ALEXANDER COUNTY (September 22, 2021) – The Alexander County Board of Commissioners honored the family of late commissioner Dr. Jeffrey Peal at the September 20th meeting.
The family was awarded a “Key to the County” and a framed resolution honoring Dr. Peal for his community service. Tragically, Commissioner Peal passed away on July 19 following an automobile accident.
“Jeff Peal was an outstanding member of this board. When he came to a board meeting, he was prepared and had studied,” said Larry Yoder, Chairman. “He did a great job for the citizens of Alexander County.”
To fill the vacancy on the board, commissioners appointed Kent Herman to complete Dr. Peal’s term through 2024. Per state statute, the Alexander County Republican Party recommended Herman for the position as he was next highest vote getter in the primary election of 2020.
In other business:
• County Manager Rick French reported that five bids were received for the Alexander Industrial Wastewater project. West Consultants PLLC recommended awarding the contract to Two Brothers Utilities LLC of Shelby, which submitted the low bid of $84,929.68. Commissioners unanimously voted to award the contract to Two Brothers Utilities.
• Commissioners approved a resolution to join the North Carolina Opioid Litigation Settlement agreement. The settlement is expected to bring approximately $850 million to the state over an 18-year period to support state and local efforts to address the opioid epidemic. Alexander County is estimated to receive more than $3 million from the settlement that can only be used to address the opioid epidemic in the county.
• Commissioners held a public hearing to discuss the 5310 grant for “Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities” for fiscal year 2022-2023. Leeanne Whisnant, Consolidated Human Services Director, presented information about the grant which totals $194,592 ($155,673 federal, $19,459 state, and $19,460 local funds). The Alexander County Department of Social Services plans to continue utilizing the services of Greenway Public Transportation for this program.
• Commissioners held a public hearing to review proposed changes to the zoning and subdivision ordinance. Ashley Kale, Senior Community and Regional Planner for the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, presented the 160D legislative updates to the board. The majority of the changes are mandated by the state. The board unanimously approved the changes. Commissioners Marty Pennell and Josh Lail also expressed a need to examine the county’s current zoning rules.
• The board received an update on the United Way of Alexander County and its current community needs survey. Dr. Dianne Little, president of the United Way’s Board of Directors, presented information about the local nonprofit. She said there is currently no paid staff with nine board members. Dr. Little said they only have the ability to fund 50 percent of the grant requests totaling $26,770 to seven agencies, which include the Alexander County Partnership for Children, Alexander County 4-H, Alexander Rescue & EMS, Alexander County Family YMCA, Alexander County Department of Social Services, The Bridge Community, and the Mobile Cafe. United Way has also begun a “365 Drive” to encourage small businesses to commit to $1 per day or $365 a year. They are also working to develop partnerships with local and regional companies. For more information or to take the survey, visit www.unitedwayalexander.org.
• In the County Manager’s report, Mr. French informed the board that the grant is closed for the Stony Point Elementary School Wastewater Project, pending the receipt and approval of the county’s audit by the Division of Water Infrastructure. The project only required $741,863.25 of the $864,750 grant.
He also presented information about a $1 billion FEMA program entitled “Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities” (BRIC). The program would provide funds for planning and shovel-ready projects.
Consolidated Human Services Board Meeting
A meeting of the Consolidated Human Services Board followed the regular meeting. Billie Walker, Assistant Health Director, presented a COVID-19 update. As of 9/20/21, Alexander County had a cumulative total of 5,911 cases with 398 cases in the last 14 days and 155 in the last seven days. Sadly, there have now been 107 deaths associated with the virus and there are 13 people in the hospital. Approximately 37 percent of Alexander County citizens are fully vaccinated, with an additional 4 percent having received one dose. Walker said the numbers from the Delta variant appear to slowly decreasing. The health department continues to conduct drive-thru testing at 10:00 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Vaccinations are available by appointment by calling (828) 632-9704 or online at www.alexandercountync.gov/covid.
• Walker also presented the 2021 communicable disease update. She said that prevention and control of communicable disease are some of the most important concerns that public health is mandated to do, which has been much more evident due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the year 2020, COVID-19 represented 86 percent of communicable diseases in Alexander County with 1,777 cases, followed by 111 cases of chlamydia, 48 cases of gonorrhea, and 53 cases of hepatitis C. The health department’s focus is education to prevent these diseases, as well as surveillance to help contain the spread of a communicable disease in the community.
• Kristy Hunt, the new Senior Center Director, presented an update on activities at the senior center. She said that helping seniors with Medicare drug plans is one of the main functions of the center, with savings of almost $1 million each year for the past several years. Medicare Open Enrollment is October 15 through December 7, and Hunt encourages local seniors to visit or call the center for assistance. More activities have also returned, such as exercise classes, woodcarving, needlework, line dancing, scrapbooking, card games, art classes, and more. For more information, call (828) 632-1717.
• Linda Clements, DSS Director, presented a social services update. She said that COVID-19 has impacted their office with illness or quarantines in place. There has also been an increase in staff vacancies, especially in child welfare and Medicaid. Clements also expressed concern about repeat continuances of foster care court hearings. In late 2021, the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) will be added to the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP).
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners typically meets on the first Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in room #103 at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education; however, the next meeting is set for Monday, October 11 at 6:00 p.m. Regular meetings are recorded, and can be viewed on the county’s Government Channel on Spectrum channel 192 or on the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Meeting agendas, minutes, videos, and more are available on the county’s website at www.alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.