.126

Sarah Price

Amber Chapman

Special Projects Coordinator sprice@hccog.org ext.141

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

Pat Guarnieri

Caregiver Program Coordinator pguarnieri@hccog.org ext.139

Tim Price

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

Department Highlights | www.highcountryaging.org | Welcome, Zack Green! In early October, Zack Green joined the High Country Council of Governments team as the new High Country Area Agency on Aging Director! Zack has spent many years in the High Country, having completed both his undergraduate degree in Political Science and his graduate degree in College Student Development from Appalachian State University. More recently, Zack served as the Executive Director of a local non-profit for six-years. While working in that role, Zack was instrumental in extending service delivery to a neighboring county and expanding programs by securing new grants, fundraising, and establishing partnerships with other local organizations. Zack joins us very highly recommended and has previously been recognized for his years of service to the High Country, having won Watauga County Rescue Squad Zack Green, Area Agency on member of the year, and was one of the 2018 winners of the Boone Area Chamber Aging Director. of Commerce 4 Under 40 in the education category. Zack says, “I am excited about the opportunity to bring my experience in impacting others through support, recreation, and education programs to improve the health and well-being of older adults in our region.” We are so excited to welcome Zack to our team and see what innovative ideas he brings to the world of 16 aging services!

Falls Prevention Awareness Week 2021 Every year, the National Council on Aging declares the first week of fall as Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Falls Prevention Awareness Week brings together partners from all over the state to raise awareness and encourage our older adults to age well! This year, for Falls Prevention Awareness Week (which was September 20 – September 24) the High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) partnered with Healthy Aging NC and the National Council on Aging to host a live Tai Chi Kickoff Event in Wilkes County. The participants got to enjoy and learn about tai chi in a wide-open space and practiced Group photo from Sept. 17, 2021 in Wilkes movements together. The event was also streamed live on Facebook so County, NC. folks could participate from the comfort of their own home! We had a great crowd of participants who attended in person and many more who joined us virtually! High Country AAA collaborated with multiple partners across six of our counties. To celebrate and raise awareness, more than 130 gift bags were delivered to organizations to increase education surrounding falls prevention. These gift bags contained information about programs of the High Country AAA, Healthy Aging NC, resources for those who are interested in falls prevention and recovery after a fall. High Country AAA also partnered with Appalachian State University’s Interprofessional Clinic and High Country Community Health to host free balance and gait assessments for older adults! The partnership proved to be successful, with many older adults opting to do a full assessment in addition to getting the balance and gait assessment. These assessments were offered at no cost and participants received a detailed report to give to their doctors. High Country AAA would like to thank all of our partners for helping keep the High Country Falls Free!

Candace Hall particiaptes in the live Tai Chi Kickoff Event in Wilkes County, NC.

Mal Tanigawa particiaptes in the live Tai Chi Kickoff Event in Wilkes County, NC.

Kenneth Foster particiaptes in the live Tai Chi Kickoff Event in Wilkes County, NC.

Operation Fan Heat Relief 2021 As people age and develop chronic medical conditions, they often become less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Additionally, older adults are more likely to take prescription medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. Operation Fan Heat Relief is intended to provide a more comfortable living environment and reduce heat related illnesses for older adults and adults with disabilities. In the High Country, the program operates in Avery, Mitchell, and Wilkes Counties. In 2021, the program was able to provide over 60 fans to older adults who needed them this summer. Thank you to our dedicated service providers for their hard work in ensuring the program’s success! 17

Senior Center Service Spotlight: Home Delivered Meals While the senior centers throughout the High Country have been busy providing a variety of important services, one of the most productive programs has undoubtedly been the Home Delivered Meals program. Home Delivered Meals programs throughout the region have allowed homebound adults who face barriers to meal preparation the opportunity to experience community connections by receiving a meal from a friendly volunteer. Meals are served to persons 60 years of age or older and their spouse, regardless of the spouse’s age. There is no cost to eligible participants, so if you or a loved one might be interested in the Home Delivered Meals service, please reach out to one of the following senior centers for more information about service options and volunteer opportunities:

Farewell, Pat! You Will Be Missed! After nearly 5 years of service to the High Country Area Agency on Aging, our Caregiver Program Coordinator, Pat Guarnieri, is retiring in December 2021. During her time with us, Pat has been responsible for administering the North Carolina Lifespan Respite Program, a program designed to assist unpaid caregivers of loved ones who need a break from their caregiving duties. While we will certainly miss Pat’s expertise in the administration of the Lifespan Respite Program, we will also miss her passion and dedication to caregivers. No matter the day, Pat has always been a team player and is always the first to volunteer to assist a co-worker. Over the last 5 years, the Lifespan Respite Program has administered more than 1,000 respite vouchers to overworked caregivers, which would have never occurred without Pat’s drive to expand the program and reach more deserving caregivers. Unpaid caregivers often face exhaustion, confusion, and little time to do many of the things that bring them joy. Not only has Pat been able to issue caregivers respite vouchers, but she has also spent countless hours on the phone with families offering emotional support and comfort as these caregivers share intimate details about their families. In addition to providing caregivers with respite vouchers, Pat has also worked to expand knowledge about the Lifespan Respite Program to referring organizations, which has resulted in submissions of referrals from 90+ agencies from across North Carolina, just in the last year. Pat says, “My five years here have been very rewarding ..from working with a great group of people to helping so many appreciative caregivers. Thank you to the COG for the opportunity to help others in need!” Throughout her years of service, Pat has always been willing to go above and beyond her duties and has always done so with a positive attitude and a smile. She brings cheer to our office and has forged friendships with her co-workers that will extend beyond her professional time at the High Country Area Agency on Aging. Thank you, Pat for all you’ve done for us! We wish you the best of luck in your adventures and know you will continue to do great things! 18

