Surry Community College’s Emergency Medical Program is updating its admission criteria, format and timeline. The next Paramedic class will be offered May 24 through April 25, 2023. (Submitted photo)
Surry Community College’s Emergency Medical Program is updating its admission criteria, format and timeline. This opportunity will improve the quality of the program and the overall student experience, school officials said.
The paramedic course is designed to develop knowledge and skills for the advanced emergency care of ill or injured persons. These future clinicians will be taught critical life-saving interventions and medical knowledge that are on the leading-edge of paramedicine. Paramedic candidates will be prepared to provide the highest-level emergency medical care and prepare for the NC State and/or National Registry Paramedic Exam. Once successfully credentialed, they can begin a career in the medical profession as an entry-level paramedic with EMS agencies or in medical facilities across the state or nation.
Beginning with the 2023 paramedic class, SCC’s Emergency Medical Program will accept the top 20 scorers on the Paramedic Candidate Entrance Exam through a two-part process. Candidates will first be required to complete a TABE examination and score at a college level in reading. Candidates who score at a college level will then complete the Paramedic Candidate Entrance Exam. The entrance exam will consist of factual, scenario, and critical thinking questions to assess knowledge of EMT, anatomy and physiology, math and reading, information which candidates should know by taking the prerequisites for an entry-level paramedic student.
Additional prerequisites for the course include a high school diploma or equivalency, completion of an anatomy and physiology course (either EMS 3163, BIO 168 and BIO 169, or BIO 163) and a valid state or National Registry EMT credential.
The program is also moving to a blended format, which will shorten the program term to 11 months. Rescue Operations Awareness has been added back to the program of study where students will experience classes on vehicle extrication, rope rescue and confined space, among other topics. Students will also be expected to perform monthly minimum clinical rotations, which will occur outside of scheduled class dates.
The next paramedic class will be offered May 24 through April 25, 2023. Those interested should apply to the program by going to bit.ly/EMS2023. For more information, go to surry.edu/ems or facebook.com/surryems. For further questions, contact Dr. Douglas W. Underwood, emergency medical program director, at 336-386-3584, firstname.lastname@example.org or Kenneth Vaught, emergency medical program coordinator, at 336-386-3633 or email@example.com.
Lowery signs NLI with Concord
The future leaders of Surry County
April 16, 2022
The Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery provided personal hygiene supplies last week to the Surry County Detention Center for distribution to detainees as part of an Easter outreach effort on behalf of multiple organizations in Surry County.
Personal hygiene supplies include shampoo, hand lotion, toothpaste, deodorant, as well as inspirational letters and cards. The personal hygiene supplies were donated by Bethel Colony of Mercy and the local Allstate Insurance agency.
The Allstate Insurance agency in Mount Airy, is owned and operated by Tonda Phillips, who is also the President of the Mount Airy Rotary Club. Bethel Colony of Mercy is a 90-day faith-based recovery center located in Lenoir who reached across county lines for this mission of compassion.
Unsigned inspirational cards and letters were written and created by students from Pilot Mountain Middle School and Surry Central High School.
The All-Stars Prevention Group – volunteers who assist Surry County’s Office of Substance Abuse Recovery – assembled the personal hygiene supplies for delivery ahead of Easter weekend. Paula Sheets went out to do the shopping for the supplies and put all the bags together.
Bethel Colony of Mercy based out of Lenoir, located in Caldwell County, is not a direct Surry County neighbor and had been giving out Christmas care packages to local inmates in years past. That begs the question of why they wanted to give comfort to inmates here?
“Why? Because we were blessed with plenty we just wanted to help. God helps us to be able to help others,” executive director Rev. Paul Pruitt said Friday. Bethel Colony has been in operation over 70 years and he said helping with Surry County’s inmates can help get his group’s name out there, “you never know who may need help.”
He went on to explain that Billie Campbell, an alumnus of his program, lives in this area and she suggested the idea to help the Surry County Jail.
Campbell can relate to those who find themselves a guest of the county, “I had my share of time there, I know what it’s like. You have nothing, some of them have no money, and no one to add money onto their account.”
“They don’t need a pat on the back,” she said. What those in recovery often benefit from are role models, success stories of those who have broken the chains of addiction.
Campbell found her freedom and celebrated an incredibly grateful eleven months clean recently. Getting that weight off her shoulders has improved life significantly and she wants people to know that “it feels good to be in the paper other than most wanted.”
“This was a community shared project and there were a lot of people involved,” said Charlotte Reeves. “This would not be possible without the community volunteers who have a passion for helping others.”
She and the Surry County All-Stars Prevention Group know that service is a known technique in recovery to keep the mind occupied while also helping another who is struggling, and it can be found in a myriad of forms.
“Sometimes a word of encouragement, a smile, or even a care package can help a person feel hopeful. We all make mistakes and need a little grace,” Phillips said. “God forgives, so should we. I support treatment, recovery and a second chance for the human beings that are struggling to find a purpose in this world.”
Communities just like this one need help because they face staggering costs in healthcare expenses, lost productivity and increased safety risks from substance use disorder. While these folks are trying to offer comfort via care packages to those who find themselves in detention, another group wants to break the cycle of addiction right at the start – your bathroom.
An innovative approach
The Rotary Club of Mount Airy would like to help prevent substance use disorder in the first place and will be hosting the “After 5 Deterra Kit Seminar” April 19, 5 – 6:30 p.m., at the Hampton Inn of Mount Airy on Rockford Street.
This free event will focus on providing community members with an at-home drug disposal option that can help prevent addiction before it starts. Access to and abuse of prescription drugs is alarming, a new product on the market offers a solution. The patented Deterra System deactivates prescription drugs, pills, patches, liquids, creams, and films.
“Deterra renders them inert, unavailable for misuse and safe for the environment. In a simple 3-step process, a user deactivates the drugs by putting them in a Deterra Pouch, adding water, sealing, shaking, and throwing it away.”
Educational outreach programs like this will be more common as the county begins to spend opioid settlement money on the long-term plans for battling substance use disorder. Mark Willis has said he hopes to blanket the county with information, meanwhile the All-Stars will be at the ready with allies such as Pruitt and Phillips cheering from the wings.
Read more and register for the Deterra event at: www.eventbrite.com/e/after-5-deterra-kit-seminar-tickets-318944771397
April 16, 2022
Surry County Health and Nutrition Center health educators recently visited several classrooms at Dobson Elementary School for National Nutrition Month.
Students enjoyed a MyPlate activity as well as a taste tasting. Students sampled kiwi, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and feta cheese.
In addition, the students are getting to taste a variety of fruits and vegetables, because of the school’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant, from the USDA.
April 15, 2022
Spring cleaning is not just something to do around the house or yard, but also along local roadsides plagued by litter — which are being targeted by an annual program now under way in Mount Airy.
This involves the Community Clean-Up Campaign sponsored by the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Department, Mount Airy Appearance Commission and Reeves Community Center Foundation.
It began Saturday and will run through April 30 in conjunction with the North Carolina Statewide Community Cleanup Campaign operating during the same period.
“This is a cleanup campaign in which a family, civic group, Sunday school class, business or any other group of people wanting to make a difference can claim a street to clean to help keep our community clean, attractive and inviting,” Appearance Commission Chairman Allen Burton explained.
A few streets already have been secured, but organizers say there are many more areas that can use a cleanup crew. Streets may be claimed by contacting Cathy Cloukey or Peter Raymer at Reeves Community Center (336-786-8313), who also can help provide trash bags.
“Currently, we need several more groups to chip in on the effort to match last year’s campaign of 20 streets,” Raymer advised Thursday afternoon.
Along with the group efforts that will be involved, there is a pride factor coupled with the campaign which city organizers hope will add a bit of motivation for individuals to tackle litter.
They are challenging residents to clean up a street in the city limits, with each participate encouraged to in turn challenge at least one friend, family member or co-worker to do the same.
Interested persons can call Cloukey or Luke Danley at the community center to reserve a street and identify a friend who is being challenged.
Also, as part of the two-week effort, a Mount Airy hashtag (#) trashtag challenge is encouraging participants to take before-and-after photos of areas cleaned up for posting.
“To help spread the word, we ask that everyone use social media and the #mountairytrashtag hashtag to challenge others to participate” and post photos, Mount Airy Parks and Recreation announced.
To get the ball rolling, on March 23 members of the Mount Airy Appearance Commission and city Parks and Recreation staff filled 57 bags of trash and collected two couches along Hamburg Street from H.B. Rowe Environmental Park to Mount Airy Middle School.
They logged two trailer loads during that effort, with Raymer mentioning that it is amazing how little time it takes to fill up one bag.
“If you, your family, co-workers, business, Sunday School group, service organization or anyone else would like to make a positive difference in our community by spending a couple hours in the sun, getting exercise and making your neighborhood and community cleaner and more inviting, please sign up by calling Reeves Community Center,” the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation announcement urged.
April 15, 2022
A member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners says budget misstatements he made during a public forum involve a simple error, while others believe this reveals a disturbing lack of familiarity with city finances.
In outlining how he wanted to keep property taxes low while providing good services to citizens during a meet-the-candidates event last Monday night, At-Large Commissioner Joe Zalescik erroneously referred to Mount Airy having a $30 million budget.
Zalescik also mentioned during the heavily attended event at the Historic Earle Theatre and Old-Time Music Heritage Hall that the municipal spending plan is funded by $15 million in property tax revenues — also incorrect.
Mount Airy’s adjusted general fund budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which ends on June 30, totals $17.2 million, with property taxes projected at $7.3 million, according to figures from city Finance Director Pam Stone. The budget totalled $14.9 million when approved last year, with some spending additions occurring since.
Revenues come from other sources along with property taxes to fill out the general fund package, which is separate from a water-sewer budget of $6.5 million that is financed by user fees.
None of this adds up to a $30 million budget and $15 million in property taxes.
“It was my error to say $15 million,” Zalescik said Thursday afternoon. “All I would say is I made a minor mistake.”
The at-large commissioner, who has been in office for only about seven months — when he was appointed by the city council — chalked up the errors to the kind of verbal miscues one can make while speaking to a large audience.
“The $15 million was in my head the entire time,” Zalescik explained regarding the actual (unadjusted) budget total and its property tax portion. “And I really meant to say $7.5 million” for the latter, in round figures.
Since he assumed the at-large seat only last September — to fill a vacancy created when former Commissioner Ron Niland was appointed mayor — Zalescik further pointed out that he has not actually voted on a city budget. This usually occurs each June.
Zalescik said the message he was seeking to convey at the forum is that half of the general fund budget is supported by property tax revenues. “The point is, I would like for taxes to be lower.”
Although Zalescik presently is the city’s at-large commissioner, he is running for a South Ward seat now held by Steve Yokeley — who is in turn seeking Zalescik’s slot. This relates to a quirk in which the person winning the at-large race will serve only two years of Niland’s unexpired term while the South Ward victor will win a full four-year term.
Yokeley is a longtime councilman only wishing to serve two more years, while Zalescik desires a full term — which is contingent on both winning.
Zalescik is facing Gene Clark and Phil Thacker in a May 17 primary, with the two top vote-getters to square off in the November general election.
Reaction to statements
The comments at Monday night’s event raised the tentacles of another council candidate in a different race, John Pritchard.
Pritchard is campaigning for a North Ward seat in a contest also including Joanna Refvem, former city school board member Teresa Davis Leiva and Chad Hutchens. (Hutchens is a sergeant with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office working in a school resource officer capacity who incorrectly was listed as formerly serving as a Board of Education member in a previous article.)
Although he is not an opponent of Zalescik, Pritchard — due to his reputation as a city government “watchdog” — said he was compelled to come forward with a response to Zalescik’s statements.
“My first thought was not to comment because I didn’t have a dog in the match for the South Ward, but since I’m the budget watchdog I guess I do,” Pritchard advised.
“I’m concerned that Joe Zalescik may have a serious lack of basic knowledge about our city finances,” added Pritchard, who pointed out that Zalescik made the erroneous budget statements twice during Monday’s event. This was “an alarming difference” compared to the correct figures, in Pritchard’s view.
“I’m concerned because our board is now working on next year’s budget,” he mentioned, which Zalescik will have input on and vote for in June.
“It’s always good to serve, but being a good commissioner requires a basic understanding of our city finances.”
“That ain’t peanuts, Joe”
The budget figures voiced by Zalescik also drew a reaction from another local resident closely monitoring city government activities, Rebecca Harmon, who expressed her thoughts in a letter to the editor published Friday.
“Fiscal responsibility by commissioners requires a basic knowledge of the city budget,” Harmon wrote. “I strongly urge the city council to require all new commissioners – whether appointed (as Zalescik was) or elected – to familiarize themselves with the budget and budget process.”
Zalescik said Thursday that the wrong budget figures he gave do not detract from his worthiness to serve as a commissioner. Zalescik formerly was a member of the Mount Airy Planning Board and logged 35 years of local government experience in New Jersey, where he lived before moving to Mount Airy about three years ago.
Online postings by citizens to newspaper articles in which he is mentioned sometimes take aim at Zalescik’s “Yankee” background and ownership of a local business called Station 1978 Firehouse Peanuts.
Harmon referenced the latter in her comments taking issue with the faulty budget figures presented.
“Those numbers are off by about 100 percent — and that ain’t peanuts, Joe,” she wrote.
Zalescik acknowledged that everybody makes mistakes, and there are certain detractors in town who are going to jump all over any such misstep.
“They’re looking for anything to criticize me.”
April 15, 2022
The days are growing long, temperatures are heating up, and the tree leaves are blooming — spring is here.
And that means it is time for Mount Airy Farmers Market to open.
This year’s opening day will be a little different, more like a small festival than a mere farmer market opening, with live music, vendors, product samples, and even a special ice cream seller to be onhand.
The festivities get underway at 9 a.m. Friday, April 22 at 111 South Main Street, in the parking lot next to the Post Office.
Farmer’s Market Manager Joe Zalescik said this year looks to be a good one, with many returning local farmers and vendors, as well as new ones, signed up for booths.
“Not all of them will be there on the opening days,” he said, explaining many of the farms selling locally grown produce don’t yet have crops coming in.
“This time of year, it mainly will be the crafts, honey, meat vendors, micro greens, it’s just too early for local produce.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty to see, do, and purchase.
Beginning at 11 a.m., the Wilkerson Family will be singing and playing. Having live music continues a project Zalescik started in 2021, when a local businessman made an anonymous donation to fund periodic live music at the market. Zalescik said that was such a hit, he was able to work the cost into this year’s budget.
Later this spring and summer, he has booked the Cedar Ridge Band to play on May 20, July 1, July 29, August 26 and Oct. 7, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. each time they appear.
“As the season goes I will try to work in more groups. We won’t have music every week, it will be spread out across the season,” he said.
For the upcoming opening, another treat will be The Frosty Monkey, a vendor which sells ice cream and shaved ice at various outdoor events in the region.
“We’re going to have small plants for the first 25 or so (customers), and we’ll have give-aways,” he said. The booth he and his wife, Amy, own and operate — Station 1978 Firehouse Peanuts — will be offering free samples of fresh-roasted peanuts and all nature peanut butter.
