Man arrested on child porn charges – Mount Airy News

Roman
STUART, Va. — A Patrick County man has been arrested on child porn charges, Sheriff Dan Smith has announced, after an investigation to which the Surry County Sheriff’s Office lent assistance.
Oscar Alfredo Roman, 39, a resident of Willis Gap Road in Ararat, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon by Patrick deputies on 11 felony counts of possession of child pornography.
Ages of the alleged victims involved range from 3 to 7 years old, according to information released Friday afternoon by Sheriff Smith.
In conjunction with Roman’s arrest, a search warrant was executed at his residence by members of the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Team.
Smith explained that his agency is a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) regional task force.
Investigator Jason Kruse, who represents the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office on the task force, had received a tip about Roman’s alleged involvement in child pornography and began an investigation. Kruse obtained multiple search warrants to retrieve electronic data, which led to Roman’s arrest.
“Cases like this are complex and involve specific training and knowledge,” Smith said in a statement.
In addition to the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, Patrick authorities were assisted in the investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police.
“We are grateful for our North Carolina and neighboring Virginia law enforcement partners — the inter-agency cooperation in this case could not have been better,” the sheriff added.
Roman was taken before a magistrate, who set a $9,500 secured bond in the case. He was bonded out of jail a short time later.
Sheriff Smith is asking anyone who has information regarding this case to contact Investigator Kruse confidentiality at 276-692-5123.
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December 28, 2022
Among the many missions of the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery is outreach and sharing with the community knowledge to live a happy and clean life. Over the last months, their teams have spread out to the schools to discuss opioids, fake pills laced with deadly fentanyl, and more recently have been sharing information on the dangers of vaping.
There is a field of study now known as hope science and institutes of hope have shown up at colleges and universities across the country. Arizona State University’s Center for the Advanced Study and Practice of Hope has been studying hope as a concept, and as a practice.
Those results are trickling into Surry County, and it is again the team from the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery (SCOSAR) who are preparing to find innovative ways to bring the message of hope home to those who have found hope to be in short supply.
“Hopeful people are able to set goals, identify ways to reach their goals and feel as though they can do the work to achieve those goals,” says Crystal Bryce, associate director of research in the Hope Center and clinical assistant professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University
“Hope requires a person to take responsibility for their wants and desires and take action in working towards them,” John Parsi, executive director of the Hope Center wrote. He explained that wishful thinking or optimism is just believing that something will come to pass. Believing that you can have an influence over your situation is hope.
It may require a little change in the way people think to break an association between wishful thinking and optimism versus actionable change, “Optimistic people see the glass as half full, but hopeful people ask how they can fill the glass full,” said Parsi.
“Dreams and optimism are just belief structures,” he further explained. “When you’re an optimistic person, you believe things in the world will turn out just fine. Hope is an active process.
Jaime Edwards, research analyst for SCOSAR concurred saying, “Without a sense of hope and a belief that we can have happiness, it can be impossible to change. If we don’t have a sense of hope, then why would people want to try and change anything?”
“A lot of trauma, adversity, or lack of basic needs diminish hope and hope is one of the single best predictors of wellbeing across the lifespan,” SCOSAR’s outreach coordinator Charlotte Reeves said. She has been collaborating with a team from the state and UNC-Chapel Hill to investigate early childhood traumas in Surry County like hunger, neglect, and substance abuse and find ways that the community can work together to change outcomes.
“The relationship I would like people to see is that there is certainly a great life after having bad times in our lives; we just have to be the drivers of our own destiny,” she said. Those childhood traumas can be overcome, and cycles do not have to repeat themselves.
Neurologist Dr. Jerome Lubbe said, “One of the most powerful things we have available to us as human beings is hope and the reason hope is so incredible and fascinating… is because of what hope can offer us in the here and now but also in the future. Also, the fact that hope is a tangible measurable experience that happens in the brain.”
There may be more to the power of positive thinking after all it turns out. He suggests positive thinking is the best way to create hope and create change in a person’s life, “Science has shown you cannot have a thought without having a legitimate change in neurochemistry – either a neurotransmitter changes or hormonal change that impacts your physiology.”
“We live in a distracted period or time whether that is environmental, online, or within our daily lives. For many of us we lack time to just be in the moment. If we can learn to be in the moment and listen to ourselves better that will yield a sense of hope and a sense that we can influence the outcome,” Edwards said.
From studies like those at Arizona State University it is felt there is a growing understanding of some of the neurochemistry behind hope, “This isn’t a squishy science,” said Parsi who points to statistics showing that efforts to improve hopefulness in young people can be “more effective than many mental health interventions.”
Edwards also said that hope can be passed along between generations, so creating an environment of hope and gratitude can help members of this community who are not yet among us.
Many people are looking for non-medical solutions to health issues, and mental health needs to be on that list too. If Edwards and the hope scientists are right that being mindful of the moment is part of the solution to those issues, then residents of Surry County are in luck to be blessed with clean rivers, parks, and trails aplenty to stop and smell the flowers or listen to the water ramble by.
December 28, 2022
• Employees of the Staples store on Rockford Street were the victims of a recent theft there, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
The loss of property and money from the Dec. 17 incident totalled nearly $500, including a Microsoft Surface smartphone, glacier white in color; an orange Bamberg phone case; a blue Oliver Co. wallet; a driver’s license; and a medical card.
Victims of the crime are listed as Kevin Mitchell Inman, a Roslyn Lane resident, and Suzanne Stewart of Gardner Street. The larceny was perpetrated by an unknown party.
• Police were told on Dec. 16 that a North Carolina registration plate, number JEH6632, had been stolen from a 2011 Honda Odyssey owned by David Alexander Hayes, who lives on Spring Water Trail.
The tag was taken while the vehicle was parked in a lot in the 200 block of Riverside Drive.
• Flores Vincente Gomez, 44, of 344 Granite St., was jailed without privilege of bond on Dec. 15 for a charge of assault on a female.
It had been filed earlier that day with Rosalba Gomez as the complainant. Flores Vincente Gomez is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on Jan. 19.
December 28, 2022
In some cases, being at the “1” level is a great thing — but where economic rankings are concerned, Surry’s recent designation as a Tier 1 county means it is among the state’s most-distressed localities.
This development to be in effect for 2023 is prompting concern among both Mount Airy and Surry County officials, since the new rankings by the N.C. Department of Commerce reflect a decline in Surry’s economic well-being involving median household income.
“It doesn’t bode well for the county to be a Tier 1 county,” Eddie Harris, a longtime Surry commissioner representing its South District, said Wednesday.
“This status isn’t favorable because households have less disposable income at a time when inflation is rampant,” observed Deborah Cochran, a city commissioner who is troubled by the lower ranking and also weighed in on it Wednesday.
The state department annually ranks North Carolina’s 100 counties based on economic well-being factors and assigns each a Tier designation. The 40 most-distressed counties are designated as Tier 1, the next 40 as Tier 2 and the 20 least-distressed as Tier 3.
Surry had been Tier 2 before moving to Tier 1 through the latest evaluation. It is among five counties shifting to a more-distressed tier, also including Onslow, Pitt, Randolph and Transylvania.
Tier rankings are calculated based on four factors: average unemployment rate; median household income; percentage growth in population; and the adjusted property tax base per capita.
Where Surry came up short in the new Tier rankings for 2023 is the median household income category affecting its overall economic distress level.
For 2023, its shift from Tier 2 to Tier 1 is accompanied by the county’s overall economic distress rank being lower at No. 38 (it was No. 51 for 2022). This shift was largely driven by Surry’s median household income rank falling from No. 47 last year to No. 30 this year.
The county’s median household income is listed as $47,114 in the latest state report.
In comparison, Stokes County’s income figure was given as $59,068, ranking it 79th in North Carolina.
Union County has the top ranking with a median household income exceeding $90,000.
Double-edged sword
The income situation poses an obvious problem for county residents, Commissioner Harris said.
“Median household income is what drives prosperity and moves them out of poverty.”
Cochran, the city commissioner, also cited the link between income and poverty, which she sees as a signal for local government units to avoid placing other financial burdens on citizens such as increased property taxes.
Harris said the state rankings have presented a unique situation for Surry since it always is near the cutoff mark for Tier 1 and Tier 2. One change here or there can place it at one level, then the other the next year due to the variety of factors that can be involved.
From his perspective, the Tier system has always represented a “love-hate” situation, Harris said.
“Because if you go into a Tier 1 county it opens up opportunities for public schools to get more money,” he explained, along with added federal funding for local programs.
The Tier system is incorporated into various state programs to encourage economic activity in the less-prosperous areas of the state, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
“Cities and counties will be given preference for state assistance and grants due to being Tier 1,” said Cochran.
She was elected this year as the at-large member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners after serving in that position in the past and as the city’s mayor.
Possible remedies
But both Cochran and Harris indicated that such extra assistance is not better in the long run than maintaining a healthy income level locally.
The county commissioner believes that the solution points to the ongoing need for economic diversity and more workforce-development programs to prepare workers for higher-paying jobs.
He pointed out that the local labor market remains tight, which can be considered a motivator for training opportunities.
In the meantime, local government also must do its part, Cochran believes.
“What might be done?” she added, answering that question by pointing out how a conservative approach is needed.
“Government on every level must operate in a real world of financial reality,” Cochran commented. “It would not be prudent to increase taxes, fees, water rates and increase unnecessary spending — if we keep taxes low, businesses will want to operate here and create jobs.”
“I served (the municipality) during the Great Recession and know it is possible to keep our rates low and focus on priorities,” Cochran added.
“When I was on the city council in 2013, we recruited a company that still pays $12,000 to $17,000 per month for water usage — this helps to keep our water system up and running without passing along increases to customers.”
December 27, 2022
On a recently Saturday morning, elementary and middle school students from across Surry and Yadkin counties converged upon Surry Community College to compete in the 2022 NC FIRST Regional Qualifying Event, sponsored by Surry First Lego League (FLL) and Surry Community College.
Teams representing Mount Airy, Surry County, Elkin and Yadkin County schools, took part in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) event with the hopes of taking the championship back to their district and school.
“Each year FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) selects a theme and develops a series of missions where competitors must learn, research, problem solve, and program their way through four competitive areas: core values, innovative project, robot design, and the robot game challenge.
“The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” organizers said. “With adult Coaches to guide them, FIRST Lego League teams (up to 10 members) apply science, engineering, and math concepts, plus a big dose of imagination to develop solutions to real-world challenges. They also design, build, and program Lego Mindstorms or Spike Prime-based robots to perform autonomous ‘missions’ on a playing field. Along the way, they develop critical thinking, team-building, and presentation skills.”
Jeff Edwards, Science Institute coordinator for Surry County Schools, coordinated the event with the North Carolina FIRST Lego League Planning Committee.
“This year’s theme was, ‘superpowered,’” he said. “Teams were given the task to re-image the future of sustainable energy and power their ideas forward. Teams also had to prepare a presentation on their solution to the chosen problem. All members of a team must take part in the presentation and each team has no more than five minutes to sell their idea to the judges.” This year’s winners in the project category were the Solar Warriors of Central Middle School.
Edwards also shared, “Core values are the heart of the program. Through core values, teams express the FIRST philosophies of gracious professionalism and ‘coopertition.‘ Student participants learn that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals and that helping each other is the foundation of teamwork. Participants are expected to display and uphold these core values in all that they do. Teams demonstrate core values to the judges by preparing a brief presentation on how they expressed these values as they completed this year’s preparations, and by engaging in a challenge designed to show how well teams shared the load and worked together to accomplish a task.”
This year’s winners in the core values event were Team Panther Attack of Yadkin County Schools.
“Robot design mimics a real-world engineering design review,” Edwards said. “In this event, teams must present their robots to judges who are tasked with determining how well teams used attachments, body shape design, and programming to get the robot they built to accomplish the missions created for the robot challenge. Using Lego bricks teams may build whatever attachments they think will help their robot in completing missions. They may also choose from an assortment of sensors to add to the robot.”
The winners of the Robot Design category were Team Robush of Yadkin County School.
“The highlight and public portion of the competition takes place in the afternoon, the Robot Runs,” Edwards said. “In the Robot Runs competition, teams must program a robot using coding skills to accomplish a series of missions relating to the theme Superpowered. Robots had to move energy units, battery packs and interact with energy production and consumption models as they completed missions on a robot playing field. Completing these missions earn points and the team whose robot attained the highest score is named the winner.”
The 2022 winners of the local tournament were Team Robush of Yadkin County Schools.
The Judges’ Award this year went to The Franklin Robodogs, a rookie team from Franklin Elementary. The Judges’ Award recognizes the team that impressed the judges during the participant presentation component of the competition. The team showed promise with the robot design, programming, strategy and innovation, teamwork, research, and presentation categories. Although not placing first in any of the individually judged categories, The Franklin Robodogs’ name appeared in the top three in multiple categories.
Team Energetic Engineers of Mount Airy City Schools were named the Overall Champions of the tournament. This event qualifies teams to participate in the state tournament held in January.
Maria Blakeney of Pilot Mountain Middle School was named the recipient of the Mentor Award. This award is given to an individual who has inspired their team to do their best, both as individuals and together. Mentors are nominated by a team member or member of the school community. After all nominations are submitted, judges review the information submitted and choose one winner. Blakeney’s guidance and leadership are evident among her team and she also served as this year’s competition emcee.
