“It was a busy, successful year here in Alexander County. The commissioners, county manager, and county staff worked hard to improve the lives of our citizens and to move the county forward,” said Josh Lail, Chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. “Our goal is to continue improving the quality of life for our citizens, and we are committed to making Alexander County an even better place to live, work, and play.”
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) at the January 9th meeting to assist with the recruitment of a new Alexander County Manager. The search for a new manager comes following the passing of longtime County Manager Rick French on December 24, 2022.
The Alexander County Historic Preservation Commission began working with Acme Preservation Services to conduct research required for the Downtown Taylorsville Historic District to be nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The district consists of 44 properties and 181,762 square feet of commercial and residential space.
Six bids were received for debris removal and erosion control measures on the South Yadkin River using Alternate State Emergency Funds. Shaun Lackey Excavating LLC submitted the low bid in the amount of $54,000.
At the February 6th meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners, the board appointed Chairman Marty Pennell as interim county manager as required by NC General Statute 153A-84. Applications were being accepted for the county manager position through February 20.
Broadband access continues to grow in Alexander County with the installation of new fixed-wireless equipment on an existing tower in the Stony Point community. Open Broadband reported that they have more than 350 customers in the county.
Alexander County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) offered free CPR and AED training to the public every Tuesday in February. EMS Director Jeff Sigmon said that knowing how to perform CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) are valuable lifesaving skills.
The process to determine current market values on real properties in Alexander County for the 2023 countywide reappraisal was nearing completion. The tax office has been working for almost two years visiting all parcels in Alexander County to make sure the information on record relating to improvements and condition is accurate.
At a special meeting on February 16, commissioners met with leaders of the county’s volunteer fire departments. The main topic of discussion was the location and construction of a training facility for emergency services personnel.
Commissioners honored the family of late County Manager Rick French with a Key to the County and a framed proclamation at the March 6th meeting.
Commissioners adopted a resolution to approve a supplemental agreement for additional opioid settlement funds. Alexander County is one of many counties and municipalities in North Carolina that originally joined with thousands of local governments across the country to enter into settlement agreements against opioid manufacturers, pharmaceutical distribution companies, and chain drug stores to hold those companies accountable for their misconduct.
Commissioners voted unanimously to request General Assembly representatives to approve the holding of a referendum in the 2024 General Election to allow voters to select the method of candidacy filing for the Alexander County Board of Education.
Commissioners approved a zoning text amendment for a 34-acre parcel off Heritage Farm Road to allow single-family attached homes in the Residential Single Family (R-SF) zoning district. Approximately 200 single-family and townhomes are planned for the project.
Commissioners appointed Shane Fox to serve as the new Alexander County Manager, effective June 8. Fox was selected from a competitive pool of applicants from across the region and state. In the end, the board chose Fox due to a combination of his education, experience, and personal characteristics. At that time, Fox was serving as the Town Manager for Blowing Rock. He is a graduate of Caldwell Community College and Appalachian State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Accounting.
Commissioners approved an economic development incentive grant for Schneider Mills. The company plans to invest $2.7 million in new equipment. The incentive will last for four years with 50 percent of the property taxes on the new equipment to be refunded each year. The company must retain at least 95 percent of its employees throughout the four-year period.
Plans were announced for the 2023 Alexander County Summer Concert Series. Concerts were planned for May 20, July 15, July 29, September 9, and September 30 on the Rotary Performance Stage at Alexander County Courthouse Park.
Longtime Alexander County public servant Guy Kerley was honored at a retirement reception on April 24 with a large crowd of family, friends, and coworkers in attendance. Commissioner Josh Lail presented Kerley with a “Key to the County” in recognition of his many years of service in the tax office, as well as his political service.
Paragon Films, a stretch film manufacturer based in Oklahoma, held a groundbreaking ceremony on April 26 to officially launch a 70,000-square-foot expansion of its Alexander County facility.