October is Residents’ Rights Month October is National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices many long-term 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 2021 is - “Reclaiming My Rights, My Home, My Life”– to acknowledge the impact of this past year on residents and highlight the need for residents’ rights to be recognized, recovered, and reasserted. It emphasizes the recognition of the long-term care facility as the residents’ home, and the importance of residents reclaiming their own lives. The theme focuses on raising awareness of federally mandated residents’ rights while also underscoring the need for dignity and self-determination of all residents. 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. 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, the ombudsman program serves a seven county region which is comprised of 27 long term care facilities, including nursing homes, adult care homes, and family care homes. Our community is also served by a citizen advocacy group, the 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. For more information please contact:

Stevie John, Regional Long Term Care Ombudsman


(828) 265-5434 ext.126



NC Lifespan Respite Program: High Country Area Agency on Aging Has Administered this Program for Nearly Five Years! High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) will have administered the NC Lifespan Respite Program for five years as of January 2022! Our AAA continues to assist unpaid caregivers across the state of North Carolina who need a break from their caregiving duties. As of June 2021, the High Country AAA has helped this respite program issue over 1,000 awards to eligible caregivers. Respite is a temporary break from caregiving, and a key component in protecting the health and well-being of a family caregiver and their care recipient. The NC Lifespan Respite Program offers $500 reimbursement-based vouchers that help a caregiver pay for their loved one’s care – while they take care of themselves. The program is somewhat considered the “respite of last resort” and is for those who are not receiving other publicly funded -in home care, day care or respite care. (See our website below for other eligibility information and a list of examples of publicly funded respite.) Unpaid caregivers often give of themselves so much that they have very little time to do many things most of us take for granted. Caregivers who take care of loved ones around the clock can particularly feel the negative impact of loss of daily activities – most of us take some of these activities for granted. This past year some of the activities caregivers noted they wanted to do with their respite time included: • Uninterrupted sleep or sleep in • Visit friends or have alone time • Take a walk • Uninterrupted time with spouse, children, grandkids, family • Go to church, Bible study, or meditate • Get a haircut or manicure • Go to a movie, baseball game, fish, or tend a garden • Go camping, to the beach, or out for dinner • Shop without rushing • Be silent and hear nothing Most caregivers have not had a break in a long time, for some, even years. This past year we received many positive responses from caregivers who have used their respite voucher:

• “You have no idea how valuable this was for me!” • “A Blessing!” • “I took the opportunity to focus on my needs!” • “We were able to …just recharge.” • “There simply aren’t enough words….” • “This was a gift on so many levels.” • “I understand (now) that I’m just not able to do this all by myself.” • “I did not realize how much this would help me until I did it.” This past year, even with the COVID-19 pandemic, we had referrals from 92 different agencies, and issued awards to caregivers from over 60 different counties in NC. Most caregivers were the daughter or son of the care recipient or a spouse, and the majority of care recipients were over the age of 60. As in prior award years, the caregivers overwhelmingly chose to use an individual to provide care for their loved one instead of a home health agency.


NC Lifespan Respite Program: High Country Area Agency on Aging Has Administered this Program for Nearly Five Years! (cont.) Eligibility, guidelines, and the process to apply can be found on our website: www.highcountryaging.org/services/lifespan-respite-project: a) A referring agent must complete our online application on behalf of the unpaid caregiver. b) Once submitted, the caregiver receives a “Caregiver Certification” (which includes program guidelines) form by e-mail (if the referring agent has listed it on the application) which must be completed, signed, and returned to complete the application for review. (If no email address is on the application, the “Caregiver Certification” form will be postal mailed to the caregiver- which will delay review of the application) c) When the application is complete - with no further questions, the application will be reviewed, and a decision for award will be made in approximately one to two weeks. d) Our website provides more information regarding the process AND eligibility guidelines, so check it out! Lifespan Respite vouchers are brought to you by the NC Lifespan Respite Project and administered by High Country Area Agency on Aging. Funding is made possible by a grant to the NC Department of Health and Human Services for the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

Contact: Caregiver Program Coordinator


(828) 265-5434 ext.139


Supporting Family Caregivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of life in the High Country in early 2020, like many organizations, we were tasked with completely changing our service delivery model. Our Family Caregiver Support Program was forced to adjust to be able to support family caregivers through virtual means, a big shift from the home assessments and one-on-one connections that we were previously used to when meeting with clients. While many changes were difficult to make, the COVID-19 pandemic has also presented opportunities to help families in new and innovative ways. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, has opened opportunities for the High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to expand service delivery, albeit in different ways. Perhaps the biggest change for our Family Caregiver Support Program was the addition of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program. Since its creation in September 2020, the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program has been able to provide services and support for older adult caregivers who are raising minor children or adults with disabilities throughout our seven-county region. There are a wide variety of reasons children come to reside with grandparents, other family members, godparents, or family friends. Parental substance misuse is one of the most common reasons for children to be raised by other family members, but parental military deployment, incarceration, mental or physical illness, and death are all contributing factors. In the United States, there are over 7.9 million children living with a relative who is not their parent; over 6 million of these children are being raised by grandparents, and another 1.8 million live with other older adult relatives. There are numerous challenges that grandfamilies face. Nearly half of these grandparents are over age 60 and 1 in 5 live below the poverty line. Additionally, 1 in 4 of these grandparents have a disability, compared 21