The Surry FLL program is supported by local business partners who recognize the value of the Lego FIRST Robotics Program to help students develop career skills as they participate in the program; career skills to prepare them for entering the workforce. To further enhance students’ skill sets, Surry Community College offers the Mechatronics Program. Students studying in the Mechatronics Program are able to be a part of the local pipeline into the STEM workforce.
This year’s sponsors of Surry FLL included Renfro Brands, NCFI Polyurethanes, Insteel Industries Inc., Northern Regional Hospital of Surry County, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, Surry Economic Development, and SouthData. “We are extremely grateful for their support of the FLL program. The support of these business partners made today possible. It was awesome to see all of these teams exemplifying STEM and demonstrating what they have learned and how much can be accomplished with teamwork” Edwards said.
December 27, 2022
When Mount Airy residents turn on a faucet, they might appreciate the clear, clean liquid that emerges without really considering the facilities and processes making this possible — which is where an important new project comes into play.
It is targeting the Spencer Water Treatment Plant on Orchard Street, one of two such facilities in the city.
The Spencer plant was constructed nearly 100 years ago — in 1924 — and still contains the original interior concrete walls of sedimentation basins installed at that time.
Those walls have been in a state of disrepair for years, according to city Public Works Director Mitch Williams.
He added that this is a concern since sedimentation basins are used to filter particulates from the raw water entering the treatment plant from Lovills Creek nearby.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners responded to that situation by voting earlier this month to award a contract for the rehabilitation of the interior concrete walls at the plant.
Two bids from qualified contractors had been received for the project, with a High Point company, Creative Resurfacing, tapped by the board.
It submitted the lowest proposal, $143,844, which was almost $50,000 less than the other bid received, $193,750 from Triangulation Inc.
In addition to the financial consideration, Creative Resurfacing has “an excellent working relationship with the city,” Williams pointed out in recommending that it get the job, based on past performance with municipal contracts.
The approval by the board includes a total project cost of $150,000 to allow for possible overruns. Funding for it was included in the budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year that began on July 1.
Work at the Spencer plant is to include pressure washing to remove old coatings, abrasive blasting to remove residual coatings and loose material, resurfacing spalled concrete and gaps with epoxy mortar, priming surfaces with epoxy and top coating with Sherwin Williams Duraplate 6000 Epoxy.
All products used in the rehabilitation will be NSF (National Sanitation Foundation)-certified for use in water-treatment facilities, Williams mentioned.
Spencer plant significant
“It is imperative that the city adequately maintains and refurbishes the Spencer Water Treatment Plant because it is used as a backup to the larger Doggett Water Treatment Plant located on Stewarts Creek,” Williams wrote in a memo outlining the need for the rehab.
In elaborating later, he added that the Spencer plant paid dividends in this regard in February through a way the public might not have known about.
“Due to the fuel tank spill at North Surry High School late last winter, we had to totally shut down the Doggett water plant until the fuel cleared from Stewarts Creek,” Williams explained.
“The city had to totally rely on the Spencer plant for about a month until the fuel cleared from Stewarts Creek.”
That facility is in pretty good shape mechanically for its age, according to the public works director, who says maintaining it as a backup plant is “extremely important.”
“However, there are some issues (sediment basin rehab, interior concrete rehab and more) that we would like to address in the next few years to bring the plant back to its original glory, thereby ensuring the plant is a reliable backup for decades to come,” Williams stated in the memo.
“The city of Mount Airy is fortunate to have two operational water plants on two different water sources.”
Both facilities were awarded by the N.C. Division of Water Resources for surpassing federal and state drinking water standards in 2021.
The Spencer Water Treatment Plant also received the same recognition for 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and the Doggett plant for 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Awards are given annually to water systems around the state which demonstrate outstanding turbidity removal, a key test of drinking water quality, according to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness or haziness of water caused by individual particles that can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. Microbes are microscopic particles that occur naturally but possibly include harmful bacteria and viruses.
While all drinking water systems must adhere to strict state and federal standards of quality, the local plants have met performance goals that are significantly more stringent than state and federal standards, officials say.
December 27, 2022
Since 1975 at Scenic Ford in Mount Airy Jimmy Vernon has been a fixture from his days back on the mechanics line to sitting in the big chair as the service department manager. As 2022 draws to a close, so too does his time with Scenic and he will be leaving the oil changes and sounds of air wrenches behind and taking fond memories with him.
To work so long in one industry, or more specifically for one employer, for that amount of time is no longer common. Vernon said the answer to how or why he last so long is easy, “I’ve never come to ‘work;’ I’ve always enjoyed it. I love cars and I love people, so this was the perfect job for me,” Vernon said from his office in the service bay of Scenic Ford the walls behind him filled with photos, memorabilia, and parts catalogs from years gone by.
In 1975 he started on the line and worked his way up from there saying he learned how to rebuild transmissions and differentials, “Before you knew it, I was doing it all.” In 1983 he was tapped as the new service manager and it was the same year, he said, that his most tenured current mechanic started.
“It used to be that you could do it all, you could pretty much fix a car with just a screwdriver,” he said of the changes to the cars over the years. The cars got smarter and lighter as they moved away from the heavy metals and manufacturers started using other materials.
Today some may deride the quality of autos versus the ones of the era before the massive influx of imports and the many changes that arrived with emissions standards, but he said that is not always the case. Most of today’s car are better built and will be on the road for “hundreds of thousands” of miles more than their older counterparts.
“The time was that if a car hit 50 to 60,000 miles that it was going to need a new engine, now? I had a lady in here recently over 300,000 on her first engine,” he said.
It is a good thing the cars are lasting longer because parts for older, and even some middle-aged, vehicles are harder to come by. Vernon said often folks are looking for a late 90’s car or truck thinking it may be easier to find a part and can be surprised when finding they are not the only one who has had that idea. A Ford Ranger sitting on the lot at Scenic right now of that age is patiently waiting while the right belts, hoses, and a filler spout can be tracked down so that it will be road ready once more.
As the technology changes, the human element of auto repair may never be fully replaced. Even though the cars are smarter and have computer chips governing much of their activity, there are things a human can do a machine cannot. Vernon quickly joked that automation and robots can never replace the humans because, “Someone’s gotta’ plug them in.”
Jokes aside, a human’s five sense can all be important when it comes to working on a car that gets entrusted at times with the most precious of cargo. A robotic helper may not be able to feel a vibration, detect the sweet smell of a leak under the hood, or the sounds of an engine idling higher than it should. The split-second decision making that comes with decades of working on autos cannot yet be matched by automation and many mechanics and drivers alike hope it stays that way.
Vernon agrees there is something to be said for tinkering and getting a feel for the car one is working on that a diagnostic readout will never duplicate, and he went on to add that a human is needed even after a diagnostic to pinpoint through isolation and exclusion what a faulty component may be.
He gained that knowledge from the elbow grease academy and earned his stripes when it was still just Scenic Mercury. While the brand names have changed and Scenic sells and services more than they used to, the human touch in repair and with customer never changes as styles come and go.
Same too with employees, Scenic customers should fret not upon his departure as Vernon says the service department is going to be in the knowledgeable hands of Kevin Pratt starting in the new year.
Looking back over his time he wanted thanked the team and ownership of Scenic for the many years and all the support he got from them saying, “You can’t do anything without support… I’d say you find more of that, and I see more of that, at Scenic than probably at the average business.”
Vernon said had it not been for health issues, he would like to have stayed on the job even longer, “I was hoping to work until I am 75, but the good Lord has other plans for me,” but he also noted that he isn’t going anywhere just yet, “People can still call me, if they like.”
December 26, 2022
Willie Wayne France celebrates the Project Timberlake Community Organization’s fifth Yard of the Month belonging to Sue Krepps who will have the sign adorn her yard until the first winner of 2023 is selected. The PTCO was formed to help foster a sense of community pride in their neighborhood and awarded a subscription to The Mount Airy News as a prize for winning.
The Project Timberlake Community Organization recognized James and Clara Carter as having the Yard of the Month. Carter (left) poses with Willie Wayne France of the organization and the yard of the month sign. The group has been working to improve the quality of life for residents of the community through service, outreach, and crime prevention via community watch.
Project Timberlake Community Organization Secretary Betty Brown-France and Treasurer Barbara France place the Yard of the Month sign in an earlier winners yard during what looks like much warmer days.
December 26, 2022
• A Mount Airy man has been arrested on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretenses, according to city police reports.
William Joseph Spencer, 50, of 2553 Westfield Road, was taken into custody on Dec. 15 at 2038 Rockford St., the address for Advance Auto Parts, by officers during an investigation involving the possession of a stolen vehicle.
He was found to be the subject of an outstanding warrant for the false-pretense charge that had been filed in the city on Aug. 19, with no other details listed.
Spencer was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $5,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in District Court on Jan. 9.
• Colby Craig Cassell, 36, of 3886 Pine Ridge Road, Lowgap, was charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, a felony, on Dec. 13, after he was encountered by officers at Walgreens on Rockford Street.
Cassell was jailed under a $1,000 secured bond. In conjunction with the same incident, Ashley Luann Goins, 35, of 511 Gillespie Road, Dobson, was charged with possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance (lorazepam), along with possession of drug paraphernalia, and transported to Northern Regional Hospital due to an overdose.
Goins is slated for a Jan. 9 appearance in District Court, with a court date not found for Cassell.
• Adam Kane Westmoreland, 32, of 1227 Bryant Mill Road, Ararat, was incarcerated under an $8,013 secured bond on Dec. 7 for a civil non-support order violation.
Westmoreland was encountered by officers during a traffic stop at Cook Out on Rockford Street and found to be the subject of the outstanding order whose name had been entered as wanted in a national crime database.
December 26, 2022
Surry Community College fall semester art students presented a Fall Art Show and Open House earlier this autumn.
The art show featured work from the current studio classes including 2D design, drawing, painting, ceramics, and digital photography. Attendees were able to tour the studio art classrooms to see additional student art and learn about the Associates in Fine Arts in Visual Arts degree. Art instructor Anna-Olivia Sisk was on hand to answer questions about the visual arts opportunities at Surry Community College and how students can register for future art classes.
The associate in fine arts degree in Visual Arts program at SCC focuses heavily on the visual fine arts and is recommended for those who plan to continue their education at a senior institution. This program prepares transfer students to meet selective admission criteria for acceptance into a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts at a senior college or university.
The course work in this program consists of Universal General Education Transfer Component courses in literature, humanities, social/behavioral sciences, mathematics and natural science. Students in this program are provided an opportunity to concentrate in a major area of fine art study that includes elective choices in drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and digital photography.
Follow the fine arts program on Instagram @surryfinearts. For more information about the fine arts program, contact Lead Instructor Anna-Olivia Sisk at 336-368-3479 or [email protected]
Registration is open for spring courses. For questions about college application, financial aid, or class registration, contact Student & Workforce Services at 336-386-3264 or [email protected]
December 26, 2022
This area was fortunate to avoid the blizzard conditions and subzero temperatures gripping much of America the past few days — but hasn’t escaped the cold and related issues altogether, including a 92-year-old record being broken locally.
That occurred Saturday morning, when a reading of 2 degrees above zero was noted at F.G. Doggett Water Plant in Mount Airy, the city’s official weather-monitoring station.
This not only shattered the previous low-temperature record locally for Dec. 24, a 7-degree day on Christmas Eve of 1930, according to a plant spokesman, but did so decisively as evidenced by the 5-degree margin.
Remember, this took place in early winter, with that season having just got under way last Wednesday.
Weather statistics have been kept in Mount Airy since 1924, and 2022 will go down in history for delivering the “gift” of a memorable Christmas weekend that proved challenging for many.
In addition to frigid conditions that descended Friday — dipping into single digits, gradually rising into the teens and 20s and finally creeping into the low 30s Sunday — high winds and rolling power blackouts were factors during the arctic blast.
Trees downed
Despite the record cold that swept in with little warning, no loss of life attributable to the frigid conditions has occurred in Surry, according to Eric Southern, the county’s director of emergency services, unlike some parts of the nation.
But other difficulties did surface.
”Countywide, I think we had over 200 trees that were down,” Southern said Monday in commenting on a situation caused by gusting winds on Friday. “Emergency services around the county were pretty busy.”
This included fire departments, N.C. Department of Transportation crews and county emergency management personnel. Duke Energy crews also were visible during the crisis, among others.
The cold weather caused rolling blackouts to be implemented Saturday by the two local electrical providers, Duke Energy and Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp., in response to the statewide power grid being threatened by excess demand.
This mirrored a precaution taken throughout much of North Carolina, which involved some customers in Surry being without service for more than 90 minutes.
Southern said Monday that the severity of this situation was lessened by the fact folks among both local utility systems responded by conserving electricity.
Meanwhile, a weekend fire at a residence on Lambert Farm Trail is believed to have started in the attic, with residents getting out safely while facing another problem.
“I think it ended up displacing the family,” Southern said.
Regarding in-city activity, the Mount Airy Fire Department responded to calls during the holiday weekend including one structure fire, one electrical fire, one smoke investigation, two downed trees, three power line incidents and a trio of sprinkler activations caused by frozen lines.
None were thought to be major in nature.
Local area relatively unscathed
All in all, Surry County weathered the arctic blast relatively well, the director of emergency services said, “compared to other places.”
That viewpoint was echoed Monday by Mitch Williams, who deals with climate-related issues within his realms of responsibility as Mount Airy’s public works director.
“Friday, we had a few downed trees,” he said, caused by the severe winds. And there was a water line break about 9 p.m. that day on Dyson Place, a street in the northern part of town which municipal workers addressed.
