County looks 10 years out
by James Howell
Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell presented a 10-year plan for the county’s infrastructure expansion to the commissioners during a special meeting at the courthouse on Monday.
According to Mitchell, a new middle school, new courtroom wing and new social services building are all “musts” over the next 10-year period.
“It’s important to discuss these undertakings in advance so the county can begin setting aside funds for these projects,” said Mitchell.
The commissioners expressed different opinions during the presentation.
Attempting to prioritize the county’s efforts, Ashe County Commissioner Gary Roark said “I would rather see a new school than a social services building.”
Plans for a new middle school were discussed approximately two months ago between the board of education and the board of commissioners.
During that meeting, it was projected that building a new sixth through eighth grade middle school would cost $24 million, and building a new seventh through eighth grade middle school would cost $17.6 million.
While talking about constructing new buildings, Commissioner Larry Rhodes said it makes more sense to keep all of the offices as close to each other as possible. Closer proximity would make it easier for the different departments to work together, said Rhodes.
“I like the concept of keeping everything in one building,” said Rhodes. For instance, Rhodes said he would prefer for the social services department to be located in the courthouse building.
Adding a new wing to the courthouse was discussed at the meeting. This wing is projected to be either two stories or three stories tall. If the new wing is three stories tall, the first floor will contain a social services department, the second floor will house administration, and the third floor will be set aside for additional courtroom space.
Other expansion opportunities were discussed during the meeting, including the construction of a new fire training center, a new health department, and a new board of education facility. The commissioners also discussed making additional improvements to Wilkes Community College and adding on to the jail.
Mitchell revealed a diagram of what the county could look like in 10 years from now. With this layout, many additions to the county’s infrastructure could be built in close proximity to the courthouse.
For instance, a new social services building could be added along the road leading to the courthouse. Also, a new board of education building and a new health department building could be built adjacent to the courthouse.
Mitchell also said a new baseball field could be added to Family Central. This addition would give Family Central four baseball fields in line with one another. The purpose for this addition would be to recruit tournament league baseball to the area, which demands a location have four baseball fields.
This was only a planning meeting; these projections are tentative and subject to change, according to Mitchell.
The board of commissioners held their bi-monthly later Monday afternoon. Due to chairwoman Judy Porter Poe’s absence from Monday’s proceedings, vice chairman Larry Rhodes conducted the meeting.
During the meeting, the board of commissioners voted on the adoption of the High Country Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan. The vote was a 2-2 tie; commissioners Gerald Price and Gary Roark voted not to adopt the plan.
The High Country Hazard Mitigation Plan would outline Ashe County’s efforts of removing debris and waste after natural disasters and coordinate those efforts with the Alleghany County, Watauga County and Wilkes County.
According to Patty Gambill, Ashe County’s emergency management coordinator, each jurisdiction in the nation is regulated by the federal government to receive federal relief money after a disaster. Adopting this plan ensures the region will be eligable for federal releif money.
The adoption of the hazard mitigation plan will be on the agenda for the next commissioners meeting.
Gambill also presented a new skate park ordinance, which was accepted in a 4-0 vote.
The commissioners witnessed a presentation from Adrian Tate, from the High Country Council of Governments. The presentation focused on workforce development in the county.
Tate said in the wake of Ashe County’s 11 percent unemployment rate, Job Link has been visited 2,900 times this year. Tate also said 77 locals have received scholarships for job skills training or added education, giving them a better opportunity to be hired.
Lynn Robinson invited the commissioners and community to the “State of the Child” event lasting from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at Family Central.
Several appointments were also made during Monday’s meeting.
• Jerry Bare was appointed to the Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and development Board.
• Nancy Reeves was appointed to the Workforce Development Board as an educational consultant.
• Millie Barbee and Karen Powell were reappointed to the Economic Development Commission.
• Judy Bare was appointed to the Community Advisory Committee for Long Term Care for one year.
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