The Mount Airy Farmers Market is part of a three-site network of Surry County farmers’ markets, with the other two in Dobson and Elkin. Farmers and vendors purchase a single permit which allows them to sell at any of the three markets throughout the year.
Mount Airy’s market opens April 22 and will be operating every Friday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. until Oct. 28, although Zalescik said there may be extended hours during Mayberry Days and Autumn Leaves Festival. Elkin opens the next day, April 23, and is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon through Oct. 29 at 226 North Bridge St. The Dobson market, which will operate every Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at 903 East Atkins Street, opens June 7 and ends Sept. 6.
For more information on the Farmer’s Market, or information on becoming a vendor, visit https://surrycountyfarmersmarket.com/
April 15, 2022
STUART, Va. — Murder and other felony charges have been filed against a woman who led authorities on a four-county chase before her car collided with that of a Mount Airy man, causing his death.
The incident in which Bobby Wayne Gammons, 81, of Belvue Drive, was killed occurred on the afternoon of April 8 just east of Stuart, where officers had blocked the westbound portion of U.S. 58 in attempting to stop a speeding 2010 Toyota Corolla.
It was being driven by Christine Sarah Barnette, 41, of Cary, North Carolina, who earlier that day had been found staying illegally at a cabin in Staunton River State Park in Halifax County in the vicinity of South Boston.
Barnette was encountered by park rangers and fled from them, eventually making her way onto U.S. 58, a major highway running along Southside Virginia and being pursued by Virginia state troopers and deputies, who tried unsuccessfully to stop her car.
Rather than heeding the roadblock as she approached Stuart, Barnette — who had been travelling at excessively high speeds — veered into an oncoming eastbound lane and her vehicle head-on collided with a 2005 Toyota Corolla containing the Mount Airy man.
Gammons was declared dead at the scene while Barnette was airlifted to a Roanoke hospital with what were described as life-threatening injuries, for which there has been no update since.
Meanwhile, the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday afternoon that 15 charges had been filed that day against the North Carolina woman, including murder: homicide in the death of Gammons, a retiree of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Barnette also is accused of seven other felonies among a batch of violations that encompass additional jurisdictions spanned by the pursuit, during which officers unsuccessfully used spike sticks and other measures.
These include four counts of disregarding a law enforcement command to stop, and continuing to elude officers while endangering the public; breaking and entering; felony hit and run; and assault and battery of a law enforcement officer for allegedly hitting a Halifax County deputy’s vehicle during a containment maneuver by authorities.
Barnette is charged with seven misdemeanors, including four counts of reckless driving, hit and run, trespassing and defrauding an innkeeper.
In addition to Patrick and Halifax counties, the bundle of charges includes another jurisdiction involved, the city of Danville.
An arraignment for the murder charge is scheduled for next Friday in Patrick County General District Court in Stuart.
Barnette remains in custody, according to court records.
April 15, 2022
It is a great invitation to “Start exploring North Carolina – one step at a time” on the website for the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Pair that with the classic from Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and you may be on to something, a couple million somethings in fact.
Approximated at 2,112,000 steps the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea trail is not for the faint of heart. Not to say that it is an impossible trek, but in 2021 only 25 completed the route. Two have accomplished the task already this year so do not surrender all hope at the trailhead, it can be done.
An official part of the state parks system, the trail traverses 1,175 miles that can be completed on foot, bike, saddle, and two sections via paddle. The MTS trail changes its composition and revises its route as new sections are completed.
Segment 6 of MTS in Surry County is a mixture of established trails and footpaths with markings to direct hikers. The segment also takes a stroll through downtown Elkin, then “heads east, following the Yadkin River, past farms, and forests to the historic village of Rockford.” MTS then connects with the existing Corridor Trail to enter Pilot Mountain State Park.
Two new sections were officially designated in Surry County in March. “Staff and volunteers worked exceptionally hard to acquire easements and construct the segments,” said Daniel White, director of Surry County Parks & Recreation.
The new sections have been opened off NC Highway 268 near Elkin one near Friendship Motor Speedway, while a second portion links Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery to the Burch Station River Access on Highway 268.
The Surry County Board of Commissioners recently approved a request from Parks & Recreation to purchase and deploy a 52-foot prefabricated aluminum foot bridge over Highway 268 near the Wayne Farms Feed mill.
“The bridge will span a small creek on Wayne Farm’s land about 3/4 mile west of the Mitchell River and just south of 268,” Segment 6 Task Force leader Bob Hillyer said.
“There is currently 3/4 mile of trail on Spice Farms which is directly across from the Wayne Farm Feed mill on 268. The bridge will allow the MST to cross from Spice Farms and connect with our current trail head on near the Friendship speedway and Gentry Road.”
White from Parks & Recreation added the bridge, “will be across the road from New Grace Baptist Church in the woods.”
The community in each region makes or renews the trails, and efforts are managed by crew leaders such as Hillyer. These Task Force Leaders are only one component of the squad when it comes to trail management as it takes scores of volunteers on teams across the state.
These teams will tackle new trail construction or maintenance of existing trails; the local leader determines the plan of action. Only a willingness to help is needed to volunteer with the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, although they said training will be required to operate a chainsaw even if it already feels like an extra appendage.
Each year, as new trail opens, the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail adjust the current route to incorporate new trails and maintain a fully interactive map online to monitor changes.
With more than 700 miles of footpath completed and the addition of temporary routes on backroads and bicycle paths, hikers can blaze a trail from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains right through to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks.
Hikers may also choose to customize their route by taking to paddle with two alternative route options: 27.5 miles on the Yadkin River paddle trail between Elkin and Pilot Mountain State Park, and the much longer 170-mile Neuse River Paddle Route on the coastal plain.
The goal is to complete a continuous off-road trail across North Carolina, more than half the planned length is now successfully on natural surface or greenway trail, unpaved forest roads, or beach. Friends estimate they are opening around 15 miles of new trail every year.
It can take time to determine the correct path for the trails, and then acquire the land or the easements to allow for passage. The planned bridge is an example of the easements needed from private landowners, Wayne Farms had to give permission for the land they own to be used both by the county and the hikers.
Local communities help connect the trail through links to greenways and urban trails while land trusts help acquire land as needed. As MTS comes out of the high country’s state parks and national forests it passes through more privately owned land, so trusts or easements may be needed to connect new sections.
“We’d like to thank the property owners who provided the easements and worked with the county to turn this idea into reality,” White said. Wayne Farms, Duke Energy and Carolina Heritage Vineyard & Winery donated easements to the cause.
“This trail is something that will be enjoyed by all for generations to come,” noted Matthew Wooten, Dobson Complex manager for Wayne Farms LLC. “Partnering with Surry County on this important project has been a pleasure and something we were very excited to help with.”
September will mark 45 years since Howard Lee spoke about an idea that could “help us know a little more about ourselves and help us understand our neighbors a little better.”
Thanks to thousands of volunteer hours the trail continues evolving still today. Lee noted, “I didn’t really even think it would ever really come into being. I’m really just elated and flattered to have it take on a life of its own.”
April 14, 2022
• A Mount Airy man has been charged with damaging a digital sign at Reeves Community Center to the tune of $7,000, according to city police reports.
Jordan Nathaniel Collins, 25, of 426 Welcome Baptist Church Road, is accused of injury to real property stemming from the incident during the early morning hours Thursday. He allegedly used a metal post to strike the digital sign.
Collins was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $2,500 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in District Court on May 9.
• Tammy Lynn Pell, 55, of 201 Old Jones School Road, was charged last Friday with fleeing to elude arrest and reckless driving. Pell, whom police records indicate was driving recklessly, refused to stop for blue lights and a siren and fled from officers a short distance.
The place of arrest is listed as her home on Old Jones School Road. Pell was jailed under a $2,000 secured bond and slated for a District Court appearance next Monday.
• A burglary/breaking and entering occurred Saturday afternoon at the residence of Estefania Hernandez Alvarez on Sunset Drive, which a known individual entered after partially pulling open a sliding glass door. The suspect then used a broom or some other item to grab the purse of Alvarez and pull it toward the door.
The purse/tote bag containing personal items was recovered, with the case still under investigation.
April 14, 2022
DOBSON — For the benefit of those who might not have heard, an election is upcoming in Surry County and some key dates are looming for that.
These include the regular voter-registration deadline for the May 17 primary, which is next Friday, while one-stop early absentee voting will begin on April 28.
Meanwhile, the absentee ballot by mail process already is under way, having begun on March 28.
Concerning the voter-registration part of the equation, forms must be postmarked or delivered in person by 5 p.m. next Friday to the Surry County Board of Elections office at 915 E. Atkins St. in Dobson. Regular hours there are 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
That Friday deadline applies to those who intend to cast ballots on Primary Day, and not during the early voting period when someone can register and cast a ballot during the same visit.
Registration forms may be sent by fax or email attachment, but an original must be received in the Dobson office no later than 5 p.m. on April 27, according to a recent schedule update from Surry Director of Elections Michella Huff.
Generally, persons who have voted in recent elections have active registration, but one may check his or her status at the board’s website. The elections office can be contacted at 336-401-8225.
Citizens also may register to vote or update their registration using the website.
Next Friday additionally is listed as the last day to change one’s party affiliation before the May 17 primary, when citizens may cast ballots for candidates only if they are affiliated with the party those candidates represent. For example, a person registered as a Democrat can’t vote in a GOP primary, although unaffiliated voters may.
An exception is the Mount Airy municipal election, which is non-partisan.
In most cases with local offices that will be on the May 17 ballot, only Republican candidates are involved and no Democrats at all, thus giving the primary added significance.
Whoever wins then effectively will be the victor due to no Democratic opposition in the November general election, unless there is a successful challenge by an unaffiliated — which is being pursued in a small number of cases — or write-in candidate.
A number of state and federal elected offices also will be affected by the primary in addition to local ones, with a sample ballot available on the Surry Board of Elections website.
Four early voting locations will be in operation across the county beginning at 8 a.m. on April 28, which theoretically allows citizens to cast ballots ahead of the regular election date to avoid crowds or if they have something else planned that day,
These include the Surry Board of Elections in Dobson, a Mount Airy site at the Surry County Government Center on State Street behind Arby’s, in Pilot Mountain at the town rescue squad building at 615 E. U.S. 52-Bypass in the former Howell Funeral Home location and in Elkin at the rescue squad on North Bridge Street.
At one time earlier this year, there was a chance only one site would be involved, with the issue subsequently settled by the state elections board that approved all four.
While persons can register to vote and cast ballots on the same day during one-stop early absentee voting, they will not be able to do on Primary Day itself, to which next Friday’s regular registration deadline applies.
Voters will not be asked to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Early voting will be offered from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays during the one-stop period, which ends on May 14. No Sunday hours are on the schedule.
Absentee by mail
Huff indicated Thursday that the absentee ballot by mail process, which has drawn controversy in other areas of the country, is proceeding well in Surry County.
No excuse is required for voting absentee by mail, but all absentee requests must be submitted on an official state form, available on the Surry County Board of Elections website or by calling its office. Elections personnel cannot accept handwritten informal requests.
Would-be voters can mail signed completed official request forms to the office or hand-deliver them there.
May 10 is the last day for residents to request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them.
“We have mailed out 149 ballots (per requests received) and have 26 returned to date,” Huff advised Thursday afternoon, adding that this is “much less” than the last local primary in 2020, a presidential election year.
At the comparable time for the primary held in March of that year, 1,059 ballots had been mailed in Surry.
The transparency of the local process includes the first absentee ballot meeting of the elections board, next Tuesday at 5 p.m., being open to the public. It will be held in the conference room of the Surry County Service Center (the elections office) in Dobson.
It also will be offered via the Zoom online platform, for which the link can be obtained by calling the elections office Monday, Huff mentioned.
The purpose of it and similar meetings set in the coming weeks is to approve an absentee report for ballots received as part of the tabulation procedure.
Layers of security
Also Thursday, Huff wanted to let voters know that local elections personnel perform daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annual and annual list-maintenance efforts for the registration database.
That involves checking for duplicates and the removal of deceased voters and felons.
Additionally in North Carolina, counties communicate with this data to help in the maintenance of voter-registration rolls, according to the local director.
Voter roll list maintenance is important because it ensures ineligible voters are not included on poll books, reduces the possibility for error and decreases the opportunity for fraud, Huff explained.
April 14, 2022
A Pinnacle man and Mount Airy woman were arrested recently after a surveillance operation searching for wanted subjects led to their apprehension.
Gary Christopher Hicinbothem, 28, of 3841 Volunteer Road, Pinnacle, and Kristi Christiva Lowe, 31, of 122 Capital Lane, Mount Airy, were each charged after being arrested after a vehicle stop on Holly Springs Road, according to Surry County Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt.
According to the sheriff, his office’s narcotics and patrol divisions, along with the Surry County Probation and Parole office, were conducting the operations in the Holly Springs area when officials observed Hicinbothem and Lowe traveling in a vehicle, resulting in law enforcement pulling them over, which led to drug-related charges against Hicinbothem.
“During the stop, detectives located 51 grams of methamphetamine and 2.5 grams of fentanyl,” the sheriff said.
That led to Hicinbothem being charged with three counts of trafficking methamphetamine, one count of possession with intent to manufacture sell and deliver heroin / fentanyl, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of interfering with an electronic monitor device. He was jailed under a $600,000 secured bond.
Lowe was charged with one count of interfering with an electronic monitor device. She was placed under a $10,000 secured bond.
April 14, 2022
Just as with your home, the county has a limited amount of money to spend on the goods and services it needs to conduct business. Creating and sticking to a departmental budget is part of the job for the county’s professional staff, and oversight is provided from the county commissioners in creating those budgets.
Better than sticking to a budget is trimming the fat from one budget year to the next to provide a better bottom line. In the budget planning session Tuesday evening in Dobson, Todd Harris reported back to the Surry County Board of Commissioners that in his short tenure the Register of Deeds office has done just that.
“I was told when I was commissioner in Mount Airy that you can’t run a government office like a business. Well, in my 18 months, I’m not sure I can concur with that statement.”
The Register of Deeds office submitted a budget proposal for the next fiscal year of $484,104 down ever so slightly from what had been the lowest departmental budget in years of $485,717 last year. “To put this number in further perspective, it represents a total savings during my tenure of two years of about $190,000 versus what might be a “normal” pre-COVID budget of 2019-2020.”
Harris highlighted revenues for the county are up with the first half of the current fiscal year outpacing the same period last year $632,475 to $536,342. Despite the global turmoil and a soft stock market due to inflation and the uncertainty of conflict in Eastern Europe, the just-received third quarter numbers also showed gains over Q3 of the previous year.
Unprecedented revenues are being seen in the county as a robust real estate market in Surry County “fueled by low interest rates is responsible for most of the revenues.”
Harris said whether the market will continue to “reward Surry County’s bottom line will in large part be dependent on interest rates. If they are stable, we can assume revenue will be robust. If rates go higher, we can expect a decline in revenues. Regardless of whether the rates rise or fall, we will always approach our budget preparation with a firm commitment to outstanding stewardship.”