“They worked constantly until early Saturday morning,” the public works director said.
“We’ve been really lucky,” Williams added in assessing the overall effects in Mount Airy from the weather.
Where water lines are concerned, he was most concerned Monday about problems surfacing later this week as the ground thaws from the freezing temperatures. This relates to how water expands when freezing, exposing lines to stress that can lead to leaking or burst pipes becoming apparent as conditions grow warmer.
“Knock on wood,” Williams said optimistically.
The National Weather Service forecast, as of Monday afternoon, was calling for a warming trend that will bring mercury readings in the 50s Thursday, Friday and Saturday and even the 60s on New Year’s Day next Sunday.
December 26, 2022
Thirteen students recently graduated from Surry Community College’s Practical Nursing Program.
The graduates include Amanda Hutchens of Boonville; Jessica Mabe of Danbury; Sara Scott of Dobson; Brittany Walker of East Bend; John “Luke” Hatcher of Lowgap; Courtney Davis, Shannon Hobson and Dove Mayes of Mount Airy; William “Steven” Duncan of North Wilkesboro; Cassandra Bishop and Hailey Wilson-Felts of Pilot Mountain; Laura Mullins of Pinnacle; and Jessica Foley of Ararat, Virginia.
A pinning ceremony was held to honor the graduates and celebrate their accomplishments on Dec. 14, in the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology on the Dobson campus. The guest speakers at the ceremony were Dan Combs, BSN, RN, and Allison Bedsaul, BSN, RN, of Northern Regional Hospital.
Northern Regional Hospital is a strong partner of the nursing programs at Surry Community College, providing clinical experiences, as well as clinical faculty to support nursing student education. Bedsaul and Combs both serve key roles in nursing education within Northern Regional Hospital. Both speakers congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to find an area of nursing that they loved and to continue learning and growing in nursing. Bedsaul remarked about the graduates being fortunate to live in a community with such a variety of high-quality healthcare opportunities.
Combs also encouraged the students to keep in mind what is important in nursing, encouraging the graduates to find an employer who will support them in their goals and aspirations. He also reminded them of the importance of treating their patients and the patients’ families like they would want to be treated.
The practical nursingcurriculum at Surry Community College prepares individuals with the knowledge and skills to provide nursing care to children and adults. Graduates are eligible to apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) which is required for practice as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Employment opportunities include hospitals, rehabilitation, long-term care, home health facilities, clinics and physicians’ offices.
Prospective nursing students can contact Dr. Yvonne Johnson, SCC associate dean of health sciences, at 336-386-3368 or [email protected] for additional information on Surry Community College’s nursing programs or go to www.surry.edu.
December 25, 2022
The fifth Annual Surry County Schools GROW Strong 5K bolted through Fisher River Park on recently, with all 11 elementary schools participating in the event with more than 300 students competing.
The 5K race for third, fourth and fifth-grade runners began at 9:30 in the morning. By 11 a.m., all student runners had completed the race with dozens of family members and Surry County School system staff cheering on each team.
GROW is an acronym for Go Run Our World. The initiative encourages enthusiasm for health and wellness, and a love of running. Each team’s coach trains students to run a 5K and teaches perseverance, responsibility, race etiquette, self-motivation, self-pride, and teamwork. Training takes place over ten weeks leading up to the big event.
Surry County Parks & Recreation hosted the event and worked with the organizers to ensure safety for all participants. The Surry County Schools Educational Foundation Managing Director Ashley Mills, along with Rockford Elementary Coach Deanne Fitzgerald, organized the event for Surry County Schools.
“This is a great day. I am so thankful for all of you and for your families that have come out to support you,” Superintendent of Surry County Schools Dr. Travis L. Reeves said before the race.Reeves also commented about how proud he was of each student. “These students have set goals for themselves, and today they are able to reach these goals. I am proud of these students, and I know their coaches and families are proud too.”
Results of the race:
Third grade girls school time
1. Lillian Childress Dobson 28:15.10
2. Yeeimi Arreola Rockford 31:41.36
3. Kalley Cienfuegos Rockford 31:42.96
Fourth grade girls school time
1. Eliza Richardson Dobson 26:18.59
2. Ila Wilmoth Cedar Ridge 26:56.63
3. Bristol Holder Cedar Ridge 27:00.06
Fifth grade girls school time
1. Alleah Ayers Shoals 27:21.15
2. Karina Gonzalez Lugo Rockford 27:41.29
3. Haidyn Horton Dobson 27:46.42
Third grade boys school time
1. Colten Bean Copeland 26:56.69
2. Dilon Nava Copeland 25:58.13
3. Grady Swift Cedar Ridge 26:55.30
Fourth grade boys school time
1. Jose Ivan Baltazar Dobson 23:42.47
2. Silas Hiatt White Plains 24:23.34
3. Roe Johnson White Plains 26:33.89
Fifth grade boys school time
1. Luke Hampton Dobson 22:44.23
2. Leonel Garcia Santchez Dobson 23:07.61
3. Abraham Garcia Santiago Dobson 23:18.04
Dobson Elementary earned the titles of overall fastest boys’ team and fastest girls’ team.
The final recognition was the GROW Strong All Heart award for one male and one female student. Coaches could nominate students for this award based on attitude, participation, courage, and team spirit. Mia Faistl and Daniel Martinez, both from Rockford Elementary, won those awards.
December 25, 2022
The Surry Regional Association of Realtors gathered for its annual Christmas celebration at White Sulphur Springs recently, where several were recognized with awards and the group’s new executive board was installed.
The event featured a dinner catered by 13 Bones, live music from Craig Vaughn, door prizes and fellowship.
During the event, the 2022 Realtor of the Year was awarded to Stephanie Montgomery with Mitchell Prime Properties. The recipient of this award is nominated by fellow association Realtors and chosen by the two prior award recipients — Dana Whitaker and Tonda Phillips.
The 2023 executive board was inducted by the North Carolina Association of Realtor Region 6 Vice President, Paul McGill. The 2023 Executive Board includes President Stephanie Montgomery, President-Elect Maggie Cockerham, Secretary/Treasurer Dana Whitaker, State Director Bobbie Collins, and directors Eric Hodges, Steve Yokeley, and Brandon Johnson.
December 25, 2022
Interstate Sign Company Inc. recently celebrated its 31st year with its employees during a Christmas get-together.
“Interstate Sign Company Inc. has been going strong and consistent throughout COVID and economic fluctuations for 31 years,” the company’s officials said, leading owner and President Rick Shelton to hold a day of celebration with his employees. All totaled, 65 people attended the event held at Golden Corral in Mount Airy,
The day began with Secret Santa that brought a lot of laughs and Christmas Spirit. Employees were recognized for their contribution this year with each receiving a bonus check.
For lunch, the employees and crew brought their families to join and fellowship together. Shelton drew employee’s names from a bright red bucket with many winning Yeti coolers, Yeti coffee cup and mugs, gift certificates, and cash surprises.
To close the celebration, plaques were given to employees who had devoted their talents and commitment to the company for 17 years and more. A special recognition went to his father, Gray Shelton, with the most at 30 years. Donna Edwards in accounts receivable was recognized as employee of the year with a plaque and $500. Special puppy plaques were given to Raymond McGee and Russ Comer for “their time and exceptional craftsmen on a much needed dog house for two spoiled dogs,” the company said.
December 25, 2022
The start of a new year is a time for resolutions, reflection, rebirth and refreshing oneself, for which an annual event scheduled at Pilot Mountain State Park on Jan. 1 can play a role.
It will be joining other state parks across North Carolina that Sunday in hosting a First Day Hike. Many people have come to embrace those events as a means of recovering from the stress of the holiday season in a wholesome way involving the Great Outdoors with exercise and a connection to nature.
“It’s just a good way to wind down,” a local ranger has observed in the past regarding First Day Hikes. “It’s a very popular program.”
Guided hikes that are free to the public are featured, which tend to include interesting facts being presented by Pilot Mountain rangers leading the participants. This discussion typically includes the park’s long history, geology and local flora and fauna spotted along the way.
The hike at Pilot Mountain State Park, located at 1721 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle, is planned from 9 to 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
“And it is for all ages,” a spokeswoman at the park said Friday.
The hike will begin at the shuttle stop in front of the visitor center there, where participants will join park personnel for a trek along the Grassy Ridge and Fiddlehead trails which are at the park’s lower level, she said. The distance involved will be less than one mile.
More than 40 other hikes are planned on Jan. 1 at state parks, recreation areas and nature preserves across North Carolina, with cycling involved in some cases.
Eno River State Park near Durham launched the inaugural First Day Hike in 1971, and the events have been held at parks across the state since 2011 to encourage folks to get outdoors.
That formula appears to work, with past First Day Hikes at Pilot Mountain being well-attended.
This is not just a North Carolina phenomenon, with hundreds of free, guided First Day Hikes now being organized in all 50 states on New Year’s Day, according to the American Hiking Society.
Each shares the aim of creating a fun experience for the entire family.
December 24, 2022
Nearly all middle and high schools in the Surry County School System placed in the North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities Art Showcase held recently.
Registration was from Nov. 2 through Nov. 10, with all schools having submitted artwork.
In the Central Regional competition, North Surry High School placed second overall. In the West Regional competition, Surry Central High School placed third overall.
On the middle school level, Surry Central, J. Sam Gentry, Meadowview Magnet, and Pilot Mountain middle schools all placed in the top four of the West Regional competition.
The association’s art showcase is a competition that recognizes both the best individual artists and the best art programs in North Carolina schools. An unlimited number of students in each school may participate in the school-level competition. Students are presented with a prompt and given about one month to create their submission. Media categories include painting, drawing, collage, photography, and other creative efforts.
Electronic copies of submissions are sent to the North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities and forwarded to judges. Submissions from top teams and students from each category advance to the state finals and are evaluated by judges in a live exhibition.
December 24, 2022
For a few hours on Saturday, Christmas Eve turned a lot chiller for area folks already struggling with single-digit temperatures.
That is because Duke Energy and Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation each had to institute rolling blackouts to combat excessive demand for electricity.
Duke Energy announced the blackouts early Saturday morning, saying the high demand was endangering the statewide electric grid, forcing the firm to institute rolling blackouts throughout much of the state. At the time, Duke officials said most of the blackouts would last between 30 minutes and an hour, although several residents in Surry County reported power outages lasting more than an hour-and-a-half.
Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation purchases much of the power it distributes throughout its coverage region from Duke Energy, thus the local utility company was forced to institute power outages as well. A number of homes and businesses throughout the county were affected at various times, just as residents were struggling with temperatures climbing from overnight lows in single digits. Saturday’s high in Mount Airy was predicted to only reach 25 degrees.
Shortly before noon, the Electric Membership Corporation posted on its Facebook pages its rolling blackouts would end, but asked customers to immediately report any lingering power outages.
Duke Energy officials had not announced the end of its blackouts as of noon. The company was urging its customers to continue voluntarily conserving energy to help the firm reduce or eliminate the need for the blackouts. At various times during Saturday morning, more than 100,000 Duke Energy customers were without electric service at various points.
December 24, 2022
Flat Rock Elementary School held its annual spelling bee earlier this month.
Rhea Roberts, a fourth grader, was crowned the winner and will compete in the Surry County Schools Spelling Bee in February.
December 24, 2022
While serving the Yadkin Valley region for nearly a century, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital has evolved into a comprehensive community healthcare system providing care across 350,000 patient care visits annually. To better reflect its breadth and depth, the organization has introduced a new brand identity: Hugh Chatham Health – where “Your Health is Our Passion.”
“At Hugh Chatham Health we are committed to exceptionally safe, high-quality care and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made on that journey,” said CEO Paul Hammes. “In the past year alone, we’ve ranked in the top 15% of hospitals nationwide for patient satisfaction, patient safety, and for stroke care. We are one of only two Joint Commission ‘advanced’ total hip and knee replacement centers in the state, recently named a 5-star program by Healthgrades. And we continue to invest in life-changing programs and resources, including a new electronic health record system which will transform the care process. At our hospital, surgery center, emergency department, 29 physician clinics, Hugh Chatham Health at Home, and beyond,”
Cynthia Gonzalez, vice chair of Hugh Chatham Health’s Board of Trustees, added, “The new brand honors our heritage, features a distinct and recognizable ‘HC’, and signals our bold commitment to advance the community’s health and vibrancy. And as we continue to grow, our vision remains clear: to be the best community healthcare system in the nation, with service as our guiding principle.”
In the months ahead, officials there plan for Hugh Chatham Health’s new brand identity to become more visible and broadly represented across the system and region.
December 24, 2022
It has been looking a lot like Christmas at Dobson Elementary.
Second grade learned how to write friendly letters in class recently, then they all wrote letters to Santa.
The students wrote the letters as part of their writing lesson, making sure to begin with capital letters and use punctuation, and of course adding their wish list. This is a writing assignment that they always love to do.
December 24, 2022
Early this year, leaders in the Mount Airy school system and local business community formed the Mount Airy City Schools Educational Foundation, a 501c3 created to raise money in order to support arts education, dual language immersion programs, and workforce development throughout the school district.
“The foundation also serves as a pathway of giving for those wishing to donate back to the school system in honor or memory of loved ones,” school leaders said of the non-profit agency.
As the foundation’s first year of existence draws to a close, it is already having an effect on the city schools. In November, the foundation awarded grants to staff members across the district to go toward their proposed projects. More than $23,000 was awarded to the surprise of staff and students.
