The Alexander County Board of Commissioners heard a report from Alexander County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jennifer Hefner, and Sheriff Chris Bowman regarding a possible grant to help provide School Resource Officers (SROs) in five elementary schools that currently do not have ORS. The school system has applied for a 2022-2023 School Safety Grant from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction in the amount of $220,000.
The total cost for five additional SROs is $750,000 for the first year. For each new SRO, initial costs would include a fully equipped patrol vehicle for $70,000, $15,000 to fully outfit a new officer, and approximately $65,000 for salary and benefits. If the grant is awarded, the Alexander County government will be required to provide approximately $530,000 for the first year and approximately $325,000 per year after the first year.
“The safety and security of staff and students on school campuses has always been at the forefront of parents’ and citizens’ concerns,” Sheriff Bowman said. “In light of recent events across the country, the importance of having law enforcement resources immediately available during times of crisis on school campuses has become even clearer. With the possibility of this grant, the time has come to address this issue. »
Sheriff Bowman said the Sheriff’s Office currently employs four full-time SROs, with two positions on middle school campuses, one position shared between two elementary campuses, and a DARE officer who works at all seven elementary schools.
Dr Hefner said the grant application was submitted by the August 31 deadline, with the award announcement expected this month.
“We would like to have a full-time school resource officer in each elementary school. I’ve had conversations about this with Sheriff Bowman since early 2021,” Dr. Hefner said. “The situation in Uvalde, Texas caught our attention and that of our parents. We don’t live in the same time as when we were in school. It’s time to have a serious conversation about having an ORS in every school. »
Dr. Hefner said that because Alexander County has been classified as a low-wealth county by the NCDPI, the grant is more of a 4-to-1 matching grant. She said the school system can also apply for a grant. additional for 2023-2024. Learn more about the grant program on the NCDPI website.
Commissioner Larry Yoder asked, “What happens if you don’t get the grant? What happens then? Dr. Hefner replied, “I’ll be back asking again and again, because it’s real.”
Vice President Marty Pennell said, “The real question is what price can you put on the safety of the county’s children? I don’t think you can put a price on that.
“It’s a lot of good information and when we hear from the grant, we’ll meet again and make our plans moving forward,” President Ronnie Reese said.
In other cases:
• Commissioners held a public hearing to allow discussion on the proposed scale of values to be used for the 2023 revaluation, as presented by Tax Administrator Doug Fox and Jimmy Tanner of the Tanner Valuation Group. During the public hearing, a citizen inquired about the revaluation process and the negative impact of rising property values on seniors. It was noted that there are state exemptions in place for people age 65 and older who are permanently disabled. The values grid will be presented for adoption at the October 3 meeting.
• Commissioners approved a budget amendment in the amount of $500,000 for estimated architect fees for a new county courthouse.
• Commissioners approved a resolution in support of Operation Green Light for Veterans, which encourages counties to illuminate buildings with green lights to show support for veterans transitioning from active duty to civilian life. Alexander County Veterans Services Officer Cherry Kilby presented information about the program to the council. She said the county plans to light the Alexander County Service Center and the courthouse building. Kilby encourages citizens and businesses to join the initiative to show their support for local veterans by burning a green light during the week of November 7-13. The Operation Green Light program began in New York, was adopted by the National Association of Counties (NACo), which then encouraged counties across the country to participate. Learn more about Operation Green Light on the NACo website.
• Commissioners approved an agreement with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments to provide administrative assistance with the $650,000 Rural Transformation Grant that was awarded to Alexander County by the North Carolina Department of Commerce for the “Housing Our Teachers” project. The project includes the renovation of a county-owned property at 16 West Main Avenue, providing ground floor retail space and two second floor apartments that will be leased to public school teachers. The WPCOG will receive $32,500 for its services.
• Commissioners approved a resolution to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the NC Courts Administrative Office to install cable in courtrooms needed to operate audio/video equipment to enable remote proceedings . Alexander County will pay a total of $17,226 plus any necessary electrical upgrades, with the NCAOC covering the cost of equipment and installation.
• Thomas Mitchell, Director of Social Services, presented information regarding the Alexander County DSS grant application for the Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Enhanced Mobility Program in the amount of $155,674, which requires a 10% local counterpart. The commissioners approved the submission of the grant application.
• In the County Manager’s report, Rick French noted several upcoming events, including the Hiddenite Arts Celebration on September 24, the Vertical Night Challenge on October 1, National Night on October 4, a concert by the tribute band at Fleetwood Mac in October. 8, the Taylorsville Apple Festival on October 15, the Run for the Dogs on November 5, the Veterans Parade on November 11, and the Christmas Parade on December 3.
CONSOLIDATED HUMAN SERVICES COUNCIL MEETING
After the regular meeting of the commission, the council convened the meeting of the Consolidated Council of Social Services.
• Health educator Kimberly Edmisten reported that the Alexander County Health Department passed the accreditation process with honors. Edmisten said state health officials said the accreditation was exceptional, especially given the pandemic and new management. Since last accreditation, the health department has added an administration building, expanded the clinic lobby, added three clinic rooms and an immunization room, added a behavioral health clinic, and more. She said the state was also impressed with the commissioners’ role in the Consolidated Human Services Board. Edmisten also reported that the health department will conduct the 2022 Community Health Assessment Survey this fall.
• Emily Vick, Communicable Disease Nurse, presented the 2021 Communicable Disease Report. Besides COVID-19, the top three communicable diseases reported in Alexander County were chlamydia (68 cases), gonorrhea (28 cases), and hepatitis A (12 cases). There were 4,576 cases of COVID-19 in 2021 with 83 deaths reported as a result of the virus. She also noted that the health department will be offering a drive-thru flu shot clinic every Friday in October from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
• Kristy Hunt, the center’s senior manager, said attendance is up with 75 people attending the recent ice cream social and 130 people attending the recent health fair. She noted that the senior center will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. with refreshments, music, get-togethers, and shared memories. Hunt said the center continues to save money for local seniors by working with them to find the best Medicare drug plan. So far in 2022, $147,836 has been saved, with open registration starting in October.
• Thomas Mitchell, director of social services, said DSS vacancies have fallen from 27% when he started as director to 12%, having hired 17 new staff since June and promoted three staff. He said a local farmer’s produce is available for free throughout the week. Mitchell said he was working with emergency management coordinator Garrett Huffman on emergency shelter preparedness. DSS is also working to improve its playing field with a fundraiser that will begin at the end of September. He said the number of foster children has increased from 68 to 63, with 19 children available for adoption.
The next meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for Monday, October 3 at 6:00 p.m. at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education (Room #103). Regular meetings are recorded and can be viewed on the county government channel on the Spectrum 192 channel or on the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Agendas, minutes, videos and more are available on the county’s website at https://alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.