That stewardship is found in a renegotiation of the contract for courthouse computer systems, the department’s largest cost outside salaries. Harris got the rate down to levels not seen since the original contract in 2006, “As a result the cost the citizens bare of this necessary service has now not increased in the last 15 years.”
Improvements to document automation have also been a blessing to taxpayers as Harris says it drives down the costs of running his office. The deeds office has embraced recent technology and has added new computers to next year’s budget to that end.
A contract with Iron Mountain for data and document security services has been terminated, “One of the highlights of this year’s presentation is the inform the board that we no longer do business with Iron Mountain.”
In the increasingly digital age, he told the board that while it may seem antithetical for an office such as his, “I have put a stop to document preservation. Every document in that office is already preserved technologically — in other words, whatever condition it is in, it’s not going to get any better, and that specific document you can view online.”
“Gone are the days” when lawyers would congregate at the Register of Deeds office as they came to pull essential records. Foot traffic for such requests is at a bare minimum, “The only reason to come is if you need the original document,” he said. His office estimates around 40 walk-in requests for records have occurred so far this year, requests for genealogical records have dropped as well.
Staying relevant to the needs of the community, a passport office has opened that is a new revenue source for the department. Harris said as COVID wanes, people are going to have a pent-up desire to travel which may yield additional passport income.
Stewards not only of existing documents, Harris told the board the Veterans History Project has begun in which they are digitally chronicling the story of Surry County veterans for posterity. Harris said ads and click traffic may yield another potential for revenue stream from a YouTube channel that is being set up for the project.
Commissioner Van Tucker complimented the quantity of information that can be found online, but the human touch is still needed, “It’s all accessible if you’re smart enough to figure it out, I wasn’t.” He called and got the assistance he needed though from the staff saying that level of service is “what the Surry County taxpayers not only expect, but we require for them.”
“A wise man once told me that service is all we have to sell,” Harris replied simply. “So, we have a very firm commitment in the office to service.”
Harris, in describing the Register of Deeds office, makes it sound nothing like the drab confines of a county office one may expect. He noted the work-life balance that is needed and when the clock strikes five, he hopes his teams leave the office at the office. A knowing chuckle from Betsy Harris, seated behind her husband, suggested that may not always be the case.
After being sworn in he told his staff, “I intend to run this office as if I were the CEO. So, if I am the CEO, I have to answer to the board. The board, it seems hard to imagine, is only two years away,” he said referring to the voters of Surry County as his board of directors.
He steers the ship by seeking efficiency, strict adherence to statute, and with the input of his staff. he said. A good team is critical, and Harris brought his entire staff to introduce them to the board. He believe their diversity of backgrounds and knowledge create a well-rounded group who had a sense of ownership in the workings of the office, as well as the knowledge their leader values them.
“I have,” Harris paused, “existed through a variety of different management styles, and I certainly saw what I did not want to bring to the office. The most important thing I want my staff to know is that they are valued.”
April 14, 2022
Mount Airy officials are mulling a list of projects proposed for funding from the municipality’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money, which total $2.9 million.
It mainly is eyed for major building and equipment needs in a list compiled by City Manager Stan Farmer, containing 18 line items altogether.
The $3.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding designated for Mount Airy was included in a $350 billion financial aid package approved last year for all 50 states at the statewide and local levels as a relief measure in response to COVID-19.
In addition to the $2.9 million eyed for city government projects, requests for ARPA funding were solicited earlier this year from local non-profit organizations to support various efforts.
That resulted in 16 different groups submitting requests for $2.4 million altogether, meaning some tough decisions are facing Mount Airy officials.
The biggest single expense on the city government’s to-do list is $400,000 for the indoor pool HVAC/air system at Reeves Community Center, new pickleball and multi-use courts at Riverside Park ($200,000), building repairs ($89,000) and bridge repairs on the Emily B. Taylor section of the Granite City Greenway ($100,000). It was completed about 20 years ago.
“That has been a need,” Farmer said of the bridge repairs during a recent budget planning retreat at which potential uses of the federal funding were discussed.
A big-ticket item, $470,000, targets City Hall, where building repairs are envisioned along with seal coating and striping of parking lots.
Farmer disclosed Wednesday that this does not include a proposal made last fall to upgrade the communications capabilities of council chambers, where the city commissioners meet.
It included possible high-tech additions such as multiple projectors, large wall-mounted and drop-down display screens, new microphones with integrated speakers, digital mixing equipment, ceiling tile speakers, new camera equipment, video-audio transmitters/receivers and more.
The expense was put at well over $100,000, which officials have said could be paid for with the federal funding since the upgrades would allow the public to better monitor meeting proceedings from homes in times of pandemic.
But Farmer advised Wednesday that he and Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis had reviewed the proposal “and do not recommend that costly scope of work.”
Instead, Lewis has launched a video improvement project involving an install which will happen soon within the present budget year, according to the city manager.
“We are not recommending audio improvements now,” Farmer added. “Our investigation revealed that if the public speaks into a microphone provided in chamber then the public listening at home, etc. can hear the proceedings just fine.”
Other city projects
Also on the list for consideration are building repairs and a street sweeper replacement at the city Public Works Building ($392,000), along with building repairs for the library, police station and the Mount Airy Fire Department, further proposed for new radios (a total of $612,000).
Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said the radios would update models now used, allowing better communications among department personnel.
The Surry Arts Council, meanwhile, is proposed for $265,000 worth of building repairs/restroom upgrades at its building and other restrooms for an amphitheater nearby.
“Those bathrooms are embarrassing over there,” Farmer said of the Surry Arts Council building.
“Probably we need two sets of bathrooms,” Mayor Ron Niland said of those proposed, since persons attending concerts at the amphitheater now must use facilities in the nearby Municipal Building and library which are inadequate for mass gatherings.
Commissioner Tom Koch questioned the Surry Arts Council funding proposal, pointing out that it has received hefty building-related sums from the city in recent years in addition to a yearly $87,500 allocation to support its general operations.
“I applaud Tanya, she’s incredible,” Koch said of council Executive Director Tanya Jones. “But we have to look at the big picture,” which could include examining the $87,500 appropriation, he added.
Farmer responded that the proposed expenditures on the list reflect the fact that the municipality owns the structures involved.
Koch also questioned another item included, $210,000 eyed for repaving/striping of the Franklin Street public parking lot downtown.
The North Ward commissioner suggested that parking lot needs should be funding through a special Municipal Service District tax levied on downtown properties to provide facilities benefiting all, including lots, rather than funding from the city.
Another $50,000 is proposed for wayfinding signage downtown to better guide visitors, although local travel/tourism revenues could be the best source for such items, based on discussion at the meeting.
Farmer also is proposing that $125,000 be aside for fire-suppression grants to provide for sprinklers and related needs in cases where the upper floors of downtown buildings are developed for housing, a proposal earlier floated.
Looking at the federal funding available and factoring in the requests from non-profits, Lewis, the assistant city manager, said further studies must be done before final decisions are made.
“We will have to prioritize some needs.”
There is still plenty of time for that, according to the discussion, since rules say the ARPA money must be spent by December 2026.
April 14, 2022
The Mount Airy Photography Club will offer a free presentation featuring Kevin Adams, at The Historic Earle Theatre at 142 North Main Street in Mount Airy on April 23,
Adams is one of North Carolina’s premier nature photographers. The presentation and workshop is entitled “365 Nights: A Yearlong Immersion into Night Photography.”
For this project, Adams took one photo for every day of the year, and at the end compiled them into a collage. In 2021, he created a different photo every night. The resulting images cover a plethora of subject matter: Closeups of household items, mobsters carrying chainsaws, Jack-O-Lanterns on fire, waterfalls, the Milky Way, and other photographic creations.
Adams says that without question, this was the most challenging and rewarding project he had tackled in his 40 years as a photographer. In his presentation, he will cover “the good and the bad,” and explain why taking on a project like this will be the best thing you can do, not only for your photography, but also for your well-being.
Adams is a naturalist, writer, teacher, and photographer who has had a lifelong love affair with nature and the outdoors. In addition to photo credits in all manner of publications, he is the author and photographer of nine books. An accomplished photography instructor, he leads photo tours and teaches numerous workshops and seminars throughout the year.
Often called the “MacGyver of Photography,” he designed and sells several unique products for night photographers. Adams lives in Waynesville with his wife, Patricia, their cat Lucy, eight chickens, and a colony of groundhogs that tear up everything and eat Patricia’s plants.
Some of Adams’ publications include books on his favorite topic—his home state of North Carolina. His nature and photography books include North Carolina Waterfalls, Wildflowers of the Southern Appalachians, Hiking Great Smokey Mountains National Park, North Carolina’s Best Wildflower Hikes, Our North Carolina, and Backroads of North Carolina. He is a regular contributor to Our State and other magazines. According to Adams, “the most rewarding aspect of my career is sharing my passion for photography and the natural world through presentations. I love to expose people to new places and techniques and see the excitement on their faces.”
This free presentation will be from 3 to 5 p.m. and is sponsored by the Mount Airy Photography Club and supported in part by a Surry Arts Council subgrant from the Grassroots Program of the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that “a great nation deserves great art.”
For more info on the photographer, visit www.kadamsphoto.com.
April 14, 2022
The Small Business Center at Surry Community College will be offering multiple online webinars in April and May free of charge.
The webinar Instagram for Business will be held April 21, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar will explore Instagram marketing strategies to gain the right kind of followers and convert them into paying customers.
The webinar Basics of Bookkeeping will be held April 26, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar will teach you how to properly record financial transactions and the three most important financial reports. This webinar is intended for new business owners or those who need a refresher on the basics of accounting.
The webinar Online QuickBooks will be held April 28, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar will teach the industry best practices on how to record daily transactions, manage and pay bills, reconcile your bank and credit card statements and generate financial statements every month.
The webinar Desktop QuickBooks will be held May 5, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar will cover the basics of navigating QBD, and how to get the most out of this software installed directly on your computer.
The webinar Website Building 101 & 102 for Small Businesses will be held May 16, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. This seminar can help you quickly and efficiently design a website for your business with little technical knowledge.
The webinar (Re)Launch Your Airbnb in One Weekend: A Masterclass on Airbnb Hosting will be held May 17, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar is intended for anyone exploring Airbnb as an income stream, wanting to launch or upgrade their Airbnb and for those wanting to provide a five-star experience for guests.
The webinar How to Find Your Customers Using Social Media will be held May 19, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This webinar will teach you where and how to find your customers, along with information on SEO keywords and free market research tools.
The webinar Canva: Design Basics will be held May 26, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar will teach you how to create professional graphics, short videos and print materials on the free design tool Canva. This hybrid session will consist of instruction and hands-on experience.
The webinar Canva: Advanced Design Skills will be held June 2, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar will give a deeper dive into the advanced capabilities of Canva. You must have a Canva account and working knowledge of Canva. A Canva Pro (paid subscription) account is highly recommended.
To register or to view a complete listing of the upcoming Small Business Center offerings, visit www.surry.edu/sbc. After registering for a webinar, a link to join the event will be emailed to you.
April 14, 2022
Rebecca McGlamery has been recognized as the Cedar Ridge Elementary Beginning Teacher of the Year.
“This award goes to a teacher, in their first year of teaching, who really goes the extra mile,” school officials said of the honor. “Rebecca McGlamery shows excellence in social-emotional learning and instructional strategies in her PreK classroom. She is always smiling and working on building strong relationships with students and colleagues. We are so proud to have her in our Cedar Ridge Elementary Panther family.”
April 13, 2022
Surry Community College is offering an Emergency Medical Technician class beginning in May that will meet at the Yadkin Center, at 1001 College Drive in Yadkinville.
The class will start on Tuesday, May 17, and will run through Thursday, Oct. 27. Classes will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with two additional Saturday meetings. Advance registration for the course is required by Tuesday, April 19.
The Emergency Medical Technician course establishes the basic knowledge needed to provide, under medical authority, pre-hospital emergency care and to pass the NC State and/or National Registry certification exam. This course follows the guidelines established by the NC Office of EMS.
Pre-requisites include a high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma and successful completion of the T.A.B.E. assessment exam for basic reading and comprehension skills. This test will be scheduled and given during course orientation.
To register for the course, go to bit.ly/SurryEMTBasic. For more information about SCC’s EMT Basic Program, contact Doug Underwood at 336-386-3584 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The tuition is $180. Students who are part of a life-saving organization will be eligible for a tuition waiver.
April 13, 2022
Surry Community College is offering new certificates in office administration and medical office administration that can be earned in two semesters or less. The program certificates also work as pathways toward completing a diploma or degree. All the classes are offered online.
The Medical Office Administration program has added a Patient Services Representative Certificate, which can be completed in two semesters. The program also offers a two-semester Medical Billing and Insurance Certificate and a one-semester Medical Office Administration Certificate.
The Office Administration program has added a Customer Service Representative Certificate, which can be completed in two semesters. The program also offers a two-semester Office Finance Certificate and a one-semester Office Administration Certificate.
When a student completes a certificate, those credit hours can then go toward the completion of a diploma in Office Administration or Medical Office Administration. Upon earning a diploma, these credit hours will count toward an associate degree.
Lead Instructor of Medical and Office Administration Mitzi Poore, says, “Students in Medical and Office Administration will have the choice in the fall of completing one of three certificates. Students can choose to continue to receive the other certificates, their diploma, or their degree. If someone is working in the field and needs a credential, these certificates offer an excellent opportunity to get your credential while you work because all classes are offered online.”
Anyone with questions about the program should contact Poore at 336-386-3293 or email@example.com. For help with college application, class registration or financial aid, contact Student Services at 336-386-3264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 13, 2022
Mount Airy High School’s Science Department will be participating in an upcoming professional development provided by North Carolina State University.
The Science House in the College of Sciences and the STEM Education Department in the College of Education are offering this opportunity to high school science teachers in western North Carolina.
Supporting the Implementation of Modeling Instruction in Rural Schools focuses on Modeling instruction in High school biology and high school chemistry while producing new educational research in the area of Pedagogical Content Knowledge.
“Modeling instruction is one of the most powerful and effective pedagogies to aid in student understanding in secondary science,” the city school officials said. Mount Airy is one of 26 partnering districts in North Carolina.
“Immediately following the interest meeting for this opportunity, the department jumped right in,” said Principal Jason Dorsett. “Their dedication for student learning and willingness to grow professionally is evident. They also understand that collective teacher efficacy is one of the most significant factors in student achievement and I greatly appreciate their willingness to work together as a team.”
Megan Conner, Crystal Fain, and Alexis Shelley will engage in 15 days of training with an additional four follow-up days during the 2022-23 academic year for a total of 114 hours of formal instruction in year one. Additional follow-up days will be provided in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years.
Conner graduated from Catawba College with a bachelor of science in biology. She began her educational career at West Stokes High School in 2005. She has taught biology, earth science, and AP biology.
“Science is a constantly changing field as new technology and scientific advances are evolving,” she said. “This program will allow me to help my students understand these scientific concepts as they are taught in a more hands-on environment.”