“I am overwhelmed at the response from our Mount Airy community in the first year of the educational foundation,” Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison said. “Bringing in dollars above and beyond normal giving to help with teacher grants and student scholarships shows that we have a giving community who cares deeply about education. Our teachers and students deserve our support and the educational foundation is another way to provide that support for each and everyone.”
Some of the funded projects include:
• Career and technical education teacher Garrett Howlett will help students utilize their new iPads by engaging them in the design process and the development of their digital engineering notebooks. The aim is for learners to gain a better understanding of industry standards while also honing their craft as designers with employability skills’
• Sara Lowe, sustainable agriculture educator, will be able to enhance the Bears in Coop project with a chicken run. This will enable students to learn about animal husbandry and raise grass-fed chickens and eggs. The run will allow chickens to have a place to be safe from predators while still able to get on the ground;
• Catrina Alexander and Kathy Brintle will work with Mount Airy Middle School students who will obtain access to an indoor hydroponic tower for sixth-grade lessons and for integration into the newly formed Future Farmers of America (FFA) Club. The plan is for students to gain an understanding of food sourcing and sustainability while also gaining employability skills;
• Hollie Heller, music educator for BH Tharrington Primary and JJ Jones Intermediate, will be purchasing a noteworthy classroom rug for active student engagement and a new set of risers for musical performances. Students also will have access to new ukulele racks and tuners to refine their hands-on artistry’
• Nicole Hooker, interventionist for BH Tharrington Primary, will be purchasing reading English resources for dual language immersion teachers to use to engage their students. Games, books, and pre-made instructional resources will allow teachers and staff to work with students to improve literacy and language skills.
The foundation’s goal to hold one fundraising dinner a year proved successful this year, according to officials. More than 150 community members came together in May for the first event, raising nearly $50,000 for the programs. The foundation is designed to put 10% of donations into its endowment fund and spend 100% of the investment income on “positively impacting student learning.” Money is also set aside for student scholarships that will open to current students in the spring of 2023.
The next fundraising dinner for the foundation is scheduled for April.
In addition to supporting programs in the district, the foundation set the goal of providing scholarships to students. A portion of the spring fundraiser was earmarked for student scholarships but the foundation’s board wishes to provide “impactful” scholarships for students, school officials said. That is how the fall fundraiser, termed “The Lucky Draw” came to be. The committee sold numbers 1-100 for $100 to raise $10,000 in a raffle.
Committee members asked businesses and community members for donations of prizes and “donors were generous and quick to give,” foundation officials said. The opportunities to win ended up being 11 prize packages valued at more than $400 each and 10 door prizes ranging from $100 to $300 each. The money raised will go toward student scholarships and students interested in technical fields, arts and language, and teaching will be able to apply for this funding beginning in spring.
December 23, 2022
• Property valued at more than $20,000 was stolen during a breaking and entering discovered at a business location in Mount Airy Wednesday afternoon, according to city police reports.
The incident occurred at 697 W. Independence Blvd., the address for a former Sonic Drive-In restaurant.
An Ansul-brand fire-suppression system involving four components altogether was stolen from inside the building during the break-in along with a trailer jack, with the total property loss put at $20,250.
David George Parks of Byron Bunker Lane is listed as the victim of the crime.
• Police were told on Dec. 16 that counterfeit currency had surfaced at O’Reilly Auto Parts on West Pine Street, where an unknown suspect used it to buy items. No denomination information was listed regarding the bogus money.
• Joshua James Moran, 31, of 258 Cherokee Trail, was charged with driving while impaired and driving while consuming on Dec. 15 after the investigation of a traffic crash that police records indicate occurred on U.S. 52 near its intersection with N.C. 89.
Moran, the driver of a 1999 Ford F-150 pickup, allegedly refused to submit a breath sample, leading to a search warrant being obtained to have two vials of blood drawn from his left arm.
He subsequently was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in District Court on May 15 of next year.
December 23, 2022
There are presents under the Christmas tree that entice, and a new package has quietly been placed under Surry County’s tree. Project Denver has been wrapped in pretty paper and bows with a ‘no peeking’ label affixed for county residents. It may make a nice, matched pair, so to speak, when paired with Project Cobra which itself remains coiled and under a thick veil of secrecy.
What is known is that a company has expressed interest in Surry County and the board of commissioners will be holding a public hearing on the matter early in the new year. The public hearing will be the first time that the board will discuss the project in public and will allow residents a chance to offer their opinion on whether the county should partake in the incentives package —although residents won’t have any information with which to form an opinion. The county is not releasing the name of the firm, the type of work it will do, nor will it say what kind of incentives it is seeking.
The county is observing New Years Day on Monday, Jan. 2 which means the county commissioners meeting that night, and the public hearing on Project Denver, are moved one day later to Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The county statement said, “A private corporation proposes a direct investment of $6.4 million within Surry County. A source of funding for the improvement is the County’s General Fund Reserves. Public benefit to be derived from making such improvement includes the expansion of Surry County’s tax base, creation of new jobs within the County and improvement of the general employment outlook in Surry County.” County officials won’t say what the “improvement” is nor how much of the county’s general fund reserve it might use.
“The public hearing shall be used as a forum to hear public comment on the proposed project and to evaluate the value of the project to Surry County and its citizens,” the statement concludes.
The amount of the incentives package or its proposed use are unknown at this time. With the recent departure of Todd Tucker as the leader of the Surry Economic Development Partnership, his duties have fallen temporarily to Creative Economic Development Consulting, LLC of Elkin. Crystal Morphis of Creative EDC said Friday it was their policy to not offer comment on ongoing negotiations, although she did offer the Town of Elkin will hold a public hearing on Project Denver Jan. 9 which may suggest the town is considering their own incentives.
The notice from the county that a public hearing was forthcoming appeared on their website at some point after the last meeting of the board of commissioners on Dec 5. Their agenda had no listing of any incentive packages to be brought before the board.
Surry County Commissioner Mark Marion said he was not able to shed any light on the forthcoming Project Denver. “I wish I could give some insight, but we are not in the loop on these two,” he said alluding also to the snoozing Project Cobra.
Marion has previously expressed interest in the potential of Project Cobra and its potential to grow an existing Surry County employer’s footprint and employee headcount. The commissioners in a unanimous vote passed the incentive package of $36,244 spread over five years in performance-based incentives. The City of Mount Airy followed suit approving a plan for $36,341 over a five-year period.
The public has not yet been made aware of the identity of the company at the heart of the project, or the timeline on their decisions. As Marion said, “We’re still in the dark on the advancement of Project Cobra.”
Project Cobra is reported to be the potential consolidation of warehouse and distribution operations for a company already in Surry County valued at over $1.96 million in investment. They are looking also looking at sites in Alabama and South Carolina where they currently have operations as well. If selected it may yield 35 new jobs to the area, conversely if they should move, they will take 63 jobs with them.
For Project Cobra’s public hearing there was only one in-person speaker, resident J.T. Henson who expressed frustration that a public hearing had been called and comment from the public solicited. He wondered how anyone could attend the hearing or speak on it with any authority if the public had never heard about it before. With no forewarning and no information provided he felt the public was in the dark and that in the dark, he said corruption can form like mold.
Some have wondered if incentive packages are the best way to bring a new business to town, or help one expand. Mitch Kokai, a North Carolina political analyst for the conservative John Locke Foundation, spoke on incentives earlier this month and used a turn of phrase that has found its way into debates and forums in front of Surry County’s Board of Commissioners – that being the concept of economic winners and losers.
He wrote, “These (incentive) deals offer another example of the government trying to pick economic winners and losers. If these companies actually need taxpayer support to survive, then the targeted incentive is ill-advised. If the companies only chose North Carolina because of the incentive, then that doesn’t bode well for the state when the incentive runs out and the business starts reassessing its options.”
He goes on to suggest that targeting across the board changes that are pro-business are a better path than incentives alone, “North Carolina does better when it focuses on broad-based economic reforms — low tax rates, light regulatory burden – that affect everyone,” he said. “That’s a preferable approach for existing businesses, new businesses, and people who don’t even know yet that they want to start a business.”
December 23, 2022
STUART, Va. — A Patrick County man has been arrested on child porn charges, Sheriff Dan Smith has announced, after an investigation to which the Surry County Sheriff’s Office lent assistance.
Oscar Alfredo Roman, 39, a resident of Willis Gap Road in Ararat, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon by Patrick deputies on 11 felony counts of possession of child pornography.
Ages of the alleged victims involved range from 3 to 7 years old, according to information released Friday afternoon by Sheriff Smith.
In conjunction with Roman’s arrest, a search warrant was executed at his residence by members of the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Team.
Smith explained that his agency is a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) regional task force.
Investigator Jason Kruse, who represents the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office on the task force, had received a tip about Roman’s alleged involvement in child pornography and began an investigation. Kruse obtained multiple search warrants to retrieve electronic data, which led to Roman’s arrest.
“Cases like this are complex and involve specific training and knowledge,” Smith said in a statement.
In addition to the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, Patrick authorities were assisted in the investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police.
“We are grateful for our North Carolina and neighboring Virginia law enforcement partners — the inter-agency cooperation in this case could not have been better,” the sheriff added.
Roman was taken before a magistrate, who set a $9,500 secured bond in the case. He was bonded out of jail a short time later.
Sheriff Smith is asking anyone who has information regarding this case to contact Investigator Kruse confidentiality at 276-692-5123.
December 23, 2022
White Plains Elementary School recently held its annual spelling bee, with fifth grader Gracie Beasley emerging as the School Spelling Bee Champion.
She will compete in the Surry County Spelling Bee in February.
December 23, 2022
Times Square does its thing on New Year’s Eve — but the arrival of 2023 also will be celebrated with style in Mount Airy, where the annual Mayberry Sheriff’s Badge Raising is planned.
“We’re one of the few communities that does something like that,” said Executive Director Matt Edwards of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, where the holiday observance now in its ninth year will be held next Saturday night as 2022 ends.
“Most drop something,” Edwards added regarding situations such as that in New York City, where a ball is dropped to signify the passage of time into another calendar as the clock strikes twelve. The museum official hatched the idea of the badge raising in 2014 because Mount Airy was lacking such an event to officially greet Jan. 1.
It involves a oversized, lighted sheriff’s shield being hoisted, a variation of the ball descending in Times Square at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. The badge is a tie-in to Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, the television role immortalized by local native Andy Griffith.
The public is invited to the downtown New Year’s Eve celebration, planned from 11:45 p.m. to midnight in the courtyard of the museum.
“It is going to be kind of a toned-down event this year,” Edwards said in comparison with past badge raisings that also featured various other activities — but which have been hampered in more recent years by COVID-related issues.
This included being livestreamed in 2020 due to a nighttime curfew imposed during the pandemic.
The museum director said organizers have sought to keep alive the badge-raising tradition with the different formats employed.
“But we will not have a whole lot of programming associated with that,” he said of the Dec. 31 gathering.
It will, however, include some special features, including plans to invite the Mount Airy High School football team and coaches after their recent victory in the 1-A state championship game.
This is a fitting gesture since the Bears’ achievement is a highlight of the soon-to-be-ended 2022.
Edwards said he had contacted Coach J.K. Adkins about the team’s appearance. “And he sounded amenable to it,” the museum executive director advised.
While the players largely are to attend in a ceremonial capacity honoring their accomplishment, he says some might have the honor of holding ropes for the sheriff’s badge.
“We’ll have some music playing,” Edwards said, to be provided by a DJ, Mark Brown.
The museum official is hoping patrons who might be at other venues downtown on New Year’s Eve will meander to the courtyard of that facility for the raising of the badge.
December 22, 2022
The seventh grade students at Gentry Middle School recently had a sock drive to support Santa for a Senior.
Students were able to donate more than 1,900 pairs of socks and 519 handmade Christmas cards to support the efforts of Home Instead this holiday season. Their main goal was to make a difference in our community and help others feel joy this Christmas.
December 22, 2022
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) recently selected the academic research project of Surry Community College’s Alpha Xi Tau Chapter to feature in its publication, Civic Scholar: Phi Theta Kappa Journal of Undergraduate Research.
Civic Scholar features 18 research projects by PTK chapters across the country on a wide range of topics including: “Disability, Awareness, Inclusivity and Student Success Outcomes” and “Economic and Social Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on K-12 Education.” There were 394 submissions for the third edition of Civic Scholar.
“We are proud of all the chapters who took the opportunity this year to develop, implement, and write about their Honors in Action projects,” says Dr. Susan Edwards, associate vice president of honors programming and undergraduate research for PTK. “They are conducting research that matters, and their work has engaged people on their community college campuses and in their communities. Their work inspires us and highlights something we have known all along: community college students are central to the production of new knowledge and meaningful scholarship.”
Research was conducted as part of Phi Theta Kappa’s honors program, Honors in Action, and based on the topic, “To the Seventh Generation: Inheritance and Legacy.” The works published in Civic Scholar include both substantive research and community engagement — PTK chapters ultimately turned their research into action by using their findings to meet specific community needs.
Surry Community College’s Chapter Advisor Dr. Kathleen D. Fowler, who directed the project featured in the publication, is extremely proud of the students who dedicated their time and skills to work on it.
“Honors in Action projects are designed to help students grow as scholars and as leaders,” Fowler said. “The students research a global issue and how it manifests within their community. Then they design a project, based on their research, to help their community members. Thus, they are making a positive impact through their service.”