At the May 1st meeting, commissioners approved a false fire alarm ordinance that allows fines to be charged for repeat offenders to reduce the number of false alarms. The board also approved an update to the fire prevention and protection ordinance.
Commissioners held a public hearing to discuss amendments to the Alexander County Special Events Ordinance. The major change to the ordinance is requiring a special event permit for any event with an attendance greater than 500 people, with the exception of schools and churches. In addition, the revised ordinance does not allow the waiver of event fees.
Work began on the development of a new Alexander County Comprehensive Plan, with citizen input being sought to help guide the county’s future. An online survey was utilized along with a series of public input sessions.
Construction continued on the new swim beach and associated amenities at the Wittenburg Access Area in Bethlehem, although Duke Energy announced that the additions would not open until spring 2024 due to supply chain issues. The swim beach will be open each year from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
County Manager Shane Fox took the oath of office, administered by Clerk to the Board Jamie Starnes, at the June 19th meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. Fox was accompanied by his wife Jennifer and their three children – Ryan, Caroline, and Owen.
The property tax rate in Alexander County decreased 12 cents as commissioners adopted the 2023-2024 budget at the June 19th meeting. With the decrease, the property tax rate dropped to 67 cents per $100 valuation. The 2023-2024 general fund budget totaled $55,970,932.
The 9th Annual Vertical Mile Challenge was held on June 24 at Rocky Face Park. A total of 112 runners competed in the challenging trail race, with 74 finishers in the 16-mile race (8 laps) and 24 finishers in the 8-mile race (4 laps). Ethan Sleeman of Durham took top honors in the race with a time of 2:50:41. He also recorded the fastest first lap at 18:17.
Commissioners heard a report on the NC Opioid Settlement Funding at the July 17th meeting. In 2021, the state announced a settlement agreement concerning litigation against several pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers for their role in creating the opioid epidemic. The national settlement totaled $26 billion, with $750 million awarded to North Carolina. Alexander County joined the settlement and will receive $5,935,178 in settlement funding over the next 18 years (through 2038).
On a related note, EMS Director Jeffrey Sigmon said that EMS calls for overdoses greatly increased since the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of fentanyl use, from 62 calls in 2020 to 90 calls in 2022, with a continued increase in cases. Sigmon proposed using some of the Opioid Settlement Funds to implement a Post-Overdose Response Team (PORT)/Community Paramedic program. Commissioners approved the allocation of $202,000 of the settlement funds to establish the position. No taxpayer dollars are being used for this program.
County Manager Shane Fox said that Zirrus/Yadtel should soon begin installation of fiber-to-the-home broadband service as part of the recently awarded GREAT (Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology) grant that will fund about 300 connections.
Preliminary steps toward planning for a potential new courthouse facility got underway in August. The county contracted with the firm of Jenkins-Peer Architects to provide programming, planning, and conceptual design services for a new courthouse. To facilitate the process, the Alexander County Courthouse Committee, architects, and stakeholders participated in a visioning forum on August 8-10. County officials have cited numerous deficiencies in courtroom space and design, lack of proper jury facilities, and inadequate office space for court officials as some of the factors driving the decision to move forward with exploring the feasibility of constructing a new courthouse.
The abrupt closure of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams on August 13 came as a surprise to the county, region, and nation. The county and EDC immediately began working with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG), NCWorks, and local industries to assist those who lost their jobs with unemployment assistance and a career fair.
Alexander County announced that approximately 150 local homes will have access to broadband internet following an announcement on September 5 by the NC Department of Information Technology. Spectrum (Charter Communications) partnered with the county to apply for funding from the Completing Access to Broadband (CAB) program, which totaled $919,437.35. The county match for the grant is only $1. Spectrum is investing $162,254 making the total project investment more than $1 million.
The 2023 Alexander County Career and Resource Fair was held on September 12 to help those displaced by the closure of MG+BW and all who are looking for a new job. More than 40 employers and partners participated in the event, which garnered regional media coverage.