Supporting Family Caregivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic (cont.) to about 1 in 17 of parents raising their children. Our grandfamilies in the High Country face many of these same challenges. That said, there is a silver lining! Research continues to show that children who cannot remain with their parents, thrive more when raised by relatives or close family friends as opposed to entering the foster care system. Children experience more stable housing, change schools fewer times, maintain connections with siblings, and are less likely to re-enter the foster care system. Here in the High Country our Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program has sought innovative ways to support these unique families. We have been able to support grandfamilies with financial assistance to help children access summer recreation activities like swimming lessons and paid for registration and uniform fees for youth sports teams. We have been able to provide fresh produce and other healthy food items for families with prohibitive financial situations to facilitate access to nutritious food, while also supporting local farmers through Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships. More recently with children returning to school, we have been able to help our clients with expenses like new clothes, shoes, or backpacks for the school year. We have also invested in gathering and distributing research and education materials for grandparents, because we know that raising children today looks much different than it did just 30-40 years ago. While our Family Caregiver Support Program was in operation prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act has allowed the High Country AAA to expand services for this program in creative ways. In our May 2021 ReCOGnition, we highlighted the numerous rounds of the Music Therapy Support Groups that have been held thanks to a partnership with Appalachian State University and board-certified music therapist, Kelly Frick. We are so excited that Kelly is in the middle of her fourth cohort of participants, with rave reviews and positive feedback from caregivers and their loved ones. We have also had the opportunity to financially support caregivers with some more unique services including well repairs to continue to provide safe drinking water, estate planning to ensure families have a plan for the future, counseling or therapy vouchers to improve mental health, numerous home and vehicle safety items including grab bars for cars and showers, non-slip mats, and technological devices so families can maintain communication with their loved one even when they are unable to be together physically. We continue to seek creative solutions to address challenges for families. Our Family Caregiver Support Program and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program are designed to change with the family as new needs arise or situations change. We are here to support families both emotionally and financially when they feel they have no where else to turn. Through these two programs, our goal is to provide caregivers, both old and young, with the support they need to reduce their daily stress, provide high quality care for their loved ones, and navigate the complex array of community services that are available throughout our seven-county service area. For more information on the Family Caregiver Support Program, please reach out to:

Amber Chapman, Family Caregiver & Health Promotions Specialist


(828) 265-5434 ext.113


For more information on the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program, please reach out to:

Sarah Price, Special Projects Coordinator

sprice@hccog.org 22

(828) 265-5434 ext.141


COVID-19 Vaccinations Available for Homebound Individuals The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed all our lives. For many months we socially distanced ourselves from our family and friends, we halted social gatherings, and switched to teleworking from our home offices. For nearly all of 2020, many of us experienced fear of illness, loneliness from being away from family and friends, and anxiety over the unknown. This began to change in early December 2020 when the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was issued an Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). While the development of a safe and effective vaccination was a step in the right direction, we continued to experience confusion and frustration for several months as demand outpaced supply of vaccines, even after both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines received their Emergency Use Authorization. In an effort to prioritize equity, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) developed a tiered system for vaccination eligibility based on age and health status. Our immunocompromised neighbors, vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities, and older adults throughout the state gained access to the COVID-19 vaccine earlier than the general population. Today, enough supply is no longer a problem in the United States. Pfizer-BioNTech has received full approval from the FDA for all individuals 16 years of age and older, and still has Emergency Use Authorization for individuals 12 years of age and older, and is administered in two doses, 21 days apart. Moderna, under Emergency Use Authorization, has been approved for all individuals 18 years of age or older and is given in two doses, 28 days apart. The third option, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is a one dose vaccine that is approved under Emergency Use Authorization for any individual 18 years of age or older. All three vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death. To slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that anyone who wants to get their vaccination can, NCDHHS partnered with Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) to administer a state-wide program to get vaccinations to people who are unable to show up in person at a vaccination site. This is a crucial step for those who are homebound, have limited mobility, or other health concern that makes leaving home or traveling to a vaccination site challenging. To assist with this homebound vaccination effort, we at the High Country Area Agency on Aging have received additional grant funding to assist with the:

• Dissemination of credible information regarding COVID-19 vaccines • Identify individuals who are interested in receiving their vaccine but are unable to leave their homes • Assist with the scheduling of COVID-19 vaccine appointments • Arranging transportation for those who need assistance with travel • Provide technical assistance to area health departments • Provide personal support for those who need assistance with any level of the vaccination process If you or someone you love is unvaccinated and has had challenges accessing a vaccination site either because of health concerns, mobility challenges, or location of vaccination sites, contact PRTC by calling (866) 303-0026 or visit www.ptrc.org/covid to fill out their “COVID Vaccine for Home Visit Form” on their website. If you or someone you love is a High Country resident in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, or Yancey County, and would like assistance with this process, reach out to us at (828) 265-5434!