Surry’s Alpha Xi Tau Chapter of PTK entitled the research project, “The Errs of Our Ways: The Corrupted Inheritance of Child Labor and the Legacy of Hope.” After hearing a guest speaker’s presentation on child slavery, they developed this research question: “Do some countries exploit child labor for profit?”
Upon further research, they learned that child labor is one of the largest, fastest growing criminal activities today with 2.5 million victims at any given time. They also learned that Ghana is among the worst offenders, with 24% of children ages 5 to 14 engaged in child labor such as cocoa harvesting.
Researching this topic led them to develop a four-part project including an awareness campaign, fundraising, encouragement and volunteerism. They decided to partner with Hope House, a local missionary thrift store, to raise money and support Hope Chapel Orphanage in Ghana. They planned to reach 500 people alerting them of exploitation of children in Ghana, raise $2,800 for Hope Chapel Orphanage to repair its roof, write letters to 50 children rescued from slavery and volunteer at least 40 hours at Hope House.
The students also partnered with the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) for help with fundraising efforts. The local DAR chapter donated items for a yard sale fundraiser. All leftover items were donated to Hope House. Fundraisers were also held in the form of a basket raffle on the college campus.
The project resulted in the chapter surpassing three of the four goals its members had set for themselves. They reached 608 people through their awareness campaign, raised a total of $3,065 for Hope Chapel Orphanage and volunteered 56 hours of their time at Hope House.
This is the second time that the Alpha Xi Tau chapter has had its research published in Civic Scholar. They were included in the 2020 publication for their project “Transforming Families Impacted by Substance Abuse: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection.”
For more information about Phi Theta Kappa and its projects, contact PTK’s faculty Fowler at 336-386-3560 or [email protected] and Kayla Forrest at 336-386-3315 or [email protected] Follow the local chapter on Facebook @surryPhiThetaKappa or go to www.ptk.org.
December 22, 2022
Officials with the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce are looking to honor a local resident who has gone above and beyond in his or her commitment to the community.
But the chamber needs help, and is asking for area residents to nominate individuals they believe worthy of consideration for the chamber’s Citizen of the Year recognition.
For most of the chamber’s 63 years of existence, the recognition has been generally considered the chamber’s “highest honor,” said Chamber President Randy Collins.
“Who in the greater Mount Airy community comes to mind when you think of a local ambassador, a highly respected individual, or a business, organization leader focused on the future?” he said of some of the unofficial criteria used in whittling the list of nominees when the awards committee meets to go through the nominations,” Collins said.
Individuals do not have to be chamber members in order to win the award.
“I think what sets it apart, it’s generally an award to an individual, or to a couple, to someone who has just worked tirelessly in the community for a single cause, or a combination of various causes…and they have generally gone unrecognized. It’s (the award) a time for the chamber to put the spotlight on them and tell their story. That’s what the citizen of the year is.”
He emphasized that while many winners have had ties to local business, it is not a business award. Instead, it is one to recognize a person’s overall contribution, and leadership, in making Surry County and Mount Airy a better place to live and work.
The winner will be announced early next year, at the chamber’s Jan. 19 annual meeting slated to be held at Cross Creek Country Club. Collins said once a winner is chosen, the name is kept secret until being unveiled at the meeting. That, sometimes, can be a challenge.
“We try to get that individual to the event (without telling them),” he said. “Sometimes, we have to do that through family, or friends, or business associates.”
For now, the help Collins said the chamber needs is with nominations — he and the chamber are asking area individuals to nominate people they may believe should be considered for such a recognition.
“There’s a lot of stories of what people are doing, there’s a lot of heroes out there, and that’s who we’re looking for,” he said.
Those wishing to nominate someone can do so by filling out a form at the chamber’s website at https://www.mtairyncchamber.org/ For those who don’t have access to a computer, Collins said he’ll even accept hand-written or typed nominations.
“Somebody that may not be computer savvy, who wants to write up why they think a person should be a citizen of the year, they’re welcome to do that, as long as it’s not more than two or three pages. Send that to me, or drop it by the chamber,” he said. Collins email is [email protected] and the chamber is located at 200 N. Main St. in downtown Mount Airy.
The deadline for submitted nomination is 5 p.m. on Dec. 27. Once all the nominations are in — Collins said there have already been a “good number” submitted — the chamber’s selection committee will go over all of the forms, eventually choosing one winner.
“It’s a tough decision, there area lot of deserving people out there,” Collins said.
Past winners
Previous winners of the award, and the year of their recognition, include:
1962 Joe Johnson Sr.
1963 Archie Carter
1964 John E. Woltz
1965 Floyd Pike
1966 C.B. Roberson
1967 Dr. J. Dale Simmons
1968 George A. & Marguerite Kallenbach
1969 Rev. James Powell
1970 Jim Grimes
1971 Frank Smith
1972 C.B. Roberson
1973 James E. Johnson
1974 Jerry Beverly
1975 Stan Rogge
1976 Bill Breedlove
1977 Don Nance
1978 Larry Wright
1979 George Summerlin
1980 Dr. Swanson Richards
1981 Steve and Mary Petlitz
1982 Floyd Rees
1983 Bobby Galyean
1984 Jack Zonneveld
1985 Barbara Summerlin
1986 Tanya Jones and Zack Blackmon
1987 David Pruett
1988 Thurman Watts
1989 Ruth Minick
1990 Richard Vaughn
1991 Howard Woltz Jr.
1992 Ann Vaughn
1993 Jim Andrews
1994 Teresa Lewis
1995 John Springthorpe III
1996 Gene Rees
1997 Burke Robertson
1998 Susan Ashby
1999 Jack Greenwood
2000 Dr. Wilford Lyerly
2001 Gary York
2002 Pat Gwyn Woltz
2003 Ed Woltz
2004 Craig & Michelle Hunter
2005 Sandy Beam
2006 Marion Venable
2007 Virginia Rogers
2008 Mike Bowman
2009 Kate Appler
2010 Charlie and Ed Shelton
2011 Carol Burke
2012 Deidre Rogers
2013 Alan Connolly
2014 Berta Glenn Springthorpe
2015 Ben Cooke
2016 Catrina Alexander
2017 Robert Moody
2018 John Priddy
2019 Curtis Taylor
2020 David Rowe
2021 Traci Haynes George
December 22, 2022
The United Fund of Surry and Funding For Good are teaming up again to present another installment of their Leadership Education Series for nonprofit leaders.
In January they are going to present a bootcamp for those who manage, or aid in the management of, nonprofit entities with sessions centered around the topic “Strategic Growth: Raising Awareness & Resources for Your Nonprofit.”
The bootcamps will endeavor to arm participants with ideas to better spread the message of their group and drive charitable giving which is the lifeblood of so many of these organizations who rely so often on small dollar donations to keep their lights on and the mission in gear.
Melissa Hiatt, executive director of the United Fund of Surry, said the seminars will provide real ways to use stories and statistics to increase fundraising success. Attendees will also learn about the different types of written “asks” in the nonprofit world and develop strategies for productive donor interactions that generate meaningful impact. Facilitators will also help them to understand the difference between “service and engagement.”
Back to help with the bootcamp again are the experts from Funding For Good. “Their staff provide the education and both Amanda and Marie are the “go-to” subject matter experts for non-profit organizations,” Hiatt said.
The team on hand for the bootcamps will be Mandy Pearce, a certified fundraising expert and the owner of Funding for Good. Joining her will be Marie Palacios, who is the lead consultant of Funding for Good. Both were in attendance for the first of the United Fund’s successful leadership bootcamps in October.
Funding For Good has been operating for more than 13 years to assist non-profit groups in streamlining their processes so they can plan their futures and “untangle problems so non-profits can keep creating impact.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 18. the first session of the day will be the interestingly named “Telebration: Nonprofit Storytelling” and will discuss how non-profits present themselves to the world. Participants will consider what is the message they are trying to send to the community, or to potential donors.
“Non-profits provide life enhancing services, but do we tell our story well? If you are struggling with cultivating new donors, this could be the answer,” organizers said. If there are better ways to describe the mission of your group that may inspire giving, or volunteerism, than having a brainstorm with the ladies from Funding For Good along with fellow local leaders may be an innovative way to find a homegrown answer.
Session two that day will take the lessons of storytelling from the morning and apply them to “Crafting a Compelling Appeal.” Donors are the backbone to the financial health and longevity of any non-profit, but organizers warn so many interactions with donors are one and done.
Those types of interactions may limit giving by presenting the need as only a one-time ask whereas educating the public of the services that an organization is offering, and the necessity of those services, illustrates the need is ongoing. “Learning to craft an appeal that gets attention and keeps it is imperative.”
On Thursday, Jan. 19, the bootcamp will have attendees considering how to better relate to the public during campaigns with the session “Donor Relations-Creating Donor Impact.” The event organizers said, “Donors give because the cause is important to them, and they appreciate feeling that they have done something important by supporting a specific non-profit, are you giving them the attention they deserve and need? Relationship management is key to retaining any donor.”
After lunch, the bootcamp will wrap with a session entitles “Balance of Power -The Board Chair and ED (Executive Director)” to help foster better relationships between the board who oversees a non-profit and the ED tasked with the day-to-day operations of such.
The relationship between the board and the professional staff of a non-profit is critically important to ensure that the mission is being executed consistently. It can happen that the board and the director may have a different vision, or a different idea on how to get there, so to keep things moving both need to understand the functions of the other and how they must coexist even when if a difference of opinion arises.
While the event is titled as a bootcamp, that sort of guidance sounds more like having a personal business advisor for the morning educating on the soft skills needed to create a bond between the organization and their donors, or the director and the board, than the imposing image of a drill sergeant ordering pushups.
Registration for the bootcamp will be first come first served and there are 40 slots available, it may be a good idea to register early for this event Hiatt suggested. She also offered her thanks to the Surry County Board of Commissioners for applying Invest in Surry funds to the event making it free to the public.
The bootcamps will be held at the Surry County Training Center, 1218 State St., Mount Airy, from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. For further inducement. a light breakfast and lunch are provided both days to keep hunger pangs at bay and learning on track.
Growing the health of the county’s non-profit groups will in turn help the United Fund of Surry which is a winning proposition for the thousands of people who rely on the many services offered from organizations under the United Fund umbrella.
December 21, 2022
There does not appear to be any chance of a white Christmas in this year’s forecast, but the holiday weekend is going to be otherwise arctic-like, with dangerously low temperatures and steady winds.
Amanda Sava, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, said a low pressure system will sweep through the Mount Airy and surrounding region Friday, with a blast of arctic air following, plunging Friday night lows into the single digits. She said with steady winds and gusts as high as 45 mph, the windchill factor will make the temperatures feel like sub-zero conditions.
Temperatures that cold, she said, can lead to frostbite and hypothermia with just a few minutes of exposure.
That has prompted Open Air Ministries to combine forces with Mount Airy Wesleyan Church in Mount Airy to open a warming station Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. each day, for those who are homeless and have no other safe place to go those nights, according to Eric Southern, Surry County Emergency Services coordinator. Those needing the station may utilize it throughout those hours.
Southern said his department has been monitoring the forecasts for several days, but with no winter precipitation expected during the cold snap, there are no plans to open any shelters. He did suggest individuals prepare themselves for the winter blast.
“Just be prepared,” he urged. “Think about if power outages do happen, how will you stay warm? If you have generators make sure you have fuel for that, and don’t have anything inside your house burning.”
One area of worry, Southern said, is the tendency of individuals during extreme weather to take kerosene heaters or other heating devices inside, without proper ventilation.
“That leads to carbon monoxide poisoning,” he cautioned.
He said house fires are also a big concern, with people using fireplaces and wood stoves that are not clean and in proper working use, or they utilize space heaters that can catch fire if they cause wiring to overheat. Another danger is cloth or paper falling onto the space heaters, or hanging close enough to them to catch fire.
Sava, with the National Weather Service, also cautioned people to not remain outside for long periods of time, and if they do have to go outside, “wear waterproof shoes, if you have them, to keep your feet dry, keep your head covered, and layer your clothes.”
She added that people should make provisions for pets as well, nothing that the extreme cold expected this weekend can kill animals as well.
Sava said Mount Airy and the surrounding countryside is not alone in the anticipated temperature plunge. She said most of the nation will experience the same — sections of the Central Plains are already seeing single-digit temps along with blizzard-like snow.
“An upper level trough is driving all of this,” she said. That trough began developing last week over Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and began moving across the country this week.
“This is definitely widespread…it is digging really far south. As far as Southwest Florida,” she added.
While there is no significant chance of snow or icy precipitation with the cold weather, the National Weather Service did issue a winter storm advisory for Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, with a chance of sleet and freezing rain. Sava said around Mount Airy, that might result in ice accumulation of about 1/100th of an inch, although places north in Caroll and Patrick counties in Virginia could see 1/10 of an inch of ice build up.
All of that should be gone and cleared up before Friday’s temperature plunge, she said, and by early next week daily highs should be back to a more seasonal mid-40s, with lows in the 20s.
December 21, 2022
The offices of Surry County will be closed Friday, Monday and Tuesday in observance of the Christmas Holiday weekend. All county offices will resume normal operating hours on Wednesday, Dec. 27.
The county’s recycling and convenience centers are bucking that trend and will be operating their normal schedule.
They will be closed Saturday, Dec. 24 so their staff can enjoy Christmas Eve at home with family. On Monday, Dec. 26, be there bright and early to see all your favorite neighbors right back at the convenience centers purging homes of wrapping paper, bows, and boxes aplenty.