Fain graduated from Ferrum College with a bachelor of science in environmental science and from Radford University with a masters of science in education with a concentration in earth science. Prior to being an educator, she worked with the Virginia Department of Health as Environmental Inspector.
Her first year of teaching was seventh grade life science and the past 15 years she has been teaching high schoolers earth science, environmental science, forensic science, and biology. When sharing her goals for this program she said, “I want to be able to reach all students with varying learning styles. This program will give me insight on allowing my students in the classroom to be able to learn concepts by doing them, essentially teaching in a full-time science lab.”
Shelley graduated with a bachelor of science education from Bob Jones University. Her teaching experience is beginning at Mount Airy High School where she teaches physical and earth science.
“I want to be constantly growing and changing to become a better teacher for my students,” she said of joining the program. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that.”
“We are very proud of the opportunity these three educators have before them. Each is highly respected in their field and will only become stronger through this innovative partnership,” said Deputy Superintendent Dr. Phillip Brown.
April 13, 2022
Several East Surry High School SkillsUSA students and teams recently were recognized for their performances in the Northwest Regional Rally at Wilkes Community College.
Among those taking first-place awards were Belle Bullington in the category of Adobe Video; Abygail Caro, Kaylee Jennings, and Kaylee Wagoner in the category of Crime Scene Investigation; and Rilee Manring in the category of Spelling.
Those taking second place awards include Karlee Bryant in T-Shirt Design; Troy Haywood in Adobe Video; Bennet Lin in Adobe Visual; and Wenxin Zheng in the category of Medical Math.
Wenjie Zheng took fifth place in the Adobe Visual category.
The State Conference competition will take place from April 27 – 29 in Greensboro.
April 13, 2022
A Pilot Mountain family escaped a house fire in the early morning hours Tuesday without injury, but they lost the home and all of its contents.
The blaze, at 1487 NC 268, was discovered by one of the occupants at 1:30 a.m., according to Surry County Fire Inspector Jason Burkholder.
The owner of the home, Pauline Galloway, was living there, along with her adult grandson, her adult granddaughter and her boyfriend, and two of her granddaughter’s children.
“The grandson smelled smoke, then found the flames,” Burkholder said. “He alerted everyone else in the house, then helped his grandmother get out of the home.”
Burkholder said all of the occupants got out without injury, but lost everything. “The home is completely consumed,” Burkholder said. Even two vehicles parked in the driveway were heavily damaged, and likely a total loss, the fire inspector said.
Burkholder said the first firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after dispatchers received the call, and smoke was billowing from multiple points around the home. “Within a matter of minutes they had fire everywhere in the house,” Burkholder said.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
Pilot Knob Volunteer Fire Department responded to the call and was the primary department on the scene. They were assisted throughout the night by Surry County fire departments from Ararat, Shoals, South Surry, Bannertown, and Westfield, as well as Pinnacle and Double Creek from Stokes County. Surry County EMS and Pilot Mountain Rescue Squad was also on the scene.
The Red Cross was there, assisting with the family. That agency has paid for the family to have two local hotels rooms for two nights, and supplied some clothing and other items.
Individuals wishing to donate to the family can do so through Emmanuel Pentecostal Church in Pilot Mountain. Cash and check donations can be made to the church at P.O. Box 1815 Pilot Mountain, NC 27011, with Greene Family noted in the memo line of checks.
For those wishing to donate clothing, these styles and sizes are needed:
Boy’s clothing: size 12 shirts, 14 pants, 6 men’s shoes;
Girl’s clothing: 18-24 month clothing, toddler size 5 shoes; size 6 diapers;
Women’s clothing: x-large pants and shirts, 8.5 shoes; large clothing, 8.5 shoes; 2x pants and shirts, size 7 shoes:
Men’s clothing: 3X shirts, 2X pants, 13 shoes; x-large shirts, 36X36 pants, 12 size shoes.
Additional details of the fire and the family’s needs were not available, but will be updated.
April 13, 2022
In recent years, Pilot Mountain leaders have made a concerted effort to increase events in town — not only to draw visitors and tourists, but to improve the quality of life for town residents.
Now, the town’s Main Street Program has initiated yet another project to both encourage home and yard owners to keep their places nice and spiffy, and to recognize those who do so — a periodic Yard Spotlight Award.
While the program officially got its start in the autumn, the first awards recently went out to two homeowners — Marilyn Thomas, of 406 W. Main Street, and Gerald and Susan Reams, of 509 E Main.
“They loved it,” said Jenny Kindy, Main Street coordinator for Pilot Mountain. “One was very shocked, I don’t know if she had been following along…she was shocked and pleasantly surprised that her yard had been nominated and selected.”
She said the Main Street board of directors approved the program in October, although they decided to wait until spring to officially start handing out the awards.
“We thought it would be a great way to keep the community involved and engaged,” she said of the program, which originated among the town staff members. “This is the first time we’ve really done something where the community can nominate their peers to be recognized…a way to reward people for taking good care of their yard, to encourage other people to take pride in their yard. It makes the town a prettier place.”
She said the program works by folks simply nominating a yard from town. While the first two winners live on Main Street, she said it is for all town residents.
‘It’s a great chance to brag on your neighbors for doing a good job,” she said. The winners receive a yard sign touting their recognition, as well as promotion on social media.
Those wishing to make a nomination can do so via email at email@example.com Kindy said a group of town staff reviews the nominations, visit the yards before choosing those which will be recognized.
April 13, 2022
Creating a safe place for artists in Mount Airy was Donna Jackson’s goal, she called it a dream in her heart from God. The Blue House Art Studio was her creation and a gift to special needs artists of Mount Airy and their families.
Wendy Tatman made the announcement this week that Blue House is ceasing operations. After many years and a countless number of smiles, things happened quickly from the phone call last Thursday to the final dyeing of Easter eggs tomorrow with the result a sad one: the doors are closing on this artists’ space for good.
“We received a call from the Gilmer Smith Foundation informing us that the Blue House itself will be put up for sale,” Tatman said. “We do not yet know further details, but it seems that we will soon be displaced.”
To her students, volunteers, and supporters she broke the news as gently as possible. “This is a difficult letter to write, and it may be a difficult letter to read. Here is the bottom line first: the Blue House Art Studio is closing, and it is doing so much faster than any of us anticipated. “
“The Gilmer Smith Foundation has put the Blue House building up for sale and the Art Studio Board sees no other option other than to ‘dissolve’ our Blue House Art Studio. We had hoped to hold classes through the end of April, but the necessity of disposing of all our supplies and furniture makes that too difficult.”
“We are sad to learn the Blue House Teaching Studio will be closing. The studio has meant so much to its students and their families,” Melissa Hiatt, director of the United Fund of Surry said. “It is certainly a loss to our United Fund family.”
Founded in 2004 by Donna Jackson as a safe space for her son Ben, she told Wanda Stark in 2013 that it came to her in a dream where she saw Ben opening the door to his own gallery to welcome her in. “I woke up that morning and I told my husband ‘I now know what I have to do. God has put this dream in my heart.”
Jackson’s son John III said he heard the tales “about all of the hard work she and many others put into that place to make it shine.” He acknowledged the closure as, “The end of an era.”
“The Blue House has provided a safe haven that fostered artistic growth and nurtured their special population of students to proudly display their works of art,” Hiatt remarked. Blue House is one of the 26 member agencies which are assisted in their goals by the United Fund of Surry. “We are thankful for the years of service the Blue House has given to our community.”
Tatman said the interpersonal connections she has made over the year will be hard to replace. “Very hard, I will miss my students. I will miss the connections, and I hope we will retain those connections.” She will be hosting her students for a final picnic at her home in May, a chance to connect and remember fun times with her students.
She also is hopeful that art education need not end for the students either or hopes to work something out. “We are working with Rosie and Lee Bolin at the Groovy Gallery in hopes of arranging some art class opportunities there for any of our students who would like to try.”
In the short term though, some of the students may find they have no safe space to create and therefore may do so at home. She does not want supplies to go to waste, “All students are invited to bring a box to class and gather art supplies that you would use at home.”
The process of getting the studio out of the Blue House is a truncated one. Tatman said she in unclear of the timeframe she must exit but will rent a dumpster and hire helpers as needed to “finish this rather giant job.” Staff, volunteers, and board who wish to reclaim any items contributed over the years are welcome to take those.
Non-profit groups are subject to rules when they shut down so any specific grants issued or funds remaining when the studio closes will be given to United Fund or the Webb-Midkiff Foundation. Some specific items such as sculptures by Bill Maxwell will be offered back to their families.
The remaining sundries of the office will then be offered to the sister organizations under the umbrella of The United Fund. Tables, chairs, and even a stand-up piano will be looking for new homes with other non-profits before going to the landfill.
“It has been a joy to work with all of you and a delight to get to know you. We all treasure the friendships and memories we have made together,” Tatman said in the letter to students.
“On behalf of our founder, Donna Jackson, and all the teachers and board members and volunteers who have worked at Blue House Art Studio and Gallery Group over the years, we thank you for your amazing support and help and belief in our vision.”
April 12, 2022
• A Mount Airy woman has been arrested on a felony drug charge that had been filed by Surry County authorities, according to city police reports.
Misty Largen Bledsoe, 44, of 315 Crotts Road, was taken into custody on April 4 at the local probation office on State Street, where she was found to be the subject of an outstanding order for arrest regarding her alleged possession of a Schedule II controlled substance.
That charge had been issued through the Surry Sheriff’s Office on March 22 along with a misdemeanor violation of possessing drug paraphernalia. Bledsoe was jailed under a $1,000 secured bond and slated for an April 27 appearance in District Court.
• A state-wanted person, Crystal Nicole Cook, 41, of 187 Paige St., was located and confined in the Surry County Jail under a $25,000 secured bond on April 1, when she also was charged with a felony, possession of a Schedule I controlled substance (heroin), along with possession of drug paraphernalia.
Cook, who was encountered during a larceny call at Dollar General on East Lebanon Street which led to the drug charges, also was found to be the subject of an outstanding order for arrest on a probation violation that had been issued through the Surry County court clerk’s office on Jan. 7.
She was scheduled to be in District Court this past Monday.
• Javier Mojica Flores, 21, of 108 Blackberry Lane, Lot 2, was charged with felonious possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, identified as powder cocaine, after an April 1 traffic stop of a 2008 Ford Fusion on West Lebanon Street.
Flores further is accused of simple possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana), along with possessing drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
He was jailed under a $5,000 secured bond in the case that is set for the April 25 session of District Court.
April 12, 2022
Little more than a year ago, Mount Airy’s Leonard Buildings and Truck Accessories was purchased by New York-based Kinderhook Industries, with the purchasing firm in that transaction expressing a desire to grow Leonard’s footprint.
Tuesday, Kinderhook and Leonard announced the local company would be more than doubling that footprint with the purchase of Cook Portable Warehouses.
“Our rapid expansion and growth strategy just went into overdrive,” said Leonard CEO Mike Pack, in a presentation to Leonard employees. “Today, I am thrilled to announce the acquisition of Cook Portable Warehouses.”
Cook was founded in 1984 by Greg Cook and has since grown to operate 65 company owned locations, along with supporting a network of independent shed dealers and five manufacturing facilities. All totaled, the firm operates in 14 states, with 261 employees.
Leonard, with 556 employees, already worked with 72 locations spread across five states. This is the fourth, though largest, acquisition Leonard has made since being bought in March 2021 by Kinderhook. The combined larger company will give Leonard operations stretching as far west as Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio, and as far south as the Gulf Coast and the Tampa, Florida region. The firm already had operations in North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.
“We are more than excited to welcome the entire Cook team to Leonard,” Pack said. “The Cook manufacturing expertise and long-tenured team, coupled with the additional Cook retail locations, will be a catalyst for our unit growth and expansion strategy.”
“The addition of Cook’s retail locations and manufacturing capacity, perfectly position Leonard to continue their aggressive growth strategy. With Cook, Leonard has more than doubled the number of retail locations in our first year of ownership,” said Tom Tuttle, managing director of Kinderhook.
“The combination of Cook and Leonard is an exceptional match given both companies commitment to quality and exceptional customer service.” said Greg Cook, founder and president of Cook. “We look forward to leveraging the best practices of both organizations to better serve our customers.”
“Cook is not only an impressive performer, but they also align perfectly in support of our expansion plans as we move from regional retailer to a national retailer,” Pack said in his message to employees, alluding to the possibility of continued growth and acquisitions. “In the short-term you will feel very little impact from Cook, but we will share more information in the future as the two companies begin working together to achieve our goals and exceed our customers’ expectations.”
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, nor was it clear if all employees will be retained, or if new jobs will be created.
Leonard was founded by brothers Tyson and Mike Leonard in 1964, first as Leonard Aluminum Utility Buildings in Swainsboro, Georgia, before expanding to Winston-Salem, eventually moving the company headquarters to Mount Airy.
In 2015, Tyson Leonard sold the firm to Copeley Capital from Charlotte along with a small group of senior managers at Leonard.
In March of 2021, the company announced it had been acquired by Kinderhook, an investment firm which owns and operates more than 200 industries and businesses.
April 12, 2022
Thirteen candidates are seeking four different council seats in Mount Airy, but they share some common ground including seeing a need for affordable housing and more economic development/jobs locally.
“Housing is a concern,” said Joanna Refvem, one of four people vying for a North Ward seat on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners now held by Jon Cawley, who is running for mayor.
That sentiment was echoed by many of the 13 office seekers gathered Monday night on the stage of the Historic Earle Theatre and Old-Time Music Heritage Hall downtown for a meet-the-candidates event. It drew a crowd to the auditorium that is mostly a venue for movies and musical performances.
Not only does the city need affordable housing, at-large council candidate Tonda Phillips said from the perspective of a real estate professional, but help for those who aren’t able to acquire a home at all.
“The city also should support homeless shelters,” Phillips said during the forum co-sponsored by the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and the group Mount Airy Downtown Inc.
Further concerns about housing were expressed by present At-Large Commissioner Joe Zalescik, who is running for the South Ward seat of longtime incumbent Steve Yokeley, who is campaigning for Zalescik’s post as part of a switcheroo agreed to by both.
Zalescik referred to the fact that the city government owns nearly 1,000 acres of property, both within and outside the municipality. “Yes, the city has a lot of land,” he said, “and we need to use some of that land for housing young people.”
The format for Monday night’s candidates — billed as an introduction of them to voters — differed from others in which office seekers have responded to prepared questions on relevant issues along with ones from audience members.
Each was simply given four minutes to detail his or her background and experience in addition to campaign platforms/visions for Mount Airy, the ways in which each believes the city is on the right path and the ways it is on the wrong path.
Candidates were grouped by the respective offices at stake in the city’s non-partisan election this year, venturing one by one to a podium to make their case to voters.
• Along with Cawley, the mayoral candidates include Ron Niland, the man now holding that post, and Teresa Lewis, a former at-large commissioner.
• Running against Refvem in the North Ward are John Pritchard and two former city school board members, Teresa Davis Leiva and Chad Hutchens.
• The South Ward candidates, along with Zalescik, are Gene Clark and Phil Thacker, who also has served on the school board.