Planning and Development Staff Phil Trew

Kelly Coffey

Director ptrew@hccog.org ext.121

Senior Planner kcoffey@hccog.org ext.114

Michelle Ball

Transportation Planner dgraham@hccog.org ext.135

Drew Plettner

Regional Planner dplettner@hccog.org ext.118

David Graham

Regional Planner mball@hccog.org ext.115

Tatiana Magee

Jessica Welborn

GIS Planner jwelborn@hccog.org ext.134

GIS/Regional Planner tmagee@hccog.org ext.138

Department Highlights | www.hccog.org/planning Welcome, Tatiana Magee! High Country Council of Governments welcomes Tatiana Magee to the Planning & Development Department as GIS/Regional Planner. Tatiana graduated from Appalachian State University with a Masters in Geography, B.S. in Planning, B.S. in Geography, and a GIS Certificate. She has been working with the COG parttime since April performing stormwater field mapping for the 205( j) Burnsville Stormwater Mapping Project and has recently become full-time. With her parents living in Rutherford County, but most of her close family living in Bogotá, Colombia, she is familiar with the Western North Carolina area and culture while being aware of overall diversities in cultures and languages. She has interned with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Blue Ridge Tatiana Magee, GIS/Regional Conservancy on various GIS and Planning related projects, and is excited about Planner. the appreciative, welcoming, and friendly work environment of the HCCOG and the projects it comes with! In her free time Tatiana enjoys rock climbing, making sourdough, and spending time with her dog, Koji. 24

Welcome, Drew Plettner! High Country Council of Governments welcomes Drew Plettner to the Planning & Development Department as Regional Planner. Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Drew Plettner recently joined our team as Regional Planner. Drew has been living in the High Country for the past four years studying Public Administration at Appalachian State. Drew interned with the Ashe County Planning Department this past summer, which gave him great experience in the field. Drew said, “the Regional Planner position seems like a natural fit, given that my internship took place in the planning office of one of the COG’s seven counties. Drew Plettner, Regional Going to school in Boone for the past four years and loving the region also helps! Planner. My first few weeks here have been great and the entire staff has been incredibly kind and welcoming. I look forward to working with and getting to know all of you!”

Towns Revise Zoning Ordinance High Country Council of Governments recently assisted the Towns of North Wilkesboro and West Jefferson with revisions to their zoning ordinance. The revisions were mandated by the General Assembly for all local governments with the passage of state statute 160D in 2019. For many years it had been evident that state zoning statutes and how they were applied by local governments had inconsistencies. For example, some local governments issued special use permits, while other towns and counties had conditional use permits, but both terms referred to the same type of permit. New legislation was introduced to bring about uniformity in such matters. After passage of the new law, all towns and counties were required to amend their zoning ordinance by July 1, 2021 to conform. For the most part, 160D requires no changes in policies, rather it revises wording, terminology, and procedure; and codifies some procedures that might already be practiced. In addition to the required 160D revisions, HCCOG helped North Wilkesboro make further amendments to its ordinance to enhance clarity, correct obsolete references, and remove extraneous materials.

Alleghany County Receives NC 911 Board’s 2022 PSAP Grant High Country Council of Governments composed the 911 Board’s PSAP Grant application for Alleghany County PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) Relocation and Upgrades. The grant was awarded in August for the requested amount of $135,000. The grant will allow Alleghany County to improve and expand 911 operations to meet current 911 service demands. The project entails relocating the 911 operations from its current location in the Law Enforcement Center to the Administration Building. With minor renovations in the Administration Building, 911 operations can expand from a one-dispatcher seat system to a two-dispatcher seat system with room for future growth. This expansion will allow the County to provide a dedicated and secure space for dispatchers, improve radio communication by adding a radio tower and add additional redundancies to the system. The project will provide the necessary equipment and building space for the new PSAP to expand to a two-seat EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatch) system and provide the County’s residents and visitors the services they require. 25

Web-Based GIS Database & Map Application Built for Spruce Pine’s Memorial Cemetary High Country Council of Governments completed a GIS project for the Town of Spruce Pine’s Memorial Cemetery. The Town owns and manages a 10.75-acre cemetery across from Town Hall on S 226 Hwy. The COG migrated the Town’s old cemetery database management system and cemetery survey into an ArcGIS geodatabase. The Town now has a geographic, spatial database that allows cemetery plot ownership, deed, and burial information to be managed by Town staff. The COG built a web application in ArcGIS Online that allows Town staff to log in and manage cemetery records stored in the cloud. The Town can access the cemetery app to view and edit information from Town Hall or in the field on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is the fourth cemetery mapping and database project the COG has completed for member local governments. Past projects have been completed for the Town of Sparta, Town of West Jefferson, and Town of Blowing Rock.