December 21, 2022
Two Claudville, Virginia, women were killed Wednesday in a two-car crash on North Carolina 103, near Slate Mountain Road.
Montana Joan Hodges, 26, and Paulette Ashlyn Wright, 23, each died on the scene when the vehicles they were driving smashed head-on shortly after 12:30 p.m., according to N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Fletcher Pipes. There were no passengers in either vehicle.
Pipes said the vehicle Hodges was driving, a 2001 Volvo, was traveling west on N.C. 103 when it veered across the center line, crashing head-on into a 2013 Hyundai that Wright was driving eastbound.
He said it appears each vehicle was traveling about 55 mph at the time of the crash, which is the legal speed limit for that stretch of road. Pipes said Hodges was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Both were pronounced dead at the scene by rescuers responding to the call.
While the trooper said the cause of the wreck was the Volvo drifting across the line, the reason that occurred has not been determined.
“We’ll download the vehicle engine control monitors…do toxicology tests,” and, he said, if investigators find cell phones they may be able to determine if either driver was using a phone at the time of the wreck. However, he said there’s no guarantee investigators will be able to learn that bit of information.
“If they have a pass code on it (the phone), it’s hard to get in,” he said.
The sergeant said it may take several weeks for all tests and investigations to be concluded.
December 21, 2022
First Lego League students at Dobson Elementary have been working on their First Lego League missions and projects since the beginning of school. They have been researching alternative energy sources, developing project presentation ideas, and coding their designed robot to complete missions in the First Lego League Robot Game.
“This is our first year having a robotics team and participating in First Lego League. Our students are super excited about running their missions and presenting their innovative project,” school officials said.
Students were excited when Marty Haynes from BioEnergy prepared an informative slide show for the school to share some real life applications on how they are using alternative energy sources in their business. They competed in a tournament recently at Surry Community College.
December 21, 2022
This year Jones Intermediate has been excited to have a First Lego League club and team.
First Lego League teaches students to work together to gain real-world problem-solving experiences through a guided, global robotics program. Fifth grade students were able to participate in a Lego Robotics Elective and were also able to utilize the STEAM Lab for after school practices.
The team, JOFLL, worked to create an innovation project in which the students researched the benefits of adding solar panels to offset energy expenses. This group of JOLeaders competed in a First Lego League Challenge event at Surry Community College recentl.
Thirty-six teams from Surry and Yadkin counties participated in the Regional Qualifier. The students presented their “Solar Bears” Innovation Project, their robot design, and completed three successful runs in the robotics matches.
December 21, 2022
Gov. Roy Cooper visited Elkin and Jonesville on Tuesday to tour local water and sewer plants which will soon be getting much-needed upgrades thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Jonesville will be receiving nearly $15 millionfor infrastructure improvements to its water treatment plant and water lines.
The Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority, which serves Elkin, Jonesville and Ronda, will be receiving $4 million for floodplain resiliency wastewater collection system improvements.
Cooper was a given a tour of the water treatment plant in Jonesville, including the original building constructed in the 1950s. Jonesville Town Manager Michael Pardue showed the governor corroded pipes which are common due to the age of the infrastructure which often causes water leaks, especially during season changes. Cooper also had a tour of the YVSA sewer facility prior to a short press conference.
YVSA Executive Director Nicole Johnston spoke about the state funds that have already benefited the regional sewer system and the new improvements that will be made possible by additional money.
Johnston said that since Cooper took office in 2017 the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority has received more than $16.8 million in grant and loan funds for much-needed upgrades to the treatment plant and collection system.
“This funding that was received met the critical need of the citizens, businesses, the hospital, the schools, and the industry in the YVSA service area and now provides a sound waste water treatment plant which will serve future needs of our area and protect the water quality of the Yadkin River,” Johnston said.
Secretary Elizabeth Biser of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said that clean, affordable water was a “top priority.”
“Without clearn water literally nothing else matters,” Biser said. “These funds are going to go a long way to protect public health, the environment, upgrade essential services and also make sure we’re keeping rates affordable for local residents.”
Pardue added that it was a “transformational day” for Jonesville.
“This is going to take Jonesville into the next century,” Pardue said of the nearly $15 million that will be used to upgrade the water system.
“These funds will allow us to keep our rate structure in such a way to allow our citizens to have affordable, clean, clear water,” he said.
Pardue said the new upgrades will allow for much greater efficiency for the town’s water system.
“Our water we produce today is very safe and very clean considering the circumstances, but we’re very inefficient,” Pardue said.
Cooper praised the local leadership, saying it was a “coordinated effort.” He also said the regionalization of sewer services through the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority was a model for other areas and commended the “visionary leadership” that lead its establishment.
“It is much more cost effective and want to encourage more of it,” he said of the regionalization efforts.
Seeing first hand the facilities that will be affected by this funding was nice, Cooper said, but he said his thoughts were particular on how these upgrades will benefit the people of the area.
“I can’t help but think of the families and people who have children who worry about whether their water is clean; the businesses that might be able to come and locate here that maybe couldn’t have otherwise that’ll provide a great paying job for mom or dad for that family,” Cooper said. “Everything does depend on clean water, if you don’t have it you can’t have a community.”
December 21, 2022
With Christmas yet to arrive, the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department already has been in the giving mood with its recent donation of a fire truck to some counterparts in Kentucky hard hit by flooding.
The Mayking Volunteer Fire Department, located in Letcher County in the eastern part of that state, had lost the bulk of its equipment during the devastation occurring in July, which surpassed any encountered in the history of that area.
“And it was greatly appreciated,” Mayking Fire Chief Tony Fugate said last week in reaction to the truck donation. “That’s a great bunch of guys there in Bannertown.”
However, one might wonder how the local fire department about 200 miles away from the one in Kentucky learned about its plight.
That’s where Jon Doss enters the picture, in providing a key link between the two.
Doss, who works as transportation coordinator for Mount Airy City Schools and is involved with the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department, also drives a tractor-trailer part-time for the Hardy Brothers trucking firm in Siloam.
As word of the terrible flooding in Kentucky spread, students at East Surry High School in Pilot Mountain and Bandys High School in Catawba County coordinated donations of supplies to help the communities affected.
Doss ended up being the one to drive a big rig loaded with those supplies to a neighboring town of Mayking, which is an unincorporated community.
“We lost everything”
The local man was told by a mayor of the neighboring locality about the situation with the Mayking department, and Doss subsequently was put in touch with one of its leaders, Harry Collins, who was asked if the truck would help.
“Basically, he said, ‘Jon, we lost everything,’” Doss recalled.
That included damage to the small department’s two fire trucks and the loss of other resources needed to serve and protect its community.
“One we had to completely take out of service,” the Mayking fire chief said of the flooding toll on its trucks. He added last week that the other was in the shop being worked on, also making it unavailable.
After learning of Mayking’s plight, Doss thought about a way the Bannertown department might help, which centered on a 1990-model pumper/tanker in its fleet.
“I knew we had this truck that we were going to sell,” he said, which instead was suggested as a means of aiding another department that could truly use such assistance.
“There was nothing wrong with it,” Doss said of the vehicle valued at about $10,000 which was still being pressed into service for fire calls.
Doss, who is on the governing board for the Bannertown department and has been part of the fire service since 1994, asked its chief, Chris Baker, and other board members about giving the truck to the Mayking unit.
“And we all unanimously agreed that this was something we should do.”
More departments help
In addition to the truck from the Bannertown department, Chief Baker reported that a box was filled with firefighting equipment such as turnout gear, which was contributed by others in Surry County to help Mayking rebuild.
Those involved in that effort included Horizon Equipment Rentals, Franklin Community Volunteer Fire Department, the White Plains Volunteer Fire Department, Pine Ridge Volunteer Fire Department and Skull Camp Fire and Rescue.
Members of the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department journeyed to Mayking last month to deliver the truck and equipment to eager recipients.
“It meant a whole lot to us,” Fugate said of the Surry Countians’ gesture, citing the fact that the Mayking department was in desperate need of a tanker truck. “It is in service and greatly appreciated,” he reported last week.
Doss mentioned that while the truck has been a benefit in and of itself, there also was a critical timing and logistical element involved.
Assuming the Mayking Volunteer Fire Department had the resources to buy a new truck, it takes about a year to get one in service once it is ordered.
The gift of the truck eliminated the need for that.
“All they had to do was transfer the title,” Doss said.
“And we can’t express how much it meant for them to donate this truck to us,” the Mayking chief said of Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department members.
December 21, 2022
It’s been a good year for projects to provide public restrooms in areas around downtown Mount Airy, which includes a decision in recent days targeting a key concert venue.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted unanimously during a meeting last Thursday night to add those facilities at Blackmon Amphitheatre, which is located near the Municipal Building. Specifically, the board awarded a $119,800 contract to a local construction company for the new restrooms.
“I think they’re greatly needed,” Commissioner Marie Wood said before the vote, referencing the fact that despite more than 50 concerts and special events being held there each year, Blackmon Amphitheatre lacks restrooms.
Persons attending events must use those at the Mount Airy Public Library or City Hall nearby which are not equipped to handle large gatherings and put a strain on employees of the two, Commissioner Tom Koch mentioned.
“This project will provide a much-needed service by adding restrooms behind the Blackmon Amphitheatre in the City Hall parking lot,” Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis stated.
He was referring to the demand for those facilities itself and concerns for neighboring locations that have been impacted.
“This will allow City Hall and the library to secure and lock their facilities during concerts,” Lewis explained.
In making the case for the new restrooms, the assistant city manager mentioned that the concerts and other special events held at Blackmon Amphitheatre are a major tourism draw locally.
The $119,800 contract to build the restrooms was awarded to Colt Simmons Construction, a local company.
It was the low bidder for the project and highly recommended by the city staff.
Colt Simmons Construction has recent experience with such jobs due to building new restrooms in the 400 block of North Main Street downtown, also deemed as much needed. That project was completed earlier this fall in the parking lot beside Brannock and Hiatt Furniture.
“We are excited to work with them again,” Lewis added, “as they are a local company and performed quality work.”
The money for the restrooms at Blackmon Amphitheatre is coming from Mount Airy’s share of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding appropriated by the federal government to help localities around the country recover from the pandemic.
Mount Airy’s allocation of ARPA funds totaled $3.2 million. It has been eyed for other municipal facility needs in addition to $600,000 from that source being awarded to five local non-profit organizations on Sept. 1 after an extensive application and evaluation process.
December 21, 2022
Mount Airy residents might have to wait a little longer to dispose of Christmas packaging materials due to the holiday’s effect on city sanitation operations that will be delayed or otherwise altered next week.
This will include residential and recycling routes, with no yard waste collection to occur on Monday.
In addition, there will be no residential sanitation service on Tuesday.
The route normally run that day is scheduled to be serviced next Wednesday instead, along with the usual Wednesday collections.
Sanitation schedules also will be altered for non-residential locations, with no commercial or industrial collections to occur either on Monday or Tuesday of next week.
City offices will be closed both Monday and Tuesday for Christmas.
December 20, 2022
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will again by holding its Noon-Year party for area children.
“This party is great for pre-school age children who want to celebrate, but you don’t want them staying up too late,” museum officials said of the event. It will be here at the museum on Dec. 31 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., so kids can still enjoy counting down until the clock strikes midnight later that day.
This Noon-Year party is a dance party, which will include a DJ “keeping the music going,” officials said. “We will also have crafts and activities for when the kids need a break from all that dancing, as well as a great goody bag to take home. The highlight of the event will definitely be the countdown and indoor balloon release, where kids can help ring in the (almost) new year with fun.”
The Noon-Year party is free for members and $5 a child for non-members. It is also free for up to two parents/adult chaperones per family to attend. “We have a limited number of spots for our Noon-Year Party, so be sure to call or go to our website to secure your tickets,” the museum organizers said.
For more information, or to register, contact the museum at [email protected] or call 336-786-4478, or drop by at 301 N. Main St. or registeronline www.northcarolinamuseum.org.
December 20, 2022
Surry Community College is offering a vehicle escort operators course on Saturday, Jan. 7, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Yadkin Center, 1001 College Drive, in Yadkinville.
This course is designed to meet the training requirements set by the N.C. Department of Transportation to certify oversize-overweight load escort vehicle drivers. Course components consist of defensive driving, escort driver requirements, skills training, and an exam.
Tuition for the course is $71. For more information about this class or to register, call the Yadkin Center at 336-386-3580.
December 20, 2022
The fact a local temperature record was tied in November might lead one to assume this was related to it being one of the colder months — but that distinction is due to heat instead.
A balmy 80-degree reading recorded on Nov. 8 matched Mount Airy’s previous high mark for that date, going all the way back to the days of World War II in 1944.
That was the high temperature last month, which conversely offered up an 18-degree monthly low on both Nov. 21-22 which contributed to November’s status as a cooler period of the year.
The various mercury swings combined for an average temperature locally last month of 48.6 degrees, according to a statistical breakdown from F.G. Doggett Water Plant as compiled by Will Hodges, the city’s assistant water treatment supervisor.
That facility is the official weather-monitoring station in Mount Airy, for which records date to 1924.
Last month’s 48.6-degree temperature average eclipsed the all-time one in Mount Airy for November, 47.2.
Frost occurred on 10 days last month.
More rain logged
The report from the water plant also shows that higher-than-normal precipitation occurred locally during November, when a total of 4.41 inches was measured there. The all-time average in Mount Airy for the 11th month of the year is 3.38 inches.