• Joining Yokeley and Phillips in the at-large race is former twice-elected Mayor Deborah Cochran.
Monday night’s gathering was a prelude to a May 17 primary that will narrow the field to two candidates for each office who will square off in the November general election.
“Status quo must go”
Most of them had good things to say about the present condition of Mount Airy as it relates to city government decisions. These include its recreation programs and facilities such as the Granite City Greenway, arts and cultural offerings and a thriving downtown targeted for efforts to make it more pedestrian friendly through a master plan update.
Yet during his time at the podium, Clark pointed to the elephant in the room: The fact that 13 people are running for public office (believed to be a record for an election in Mount Airy) means citizens want change.
“The status quo has got to go,” Clark added.
He has long been a critic of city government efforts to redevelop former Spencer’s textile mill property it bought in 2014, which have been shaky at times — what Clark referred to Monday night as “boondoggles we’ve had in the last few years.”
The South Ward candidate was among others mentioning a need for better-paying employment opportunities in town.
They included Pritchard, who cited Mount Airy’s lack of “solid real jobs (that) give our young people the confidence to marry, buy a home and raise a family” and said he would vote to “go all out for new full-time jobs” locally.
“That keeps young people here and attracts new people.”
Pritchard framed his content around the theme of “what about us?” in terms of steps the city government should be taking to help the people.
He says other smaller communities in North Carolina have managed to attract major economic-development projects, including China Grove where Macy’s is building a distribution center and creating 2,800 jobs.
Pritchard attacked claims that this community lacks suitable buildings for businesses and a labor force.
“I say head to Winston about 7 a.m. and see our workforce leaving town.”
Pritchard said the city should make some of its land available for businesses by giving it to them at discount prices or even free, arguing that Mount Airy’s population must grow to avoid straining existing citizens.
Leiva, one of Pritchard’s opponents, also referred to the jobs issue in her comments, especially as it relates to younger people leaving town due to lack of opportunities.
Though she has deep roots in the community, Leiva moved away after graduating from college due to a lack of activities for young people but later returned.
While that has changed, more such activities are needed, said Leiva, who believes local officials should concentrate on economic development.
Thacker agreed. “I think we need to seek opportunities to provide new jobs.”
Mayoral candidate Lewis also mentioned a need for economic-development efforts along with more affordable housing.
“If I am elected mayor, I will be an agent of change,” said the longtime local businesswoman who in 1987 founded what is now the WorkForce Unlimited staffing agency employing thousands of people in three states.
Cawley also said the mayor can play a key role in luring new business by being the face of the community.
“Somebody has to tell the story — the story of what Mount Airy is — I think that’s what the job of the mayor is,” he remarked.
“We have a story to tell,” Niland concurred, also referring to plans to address economic development through a shell building concept. “I have the energy and drive to tell our story.”
He further said that downtown housing and entertainment are helping to attract the “national talent” companies seek.
Property tax concerns
Multiple candidates expressed concerns about Mount Airy’s property tax rate, which is now 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation due to a 25% increase approved in 2018, up from 48 cents.
“The top of the list, of course, is we need to reduce taxes,” Thacker said of his main goals if elected.
Cochran, as a former commissioner and mayor, says she has experience in doing just that,
“Everybody talks about cutting taxes — we actually did it,” Cochran said of how city officials slashed the rate from 63 to 48 cents during her tenure.
The former mayor also mentioned her efforts to bring jobs to town, including making a trip to Arkansas in a successful venture to lure a company that is one of the top local employers.
Zalescik expressed a desire to keep taxes low while seeking grants and other outside funding sources to support growth and not standing in the way of progress.
Some of the candidates used their time to highlight additional concerns, including Yokeley, whose goals encompass a need to improve the city’s aging water-sewer infrastructure, as do those of Phillips, and provide support for the police and fire departments.
“I am not running against anything or anybody,” Yokeley said, but to help Mount Airy.
In addition to concerns about police and fire operations, which are both understaffed, Phillips referred to the need to attack a related problem, drug abuse.
The Rotary Club of Mount Airy, of which she is president, has launched initiatives targeting that problem, she said. “This is just the beginning — we also can do more.”
Some candidates mainly expressed what they would bring to the table as elected officials.
Refvem said one of the main attributes she can offer is the ability to listen to citizens, based on her work as a licensed counselor for both youths and adults:
“What do you care about — what keeps you up at night?”
“I’m seeking this office because I have a passion for helping others,” said Hutchens, who along with previously serving on the Mount Airy Board of Education is a sergeant with the Surry County’s Sheriff’s Office involved with its school resource officer program.
“Community service should be done for the right reasons,” he commented in remarks directed toward citizens. “The bottom line is I care about Mount Airy and I care about working for you.”
April 12, 2022
Millennium Charter Academy recently hosted its first kindergarten through twelfth-grade assembly in more than two years, assemblies having been sidelined because of COVID restrictions.
More than 900 students, faculty, and parents gathered to salute the arts offered at the school, which includes choral music, instrumental music, painting, drama, and poetry.
In the spotlight was the final round of the school-wide Poetry Aloud competition. Division winners, whether kindergartners or seniors, recited their poems before the assembly. The winners were: First place, fifth-grader Morgan Cook; second place, fifth grader Katherine Brinkley; third place was freshman Noah Wilkes; and receiving an honorable mention award was kindergarten student Erin Gough.
The band under the direction of Rodney Money performed “Viva La Vida” and “Rise Up.” The choral group directed by Danielle Davis sang, as did the cast of “Cinderella” directed by Beverly Edwards.
Mary McCormick highlighted four pieces of award-winning art. Neal Dawes introduced MCA’s “A Drama Extravaganza” featuring seven short plays to be presented in May.
April 12, 2022
Pilot Mountain Elementary School recently recognized its March Leaders of the Month.
“The students were chosen by their teachers for being considerate and accepting of others,” school officials said.
April 12, 2022
The arrival of Easter will be accompanied by more than a bunny, including some changes in sanitation schedules later this week for the city of Mount Airy.
This will affect three services normally conducted on Friday all being moved up a day to Thursday instead.
The Friday residential trash route is to be serviced a day early, with the Friday commercial trash route also moved to Thursday.
Completing the picture will be the shifting of the Friday industrial roll-off route to Thursday.
Municipal offices will be closed on Good Friday in observance of the holiday.
April 12, 2022
Dobson Elementary School held a family engagement event recent, where students and their families enjoyed bingo games and learned about different strategies to help improve reading fluency and comprehension.
In between the two bingo literacy sessions that were offered, all families were invited to listen to grade span musical performances in the gym.
Literacy-focused prize baskets were given to the winners of the bingo games, while all students left with two books and a literacy strategy bookmark they could use at home to practice and apply their reading skills.
“Over 350 people participated in the event and a great time was had by all,” school officials said. “We want to give special thanks to Carport Central for their support in securing donations for the materials and prizes that were used in the execution of the event.”
April 10, 2022
STUART, Va. — In an apparent case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a “totally innocent” local man has died in a collision that occurred at the tail end of a high-speed pursuit through four counties.
Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith on Sunday afternoon confirmed the identity of the victim as Bobby Wayne Gammons, 81, of Mount Airy, who was listed as a resident of Belvue Drive.
Gammons was killed Friday afternoon when his 2005 Toyota Corolla collided head-on with a a 2010 Toyota Corolla driven by Christine S. Barnette, 41, of Cary, North Carolina, according to details attributed to the Virginia State Police.
This occurred just east of Stuart on U.S. 58 as Gammons was approaching an intersection at a Walmart Supercenter, where authorities had closed down its westbound portion in an effort to stop the Barnette car and prevent such a crash, according to Smith.
But the driver being chased apparently had other ideas for the pursuit that had begun in Halifax County many miles away.
“After the suspect vehicle came through the intersection at Walmart, it veered into the oncoming, eastbound lane near Patrick County Family Practice and collided with another vehicle,” says statements released Sunday by Sheriff Smith.
The Mount Airy man in that car was declared dead at the scene, while the suspect was airlifted to a Virginia hospital with injuries described as life-threatening.
“The reckless, careless and selfish actions of one person took the life of a totally innocent person (Friday) and that is sickening,” added Smith, who said the Virginia State Police is the lead agency for the investigation.
Based on information attributed to it, the deadly collision in Patrick had its origins with Barnette staying illegally in a vacant cabin at Staunton River State Park in Halifax County.
The North Carolina woman was encountered and initially chased by park rangers, with the pursuit subsequently winding its way onto U.S. 58, continuing into neighboring Pittsylvania and Henry counties and the city of Martinsville along the highway’s path into Patrick.
At one point, Barnette reportedly hit a Halifax County deputy’s vehicle during a containment maneuver by officers.
Sheriff Dan Smith advised that authorities in Patrick County were notified about 1 p.m. Friday that the Martinsville Police Department and Virginia State Police were in pursuit of a car traveling at “recklessly at high speeds” en route to the Stuart area.
Smith mentioned that county deputies and state troopers tried unsuccessfully multiple times to halt Barnette’s car with spike strips to puncture the tires.
“The law enforcement officers from the three agencies involved did everything possible to try and prevent the tragedy that occurred and our hearts are broken for the innocent life that was lost,” the Patrick sheriff concluded.
April 10, 2022
It is an annual rite, one of the celebrations of spring.
Hundreds — sometimes even thousands — of brightly colored plastic eggs strewn across a field, some hidden, others in plain sight. Along the edges of the field, poised to spring into action, are generally dozens, even hundreds of youth, waiting. Someone gives the signal and those kids fan out across the field, scooping up eggs, clearing the meadow faster than a swarm of locust devouring a field of wheat.
And then, within minutes, it’s all over, the kids cracking open their toy eggs to see what prizes they may have one.
The event, of course, is an Easter egg hunt, a scene played out multiple times locally this month, thousands of times across the nation.
This year the United Fund of Surry is adding a twist — an adult Easter egg hunt, aimed at spreading some Easter cheer to those who are age 21 and older, as well as a new avenue for raising money for the United Fund and its partner agencies.
The hunt is set for Saturday, April 16, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at The Barn at Heritage Farms in Dobson.
The eggs haven’t been hidden in a way to make the hunt difficult enough to last three hours — part of the fun will be a simple time to socialize and enjoy the venue.
Tickets to the hunt — there is a strict limit of 150 to be sold — cost $40 in advance, $45 the day of the event if there are any left, and include a burlap basket for hunting eggs, a beverage from White Elephant Brewing company and a State of Graze charcuterie cup. All of the eggs will be filled with prizes, such as gift cards, t-shirts, and there will be a grand prize of a Blackstone grill given away to one of the participants. To order tickets, visit http://www.unitedfundofsurry.org/adult-easter-egg-hunt.
And no, there will not be a starter’s whistle followed by a free-for-all egg grab by those participating. Organizers are planning for a more orderly egg search.
“The hunt will be organized by egg color,” said Paul Hiatt, who serves as finance manager at the United Fund. “Each participant will find one egg of each color.” She said a full instruction sheet for participants will be provided at check-in on the day of the event.
“We are excited to offer a new event to our lineup of activities for the 2023 Campaign,” said Executive Director Melissa Hiatt. “Historically fundraising has not begun until August with our Downtown Rocks and Runs. This year we made the decision to add two new events to the lineup with the intent of cultivating more interest in the United Fund to better support our member agencies.”
For 65 years, the United Fund has used fundraisers, donations, corporate gifts, and workplace campaigns to support 26 member agencies in Surry County. The member agencies provide various services in this area, from Surry Medical Ministries, and Parenting Path to five rescue squads. These new events mark an effort to further engage the community while raising money for the United Fund’s efforts.
Hiatt said the idea for the event came from John and Jessica Jonzac, from The Barn at Heritage Farm. John Jonzac is a member of the United Fund board of directors, and the two brought the fundraising idea to the agency.
“The United Fund of Surry is excited about partnering with The Barn at Heritage Farm, John and Jessica Jonzac. Both State of Graze and White Elephant Brewing Company have been very supportive in planning this event as well as a large team of local businesses that have supported us by providing prizes for the eggs,” said Hiatt.
April 10, 2022
Strike up the band and dust off the bunting because the sestercentennial events surrounding Surry 250 are preparing to resume after a prolonged pause due to COVID-19.
A full slate of activities for the 250th anniversary of the founding of Surry County was laid out and began last August with the launch event at Historic Courthouse Square in Dobson.
“We’re going to celebrate today,” Mark Marion of the Surry County Board of Commissioners said at the launch. “Surry County deserves it because we’ve been here a long time.”
A long time indeed from the meeting of the colonial assembly in Tryon Palace in 1770 that laid the groundwork for the final establishment of Surry County on April 1, 1771. Math skills have not been thrown away because of the pandemic, the sestercentennial had already been delayed from its initially proposed launch in the spring of 2020 that would have culminated with the actual 250th anniversary.
On what was described as a beautiful August day, the crowds gathered in Dobson to enjoy live performances by musicians, view displays by local community organizations, and see the sealing of an above ground time capsule.
These glimpses into the past can still draw much attention as evidenced by the excitement in Richmond last December over the discovery of not one, but two, time capsules under the former statue of the confederate general that had been erected in 1890.
Revolutionary War re-enactors arrived in Dobson for the event as well and Commissioner Eddie Harris, one of many history buffs in county government, heard the call for minutemen and arrived at the event with musket and tri-cornered hat.
Now, the long global nightmare of the pandemic has entered a new phase, one where personal choice is driving many decisions. Those who have wanted to have received their vaccines, some of the more vulnerable have had their second booster.
It is time to resume the plans to honor what U.S. House Representative Virginia Foxx called “fine traditions” at the launch. To that end, the bus tours and lecture series previously planned are resuming as well.
The lecture series returns first with “Surry Land Grants and Early Architecture” at 6:30 p.m on Thursday, April 21, at the Surry County Service Center, 915 East Atkins Street, Dobson. The lecture is being presented by architectural historian Laura A.W. Phillips and Marion Venable, a local historian who has had a strong hand in the Surry 250 plans.
Following will be “Surry’s Natural Heritage – NC Trail Days” in cooperation with the Elkin Valley Trails Association and presented by the Elkin Public Library to be held on Friday, June 3, at 4 p.m. Ken Bridle, ecologist/botanist with the Piedmont Land Conservancy will be speaking at the library, 111 North Front Street, Elkin.
Also in June, “Native Americans of the Yadkin Valley” will be presented by Dr. Andrew Gurstelle, professor at Wake Forest University. The lecture will also be held at the Surry County Service Center on Thursday, June 16, at 6:30 p.m.
The last lecture of 2022 will be held Friday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m. with “Surry County’s Traditional Music Legacy” in cooperation with the Surry Arts Council. Paul Brown, musician, producer, radio host, and retired NPR reporter will be delivering the talk at the Earle Theatre, 142 North Main Street, Mount Airy.
One final lecture of the Surry 250 series is “Meshack Franklin – Western NC planter – Celebrating the 250th Anniversary of His Birth” which will be presented Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023 at 3 p.m. with presenter Rodney Pell, a retired Surry County educator. The event will be held at Edwards-Franklin House, 4132 Haystack Road, Mount Airy.