High Country Council of Governments 9-1-1 Data Migration, Editing, & Maintenance Services Background: The State of North Carolina is implementing Next Generation 9-1-1. NG9-1-1 will ensure that residents can reach 9-1-1 services regardless of their location or the communication technology they use. NG9-1-1 replaces the legacy 9-1-1 system with an internet protocol-based system. The IP system routes digital information (e.g., landline, cellphone calls, text messages) to the appropriate 9-1-1 call center, or public safety answering point, largely based on accurate GIS data. Improvements in call location technology and GIS data now enables precise call routing based on a caller’s actual location. All PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Point) in NC have been working toward NG9-1-1. PSAPs must build their 9-1-1 geodatabases to meet certain standards and requirements for migration into the State Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) and hosted call processing system. Town of Beech Mountain & Wilkes County Projects: High Country Council of Governments GIS Planner assisted the Town of Beech Mountain and Wilkes County with preparing and reaching State compliancy for NG9-1-1. Both local governments’ existing 9-1-1 GIS databases were migrated into the NENA (National Emergency Number Association) and NG9-1-1 standardized database formats. For Beech Mountain, the COG created all required NG9-1-1 GIS data layers including structure address points for every addressable structure, Fire/Law/EMS/Provisioning/PSAP boundaries, updated road centerline geometry, and assigned ranges to road centerlines. The COG built in all required attributes for the GIS data. Additionally, NG9-1-1 requires a 98% match rate between the GIS road centerline data and the ALI (Automatic Location Identification-tabular telephone data from AT&T). Therefore, bulk of the project work involved synchronizing tabular telephone data (the ALI and the Master Street Address Guide, referred to as the MSAG) and the GIS data. A similar process was performed in Wilkes County. Wilkes County has over 39,000 9-1-1 address points. The synchronization process involved intense GIS data editing and close communication with the Communications Directors over the past 1-2 years. Now, the Town of Beech Mountain and Wilkes County are considered by the State to be ESInet-ready. The COG continues 9-1-1 GIS technical services for both local governments with annual service contracts to maintain the 9-1-1 GIS data accuracy integrity and NG9-1-1 requirements. The COG maintains address points, road centerlines, all boundaries, synchronization rates with the MSAG and ALI, and remediates any new 26 errors or discrepancies in the NG9-1-1 database.

Avery and Yancey County Dogwood Health Trust/ARPA

Both Avery and Yancey County received funding this year through Dogwood Health Trust’s ARPA advantage program. ARPA advantage was created by Dogwood Health Trust as a way to capitalize on American Rescue Act Plan funds. Its aim is to increase investments in affordable housing in our region. Avery County’s project included three components. These are an Asset Inventory and Assessment, a Capital Improvement Plan, and an Affordable Housing Study. The first two components are intended to identify areas of the County with potential for affordable housing development and to identify infrastructure improvements that will be needed to accommodate future development. The Affordable Housing Study will identify opportunity for development of new housing, as well as provide developers with data on the demand for affordable housing. Yancey County’s project also includes three parts. These are a Housing Study, an analysis of existing water and sewer infrastructure, and an extension of public water service to the western part of the County. The housing study and infrastructure analysis will function in much the same way as Avery’s, providing developers with data concerning the demand for affordable housing and identifying the capacity and potential locations for new development. The waterline extension will extend water service from the Town of Burnsville to the Bald Creek community in western Yancey County and will enable future development in the area. Avery County received $275,000 in funds and Yancey County received the maximum amount of $2,500,000. Yancey’s large amount of funding is due primarily to the cost of the public water service extension, which will cost around $5,000,000 in total.

Mitchell County Transportation Community Rides Grant Program Award On July 20, 2021 Mitchell County Transportation held their annual Transportation Advisory Board retreat. The focus of the retreat was to plan for a proposed deviated fixed route for the Spruce Pine area as Mitchell County Transportation applied for a National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) Grant. The RTAP Community Rides Grant Program is for projects that develop or strengthen transportation partnerships that improve social determinants of health in rural and tribal communities and improve access to critical needs like employment, healthcare, education, healthy food, or social services, as well as build the capacity of transit systems. On August 31, 2021, Mitchell County Transportation was informed by the RTAP Review Committee of the $100,000.00 grant award. The $100,000.00 grant will be used to develop the Spruce Pine Access Route that will serve as Mitchell County’s first deviated fixed route for Spruce Pine and the surrounding area. Out of 76 applications submitted for the RTAP Grant across the country, Mitchell Transportation was one 1 out of 19 applications selected for funding. For more information on the RTAP grant program project selections, please see the following link: https://www.nationalrtap.org/national-rtap-announces-community-rides-grant-program-project27 selections

Yancey County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) Update The Yancey County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) Update is a long-range multi-modal transportation plan with a 25-30-year planning period. It includes a transportation vision for the county, is developed cooperatively between NCDOT, High Country RPO staff, and a local stakeholder Steering Committee. The Yancey CTP Update incorporated existing land use and other plans previously adopted by local governments as well as other community and statewide goals and most importantly, the input from the Steering Committee and the public. Modes of transportation evaluated during the Yancey CTP Update planning process include Highway, Public Transportation, Bicycle, and Pedestrian. The planning process involved regularly scheduled virtual meetings of the Steering Committee, the development and distribution of 2 online public input surveys a public workshop at the Burnsville Town Center, in depth analysis of the highway, bicycle, pedestrian, and public transportation network. The planning process also included existing and future population analysis, employment growth analysis, as well as commuting patterns and crash data analysis. The planning process resulted in 13 highway project recommendations, 49 bicycle and pedestrian recommendations, and 1 public transportation project recommendation. The recommendations will serve as a basis for projects in Yancey County to be considered for funding in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The Town of Burnsville adopted the Yancey CTP Update on August 3rd and Yancey County adopted on August 9th. The High Country RPO endorsed the Yancey CTP Update on August 18th, and the North Carolina Board of Transportation will act on adoption of the CTP Update at a future Board meeting. For more information on the Yancey CTP Update and specific project recommendations please see the following link: http://www.hccog.org/#Transport


