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November 29, 2021

County: Tap on to the new water lines soon for lower fee

Alexander County water projects mostly complete

Two water projects in Alexander County are almost finished, and residents are encouraged to tap on to the new water lines before December 31 to take advantage of the discounted tap fee, according to a county news release. At their November 1 meeting, the Alexander County Board of Commissioners heard a report on the water projects from R.J. Mozeley, Senior Project Manager for McGill Associates, which served as engineer for the projects.

Mozeley said the 2018 water project included 71,100 linear feet of six-inch and eight-inch water lines in various parts of the county. The roads were chosen to provide service in areas of need and to improve the connectivity of the water system. Water lines were installed on portions of the following roads: Fox Court, Zeb Watts Road, Liberty Grove Church Road, Dula Loop, Ned Herman Road, Poly Bowman Road, Deal Farm Lane, Kirkpatrick Lane, Espie Little Road, Icard Ridge Road, Teague Town Road, and B&T Lane.

In April 2020, commissioners approved an additional water line extension project which installed 11,500 linear feet of water lines on unserved portions of Sanchez Road, RZ Bowman Road, William Reece Road, Clouse Road, Friday-Cockrell Road, Rabbit Hollow Road, AL Fox Road, Crowson Road, Outrigger Road, and Drum & Hammer Road. Water lines will be installed on Emerald Point Drive and Crappie Cove Lane within the next 60 days, which will fully complete the projects.

To assist residents who live in these areas, tap fees have been reduced to $541, for a savings of $602 per tap. The fee reduction will expire on December 31. If you live in an area where water lines have been installed, contact the City of Hickory at (828) 323-7427.

In other business:

• Allison Brown, Alexander County Cooperative Extension Director, presented information about the upcoming Farm-City Week, which is observed the week before Thanksgiving each year. The special week recognizes the contributions that farmers make to both rural and urban settings.

“Whether a generational farm or a new and beginning farm, Alexander County farms continue to provide economic, environmental, and health benefits to many people,” Brown said. “No matter where we live, on the farm or in the city, a farmer touches our lives.”

She said Alexander County farmers make a tremendous impact on the local economy, with approximately $176 million in sales. There are 544 farms in the county, which average 100 acres each. In North Carolina, the county ranks 4th in layers (chickens), 12th in broilers (chickens), and 13th in beef cattle, but is the 88th county in size.

“Our farmers are very valuable to us, and they bring a lot of revenue into the county,” said Larry Yoder, Chairman. “Our farmers are to be commended for the jobs they do.”

Brown encourages the public to recognize farmers, ranchers, and merchants who support farming and agriculture by using #AlexanderFarmCityWeek on social media.

• Zack Shepherd, Regional Community Relations Director with Vaya Health, presented a Medicaid transformation overview. He said that Vaya is a local government agency that manages publicly-funded services for individuals facing challenges with mental health, substance use, and intellectual/developmental disabilities (MHSUIDD) needs in a 22-county area of western North Carolina, including Alexander County. Shepherd said Medicaid Managed Care includes three types of Prepaid Health Plans (PHPs): standard, tailored, and tribal. Standard plans went into effect July 2021. There are 8,435 people who are eligible for Medicaid in Alexander County, of which 7,796 moved to the standard plan in July. Only 639 people will be eligible for the tailored plan in July 2022. He said Vaya will consolidate with Cardinal Innovations and will serve nine additional counties for a total of 31 counties. Learn more about Vaya Health at www.vayahealth.com.

• Commissioners approved an ordinance to close portions of roads for the Alexander County Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 4, at 3:00 p.m. The main roads that will be closed include Liledoun Road, Main Avenue, Main Avenue Drive, and Hwy. 16 South.

• Commissioners approved a proclamation designating November 1 at Power Plant Worker Appreciation Day in recognition of the men and women who generate the electricity everyone depends on. Alexander County is home to Oxford and Lookout hydroelectric stations, which generate reliable energy to serve homes and businesses in our area.

• In the county manager’s report, Rick French said the Alexander County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) received a $25,000 Hometown Revitalization Grant from Duke Energy to support small businesses that were impacted by COVID-19. Eleven businesses were awarded $2,250 each.

French also noted that the Alexander Friends of the Library book sale is set for November 4-7 at 135 Commercial Park Avenue (near CVCC Alexander Center for Education), and encouraged the public to attend.

• During the public comment period, there were three speakers. Macy Jones said she had heard the county plans to use all of the $7,283,353 in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds to expand the county water system. She proposed spending $1 million to support a variety of things, such as replacing lost public sector revenue, providing child care assistance, providing bonuses for front-line employees, providing grants for non-profits and businesses, providing funding for food pantries, assisting the homeless coalition, and more.

Dianne Little, president of the United Way Board of Directors, presented preliminary results of their community needs survey, which received 148 responses. Countywide survey results showed that the overall needs are broadband, education, health care, housing, and transportation. Food insecurity and homelessness were noted also; full details will be released later.

Priscilla Jenkins, founder and CEO of The Bridge Community, requested financial support for the displaced/homeless population in Alexander County. She said that Alexander County Schools reported 87 homeless children (those with no permanent address) in 2020, plus there is a growing adult homeless population. Jenkins requested that commissioners use $2 million of ARPA funds to establish a homeless shelter.

Consolidated Human Services Board Meeting

• Linda Clements, Assistant DSS Director, said the department recently completed the Recipient Eligibility Determination Audit (REDA), with a couple of issues that were discovered. A corrective action plan will be developed with state representatives on December 12 in a virtual meeting.

More details are coming soon about the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWA). As of October 14, only 80 of 450 water providers had enrolled in the program.
She said the child welfare program is challenged with staff vacancies. While they are making some progress in the court system, there are currently 67 children in foster care and four in the ages 18-21 program.

November is National Adoption Month. A foster parent association meeting was to be held on November 2 at Mt. Herman Baptist Church. Foster parent orientation meetings are scheduled for November 8 and December 6.

The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) begins in December for senior citizens and disabled citizens, and is open to others in January.

• Billie Walker, Assistant Health Director, presented a COVID-19 update. She said the numbers are looking much better when compared to one month ago. As of November 1, Alexander County had a cumulative total of 6,491 cases, with 106 cases in the last 14 days and 54 cases in the last seven days. There were seven people in the hospital. There have been 125 deaths associated with the virus.

The test positivity rate has declined to 5.6 percent in Alexander County, compared to 9.9 percent a month ago. The state rate is 5.0 percent, compared to 9.4 percent a month ago.

The health department is offering a third dose of Moderna and Pfizer to those who are immuno-compromised and booster doses of Moderna and Pfizer for those who were vaccinated six months ago or longer. She said individuals can “mix and match” with the booster. For example, if an individual received two doses of Pfizer, he/she could choose the Moderna vaccine for his/her booster shot. She stated that the health department staff can help citizens understand the specifics of third doses and boosters and help them make the decision that is best for them.

The FDA has approved the vaccine for ages 5-11 and CDC approval is pending, but is expected soon.

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, December 6 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.

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