The Franklin – Edwards house is named in part for Meshack Franklin who married Mildred Edwards, and whose father Gideon built the home circa 1799. Franklin represented Surry County in the US House of Representatives for four terms.
If a lecture series is not your cup of tea, take a field trip courtesy of Black Tie Bus Charters Inc. who will be logging the miles behind the wheel of the Surry 250 bus tours. Tours depart from Surry County Service Center in Dobson and will leave promptly at 10 a.m., participants re asked to arrive by 9:45 a.m.
The cost of $25 per person will include a lunch. The tours are each scheduled from 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
On Saturday, May 28 Marion Venable will be the tour guide as the bus departs for the historical sites of Dobson and Northwestern Surry.
Keep on rolling to Elkin on Saturday, June 25 when local historian Jason Couch takes over as the tour guide for the sites in and around Elkin.
Venable reclaims the tour guide role for the final run through the historic sites of Eastern Surry County on Saturday, August 27.
More information can be found at: facebook.com/surry250.
April 10, 2022
Folks gathered at a court in Mount Airy’s Riverside Park appeared to be preparing to play tennis while taking advantage of a warm April day.
They certainly looked the part, wearing shorts, T-shirts and sneakers along with visors to shield their eyes from the noonday sun while trying to hit a familiar-looking yellow ball.
Wait! Those weren’t tennis rackets they were pulling out of their carrying cases at all, but something that more resembled oversized ping pong mallets instead.
And though the activity was similar to tennis — including volleying the ball back and forth over a net — that was not the game they were playing on the court.
What it was, was pickleball.
Yes pickleball, which made a casual observer even more confused because there definitely were no dills, sours or sweets and no bread and butter pickles to be found anywhere on the premises — not even a gherkin.
Similar to the observations of Andy Griffith in his monologue, “What It Was, Was Football,” about a naive man who accidentally happens upon a gridiron where a game is unfolding, the curious spectator at Riverside Park was witnessing a growing phenomenon.
It’s all part of what Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Director Peter Raymer portrayed as a “pickleball explosion” locally during a recent presentation to the city council, which he said is the fastest-growing sport in America.
Pickleball combines elements of badminton, ping pong and tennis, according to the presentation, whereby two or four players use the solid paddles to hit a “pickleball” — much like a wiffle ball — over the net.
One distinct difference between tennis and pickleball involves a lined-off area existing in front of the net on both sides where players aren’t allowed to be during a game — so there’s no charging the net to slam the ball into an opponent’s midst, as occurs with tennis.
That non-volley zone is commonly called the “kitchen,” but again, one that sadly contains no pickles, not even the sliced-up kind for a hamburger.
Research revealed that the name of the sport, by the way, originated with one of the men who created the game on the West Coast in 1965, whose family dog was called Pickles.
Fortunately at Riverside Park that day, the absence of tasty pickles also was accompanied by no canines being present to trip up the players.
The city parks and recreation director reported that pickleball has been embraced by the senior population because it is a lower-impact activity and presumably due to a compressed court that involves less movement than tennis or badminton.
According to Raymer, the big “dill” about pickleball (his words) is that it is a simple game, one easy to learn and which promotes fun and social interaction while also being a great form of exercise.
“And it’s a cheap sport that people can do,” Mayor Ron Niland said, not requiring expensive equipment.
Not only is pickleball being enjoyed locally at Riverside Park, three indoor courts with portable nets were set up in the gymnasium at Reeves Community Center to accommodate a growing legion of enthusiasts.
To better meet the demand in the face of limited playing areas, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted in March to launch a pickleball expansion project with an estimated cost of $200,750.
That was done at the urging of Commissioner Jon Cawley, an avid pickleball player as are other city officials.
“This is just something that needs to happen,” Cawley said in making a motion to approve the project. “I think this is really important.”
The parks and recreation director called that development “huge for our community.”
Plans for the expansion are to involve converting a basketball court adjacent to the existing pickleball space at Riverside Park into three additional courts for the new sport. The three already there were provided four years ago through a Disney Play Spaces grant to Mount Airy and are positioned near the basketball court in an area between a playground and skate park.
Hoops fans needn’t worry about the transition, since a new stand-alone basketball/multi-purpose court facility will be built in a field between a park picnic shelter and a convenience store at the corner of Riverside Drive and East Pine Street.
The projected expenses include resurfacing, fencing and equipment such as nets and goals for the new basketball area.
Money from the city’s $3.2 million share of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to help communities recover from COVID has been designated for the expansion.
However, Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis, former recreation director, is hoping leftover funds from a state grant awarded in connection with an upcoming greenway extension nearby can be used for the pickleball project.
Younger folks involved
While seniors are said to be the biggest age group enthralled with pickleball, it is increasingly being embraced by what Raymer described as a “youth invasion.”
That was evident at Riverside Park last week when Emily Bradley of Mount Airy arrived at the courts.
“I really just started playing,” said the young mom of four, adding that she got involved at the urging of a family member.
Bradley, who played tennis in high school, said pickleball is easier than that traditional sport.
Her children also love to play pickleball, which translates to an enjoyable activity for the entire family.
“I didn’t realize it was such a big deal for the elderly, who come out in the morning,” Bradley said of the participation by seniors, some who are in their 80s.
The existing space also is heavily used at times later in the day, she mentioned, saying one must choose an optimum time to play. “If we come after school, we have to wait for a court.”
Both Bradley and her playing partner that day, sister-in-law Sarah Bradley, are excited about Mount Airy officials’ decision to expand the pickleball facilities.
“They need to,” Sarah said.
April 09, 2022
• Money and other valuables have been stolen from a local home, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
The crime was discovered Thursday at the residence of Evelyn Thompson on Parker Road, where an undisclosed sum of cash was taken by an unknown party along with a double-loop gold ring, cell phone, black purse and Social Security card.
• Police were told Thursday that a license plate, number YND8830, had been stolen from a 2001 Chevrolet Metro LS owned by Mary Lowery Leach, which occurred while the vehicle was parked at her residence in the 1600 block of South Main Street.
• Colter Dylan Hawks, 30, of 1343 Pipers Gap Road, is facing a felony charge of possessing heroin as a result of officers investigating a larceny at Dollar General on North Renfro Street, which occurred on April 1.
Hawks is alleged to have stolen several items of merchandise at the store, including a Snickers energy drink, and was found with the drug during the investigation, records state. In addition to that charge, he is accused of larceny and possession of drug paraphernalia, leading to Hawks’ incarceration in the Surry County Jail under a $10,000 secured bond.
The case is slated for Monday’s session of District Court.
• Daryl Len Sutters, 59, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, was charged with hit and run on March 29 after a 1999 Lexus LS400 he was operating struck another vehicle and he allegedly failed to remain on the scene and fled.
The place of arrest is listed as Hardee’s on Rockford Street, but police records do not explicitly indicate where the motor vehicle crash took place. The Georgia man is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court Monday.
• A larceny was discovered at Burkes Outlet on Rockford Street on March 29, which involved miscellaneous merchandise valued at $204 being taken by an unknown suspect.
April 09, 2022
Temperatures in the lower 40s Saturday morning, punctuated by a stiff wind, didn’t keep crowds away from Mount Airy’s annual Easter egg hunt.
Areas of the Granite City Greenway were invaded by legions of kids wielding baskets who seemingly combed every inch of ground in search of plastic eggs filled with goodies.
“I would guess easily 300 total,” Mount Airy Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Cloukey said of the event for which families began assembling well before its scheduled 10 a.m. start time.
They weren’t gathered in one spot, but at four different points along the greenway including behind the Roses shopping center, at Tharrington Park, at Veterans Memorial Park and an area behind Big Lots.
Cloukey and other city recreation staff members manned the location near Roses, where intrepid egg hunters eagerly anticipated the command to begin their quest.
“I would say at least 100 at that site,” she said of the number there.
Though the locales were different, the dynamics were the same for the hunt organized by Mount Airy Parks and Recreation with the help of longtime sponsor Carport Central, which donated 6,000 multi-colored eggs for the occasion also offering special prizes.
Kids scurried to explore nearly every blade of grass to gather the eggs, as adults accompanying them struggled to keep pace.
They seemed to relish the event as much as the youths.
That included Kent Moser of Mount Airy, who was there with his young grandson, Kyler Moser.
It was fun to spend some quality time with him during the event, Moser agreed, and overall “to see these kids enjoy it as much as they do.”
April 09, 2022
Mount Airy officials are hiring an Asheville law firm to pursue foreclosures on land where unsafe houses were torn down at taxpayer expense — a decision that didn’t come easy.
A vigorous debate preceded the city council’s 4-1 vote Thursday afternoon to have the Kania firm launch aggressive legal proceedings for six different sites in town representing demolition costs totalling $33,332 — accumulated during a span of nearly 10 years.
Instances of Mount Airy ordering the razing of dilapidated structures after owners failed to bring them up to code are a common occurrence. This has been accompanied by liens being filed on the land left behind which requires those expenses to be paid if and when it is sold — but often the property just sits there and the city doesn’t recoup its losses.
Thursday’s vote means that for the first time, the city government is going the extra — arguably drastic — step of proceeding with foreclosures to take ownership of parcels involved.
That will force sales of property from which the municipality can reap the proceeds, Mayor Ron Niland explained.
The locations involved are 335 Price St., 719 Worth St., 417 Nelson Hill Road, 140 Laurel Lane, 2261 Wards Gap Road and 2129 N. Main St.
But concerns were expressed Thursday afternoon by members of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners about the costs surrounding foreclosures — although the majority did eventually decide to go that route.
After the board had opted during a previous meeting to explore this, City Attorney Hugh Campbell solicited bids from legal firms, with the one in Asheville emerging as the favorite.
“It specializes in local government foreclosures,” said Campbell, who mentioned that Kania handles such proceedings for Surry County, which results in auctions of affected property to the highest bidders on the courthouse steps.
“For the most part it’s fixed pricing,” the city attorney said of Kania’s charges for services — unlike some firms that bill according to hourly rates. “I thought that would be the best alternative for the city to use.”
The expense for a foreclosure case will range from around $3,000 to $5,000, according to Campbell.
However, Commissioner Jon Cawley said under his calculations — using a long list of itemized charges for services including sending demand/pre-foreclosure letters to property owners, title searches and filing court complaints for auctions — the city could pay $4,100 per case.
“What we’re going to be doing here is creating a large debt for the taxpayers,” predicted Cawley, who cast the dissenting vote Thursday not to forge the agreement with the Asheville firm. He based that on the money already owed to the municipality in addition to paying Kania.
Cawley said he would prefer to see collection proceedings undertaken by the city staff.
“I don’t think there is anything that says you have to be a lawyer to send a letter,” he remarked. “I won’t be supporting us using a law firm.”
But Campbell responded that the foreclosure services require a licensed attorney, and he does not handle such cases.
Meanwhile, city Finance Director Pam Stone said her department has mounted efforts to collect the money owed.
“We have tried, I’ll say that,” Stone added, saying all means available have been used.
“At one time we had one that we garnished some wages on,” she said of expenses for a site where a house had been demolished. “We have collected on one or two.”
Commissioner Tom Koch also expressed concerns about the legal fees to the city escalating once the Kania firm is engaged, saying he wanted to avoid a “blank check” situation.
“Attorneys don’t always have the best reputation,” observed Koch, who said he would like to see a $4,100 maximum per foreclosure.
This led to further debate about whether Mount Airy should see how Kania does with one case and proceed from there with the others, but council members were told that a single foreclosure could take four to six months to complete.
“I think we need to go with all six and see how that goes,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley said of efforts to collect the debts.
“At least we get something back,” he reasoned. “I don’t think we need to wait four to six months.”
Yokeley mentioned that there is an added expense of land sitting vacant while producing no property tax revenues, which also can impact the values of neighboring homes depending on its condition.
The process opens the door for new houses to be built, Mayor Niland said.
And even if it can’t achieve a suitable sale price, the city government would be better off donating the property to the local Habitat for Humanity organization than what is occurring now, Yokeley contended. “I don’t think we need to sit on these properties.”
In subsequently agreeing to hire the Asheville law firm, Mount Airy officials say they will monitor the progress of cases as they wind their way through the system.
The process culminates with a judge granting a foreclosure judgment allowing an auction to occur.
April 09, 2022
Students in the fourth and fifth grades at Shoals Elementary enjoyed a visit with Rep. Kyle Hall recently. He discussed his job as a representative and the rolls and responsibilities of government and being a good citizen.
April 09, 2022
A Mount Airy man was being held in the Surry County Jail Friday on 12 break-in, larceny and property damage charges stemming from three separate incidents in the city recently.
Eight on those charges filed against Quincey Monroe Johnson, 35, 0f 332 Eleanor Ave., involve a March 29 break-in at Running River Laundromat in the 1300 block of South Main Street near the Chase N Charli restaurant.
The crime, for which Johnson emerged as a suspect early on in the investigation, resulted in major property damage and the theft of an undisclosed sum of money from coin-operated devices. Police records indicate that damage put at $5,950 resulted, mostly to a Maytag washing machine and a claw machine.
Damage also occurred to a dryer door, a door lock, four LED strip lights and a glass window to a shed.
Johnson, who was arrested Thursday on all 12 charges, is accused of six counts of injury to personal property in the laundromat case along with two counts of breaking and entering a coin-operated machine.
He also is charged with larceny for allegedly stealing face masks Thursday at Dollar General on North Renfro Street, which police say were recovered on Johnson’s person when he was arrested on North Main Street near Virginia Street, but had been used, requiring restitution.
The incident at Dollar General led to Johnson also being served with outstanding warrants on two felonies in addition to the misdemeanor charges resulting from the laundromat case.
Those felonies include breaking and entering of a motor vehicle and larceny after breaking and entering, relating to a crime discovered on March 31 at Jantec Sign Group on South Main Street, where items were stolen from the bed of a GMC pickup and inside the vehicle.
Johnson attempted to do the same elsewhere on the premises, according to police records, leading to a further charge of misdemeanor attempting to break and enter a motor vehicle.
He is incarcerated under a combined secured bond of $25,000 for the dozen total charges. Johnson is facing appearances in Surry District Court on Monday of this week, April 18 and June 13.
April 08, 2022
Rockford Elementary School hosted the district elementary school Battle of the Books competition recently, with 11 schools participating.
Each team is required to have at least six members but can have as many as 12. Ninety-three students were involved in the competition. These students read books from a list established by the state Battle of the Books committee, and then compete in quiz-bowl-style tournaments to test their knowledge of these books.
At the conclusion of the competition, Rockford Elementary School was the winner with a total of 179 points. Pilot Mountain Elementary placed second; Westfield Elementary placed third; and Franklin Elementary received fourth place.
Cornerstone Charter Academy in Greensboro will host the regional competition on May 7. The North Carolina School Library Media Association sponsors the Battle of the Books program for students, aimed at promoting a love of reading and familiarity with the best in literature for young people.
Martha Arrington, assistant principal at Rockford/Pilot Mountain Elementary, and Victoria Calhoun, assistant principal at Cedar Ridge/Dobson Elementary, organized the Battle of the Book event for the district.