Workforce Development Staff Keith Deveraux

Rebecca Bloomquist

Misty Bishop-Price

Debra Foxx

Director keith.deveraux@highcountrywdb.com ext.130

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

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

Finance and Compliance Specialist debra.foxx@highcountrywdb.com ext.120

Department Highlights | www.highcountrywdb.com | Welcome, Debra Foxx! Welcome to Debra Foxx who recently joined our team as the Workforce Development Board’s Finance and Compliance Specialist. A resident of the High Country for the past seven years, Debra joins us highly recommended and with accounting experience for a local company where she previously won employee of the year. To further her knowledge and understanding of workforce, she is studying Workforce Leadership and Development at Appalachian State University. “I am starting off my time here working with some familiar faces, but everyone here has been so warm and welcoming. In my free time I love exploring all the local gems of the High Country and am excited to do my part in growing and developing this wonderful place I call home. I look forward to getting to know everyone. If you ever see me out and about, please introduce yourself and say hello!” Debra Foxx, Finance and Compliance Specialist.


Ashe County Job Fair Ashe County Economic Development and NCWorks teamed up to provide job fairs on July 20 and September 28, 2021 in the gym at Ashe Family Central. Approximately 15 businesses were present with positions available in healthcare, food service, retail, non-profit, and manufacturing. Prior to the events, Ashe County EDC Director and HCWDB member, Cathy Barr and NCWorks Manager, Charity Patterson-Hamber were featured guests on the 93.5 FM The Farm’s Happy Time Radio where they promoted the job fair and NCWorks services.

From L to R: NCWorks staff Charity Patterson-Hamber and Jessica Greer along with Ashe EDC Director Cathy Barr participate in the Ashe County Job Fair.

Cathy Barr, Ashe County EDC Director and HCWDB member and Charity Patterson-Hamber, NCWorks Manager were featured on 93.5 FM in West Jefferson.

Third Thursday Job Fairs Return to the NCWorks Career Center in Boone

Join us every third Thursday from 11 am – 2 pm for multi-employer job fairs. We always have at least four employers with an immediate hiring need from various industries. Dress appropriately for an interview and bring your resume. Don’t have a resume? No problem! Schedule an appointment to meet with a career advisor at the NCWorks center and be ready to land that job. Call 828-265-5385 for more information or to schedule an appointment.


Financial Emergencies for Community College Students: Finish Line Grant Update The Finish Line Grant, a special initiative by the Governor designed to assist community college students facing financial emergencies, recently completed its third year and moved into year four. During year three, the Finish Line Grant assisted 47 community college students attending Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, Mayland Community College, and Wilkes Community College, with over 100 financial emergencies. Funding continues to assist students who are at least 50% through their training and in good standing, with unexpected emergencies such as car repairs, job loss, etc. These students may be eligible for financial support to cross the finish line to complete their training program and earn a credential. Referrals for the Finish Line Grant can be made at the local community college or NCWorks Career Center.

NCWorks and Eckerd Connects Since June 2019, the NCWorks Career Center in Wilkes has been a consistent presence on the Eckerd Connects campus in Boomer, NC. To date, NCWorks has completed a total of five (5) Working Smart courses with 33 youth completing the program and earning a certificate. The Working Smart course is a five (5) module, 16 lesson soft skill curriculum taught over a minimum of 24 hours focusing on self-awareness skills, selfmanagement skills, work ethics, communication skills, and problem-solving skills. The most recent graduation was in August 2021.

NCWorks staff Kim Anderson and Charity PattersonHamber with Working Smart participants at Eckerd Connects.

NCWorks and the 2021 Watauga High School Senior Career Fair NCWorks was invited to participate in the 2021 Watauga High School Senior Career Fair on September 15, 2021. NCWorks set up a table in the gym along with Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Watauga County Parks and Recreation, Watauga County Sheriff’s Department, the US Army, the US Marines, and other community career opportunities. NCWorks staff also led eight, 20-minute session workshops for seniors, which were divided up into groups of 50 to meet COVID safety requirements. Students were walked through how to search for a job, prepare for an interview, tips for the actual interview, professionalism best practices, and the services NCWorks has to offer. Seniors showed interest and were thankful the information provided (as well as the candy handed out!). NCWorks staff member, Deborah The staff enjoyed interacting with the students Garrison, led workshops for WHS and engaging them in conversation about their Seniors. ambitions.

Staff from the NCWorks Career Center in Boone participate in the Watauga County High School Senior Career Fair. 31

NCWorks in the Community!

Staff from all NCWorks Career Centers in the region participated in a tour of Charleston Forge in Boone to learn about available positions and to be better able to refer potential applicants to the business.