Measurable amounts occurred on 10 of November’s 30 days, with a .93-inch output on Nov. 7 constituting the most for a single day.
For the year, as of Nov. 30, precipitation stood at 48.14 inches — 3.52 inches, or 7.9% — above the normal 44.62 inches for Mount Airy at that juncture.
Fog was noted locally on six days during November.
December 20, 2022
The Catch My Breath campaign will soon be launching in middle schools of Surry County. While traditional tobacco use among kids has declined, the use of e-cigarettes or vapes has risen year to year and is finding a younger audience.
Dr. Steven Kelder from University of Texas School of Public Health developed Coordinated Approach to Children’s Health (or CATCH) to fight back. CATCH is a whole health program, but now officials have launched Catch My Breath in what has been heralded as the first of its kind evidence-based vaping prevention program.
The group said if they launched into every school across the nation, they could reduce the number of seventh graders who start vaping by 153,600 per year. They would accomplish this with a simple straightforward message: vaping is untested, unregulated, and unhealthy to the developing mind and body.
Think of it as reverse peer pressure where the message being communicated is that it is outside the norm to be a smoker or vaper. Gone are the days of the ubiquitous Marlboro Man billboards along the highway or a cartoonish Joe Camel hocking his wares to anyone who could see him.
Smoking in the United States has been on a precipitous decline for some time with the percentage of the population who identify as smokers dropping in a recent CDC report from the 2005 rate of 20.9% of adults down to 12.5% as of 2020.
When one door closes, another opens, and the tobacco industry wasted little time — nature abhors a vacuum in finding new transmission methods for their products and new markets of customers to sell them to with flavored varieties meant to lure in kids.
When the e-cigarette entered the mix, they were first marketed to some as a stop smoking aid. At the very least, electronic cigarettes were touted as a safer option to the traditional cigarette. While it is true there is no tar nor any ember with which to start a house fire if a smoker falls asleep in bed with her Virginia Slim lit, that by no means makes it a safe habit to start.
Perception and peer pressure used to be aligned on the other side of this fight. For decades, the smoker was presented as cool, sexy, alluring, sophisticated, and debonair. From ladies with the skinny Audrey Hepburn cigarette holders to James Bond after he got the girl, the cigarette was the answer to everything good or bad. The stars of old Hollywood were even extolling the health benefits of smoking.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration wrote that, “A primary concern is that many young people view vaping as socially acceptable. In the past decade, vaping has increased among all age and demographic groups and is more popular than traditional cigarettes among high school students.”
“Another study found that youth said they vaped because their friends, peers, and siblings did, and they thought it was cool, whereas they acknowledged the harms and negative components of smoking cigarettes.”
How far the world has come said Charlotte Reeves, outreach coordinator for the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery. She recently completed her own Catch My Breath training and is very bringing the campaign to Surry County.
She has been educating students on the dangers of vaping as part of her outreach efforts surrounding substance use disorder in youth. Red Ribbon Week in October took Reeves and her allies into middle schools to talk about drugs, but she could not pass up that chance to fold in some useful vaping information too.
Kids were introduced to Popcorn Lung and learned about the hundreds of flavored vapes that have come on that market in recent years. Not a movie theatre treat, popcorn lung is bronchiolitis obliterans, or a lung disease caused by a build-up of scar tissue in the lungs. A possible link may have been found between the disease and a chemical called diacetyl which is often found in vapes.
What is really in those vapes is anyone’s guess as the vape industry is almost fully unregulated. The National Youth Tobacco Survey polled teens asking them what is in their vapes and the results varied. It found 66% of respondents said there was only flavoring in their vape, 13.2% said nicotine, 5.8% thought they were smoking marijuana, 1.3% said other, and a whole 13.7% of the teens polled said they had no clue at all what was in their vapes.
Add on that “other” set onto the “I don’t know” and that means 15% of kids vaping have no clue what is in their vapes. Among the substances to be found in vaping mixtures are dicamba, iohexol, and avobenzone are.
A study published in the journal ‘Chemical Research in Toxicology’ said, “Researchers at Johns Hopkins University detected thousands of chemicals in electronic cigarettes that were not disclosed by manufacturers. The team discovered nearly 2,000 chemicals, including caffeine, three different industrial chemicals, and a pesticide. A vast majority of the chemicals found were unidentified.”
Don’t call them quitters, youth are more likely to pick up the habit and stick with it, according to a 2019 survey of youth who said that in the last thirty days they had vaped.
That study found 28% of high schoolers and 11% of middle schoolers reported vaping in the past month, a rate that is two to six times greater than the percentage of adults (25-44) who reported vaping.
Young people were asked whether their age group peers approve of vaping and 41% said their peers did, as opposed to 27% who approved of cigarette smoking.
While attitudes on cigarette smoking have changed over the past few decades, the temptation remains for kids when they still view smoking as something desirable. Catch My Breath aims to put evidence into kids’ hands on the real dangers to their bodies so that the ultimate decision will be theirs alone, and a well-informed one.
December 20, 2022
What Wall Street calls “the monster in the room” — inflation — has flexed its tentacles in a major way locally by creating a bumpy financial path for Mount Airy’s greenway-expansion project.
The condition bringing higher prices to gas pumps, grocery stores and elsewhere additionally has conspired to hike cost estimates for the 1.3-mile extension by $300,000 more than originally planned.
After the matter was discussed Thursday night during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, it voted 5-0 to appropriate the extra dollars needed to meet that shortfall from the municipality’s catch-all general fund budget.
The board also voted 5-0 to award a construction contract for the greenway extension to a company called North State Environmental — the lowest bidder for it at $1,489,373 — with other costs making up a total price tag of $2,225,000.
This could have been considered a no-brainer from the city government’s point of view, since failing to take such action would’ve meant not utilizing grant funds allocated to provide most of the project’s cost, for which deadlines loomed.
“Mount Airy was fortunate to receive $1,925,000 from four different grant funding agencies to complete this amazing project,” Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis said in a memo regarding plans to lengthen the greenway northward from its present Riverside Park ending spot.
The Granite City Greenway network presently covers 6.6 continuous miles — a paved pathway popular with walkers, runners and cyclists from near and far.
Couldn’t be avoided
Plans to extend the trail to the area of SouthData Inc. on Technology Lane off Riverside Drive originated more than three years ago when Lewis, Mount Airy’s former parks and recreation director, was employed in that realm.
“Since that time inflation has come in,” he said Thursday night in laying out the situation for the city council.
It has increased construction costs by an average of 30 to 40%, according to Lewis, and the final tally for the greenway has risen by the $300,000 to $2,225,000 — clearly exceeding the $1.9 million in grants.
He said inflation “hit us hard” and the funding situation was unavoidable.
The assistant city manager got no argument from the board, which seemed to recognize this as a sign of the times.
“That’s just the way it is,” Commissioner Tom Koch mused.
Based on Thursday night’s discussion, $500,000 in grant funding already has been spent on the design phase for the greenway extension. And not going forward would have left Mount Airy with a nice set of engineering plans but no project, Lewis told the commissioners.
A bright spot with the dilemma involves the fact that previous greenway projects in Mount Airy over the years, blessed with a multitude of grant awards, have not required asking the commissioners to fill the gap in such a way.
“This the first time we have come back before the council for the three sections of greenway that we have,” said Lewis.
Those include the Emily B. Taylor Greenway, the Ararat River Greenway and a project to connect the two.
He detailed efforts to reduce the total project cost. This will include municipal personnel performing some of the work on an in-kind basis and the city purchasing directly some of the items needed for the greenway project cheaper than the contractor can.
Some companies would not be inclined to go along with that, because of reducing their profit margins, but Lewis said North State Environmental cooperated in this regard. “They have been great partners with us,” he advised.
Payoff on horizon
“I think it is going to pay good dividends moving forward,” Lewis said of the project at hand, citing the greenway’s growing role as a tourism draw locally and the extra recreational amenities the extension will provide.
In addition to constructing the new greenway section itself, the project will include much-needed river restoration of the Ararat, pocket park facilities, picnic areas, bike racks, benches and fitness stations, Lewis mentioned regarding the various elements comprising the $2,225,000 total.
Commissioner Deborah Cochran voiced support for the efforts Thursday night.
“I’m a mega-fan of the greenway,” she said. “I’m probably out there about every week.”
Lewis mentioned Friday that it is hoped work on the project can begin in January, with the river restoration targeted first.
December 19, 2022
• A homeless Mount Airy man has been arrested as a fugitive from justice and jailed under a large secured bond, according to city police reports.
Elvis Xavier Santiago Rivera, 26, was encountered by officers on Dec. 8 at a section of the Granite City Greenway near West Independence Boulevard. Rivera was found to be wanted on an unspecified matter in Patrick County, Virginia, where he formerly resided in the Ararat community.
Rivera was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $10,000 secured bond pending an appearance in District Court in Dobson.
• A larceny was discovered last Tuesday afternoon at the residence of James Owen Revels on Windsor Lane, where an unknown suspect stole a package from a mailbox area. Two Ironman-brand automotive tires valued at $313 were reported missing.
• James Warren Harrell Jr., 35, listed as homeless, was incarcerated under a $41,000 secured bond for three felony probation violation counts on the night of Dec. 8 after police located him at a residence on Kyle Street.
Harrell had been sought by the N.C. Department of Public Safety/Division of Adult Correction on violations stemming from him being on probation for a series of charges.
These include felony possession of a firearm with a domestic violence protective order, felony fleeing to elude arrest, felony possession of methamphetamine, use/possession of drug paraphernalia, larceny, damage to property, carrying a concealed weapon and driving while license revoked.
Harrell was scheduled to be in court last Monday in Dobson, but details regarding that appearance were not available.
December 19, 2022
The spirit of competition and the aiding of a worthy cause proved to be a winning combination when former basketball players at Mount Airy High School got together for weekend alumni games.
Forty-one ex-Bears, both men and women, had signed up for the chance to display their skills once again Saturday afternoon in the same loud gym where they had thrilled fans during many a hoops battle over the years.
In addition to an enthusiastic group of players, fans packed the bleachers for the alumni games pitting squads designated as blue teams and white teams — conducted on a rotating basis with male and female units taking their turns on the court.
While those contests were simply exhibitions, the play was competitive and fast-paced, with each score greeted by appreciative applause from spectators.
“None of us really likes losing — that’s something we learned at Mount Airy,” explained Grant Routh, a member of its Class of 2021. He had played forward for the Bears and once again was running up and down the court Saturday as if he’d never left.
Routh, now a student at UNC-Wilmington, seemed glad to find himself back in the familiar confines of the Bears gym, which served as a time capsule for players from both the near and distant past.
“It’s fun to see all your friends and see who you watched in middle school,” he added during a break in the action.
Multiple players who suited up had graduated as far back as 1994 while others represented more recent years. The ladies competition featured members of the Bears’ state championship teams of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.
Boost for memorial effort
While the scores were kept just as they are for a regular basketball game, the real winner Saturday was a project to develop a memorial to fallen military members near the entrance to Mount Airy High School.
It is being spearheaded by Randy Moore, a U.S. Army veteran who serves on the city school board and launched the effort to provide such a fixture on campus grounds for the first time.
The memorial is to include a display honoring fallen soldiers with emblems of individual service branches, flags and possibly some fitting quotations. The estimated cost of the project is around $25,000.
Moore was unsure Saturday how much the alumni game fundraiser would generate, with all the proceeds still to be tallied.
“We’re going to be happy with what’s given,” he said, pointing out that the sum involved will be more than what memorial planners had on hand before the event.
But Moore did say in remarks to the spectators that everything seems to be falling into place for the project — “and we’ve got the end in sight.”
Donations will continue to be sought from both individuals and businesses to put the campaign over the top.
Moore said that aside from any financial considerations, the fact Saturday’s alumni game benefit was student-led is a gift in itself, with the school’s Technology Student Association (TSA) heavily involved. Garrett Howlett, a technical/career teacher at MAHS, directs that group and designed the memorial.
“That’s priceless,” he said of young people coming forward to support their school, the community and its military veterans.
“This is a terrific day to be a Granite Bear,” Moore told the crowd, which responded with a loud cheer.
December 19, 2022
The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Monday ordered a new election in the Town of Dobson Board of Commissioners.
J. Wayne Atkins and Walter White each had seemed to secure a successful re-election run, garnering the top two voting totals in a four-way race. Atkins received 184 votes, while White tallied 167, in the Nov. 8 election. John Jonczak was third at 159, while the late Sharon Gates-Hodges, who died during the campaign, recorded 106 votes.
However, two challenges were filled to the race — one by Jonczak. The local board of elections had, in a split vote, forwarded the case to the state with the recommendation a new election be ordered. That recommendation was upheld Monday and the state board of elections has ordered a new election be held on March 7.
The state said the same names will be listed in the same order the exception being the name of Sharon Gates-Hodges, who passed away before the general election. Her name will be removed and there will be no new filing period. That means no new candidates may enter the race that will now pit incumbents White and Atkins against newcomer and local businessman Jonczak.
The pair of challenges to the results were filed by candidate Jonczak and resident Jimmy Yokeley over the conduct of a poll worker. It was asserted, and never challenged, that a poll worker in Dobson had acted improperly by providing information on the candidates to voters.
Yokeley testified the poll worker told a couple in front of him in line at the Dobson polling location that a candidate had died, that the poll worker told him a candidate had died — and said the dead candidate was Jonczak —and resident Nancy Hill sent an affidavit that she was told by the poll worker a candidate had died.
