April 20, 2021

Update on flood-compromised roads

The flooding that occurred in Alexander County on November 12, 2020, will be remembered by many for the tragic loss of life and damage that occurred. The flooding caused 16 roads to be closed for repairs, with 13 roads still closed.

The Alexander County Board of Commissioners heard a roads update from Public Information Officer Gary Herman at their March 1st Zoom meeting.

Herman said he has been in close contact with North Carolina Department of Transportation Division 12 staff to help keep the public updated on the roads situation.

He said that three roads have been repaired and reopened, including Millersville Road, Nester Road, and Smith Grove Church Road.

The bridge on Cheatham Ford Road will be replaced. The project is under contract and is in the design phase. The contractor is removing flood debris as well as debris from where part of the bridge collapsed. The new bridge is expected to be complete by December 2021.

Herman said the following roads should be repaired by mid to late April: Rocky Face Church Road (at Pressley Court), 591 Berea Church Quincy Road, 1949 Berea Church Quincy Road, and Sloan Road.

Work is underway on Macedonia Church Road at Glade Creek as the contractor continues grading and erosion control measures. Work has also begun at 2535 Rocky Springs Road. At 958 Sulphur Springs Road, the pipe has been installed and partially backfilled, and the contractor is forming a concrete headwall to reinforce the culvert.

Contractors will be scheduling preconstruction meetings in the near future for the following road projects: 7858 Cheatham Ford Road, Hopewell Church Road (at Mill Creek), 1069 Lackey Mountain Road, and Jud Smith Road (at Marlowe Road).

Herman said the only road repair that isn’t progressing is Old Wilkesboro Road near Jaycee Park Loop. The NCDOT is working with utility companies to relocate underground utilities to allow road repairs.

In other business:

• Commissioners received an update on the county’s wireless broadband expansion project from David Moose, Compliance/Procurement Specialist. He said that staff has reviewed the contract with Open Broadband LLC and has forwarded it to an attorney for additional review.

Staff recently held a planning meeting with Open Broadband to discuss their proposal to provide wireless broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the county. During that meeting, it was decided to proceed in two phases as half of the proposal was fairly concrete while the other half will require some additional planning and discussion.

Phase One will include installing additional equipment on the tower atop Linney’s Mountain to strengthen the signal for the expansion project, as well as leasing space on a tower on Willie McLeod Road and on Moore Mountain which would help serve the Ellendale, Sugar Loaf, and Vashti areas. Phase Two, which will serve the eastern and southeastern areas of the county, continues to be researched by Open Broadband to determine the best tower locations.

• Commissioners approved a resolution to allow the county to apply for an NC Commerce Building Reuse Grant for “Project Buckeye One.” The county will apply for an $80,000 grant which will support a local industry. The grant will be administered by the Economic Development Corporation and Alexander County will provide a five percent local match for grant administration, if the grant is awarded.

• Benjie Thomas of West Consultants reported that the Bethlehem Sewer Project is substantially complete, which meets the deadline of March 11. The contractor is now doing clean-up and sowing grass in affected areas, and will complete a punch list of smaller items in the near future to finish the project. Thomas said the county recently received its third loan payment of approximately $900,000 from the state. The final change order will be submitted to the state in the near future to complete the loan payments to the county.

• Chairman Larry Yoder expressed his concern at the amount of litter on the roadsides in Alexander County. He urges everyone to “take pride in your community and properly dispose of your trash.” Gary Herman, Public Information Officer, said he has been in contact with the NCDOT Litter Management Coordinator for Alexander County with hopes that a clean-up event can be held in April.

• County Manager Rick French said the Alexander County Soil & Water Conservation District has been researching the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, which is a federal emergency recovery program that helps local communities recover after a natural disaster strikes, such as the November 12th flooding. The US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service would pay up to 75 percent of the cost for eligible emergency projects, while the county would be required to pay 25 percent of the cost, which Soil & Water staff currently believe will be $19,875.

• County Manager French said the Alexander County Household Hazardous Waste and Document Destruction Day is scheduled for Saturday, May 1, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the County Administration building (621 Liledoun Road, Taylorsville).

• At the Consolidated Human Services Board Meeting, Assistant Health Director Billie Walker presented a local COVID-19 update. She said Alexander County has a cumulative total of 3,918 confirmed cases, with 84 deaths, and 13 people currently hospitalized.

The health department continues to conduct drive-thru testing clinics on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 10:00 a.m., although there has been a significant decrease in testing.

Walker said the county has received 500 first doses of the Moderna vaccine for the past two weeks, but is unsure how many doses will be received next week. In total, the county has received 6,550 doses and have administered 6,458 doses by making efforts to avoid waste.

She said the health department has been very busy with planning, scheduling, and administering the vaccine. The new vaccine hotline has received 64,681 calls since it was established in early January 2021. The hotline number is 828-352-7724.

Currently, the health department is focusing on teachers and child care staff with more than 350 vaccinations scheduled for Wednesday, March 3 from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at both the health department and the Alexander Senior Center. Health staff has been working with local manufacturers to schedule their employees to be vaccinated beginning Wednesday, March 10, if vaccine supply allows.

Leeanne Whisnant, Consolidated Human Services Director, said, “We appreciate our volunteers, EMS, pharmacists, and others who are helping us. I’m proud of the response and our dedicated staff. We’ve had a lot of compliments, so I believe it’s been going very well.”

• Linda Clements, Assistant DSS Director, reported on numerous topics including the aging program, economic services, placement challenges for youth and adults, Families First Prevention Act, budget changes, and senate bills with DSS impact.

She also reported that the transformation to NC Medicaid Managed Care is underway as enrollment packets are currently being mailed to Medicaid clients. The packets will help explain the process and direct clients to choose a health plan. Some people will remain in the current fee-for-service program (now called NC Medicaid Direct), and will not receive a letter.

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.

The next meeting is set for Monday, April 5, at 6:00 p.m.

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