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Smart Start location at Red Hill Creek closed

Monday evening the Surry County Board of Commissioners were notified via letter from YVEDDI that due to low participation, the organization has made the decision to close the Smart Start location at 101 McMickel School Road in Dobson.

YVEDDI Head Start Director Rhonda Wrenn wrote in a July 18 letter, “We have struggled for the last several years to meet our enrollment numbers in this community and have had to make the difficult decision to close this location.”

When the county commissioners were made aware of this change on Monday evening, the move-out date set by YVEDDI of August 18 had already passed.

“We appreciate the time that we have spent utilizing the space at the Red Hill Creek Community Center to provide our services to the eligible families and children in the area and working with you to make our tenancy there a pleasant experience,” Wrenn wrote.

County manager Chris Knopf told the board the building sits on 5.22 acres and was last assessed at $109,250. He said, “I don’t know of any other purpose for this property for county government and I think the board should consider placing the property in surplus.”

Commissioner Larry Johnson, who sits on the YVEDDI board, said, “There’s not enough participation to keep it open and it’s not a well-traveled or populated area. YVEDDI have exhausted everything they can do.”

“I know that we have spent some money on the building in the past on awnings and such. I know where it’s at and I’m going to agree with (Knopf) that we could go for a little while and see if there is an interest and someone wants to lease from us.”

Chairman Eddie Harris said that vandalism and theft have been a problem at this site before with pipes and even a well pump being taken. As further vandalism to a building the county has spent money on refurbishing remains a concern, Johnson suggested the county board up the windows for safety as soon as the building is vacated, “To try and save a few windows.”

Commissioner Mark Marion had questions about utility services and Tucker raised questions about weatherproofing the building before winter. Those are reasonable questions but as YVEDDI has vacated already the board can take a beat before making the next move.

Commissioner Van Tucker reminded his colleagues the county is not in the real estate business. “If (surplus) is the way the board wants to go, as soon as we make that determination… I say we surplus it and sell it to some wanting and deserving new owner just as soon as possible.”

Harris quickly concurred adding that he would like to see it back on the tax books and advised Knopf to place the issue onto the next agenda for further discussion.

In other board news,

– Ethan Cave spoke to the commissioners in the open forum about a recent private road name change. He told the board his grandfather had built a farm in this area in the 1940s and sold a tract of it to the state sometime in the 1950s to put a road through the farm.

Unbeknownst to them, Odis Cave Lane underwent a name change after the board’s June 5 meeting. At that meeting several submitted road names changes were approved without discussion as there were no speakers for the public hearing.

The county did their due diligence, as Penny Harrison informed, by posting the list of names to be changed at their office and running public notice announcements.

There was a reminiscent whiff of some private road challenges the county had with Abe Mayes Road and notifying people of public hearings before changes are voted upon. That action had to be revisited after the fact as residents of the area said they had not been informed of the hearing to close a section of roadway.

There board takes no immediate action to requests from the open forum, but Harris directed county staff to collect Cave’s contact information so the matter could be discussed further.

– Joanna Radford from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Surry County office introduced the board to Ruth McMeans, who will be attending the Youth Voices conference in Raleigh this weekend. At the conference, which overlaps with the N.C. Association of County Commissioners conference, participants will gain a better understanding of what county governments do, budgeting, and the role of commissioners as the governing body for counties.

Each year, North Carolina 4-H and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service partner with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners on an initiative to increase youth involvement in county government.

McMeans said in her role with 4-H she hopes to connect to local youth who she said are feeling disconnected and isolated like never before. “I want kids to know that they are not alone, or the only one dealing with such problems.”

– Commissioner Johnson likes to give credit where it’s due and thanked BCA Fencing for efforts in litter collection along secondary roads. He happened upon a crew along Old U.S. 52 and said he was pleased to see an improvement in litter and is tickled to not be fielding calls about it.

“I’m getting good comments and thank you’s for us doing that,” he said and reminded the board that it was a six-month contract that was signed in March. “I sure don’t want us to let it fall by the wayside.”

Harris agreed and said that litter is a concern to the board because it “reflects on our county in a large way.”

Johnson also wanted to praise Surry-Yadkin Works for recently adding 93 students to the local workforce. The board members have repeatedly expressed their satisfaction with the program that has grown to require more staff to facilitate it.

“I feel like the revenue that we spend on that is wonderful and its money well spent,” he said. “I’m so excited that that number of students have taken jobs. I think 40-some went to Northern Regional and Hugh Chatham, I’m really excited about that.”

– Finally, the board welcomed a new Eagle Scout for recognition as Ryan Simmons of Troop 529 completed his trek through the Scouts.

For his service project he helped build an outdoor classroom at Gentry Middle School. That project also required construction of several log benches and an outdoor blackboard that he hoped would withstand the elements.

“The last I heard they were enjoying the school area, and they were using it and I hope they continue to enjoy it,” Simmons said Monday.



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