“I am extremely proud of our Battle of the Books Team,” said Dr. Matthew White, Rockford Elementary principal. “The students spent many hours preparing for the competition. Coupled with their commitment to reading the books and answering questions, their excitement about reading and supporting their team made me very proud. I also appreciate the dedication from our three coaches this year, Pattie Martin, Lisa Freeman, and Nicole Newman. I know our team will work extra hard the next few months to prepare for the Regional Competition in May.”
April 07, 2022
• Two Mount Airy men were arrested Tuesday afternoon on felony charges involving an alleged conspiracy to steal a costly piece of equipment from a construction site, according to city police reports.
The Miller welder generator valued at $6,000, owned by Lagle Crane Service of Mocksville, was discovered missing early Tuesday morning from a location in the 1100 block of South South Street near Northern Regional Hospital.
Zeuz Martinez Estrada, 44, of 415 Austin Drive, and Alonso Eduardo Martinez-Estrada, 49, of 634 E. Haymore St., concocted a plan to steal the generator and then carried it out, arrest records state. Estrada is charged with conspiracy to commit felony larceny and felonious larceny, with Martinez-Estrada accused of felony larceny and possession of stolen goods.
Estrada additionally was charged with resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer and also is facing two outstanding arrest orders for failing to appear in court which had been filed in March and May of last year. He was jailed under a $15,500 secured bond and Martinez-Estrada, $5,000 secured, with both men scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on April 18.
• Two Virginia residents were jailed Sunday after officers investigated a theft at Family Dollar on West Pine Street.
Brittany Donual Payne, 33, of Fries, was found to be a fugitive from justice from Virginia and was charged Sunday with larceny and possession of stolen goods stemming from the theft of miscellaneous merchandise valued at $97 from Family Dollar. She also is accused of resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer.
Louis Peter Gaither, 38, of Willis, is charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine), which is a felony, and possessing drug paraphernalia.
Payne was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $197,000 secured bond and Gaither, $2,000 secured. Payne is scheduled to be in District Court both Monday and on May 9 and Gaither on May 4.
• Samuel Julian Duke, 37, of 838 S. Main St., No. 206, was served with a warrant on a stalking charge last Friday which had been filed earlier that day through the Surry County Sheriff’s Office with Stefanie Sizemore Easter as the complainant.
Police records indicate that Easter also resides in Globe Tobacco Lofts where Duke lives. He was held in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and slated for an April 22 District Court appearance.
• Riverside Park again has become a vandalism target on the heels of other recent property damage incidents, with the latest occurring last Friday night.
It involved an unknown party damaging an automatic toilet flusher sensor in a restroom along with a soap dispenser to the tune of $250 altogether.
An earlier crime at the park on March 30 resulted in damages of $1,300 to two restroom stall doors, a main restroom door, a sliding glass window and a trash can.
April 07, 2022
Mount Airy officials are banning through truck traffic on a local street where busy conditions have resulted from a nearby expansion at Northern Regional Hospital.
This situation along West Haymore Street was triggered by the October closing of a section of Worth Street running alongside the hospital to accommodate $11 million in various construction projects, with work ongoing since.
That closing approved by the city council forced traffic normally using Worth between Rockford and South South Streets onto other connecting routes nearby, including West Haymore — the next street up from Worth.
Residents there have expressed concerns about the increased traffic resulting which is said to not always heed the posted 25 mph speed limit, with another complicating factor accompanying the presence of Andrews Street. It is a side street that runs into West Haymore, forming a Y-intersection.
However, surveys by the Mount Airy Police Department produced a recommendation by Chief Dale Watson last month that a three-way-stop configuration which had been requested for that intersection not be implemented as a way to slow down vehicles.
Speed bumps and a stoplight at West Haymore and Rockford also have been rejected.
But the idea of banning through truck traffic along West Haymore did gain traction, a move that was expected to be approved by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners during a meeting Thursday afternoon. It was a response to neighborhood safety concerns, a city resolution voted on then states.
Plans called for “no through truck” signage to be installed at each end of West Haymore Street in conjunction with Thursday’s decision.
The truck ban is being applauded by Mark Morency, who lives on that street and has vigorously sought relief for the conditions posed by the increased traffic flow.
“That’s a positive to help with the bigger trucks,” Morency said Wednesday.
After the police chief made his recommendation in March, Morency continued to press the issue with Commissioner Steve Yokeley. This led to a meeting last week in the Municipal Building attended by Morency, Yokeley, Mayor Ron Niland, City Manager Stan Farmer and Watson.
The change involving trucks entered the discussion among city officials, which was embraced by the police chief as way to alleviate some of the traffic concerns.
“I told them I get semis up and down my road,” said Morency, who has made many observations there due to working from home.
Other tweaks also could be occurring on the street, he added, based on the discussion among local officials.
“I think they’re going to do some kind of calming,” Morency said of addressing the traffic situation by possibly painting lines on the street or installing curbing.
April 07, 2022
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday afternoon to change the City Code of Ordinances to allow more downtown businesses to have outdoor dining areas — including sales of alcoholic beverages.
A demand for this surfaced when the coronavirus struck and related restrictions on indoor dining were imposed.
In illustrating that, city planning officials say that after outdoor dining at downtown restaurants was first approved in April 2015 — allowing this on public sidewalks/alleys — only two permits were issued afterward.
“Since the onset of COVID-19, staff and (the group) Mount Airy Downtown Inc. have fielded more requests for outdoor dining areas than in the previous five years combined,” a Planning Department memo states.
However, those requests have not been permitted due to existing language among the relevant municipal ordinances requiring the affected businesses to meet the qualifying definition of a restaurant — which the majority of commissioners agreed to alter Thursday.
“The primary change is to move from the definition of a restaurant to a food and beverage establishment,” Planning Director Andy Goodall explained at the meeting.
It was included among ordinance amendments that further will include the addition of “plazas” as usable public spaces for outdoor dining and the ability to expand that onto adjacent property with owners’ permission.
Mayor Ron Niland pointed out that the changes will benefit downtown businesses, especially should another pandemic strike.
However, not everyone was on board with the ordinance amendments, including Commissioner Jon Cawley, who voted against the proposal.
Cawley questioned Goodall at length on the plan, centering mainly on the implications for alcohol use.
“Will there be outdoor alcohol, too?” Cawley asked. “Are we going to create new spaces for more drinking?”
The planning director acknowledged that this could well be the case.
“They can also have alcohol in a designated area,” Goodall replied of food and beverage establishments,
Cawley wondered how this will be different than what goes on in the Market Street Arts and Entertainment District downtown, where alcoholic beverages may be consumed outside during the months when the district is in operation.
Goodall responded that only a small space generally will be available for that due to Thursday’s change — the area directly in front of a business — rather than an entire street.
An outdoor dining area must be associated with an operating food/beverage establishment under the ordinance changes.
April 07, 2022
The adage that the gears of government move slowly is a common complaint. For some though the gears have moved too fast and now will leave other gears and axles stationary, with some residents as well.
Last Monday, two citizens spoke at the meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners. Scott Needham and Rachel Collins, both commissioners themselves from Pilot Mountain, were there to speak as individuals and not representatives of the town. They did so knowing what many others did not, the end is near.
They both rose with articulated arguments against Surry County’s decision to exit PART, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, which oversees intercounty commuter transportation for ten counties in this area.
“The need for rural public transportation has historically been linked with providing mobility and accessibility to essential employment, goods, and services for older adults, low income, and persons with disability. I believe it is an important amenity to people and new companies coming to our town,” Collins offered.
Unbeknownst to speakers of previous meetings who rose to offer similar objections, what Commissioner Eddie Harris once called a “divorce” is much closer to its completion than its beginning.
PART Route 6 will cease operation after Friday, June 30 — the federally funded park and ride lots in King and Mount Airy, along with the dual lots in Pilot Mountain will sit idle.
There may be a glimmer of hope for the King lot, but for ones in Pilot Mountain and Mount Airy, if the county no longer wishes to levy the car rental tax, and has previously rejected a fee atop car registration to cover the county’s contribution — there is no recourse.
“We had found out very recently in the last couple of weeks,” Collins confirmed Wednesday. “I received an email from PART because I was a rider in the past. It stated on that email that it was the end of June.”
A date not chosen arbitrarily, rather one that coincides with the end of the fiscal year to make for a quick end to a divorce almost no one saw coming.
Launched in 2005, PART was meant to alleviate the strain of excess cars on the road, provide ease of access to those who lack a vehicle or license, and to help with the inflated cost of gas. Needham himself reminded that during the George W. Bush years when the program launched, “gas prices were high then, we thought. They are really high now.”
A discussion in earnest on the transportation authority began back in the fall when a grant application from PART reached the commissioners. The board was asked to give their approval for PART to apply for more federal dollars to expand the bus services along Route 6, The Surry County Express.
The board declined to give their permission for the grant application to move forward, and then began a discussion on the county’s participation in the authority. The board noted a drop in ridership, an add on sales tax on rental cars, and that moving citizens out of the county for work may be hurting local economies as reasons to not spend more federal dollars on a service they felt was not as successful as it once had been.
They sought guidance, which the county attorney in conjunction with legal counsel from PART communicated. In response, PART wrote a resolution pleading the board reconsider exiting the authority and sent their emissary, Scott Rhine, to the Feb. 21 board meeting. The resulting question and answer session did not change minds, and the board moved forward.
PART quietly released the following in early March:
“On Feb. 21, 2022, the Surry County Board of County Commissioners took action at their scheduled Board of County Commissioners meeting by unanimous vote to withdraw their membership from the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART). The County has requested that their membership be removed from PART by June 30, 2022.
“This release is an initial public notification that PART Express Route 6 service will no longer be operating, effective: July 1, 2022….
“The decision of the Surry County Board of County Commissioners to withdraw their membership from PART directly impacts the PART Territorial Jurisdiction and restricts PART from operating PART Express service in Surry County.” It is that language that is the nail in the coffin for Route 6.
A common objection to PART was that ridership numbers had declined significantly over the last years, but Needham told the board he spoke to Rhine since the board’s vote to exit and was told that ridership numbers are increasing. Collins suggested that the best way to improve ridership is to offer more stops, a point Rhine made weeks earlier.
On sending workers off to other counties for work, Needham countered, “I have heard that maybe we are shipping our employees out of the county, if that is so — those employees are then taking those dollars and bringing it home to Surry County where they improve their property which we get the benefit with property tax. Also, they spend that money here in our county which employs people here.”
“This happened so quickly,” Collins pointed out. “By canceling you are taking away opportunities, not only for low income and those with no driver’s license, but any other citizen in our town. We are offering a service to these constituents now that they may not be able to get anywhere else.”
She went on to note that citizens’ federal tax dollars are going to continue to fund PART whether Surry County is a member or not. “We do not want to lose out to Greensboro and High Point. We are going to be paying for a service we no longer get.”
“Our citizens in town limits pay double taxes, so I would argue that we pay a lot to the county for services we don’t use. I’m not arguing that,” she continued. “I don’t have school aged children, yet my taxes go to the school system.”
Needham seized on the point of taxation, “My tax rates aren’t going to get any lower, and no one else here’s taxes are going to get lower by us not having that service, but we won’t have the service.
For Collins, it is more than dollars and cents and was a highly personal affair as she recounted utilizing the service for access to cancer treatment in Winston-Salem. “From November 2019 – April 2021, I was undergoing chemo. I personally was glad the PART bus was there.
“The bus stopped right in front of the cancer center, so I had the ability to go to my treatments and if someone was picking me up, I didn’t have to burden them to chauffeur me both ways. The busses were clean, well maintained and ran on time.”
“While you may have not personally never have needed public transportation, or wanted to use it, there are many in our area that do.”
April 07, 2022
The long arm of the law reached down to the Gulf Coast to bring a suspect back to Surry County to face charges in the 1992 cold case murder of Nona Cobb.
“The fact that we are here today is a testament to the men and women who did not give up,” Sheriff Steve Hiatt said at a press conference Thursday.
Warren Luther Alexander, 71, was arrested in Diamondhead, Mississippi on March 15 by the local police after detectives from the Surry County Sheriff Criminal Investigation Division along with the NC State Bureau of Investigation flew to Mississippi to interview Alexander.
Surry Detective Mark Ward and SBI Agent Josh Hawks then accompanied Alexander back to North Carolina where he is currently a guest of Sheriff Hiatt with no set bond. Alexander has been charged with murder in the death of Nona Cobb. She was found on the side of Interstate 77 on the morning of July 7, 1992.
“After 30 years, there has finally been an arrest in the murder of Nona Stamey Cobb. Today’s progress proves the power of partnership, persistence, and the potency of DNA,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said Thursday in Dobson.
“These cases take uncountable hours. The number of people who have spent their time professionally to try to solve this case is truly impressive and is reflective of their dedication to trying to deliver justice to the family.
“The Surry County Sheriff detectives and the SBI did not give up on Nona’s case. When one lead did not pan out, they went back to the DNA evidence and pursued another. They spent countless hours never giving up, always keeping Nona’s family in their hearts and minds.
AG Stein made it clear to criminals everywhere that Alexander should be an example and a warning, the technology continues to improve. “The case underscores the importance of DNA, that’s why we are working hard to test the thousands of untested sexual assault kits in law enforcement offices around the state, and I appreciate the legislature passing Survivor Act, and appropriating $9 million to outsource all the remaining backlogged kits for testing.”
“With partnership, with persistence, with the power of DNA – we are sending a clear message to the victims and their families that you all matter, and the justice system will not stop fighting for you. To the rapists, no matter how long ago you committed this crime we will not stop coming for you. To the public at large, we will do everything in our power to keep you and your loved ones safe,” Stein said.
In April of 2021, special agents from the SBI’s Cold Case Investigation Unit and investigators from the Surry County Sheriff’s Office returned to the physical evidence in the case which was re-examined to include DNA. While working with Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, founder of Identifiers International LLC, agents were able to identify Alexander as a suspect in Cobb’s murder using DNA.
Surry County Sheriff Captain Scott Hudson provided additional context for the events surrounding Cobb’s murder. She had last been seen alive by a female witness at the I-85 rest stop in Cleveland County. The witness said she saw Cobb get into a black Peterbilt tractor trailer with a white male. The witness was able to describe the driver.
After having found her body, an autopsy on Cobb determined the cause of death to be strangulation.
In 1992 DNA evidence obtained from swabs of her body along with other items were sent to the lab for testing, “a forensic source of DNA was located among the swabs taken from Cobb and her clothing,” Hudson said.
Intrepid investigators from Surry County Sheriff’s Office and SBI reexamined the case and evidence in 2021. Original DNA evidence was resubmitted for further testing and examination. When asked during the press conference if any new DNA evidence had been uncovered, Hudson replied no, adding, “Through advancements in DNA technology, and investigative techniques, this led to the discovery of a suspect,” and his subsequent arrest in Mississippi.
“This investigation remains ongoing. While this may be an old case, this is a new phase in the investigation because there may be other victims,” he added. “We are asking anyone with info whether a law enforcement agency with an unsolved homicide where a woman’s body was found along the side of the interstate, or someone who may have other info and insight into this. We ask you to contact SBI Hickory Office, or the Surry County Sheriff.”