On September 21 and 23, 2021 Ashe NCWorks staff Jeff Cope and Veda Johnson presented to three different Academic Student Success classes at the Ashe campus of WCC. Topics included services offered at NCWorks including training, education, career development, job preparation, work experience, and on-thejob training.

Staff from the Wilkes NCWorks Career Center visited Wilkes Recovery Revolution to learn about services available to community.

On August 6-7, 2021, Watauga NCWorks staff participated in the Back 2 School festival at Watauga High School. The event is designed to streamline school readiness efforts for a greater impact on Watauga County families and lift the heavy financial burden that back-to-school shopping creates for families. From L to R: HCWDB staff Misty Bishop-Price and Keith Deveraux and NCWorks staff Anabel Hernandez and Charity Patterson-Hamber attend the Wilkes Economic Development Commission annual meeting luncheon on August 20, 2021.

On September 14, 2021 staff from the HCWDB and NCWorks Career Centers volunteered at The Great Wilkes ADAP Tip Off. The theme for this year’s luncheon was “MERLEFEST BOUND.” This important project 32 is a tremendous fundraising event for Wilkes ADAP.

On September 1, 2021, the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce and its new Leadership Wilkes participants visited the local NCWorks. Participants took a tour of the center and learned about the many services offered. Leadership Wilkes is a nine-session leadership enhancement program designed to develop a group of informed, committed, and qualified individuals capable of providing visionary and progressive leadership for Wilkes County.

NCWorks Partners with Mayland Community College Work Skill Academy Mayland Community College offers free Life Skills classes to adults with intellectual disabilities or barriers to independence. The main goal of the program is to assist students with improving their academic; workplace and independent living skills to prepare them for greater community involvement; further studies; and/or employment. From the Life Skills classes, students can move into the Work Skills Academy where they build further skills, make connections with local employers, and master job tasks. Students are involved in service-learning projects called LifeWorks, where they put into practice the skills they are learning through entrepreneur activities. This involves creation, distribution, and sale of hands-on projects they create. The NCWorks Career Centers in Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey counties assists through presentations to students on employer expectations and the local labor market. These classes have enabled students to achieve many successes. Below, get to know some of the students, and for more information please call (828) 766-1329 or email lifeskills@mayland.edu. Hunter Hunter works four days per week at Sorrento’s Bistro in Banner Elk where he puts in practice the interpersonal and independence skills he learned in Life Skills class. He folds silverware, assembles pizza boxes, cuts lime and lemon wedges for the bar, keeps all of the ice chests full, and more! Restaurant customers love Hunter so much that he has recently moved into the host position for some shifts. Hunter’s favorite part of the job is seating people and making them smile. When he is not working at Sorrento’s, he works for his mother’s business on the weekends. Hunter Hunter working at Sorrento’s Bistro. is a busy guy who loves to work and takes his job very seriously! Kasey Kasey volunteers at Yellow Mountain Enterprise’s Treasure Box Thrift Store in Newland, NC. Kasey attends Life Skills classes at Mayland Community College’s Avery Learning Center two days per week and volunteers her time at the thrift store when not in class. Kasey sorts new donations, cleans up donated items, and tags them so they can head out to the sales floor. “I feel like I am doing something to help others,” Kasey says. Her smile says it all! Justin Justin is a successful Life Skills student who has started a job at Appalachian Java in Burnsville. Here’s what his employer, Angie, has to say about his success at work: Kasey volunteering at Justin has always been a “light.” No matter what the situation or what kind of day we are having, he always makes us smile. His duties include washing dishes, taking orders to tables and cleaning the tables. We always look forward to the days Justin works. His smile, that contagious laugh, and his love for every-one he comes in contact with is rare. We look forward to seeing him and hearing that laugh every time he walks through our door. There’s no one in the world quite like him! We feel blessed to know Justin.

Helping adult learners improve academic and independent living skills.

Assisting adults with gaining the skills for successful employment.

Treasure Box Thrift Store.

Justin working at Appalachain Java.


Human Services Pathway for the Future Workforce Alliance The Future Workforce Alliance (FWA) is comprised of three regional workforce development boards and encompasses 15 counties in western North Carolina: Foothills Workforce Development Board (Cleveland, McDowell, Polk, and Rutherford counties); High Country Workforce Development Board (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey counties); and Western Piedmont Workforce Development Board (Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba counties). On August 11, 2021, the NCWorks Commission approved the FWA’s Human Services Career Pathway. A Career Pathway is an integrated system of development programs that ensure the training individuals receive L to R: Chief Deputy Secretary NC Department of meets the present and future needs of businesses. According to the NC Department of Commerce Labor Commerce, Jordan Whichard; Sherry Carpenter, Vice Economic and Analysis Division (LEAD) NC Employer President, Goodwill Industries of NWNC; David Lee, Projections 2018-2028 summary report, “Healthcare and Director, Foothills Workforce Development Board; Keith Deveraux, Director, High Country Workforce Social Assistance, the largest industry in North Carolina’s Development Board, and NCWorks Commission Chair, economy, is projected to add the most jobs (81,000) and Tom Rabon. have the second highest percentage growth (13.7%).” Growth occupations in this industry include Child, Family, and School Social Workers; Healthcare Social Workers; Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors; and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers. Key stakeholders, including employers, community partners, and educators were invited to informational meetings beginning in November of 2020. Three employer/partner meetings took place to determine the occupational and employer demands of the region’s Human Services industry. Through collaboration and participation in employer/community partner panels and focus groups all involved expressed current and future employment and training concerns. Each meeting included relevant information such as available internship assistance, training opportunities, and the different types of occupations across the human services industry beyond social services. Additional workforce board team meetings were held to begin developing the pathway criteria. With further support and endorsement from the NCWorks Commission, the Future Workforce Alliance and its partners will work to establish branding and messaging for the Human Services Career Pathway and conduct follow-up meetings to ensure there are sustaining and growing internship opportunities for students and adults.