Yokeley told the board the poll worker violated two state statutes which, “Changed the outcome of the Dobson commissioners’ race.”
Commissioners Atkins and White had filed appeals to the local ruling. In their appeals the two said the county’s hearing had been rushed, did not present enough evidence, and did not prove that the poll worker’s actions had any influence on the election.
The extent to which the poll worker’s conduct influenced the outcome of the election is unable to be determined. The board asked for election day data that showed Jonczak got the most in-person votes at the Dobson polling location, and indicated the poll worker in question — whose name has never been released by the Board of Elections — did work at the polling station all day on election day.
County elections chairwoman Michella Huff was asked by the board if the poll worker in questioned had been subpoenaed or asked to make a statement to the county board – she had not. The poll worker in question remained at her duty station even after Huff arrived for an in-person investigation on election day after the complaint reached her office.
The appeals from White and Atkins were dismissed by the state board in part for the claim they made that the county hearing had been rushed or presented partial evidence. Only what the county board sent to the state shall be considered in a hearing.
While the state board of elections may have agreed that hearing from the poll worker could have been illuminating, that ship sailed when the county board accepted the motion to advance the challenges to Raleigh with only the evidence they had in hand.
With the appeals of the challenges of the election results dismissed, the board then voted unanimously to hold a new election for the two Dobson commissioner seats. Early voting for the new Dobson commissioners’ race will begin Feb. 16 and the election will be held on March 7.
State board member Stacy Eggers said he knew that holding a new election would be challenging and an inconvenience, but he said that holding a new election “is the proper remedy.”
State Elections Board Chair Damon Circosta called the actions of the poll worker “unfortunate” and said of the decision calling for a new election, “We don’t do this lightly.”
State elections director Karen Brinson Bell told the state board there would be no problems with those date. Huff agreed saying her office had been aware these were the dates under consideration, and Surry County would be ready.
Atkins and White will continue to serve on the Dobson board in completion of their current terms, according to state election law.
In comments made later Monday after the board hearing, Huff said that if there were to be two polling places on election day, that cost plus early voitng and absentee voting would be less than $15,000.
Removal of board members?
The state board then held a prima facie hearing on a challenge filed from Bob Hall against two members of the Surry County Board of Elections in which he asks for their removal from the county elections board.
Much as when the county board heard the evidence from Jonczak and Yokeley, the state wanted to talk over the filing from Hall, the former long-time director of Democracy NC, in which he asked that Tim DeHaan and Jerry Forestieri be removed from the county board.
The two local board of elections members took umbrage with the 2018 ruling of Federal Judge Loretta Biggs that knocked down North Carolina’s voter identification law and wrote a letter containing strong language about their feelings on the judge and her ruling.
Hall asserted that the two board members could not execute their oath of office while making partisan statements such as when they wrote, “I don’t view election law per North Carolina State Board of Elections as legitimate or Constitutional.”
In his complaint to the state he wrote, “They take an oath when they begin service and it is an oath to uphold the state law, the state and federal constitution, and obey the authorities and rulings of the state.” For them to openly challenge the state’s authority to conduct elections is a step beyond the First Amendment, he contends.
First the state board must establish if Hall had any standing to make a challenge to Surry County’s board of elections as he does not live in the county. The state’s lawyer informed that in his opinion the wording of the statutes does allow for Hall to make a protest.
Hall said their conduct and language in a letter sent to their fellow board members was of such a charged partisan nature that it would seem to invalidate their oaths of office to execute the laws of the United States and North Carolina. “It can be hard for the people of Surry County to have confidence that people can serve in the manner they should,” he said when board of elections members take such strong public stances.
Members of the state board found the issue of the Hall complaint to be less cut and dried than of the appeals to the election results. The First Amendment protects free speech, and the county board members were within their rights to express an opinion on what Eggers said is a charged issue in this state.
He went on to warn of a slippery slope if the state board chooses to start bringing before them county board members to explain matters of their opinion and that it may have a “chilling effect” on other who may want to serve.
“Mr. Forestieri choosing not to proceed with the county canvass is concerning and I think it (is) what merits moving forward with a hearing. The distinction with Mr. DeHaan is he did in fact discharge his duties and proceed with the canvass certification,” Eggers said before the vote.
As this was a preliminary hearing on the Hall complaint there was no testimony or statements. Chair Circosta said that he, like Eggers, had questions about the validity of the complaints against DeHaan and Forestieri.
He said an actual hearing was needed to make a final determination as to whether their conduct rose to the level of removal, “I do not have my mind made up, but it is important we hear these issues.”
In a unanimous vote the board advanced the complaint on Forestieri to a formal hearing, they also advanced the DeHaan complaint in a 3-2 vote with members Eggers and Tommy Tucker voting no. The dates for these hearing are to be determined.
December 18, 2022
Surry Community College student Sabrena Hemric, 43, decided to enroll in Medical Office Administration classes and earn a degree because she was motivated to make a career change and continue to grow professionally.
After she graduated from Elkin High School in 1997, Hemric signed up for classes at Surry Community College to be a nurse.
“I decided not to continue because I was uncertain if that was what I wanted to do. I had my mind on salary and didn’t like dealing with blood. I realized there are better career options for me,” she said. “I started researching careers and knew I wanted to do something that made a difference in people’s lives. I started a job at a CVS pharmacy in January of 2000, training as a pharmacy technician.”
Hemric worked for CVS in Yadkinville for 19 years in the pharmacy.
“The only experience I had was knowing how to operate a computer. At CVS, I loved working in a fast-paced environment and knowing I would play a part in keeping people happy and healthy, so I became certified within a year in 2001,” she said.
Hemric received on-the-job training to study for the pharmacy technician certification exam and earned her certification. She worked as a pharmacy technician for 12 years and then as lead pharmacy technician and inventory specialist for the remainder of her time at CVS.
A job opening in Elkin for a pharmacy technician at Revival, a pain management clinic, caught her attention. This office was opening a drug dispensary, and a pharmacy technician was needed to teach the doctors more about the drugs they would be prescribing in terms of how the drugs looked after being produced by different pharmaceutical companies.
“I prayed about it and took a leap and applied,” Hemric said. “It was a hard decision to make because I was comfortable in my old job, but the idea of this job was intriguing. I also liked the work schedule better because retail pharmacy work is so demanding.”
In 2011, she started working at Revival, and a patient room was made into a dispensary.
“I taught doctors what medicines looked like and taught them the process of dispensing,” she said. “It was so interesting and fun. This was my first experience working with doctors. I love to learn and experience different things.”
Dr. Ben Raines became Hemric’s mentor and advised her to further her education in the Medical Office Administration program.
“He saw abilities in me that I couldn’t see in myself,” she said. “He guided me and tested me daily. He asked me questions and even gave me an IQ test. He encouraged me to go to school and get the Medical Office Administration degree. He acted like I was one of his daughters. He checked in on me and called me ‘his kid.’ He complimented my work and pushed me to do even more.”
Hemric worked with the patients at check-ins and check-outs to verify they were using their prescription medicines, highly controlled narcotics, accurately. She did pill counts and examined the pills to make sure they were from the correct manufacturers.
“I enjoy helping people and working in a team setting,” Hemric said. “I like finding solutions, preventing problems and helping my team members. I learned the clinical setting of healthcare at the pain clinic. I was always willing to help in different areas. I wanted to learn everything I could. I shadowed the practice manager and would fill in for her whenever she was out.”
Northern Regional Hospital acquired the pain clinic after Hemric was on the job for about a year and a half. She worked for the pain clinic for 10 years.
“Northern Regional offers tuition assistance to employees. They are a fantastic company,” Hemric said. “They take care of their employees. They made a good impression on me. So, when they withdrew from the pain clinic, I decided to come with them.”
In fall 2020, she enrolled in Medical Office Administration classes at Surry Community College. She has taken all her classes online while working full-time. She plans to finish the degree in the spring.
At the end of September, she began working as a pharmacy technician at Northern Regional Hospital where she worked for two months before getting a promotion. She was encouraged to apply and landed the role of being the administrative leader for the hospitalists, a job which she began on Dec. 7.
“When they offered me the job, I was tickled to death. I thought, what amazing opportunities I am getting, and I haven’t even completed my degree yet,” Hemric said.
Hemric graduated from the Northern Leadership Academy, which is a competitive, internal program for employees of Northern Regional Hospital. This year’s academy had 20 applicants,with seven being accepted. Each member of the Northern Leadership Academy completes a case study. For her case study, Hemric put her problem-solving skills to work and formulated a process to improve communication between the hospitalists and staff, resulting in improved patient care, and decreased wait time for patients approved for release.
“I love challenges, and I love working for Northern. They want you to grow. They help you,” she said.
On Fridays, Hemric assists hospital operations in the administrative suite, which has helped her learn about another department of the hospital – its highest leadership.
“You can do anything you put your mind to. Don’t be afraid – it made me nervous to change careers and get out of my comfort zone, but I am so glad I did,” she said. “Earning my college degree is opening up job opportunities for me that I never thought were possible.
Hemric lives in Elkin with her husband, Chad, and daughters, Ashley, Lauren and Haley, and grandson, Ashton.
SCC’s Medical Office Administration program offers a degree, diploma and three certificates including Medical Office Administration, Medical Billing & Insurance and Patient Services Representative. The program prepares students for employment as medical administrative personnel in the areas of medical billing and coding, dental office, patient services, and medical documents.
Registration is open for spring courses. For questions about college application, financial aid, or class registration, contact Student & Workforce Services at 336-386-3264 or [email protected]
December 18, 2022
Surry Online Magnet School held its annual science fair recently, with high school science teacher Karen Romero coordinating the event.
As part of the fair, students were interviewed by judges Jennifer Lowe and Bretta Priddy, who asked questions about why they chose their project, what they learned, and was there anything they would have done differently” The judges then reviewed the projects and determined which projects would move onto the county science fair.
Bentley Snow won as the elementary representative, Ethan Hemmings as the middle school representative, and Cheridon Akers as the high school representative.
December 18, 2022
Last Saturday, the Mount Airy High School football team was huddling in Raleigh to capture the 1-A state championship — and five days later it blitzed the local Municipal Building for special recognition by city officials.
“You guys fill up a room,” Mayor Jon Cawley told the large contingent of players and coaches who gathered Thursday night during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
“And what you did in the last few weeks filled up a community,” Cawley said of the pride gleaned from the Bears’ title run that culminated with a 20-7 win over Tarboro in the championship game played at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“I want to thank you for giving our community so much to be proud of,” added the mayor, who read a city government resolution of recognition in honor of the team’s accomplishment last Saturday which capped a 15-1 season.
The resolution cites the qualities of commitment, hard work, athletic talent, teamwork and dedication to their sport that its members exhibited which creates a “positive image” for the school and local citizens.
Cawley presented a copy of the document to J.K. Adkins, the Bears’ head coach, which also will become a permanent part of the city government records.
Each player attending was given the opportunity to introduce himself during Thursday night’s program.
Coach Adkins also responded to the attention showed by city officials.
“I’m proud to be here tonight and be recognized,” he said, while pointing out that a true team effort was responsible for the Bears’ success on the gridiron.
“This was a great year made possible by a lot of different people,” Adkins explained, including much work by them behind the scenes.
“And this has been years in the making.”
Remarks from council
Along with the resolution, individual members of the city board offered comments expressing their appreciation to the team while surrounded by the sea of players.
“This was a great win for the high school and the city,” Commissioner Phil Thacker told them. “It was such a great season and now you’re the best in the state.”
“You are going down in history,” Commissioner Deborah Cochran advised the players and coaches, saying that many other teams “would love to be in your place right now.”
Aside from the physical skills that played a part in the victory were other traits noted by Mount Airy officials which contributed greatly to that outcome.
“I sat and watched the game with my husband,” said Commissioner Marie Wood, who admired the confidence, poise and grit the players displayed.
Wood also said the state championship was extra-special to her as a graduate of Mount Airy High School whose brother-in-law, Johnny Wood, was on a state championship team there in the late 1960s.
“Once a Bear, always a Bear,” the South Ward board member added. “So I’m a Bear.”
“You could just see the fight in these guys,” said Commissioner Chad Hutchens. “I couldn’t be there Saturday (in Raleigh), but I watched every minute on TV,” in addition to monitoring a local radio broadcast of the game when leaving his home.
While Commissioner Tom Koch said he was impressed by the squad’s strong play — including the cooperative effort exhibited when Tarboro ball carriers found themselves swarmed by tacklers on countless occasions — its sportsmanship also was noteworthy.
Koch mentioned the little things — how Mount Airy players respectfully handed the ball to game officials after being stopped rather than throwing it at them as others do, and the reaction to a Tarboro player taking a swipe at a Bear.
But instead of retaliating, he ignored the opponent’s behavior and went on with his business.
“The attitude of the players made my heart swell,” Koch said.
Cochran assured team members that in addition to enjoying the moment, they can use it as fuel in the future. “If you ever have self-doubts in your life, remember this victory.”
“We couldn’t be more proud of them,” Mayor Cawley said.
The resolution of recognition he presented to Coach Adkins also designates Sunday as “Mount Airy Bears Day” in the city.
This coincides with a parade to be held Sunday to highlight both the Bears football squad and the Mount Airy High School girls tennis team that also won the state championship this fall.
The event billed as the “Parade of Champions” will include a procession of those players, the school’s cheerleaders and its marching band departing from Mount Airy High and heading to the downtown area before returning to the campus.




© 2018 The Mount Airy News

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