2013: Year in Review
Part 1: January through June
Wil Petty Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
As another year comes to a close, we like to look back at the events that have taken place over the last 12 months.
Although a small county, Ashe County continues to make its mark in the High Country region and throughout the state of North Carolina.
Today, we look at some of the stories that occurred from January through June.
West Jefferson Aldermen approve holding antique fair downtown
Kicking off 2013, the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen approved to use part of the downtown area for the site of the Second Annual Antiques Fair.
“It was a 100 percent success… it was really good for the town,” organizer Keith Woodie said at the January meeting.
This year, the festival took place on Sept. 27 and 28. Parts of Jefferson Ave. E First Street and Third Ave. were closed for the festival.
In 2012, the antique fair was held on West Jefferson’s Backstreet. This year, a committee was planned early to work with town aldermen on approving the location.
While there were initial concerns by some businesses, most businesses that would be affected showed support of having the festival downtown. Woodie said he would work to minimize any potential problems businesses would have from the festival’s location.
“I’ll break my back to make it work for them,” Woodie said at the meeting.
Local landowners learn effects of U.S. 221 expansion
Landowners in Ashe and Watauga counties were given information about the expansion of U.S. 221 through the counties at a meeting in the Ashe County Courthouse on Monday, Feb. 11.
The road-widening project will cover 16 miles from the intersection of U.S. 421 in Deep Gap to the intersection of U.S. 221 Business and N.C. 88 in Jefferson. The right-of-way acquisition is going to affect 70 households and 33 businesses due to the widening of the road.
The total cost of the project was estimated to be approximately $154 million, with near $118.5 million going to construction. Another $2.3 million will go to utility costs and $34 million for acquisitions, according to N.C. DOT Public Information Officer Jamille Robbins in a February interview.
The highway will be a four-lane highway with a grass median. During the meeting, there were concerns about environmental degradation of streams along the New River Basin.
Attorney Anne Duvoisin at the meeting said the DOT could not begin right-of-way acquisitions until independent agencies proved the project would not significantly harm the nearby environment.
Construction for sections A and B, which run from Deep Gap to Fleetwood and section D, from N.C. 194 to South Jefferson Avenue in West Jefferson is expected to begin in 2015. Section C, from Fleetwood to N.C. 194, is expected to begin in 2017 while no specific date has been set for Section E, which runs between South Jefferson Avenue and N.C. 88 in Jefferson.
N.C. House bill assisted in fight against methamphetamine
In March, the N.C. House of Representatives passed a bill, adding two years to a sentence of anyone convicted of cooking methamphetamine in the presence of children, the elderly or disabled.
House Bill 29 passed the N.C. House 116-1 and the N.C. Senate 49-0.
According to a March release from the office of N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, 120 children were removed from homes where the drug was manufactured in 2012. Items belonging to the children were usually destroyed because of the dangerous fumes given off during the cooking.
In 2012, Ashe County had two meth lab busts. Neighboring Wilkes County had 58 busts, the highest number in the state.
“We’re not having the same problems that they (Wilkes County) are,” Ashe County narcotics investigator Lt. Grady Price said in an interview with the Jefferson Post.
The bill was sent to the N.C. Senate, who passed the bill in June. N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law on June 19.
Aside from the stricter penalties for those cooking meth in the presence of children and other bystanders, the bill made it more difficult for prior convicts to buy products containing pseudoephedrine, commonly found in cough medicine.
Ashe County Dentention Center operates at a profit
The Ashe County Detention Center, three years after its construction was making the county money.
In 2012, the jail deposited $1.2 million into the county’s general fund, according to Ashe County Sheriff James Williams.
The 30,000 square foot detention center was completed in early 2010. Before completion, the county spent between $20,000 and $30,000 monthly on incarceration.
“I saw an opportunity to turn the worm around, and now we’re making money,” Williams said in an interview in the April 23 edition of the Jefferson Post.
This year, the Ashe County jail held inmates from other counties including Alleghany, Yadkin and Cabarrus. Those counties paid for the use of the ACDC.
The detention center, alongside taking in other inmates, also makes money through inmate services, a phone service through Paytel and the Misdemeanment Confinement Program implemented by the N.C. Department of Corrections.
William said all of the revenue from the jail goes straight into the general fund. The ACDC has also created 23 full-time jobs in the county, as well as between eight and 10 part-time jobs.
Ashe County population increases by 8,500 people each summer
Every summer, Ashe County fills up with seasonal residents who leave their homes and spend the summer in the mountains for the cooler weather and friendly atmosphere.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the population of Ashe County increased by 8,540 people during the summer months of 2010.
Alongside the population increase, there was an increase in the number of seasonal housing units in 2010.
The population in the summer months between 2000 and 2010 has increased by 3,948 people, with seasonal housing increasing by 1,974 units.
Summer population estimates, according to Ashe County Director of Planning Adam Stumb, are based on two people residing per seasonal house during the months. Those numbers only include occupants that own houses and not hotel visitors, cabin renters, campers or other visitors.
A larger number of residents, as well as more visitors entering Ashe County, means a stronger economy for the area.
“The impact on the county’s economy is significant,” Stumb said in a May 23 interview.
Ashe Board of Education announced Dr. Ernest Holden as Superintendent
The Ashe County Board of Education announced Dr. Ernest “Todd” Holden as the new Superintendent of Ashe County Schools on Monday, June 3.
Holden, a former principal of West Iredell High School in Statesville, was selected after a six-month search to replace former superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves. Reeves now serves as the Superintendent of Surry County Schools.
Before becoming a superintendent, Holden had been a teacher, coach, director of high school curriculum and career technical education, assistant principal and principal.
“I fell in love with the mountains when I attended ASU and it’s taken me 20 years to get back. I’m looking forward to coming to Ashe County,” he said.
Holden received his bachelors, masters and advanced degrees from Appalachian State University in Boone and his doctorate from Wingate University in Wingate.
Holden was chosen as superintendent from 47 other applicants, and took over as superintendent in July.
Holden, originally from Mississippi, has one wife, Karen and a son, Zachary who attends ASU.
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