“With an open investigation, we are always going to continue any investigation to make sure that due diligence is done, and that no stone is left unturned — nothing slips through the cracks,” Det. Ward commented. “From this, we hope other agencies will see this and have similar cases that they will contact us about. This is how this arrest will help. I have already (been contacted) once, and I am not going to discuss that.”
“Hopefully, these calls will come in, and if it’s there it’s there, and if not, we’ll move on to the next one. This is far from over there is a lot of work to be done.”
“We are bringing justice to the family, but more importantly we are bringing justice to Mr. Alexander for what he did,” SBI Director Bob Schurmeier said. “I can tell you standing here, that this cold case illustrates the dedication and determination not just of the men and women of SBI, but the partnerships that we have through this state, with Surry County, and with the nation – the FBI worked this case as well.”
Another open warning to criminal elements, “I can tell you that forensic genealogy for us is a game changer. It is incredible, it helps us connect the dots with people around the country, family members across the country, who help us identify these suspects who think they got away. Science is helping to combine with good law enforcement work to bring justice to so many.
“I want to send a clear message, hear my words: the men and women of the SBI in partnership with sheriff’s’ departments across the state and around the country will seek out justice for the cold cases we have on our books.
“We will work, day and night, to pursue the suspect who think they may have gotten away with it 20, 30, 40 years ago. I want to assure you that we are working hard.
Behind Sheriff Steve Hiatt were active and former members of the sheriff’s office, but many of the people who worked on this cold case could not see the end results of a suspect in chains, and a family who Hiatt said he hopes can find some closure.
Much credit and thanks were offered to the agents, detectives, and officers who have worked this case. It was noted the groundwork done in 1992 lead to the arrest of Alexander with no new leads or evidence, no comfort to those who did not make it to see the case to its end.
April 07, 2022
Members of the East Surry High School Interact Team recently visited Shoals Elementary School to read to the students there. “The students really enjoyed having these students read some of their favorite books,” school officials said. “Thank you for being positive role models in the lives of our students here at Shoals,” the said to the high schoolers.
April 07, 2022
DOBSON — Surry-Yadkin IMPACT, a local educational attainment collaborative, is hosting community outreach meetings at Surry Community College in April.
The effort is part of the ncIMPACT Initiative (ncIMPACT), a statewide effort launched by the UNC School of Government in 2017 to help local communities use data and evidence to improve conditions and inform decision making.
Community leaders are invited to engage in a conversion around the collaborative vision “to actively engage and unify our community, education, and business partners in order to educate and invest in the development of a well-prepared workforce. Through our commitment to resolving transportation issues and other equity gaps and barriers to achievement, we strive to award 2,210 additional credentials to Surry and Yadkin citizens by 2030,” the college said of the project.
“These community meetings will focus on how to reach this goal, one step at a time. We hope business leaders, faith-based leaders, members of civic clubs and anyone with a community-minded spirit will attend,” said Dr. Candace Holder, chief academic officer, Surry Community College. “We will discuss closing the educational attainment gap as outlined by the myFutureNC initiative and ways we can connect with citizens to move one step closer toward accomplishing Surry-Yadkin’s IMPACT’s goal of removing barriers so all citizens can achieve career and economic stability.”
The meetings will be held on April 14 and April 21 with a makeup day planned on April 27 at Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology at Surry Community College, at 630 S. Main St. in Dobson.
The agenda for all three meetings will consist of a 15-minute presentation of the purpose and overview of Surry-Yadkin IMPACT along with time to discuss the problems and opportunities in the local community following by action planning and commitments. Participants will learn about workforce credential options, funding opportunities, current local job needs, and general educational and workforce attainment goal. The meetings will conclude with lunch and a recap of the day’s discussion.
Participants can register for the April 14 meeting at bit.ly/SurryYadkinImpact and for the April 21 meeting at bit.ly/SurryYadkinImpact2. Anyone with questions should contact Dr. Candace Holder at 336-386-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surry-Yadkin IMPACT is a result the UNC School of Government’s ncIMPACT Initiative, which announced in June 2022 the selection of 15 community collaboratives to an inaugural cohort working to better align their education systems with the needs of their regional economy, in partnership with myFutureNC.
This two-year project will position the cohort to significantly increase the number of individuals with postsecondary degrees, credentials, or certificates of value in the workforce. It aligns with the state’s legislative goal of 2 million individuals between the ages of 25-44 who possess a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030. Funding was provided by the John M. Belk Endowment, Dogwood Health Trust and UNC Rural.
Surry Community College was among the 15 chosen collaboratives. SCC officials will work closely with Surry County, Yadkin County, Surry-Yadkin Works, Piedmont-Triad Regional Council, NC Works Career Center of Surry and Yadkin counties, and Surry and Yadkin Economic Development Partnerships in this initiative.
“These collaboratives offer an organized way to respond to future of work challenges that no single institution or even an entire sector can effectively tackle,” said Anita Brown-Graham, UNC-Chapel Hill professor and director of the ncIMPACT Initiative. “We are eager to begin this important work together.”
Surry-Yadkin IMPACT was selected from 46 applications spanning 82 counties in North Carolina. The selection committee sought to deliver a cohort with regional, economic, and demographic diversity; demonstrated community commitment; prior experience with educational attainment efforts; and identified barriers to educational attainment in the community. The ncIMPACT Initiative will manage this first cohort of collaboratives. myFutureNC will leverage the model developed through this cohort to identify and support additional collaboratives moving forward. Communities interested in updates and resources offered during this two-year project may visit: bit.ly/LEAC-project.
“Building a strong talent pipeline will require a new level of cross-sector coordination,” said Cecilia Holden, president of myFutureNC. “Among others, key strategic partners in these collaboratives must include PreK-12, universities, community colleges, workforce development boards, economic developers, chambers of commerce, county commissioners, policymakers, and civic leaders. And most critical to the overall success is ensuring decisions are being made based on data and research, and the voice of communities, businesses, industries, and employers is in the center of these important conversations.”
April 07, 2022
Franklin Elementary School recently held its annual spelling bee, with winners chosen in fourth and fifth grades as well as an overall school champion.
Noah Inman was named the school champion, while Scharlynn Ward won in the fourth grade, and JonLucas Danley took top honors in the fifth grade.
April 07, 2022
The Granite City Greenway in Mount Airy is a popular venue for walkers, cyclists and runners, and on Saturday the list also will include legions of kids and families joined by a special long-eared guest.
This will unfold during an annual Easter egg hunt organized by Mount Airy Parks and Recreation scheduled to begin promptly at 10 a.m.
The city greenway system was selected to host the free event for the second year in a row after more than 350 people attended the first hunt there in 2021.
Seven different areas will be set aside for the seeking of plastic eggs filled with goodies, which have been donated by Carport Central.
For planning purposes, those interested in attending are being asked to acknowledge that intent in advance.
“We’d like for everyone to call ahead and reserve their spot,” Parks and Recreation Director Peter Raymer said in reference to the starting points, “so we can get kind of an equal amount at each location.” This can be done at 336-786-8313.
Among the entry points are the area behind the Lowes Foods/Roses shopping center, Tharrington Park and at Veterans Memorial Park.
The layout will include some locations where participants can go either right or left on the greenway, Raymer said.
Basket giveaways are planned at the hunt, which also will feature a customary appearance by the Easter Bunny.
The friendly rabbit is to be available to meet kids and pose for photos.
Members of the Parks and Recreation staff will oversee the event sponsored by Carport Central, a regular supporter of the city Easter egg hunt.
It was long conducted at Westwood Park, where huge crowds gathered around the softball fields, but after six straight years there the event was cancelled in 2020 as the coronavirus stranglehold began.
The change in location to the Granite City Greenway last year was a response to COVID-19, aimed at allowing participants to be more socially distanced while yet enjoying the thrill of the hunt.
Organizers decided to maintain the same setup for 2022.
“It went very well last year and was a big hit,” Raymer said.
April 06, 2022
Details are coming into focus on the grisly accident that occurred Tuesday morning on southbound US-52.
A West Virginia man was killed early Tuesday morning when a tractor-trailer travelling southbound collided with the rollback tow truck on site to assist his disabled vehicle.
Jeff Vickers was killed in the crash. Surry County Emergency Management Director Eric Southern informed the passenger and the tow truck driver were able to jump out of the way ahead of the collision.
Vickers had called for assistance from a local towing company after having a flat tire. The tow company reported that given the angle and position of the vehicle, their tow truck was partially in the roadway while on site assisting, when the wreck occurred.
According to Sgt. F.A. Pipes of the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Vickers was atop the rollback truck bed while the tow truck driver and Vickers’ wife were on the ground.
The Highway Patrol report states a car carrier travelling southbound on US 52 “ran up the rollback ramp and hit Mr. Vickers who was standing outside his car, on top of the rollback bed.”
A truck driver who was first on the scene, but did not witness the accident, told The Mount Airy News, “The wrecker appeared to be sitting angled in the slow lane with the bed raised and maybe 1/3 of the bed over the white line pointed toward the shoulder.”
Based on his observation of the scene, “the semi apparently hit the wrecker directly in the rear but due to the angle of the wrecker, the semi used the bed of the wreckers as a ramp. It launched the semi into the air at an angle, causing the semi to go airborne and land on the driver’s side and skidded maybe 300 feet.
“The impact dislodged the disabled pickup and launched it another 30 feet into the woods. Cars were scattered and demolished everywhere both on US 52 and the road beneath with no occupants.”
There must have been a heightened sense of panic to the scene he said “looked like a war zone” as more vehicles than were involved in the collision littered the roadway, “Finally we realized that the semi was a car hauler, thank God.”
All the while there was a panicked search for Vickers, “(She) was frantically screaming for Jeff. Several of us searched all around for him but only later he was found under the semi cab with only a limb visible.”
The two-vehicle crash happened around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to officials.
The tractor-trailer was hauling vehicles, and multiple vehicles it was carrying ended up on the highway during the collision. The tow truck driver was not injured.
US 52 had reopened in both directions by mid-afternoon, after being closed for much of the morning. Even the northbound lanes were closed for a period of time, as authorities brought in equipment to clear the wreckage in the southbound lanes.
Southern of Emergency Management confirmed Wednesday that there was an amount of diesel fuel that leaked, but that it was contained.
Despite other news outlet’s reporting, The Mount Airy News has not been able to confirm if any charges are pending.
April 06, 2022
They deal with different areas in the public safety realm, but Mount Airy’s fire and police chiefs share a common need: more manpower.
In what could be considered two tales of the same city, Fire Chief Zane Poindexter is seeking the creation of more full-time positions for his department while Police Chief Dale Watson is concerned with filling vacant jobs already existing.
No slots have been added in the Mount Airy Fire Department for more than 15 years, Poindexter said during a city government planning retreat in late March when both he and Watson updated their respective operations along with other department heads.
Since then, major annexations occurred which increased the territory covered while not boosting personnel.
Of the more than 40 employees in the department, 37 are devoted to fire suppression — but only 20 of those are full-time firefighters, with the part-timers limited to 36 hours per month.
Push comes to shove at times with having enough personnel available during a fire, Poindexter said, which can be a factor with a two-in, two-out policy of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
It requires two firefighters to enter a burning building together to monitor each other’s whereabouts while extinguishing a blaze or rescuing someone, and two others outside to act in case the first two are endangered.
While OSHA rules do allow for a “ready rescue” by fewer personnel if a someone inside can be easily reached, generally “that’s a risk we’re not going to take,” Poindexter said of acting with less than the prescribed number.
Another problem occurs with having enough people to operate the city’s ladder truck in a safe manner. “That is a two-man job,” the chief said.
“We’re going to need more full-time staffing,” Poindexter said in looking ahead.
The fire official is not seeking to add 10 employees in a single year, for example, indicating that the need should be met on a gradual basis.
Keeping jobs filled in the department was a major problem until 2018, when raises were granted to bring Mount Airy firefighters’ pay to the statewide average in response to heavy turnover.
Though sporadic vacancies have occurred since, “it wasn’t the revolving door it had been,” Poindexter said in follow-up comments last Thursday.
Fire rating factor
The personnel numbers aren’t thought to be putting citizens or their property at risk, but one key area that can be impacted by this is the city’s fire-suppression rating, which affects their pocketbooks with insurance costs.
Mount Airy was notified last month that a Class 3 rating for its coverage district was being maintained, as certified by the N.C. Department of Insurance/Office of the State Fire Marshal after a strenuous evaluation process.
“It’s been a three since 1997,” Poindexter said of the ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating by which that entity classifies all fire departments in the country according to their suppression capabilities.
Poindexter has called Class 3 “a really good grade for a department our size.”
However, Mount Airy slipped to a score of 70.97 during its most recent evaluation, near the bottom end of the Class 3 scale that requires ones of 70 to 79.99. Its last grade from the process in 2014 was 72.3.
“Manpower is where we take the biggest hit,” the fire chief said regarding the certification procedure.
If Mount Airy’s fire rating drops to the next level, it would have a drastic impact on the cost of insuring both homes and businesses, but especially the latter due to the higher value of covering equipment or other assets involved.
Poindexter calculated one example in which a business in the city would face a $362 increase in annual insurance costs under the next-lowest rating (that would be a Class 4, with higher numbers meaning less proficiency and Class 1 the best available).
Police deal with shortage
Both Mount Airy’s fire and police chiefs are devoting more attention to personnel recruitment and retention to stabilize their ranks.
During the planning retreat, Chief Watson mentioned that a departmental meeting recently was held among police personnel aimed at identifying “who we are and where we want to be,” he said.
“We’re focused on tomorrow,” Watson added.
One of the goals of the Mount Airy Police Department along those lines is to become fully staffed, the chief said, a condition that has eluded it in recent years.
At full strength, the department has 42 sworn officers and 15 non-sworn employees.
It presently has five vacancies in the Patrol Division, four in communications and two in the Criminal Investigations Division.
Meanwhile the workload of criminal cases and traffic accidents handled by the department remains high, including more than 800 in the latter category last year.
In outlining recruitment challenges, the police chief says his department encounters difficulty in hiring younger people of “Generation Z” — born in 1997 and after.
Those individuals generally prefer shorter-term jobs, with only a small percentage desiring to work more than five years for the same employer, according to Watson.
And once officers come aboard, some discover that a law enforcement career is not what they expected, he said, such as requiring much paperwork and unique stresses.
The chief pointed out that one recruit started work on the same day that an officer-involved shooting occurred within the department, which apparently proved to be more than he could handle. That officer never came back for a second day.
COVID and social unrest also have complicated the equation in the past couple of years, Watson said. “The police paradigm is constantly changing.”
To meet the personnel challenges through increased recruitment and retention, the chief said incentives for training and education will be pursued along with a succession strategy. It is aimed at preparing replacements to step in to key positions when resignations or retirements occur to maintain the level of service to the public.
© 2018 The Mount Airy News
Surry Community College’s Emergency Medical Program is updating its admission criteria, format and timeline. The next Paramedic class will be offered May 24 through April 25, 2023. (Submitted photo)