At their September 11th meeting, commissioners approved a 3-year agreement with the Town of Taylorsville to provide one School Resource Officer (SRO) at Taylorsville Elementary School and one SRO at the Alexander Early College and Student Success Center. The Alexander County Sheriff’s Office had the two new SROs in place the following morning.
Commissioners presented a “Key to the County” to Brenda Price who has cared for 200+ foster children since 1982.
Commissioners approved the Alexander County Historic Preservation Plan as presented by Historic Preservation Commission Vice Chairman Lee Sharpe. The plan is a tool that assembles information about historic resources to provide the necessary information to responsibly deal with existing issues and future concerns.
The Alexander County License Plate Agency received a certificate of commendation from NC Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Wayne Goodwin for providing superior customer service. The local license plate agency was nominated by a customer from a neighboring county.
To provide enhanced service to local veterans, the Alexander County Veteran Services Office moved to the Alexander County Services Center on October 9. The relocation provides a larger space and improved access to veterans.
Thanks to a partnership between Alexander County and Open Broadband, more than 400 local homes and businesses have high-speed internet service. Open Broadband CEO Alan Fitzpatrick presented a final update to the Alexander County Board of Commissioners at the October 16th meeting as the partnership concluded. The company will continue to provide equipment upgrades and new customer installations.
At the October 16th meeting, County Manager Shane Fox expressed his appreciation to NC Senator Eddie Settle and NC Representative Jeffrey Elmore for helping to secure approximately $10 million for the county, school system, and town. The state funding will be used for the county’s current water line extension project, a new EMS building at station #1, an elevated water tank in Bethlehem, court system improvements, Alexander Central High School stadium upgrade, town sidewalks, non-profit funding, and more.
Alexander County Government announced David Moose’s promotion to the position of Consolidated Human Services Director. Formerly the Compliance and Procurement Specialist, Moose will continue those duties in addition to his new role as CHS Director. He has worked for Alexander County for more than 20 years.
The Alexander Soil and Water Conservation District held its 30th Annual Environmental Field Days on October 25-26 at Herman Dairy Farm. Approximately 400 fifth-grade students attended the event.
Alexander County Government once again participated in Operation Green Light for Veterans in 2023. The county administration building, services center, and courthouse park were illuminated in green as part of the national initiative in support of veterans.
Commissioners approved a resolution to consolidate county water and sewer funds at their November 6th meeting. County Manager Shane Fox said the consolidation is more practical and efficient for budgeting and accounting purposes. Alexander County has approximately 6,000 water and sewer customers.
The Alexander County Economic Development Corporation with the financial support of the Duke Energy Foundation announced the second year of the “Business Boost Grant” program, which is intended to help new businesses thrive. The $8,000 grant program was available for businesses that were created after January 1, 2019.
The 76th Annual Alexander County Christmas Parade was held on December 2. Darrell Adkins, longtime coach and educator, served as Grand Marshal.
The Sugarloaf Convenience Center opened at its new location at 3300 NC Hwy. 16 North on December 15.
Alexander County Government received a favorable audit report from Martin Starnes & Associates CPAs. The firm issued an “unmodified opinion,” which means the auditors found no material misstatements that would be misleading to the reader. Available fund balance increased $699,745, which brings the county’s fund balance percentage to 41.59 percent of total General Fund expenditures and transfers, for a total available fund balance of $20,678,730. The county had no general performance indicators of concern and no compliance findings.
A monument was dedicated in memory of Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Peal on December 14 at Alexander County Courthouse Park. A good crowd of family, friends, and coworkers attended the memorial dedication for Dr. Peal, who served on the Alexander County Board of Commissioners from 2016 until his tragic passing in July 2021. Chairman Marty Pennell provided brief remarks, followed by the monument unveiling by Commissioner Kent Herman.
“While we reflect on the successes of 2023, let us look forward to an even brighter 2024 as we continually strive to provide a high quality of life for our residents,” said Chairman Josh Lail. “As commissioners, we are proud to serve the citizens of Alexander County.”