Success After Job Loss

Ethan Laws Ethan unexpectedly lost his full-time warehouse job during the pandemic due to COVID-19. After struggling to find employment with the same pay, he learned about CDL training. He was interested in truck driving and contacted Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute (CCC&TI) where he was referred to NCWorks for assistance with class expenses. NCWorks provided supportive services by assisting with training costs and additional services so he could successfully complete training. CCC&TI celebrated 16 students from the Truck Driver Training program during a completion

Ethan graduated May 21, 2021 receiving his CDL Certification, ceremony on Friday, May 21, 2021 at the J.E. and he obtained his CDL license May 25, 2021. He quickly Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir. gained full-time employment with High Country Lumber and Mulch as a load hauler. Savannah Hendrix Savannah was unemployed and was accepted into the two-year Registered Nurse program at Wilkes Community College (WCC). Soon she realized the overwhelming costs for RN classes. She remembered a CNA classmate mentioning services from the NCWorks Career Center. After becoming enrolled in WIOA services at the center, she was able to receive assistance to help with the costs of books and other supportive services. When she was 50% completed with the RN program, Savannah applied for a Finish Line Grant for emergency financial assistance so that she could complete her program of study. Savannah was a full-time student and traveled long distance for her clinicals. She completed her Registered Nursing classes May 11, 2021 and passed her NCLEX to become a licensed Registered Nurse on June 4, 2021. Savannah accepted a position with Novant at Forsyth Medical Center in its Med-Surg Residency.

Savannah Hendrix stated, “Not only did [my NCWorks Career Advisor] help me get started [with] my journey, they consistently checked in with me to see not only how I was doing, but if there was anything they could do to help me in this process.”

Brittany Deaton Brittany Deaton first came to the Yancey NCWorks Career Center after she was laid off from a restaurant which had closed due to COVID-19. She was a single mom adding to the challenge of what she could do to support her family. With WIOA assistance, she began massage therapy classes through Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute (CCC&TI). Brittany completed her classes in January 2021 and then received her NC License as a Massage and Bodywork Therapist. She began working at The Care Collective in Boone where she earns a large percentage of the charge for each client she sees, which provides for her family. Now married and expecting another child, Brittany’s bio is featured on The Care Collective website. She states “I choose massage because I love how effective massage can be for pain management and how wonderful it is for overall health. Currently, I love working with the feet and Brittany Deaton is a massage any pain related issue effecting the calves and feet. My work is focused and therapist working at The Care effective, I love working with trigger points and look forward to learning more Collective in Boone. about this modality as my career progresses.”


NCWorks NextGen: Your Future Starts Here Brinkley Cooper Brinkley Cooper was referred to NCWorks NextGen in July 2018 by the CTE Coordinator from Mountain Heritage High School in Yancey County. Brinkley was hoping to start the RN program that fall after graduation but needed additional assistance in paying for some of the expenses. Brinkley had obtained her CNA in high school and really wanted to help people through the medical field. Brinkley is one of a family of six: her dad is self-employed, her mom is a homemaker, and the family’s income is very tight. Brinkley had never worked except for an internship she was required to do while in high school, leaving her with no work history for experience. Brinkley entered the RN program at Mayland Community College with Brinkley Cooper is now an some help from NCWorks NextGen. She recently completed her RN Intermediate Care RN with Mission on May 12, 2021. She passed her state board exam and started a job at Health. Mission Heath in August as an Intermediate Care RN. She is currently making more than $25 per hour. Brinkley has a big heart, is very humble, and really wants to help those around her. She will be very successful at her job! Maria Goebeler Maria Goebeler became pregnant at 17 while in high school. She was able to graduate high school a semester early and began taking classes at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute (CCC&TI). However, working a minimum wage job made it difficult to pay for classes and prepare for a baby. She was not sure in what she wanted to get a degree and began the prerequisites to begin nursing school. After receiving her nursing assistant certification, Maria began working at the hospital and realized that it was not the career path she wanted to continue. Instead, she applied to the dental hygiene program at Catawba Valley Community College. With the help of NCWorks NextGen contributing to Maria’s tuition and board exams, she was able to graduate from the dental hygiene program Maria Goebeler is now a licensed and obtain her license in Dental Hygiene in June 2021. She graduated with dental hygienist and recently accepted a 3.8 GPA and a supportive three-year old son. Less than two weeks after a position. getting her license, she accepted a position as a dental hygienist.






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

Caroline Briggs

Victoria Potter

Finance Technician cbriggs@hccog.org ext.103

Communications Manager vpotter@hccog.org ext.101

Kathy Combs

Finance Technician kcombs@hccog.org ext.103

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 November

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.