Street work on tap in city | Mt. Airy News

2023-03-08 17:34:06 By : Ms. Fize weng

East Devon Drive is one of eight streets in the Fairfield area scheduled for resurfacing work to start soon.

The resurfacing of existing streets and related work is on tap in Mount Airy using funding from the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Bids are now being received for a project targeting a cluster of roadways in the Fairfield neighborhood just off South Main in Bannertown with the help of what is commonly known as Powell Bill money.

The eight streets involved are West Devon Drive, East Devon Drive, West Fairfield Drive, East Fairfield Drive, West Wensley Drive, East Wensley Drive, Vernon Circle and Burnley Lane.

Those were selected for the next round of resurfacing as part on an ongoing city program that addresses streets based on priority of need.

In 2022, the list included ones in the Maple-Merritt Street area where pavement had been disturbed by a major utility project involving the installing of lines.

Sealed proposals from general contractors to perform the upcoming work in the Fairfield section will be received at the Mount Airy Public Works Building on East Pine Street until 2 p.m. on March 1, according to a notice issued by city officials.

Complete plans, specifications and contract documents are available for inspection at that location between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The awarding of the contract is subject to a vote by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, Public Works Director Mitch Williams advised.

All work must be completed by June 15.

Mount Airy was awarded $352,145 in the last round of funding through the State Street Aid to Municipalities program, or Powell Bill allocations. It is derived from state gas tax revenues that are given back to municipalities across North Carolina based on a formula set by the Legislature.

Powell Bill funds are used primarily to resurface municipal streets, but also to maintain, repair, construct or widen streets, bridges and drainage areas. Localities additionally may use those funds to plan, construct and maintain bike paths, greenways or sidewalks.

State allocations for other municipalities in Surry County include $46,939 for Dobson, $46,554 for Pilot Mountain and Elkin, $140,116.

The sum each community receives is based on a formula set by the N.C. General Assembly, with 75% of the funds linked to population and 25% to the number of locally maintained street miles.

Mount Airy, listed with 10,609 residents, is responsible for the condition of 73 miles of streets on the municipal system.

Meanwhile, the state DOT maintains major routes through town including U.S. 52 and U.S. 601 which are part of its transportation network along with state-designated highways such as N.C. 89 and N.C. 103.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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Copeland Elementary School recently named its Teacher and Teaching Assistant of the year.

Jessica Simmons, who teachers second grade, was selected as the teacher of the year. Rita Johnson was recognized as the Teaching Assistant of the year.

“Both of these ladies go above and beyond daily to ensure students are learning and cared for,” school officials said in making the announcement.

Some Sheltontown residents are dusting off their yellow protest signs and getting ready for another fight against development along the Sauratown Scenic Byway.

After last year’s bout against a rezoning application from Teramore Development LLC to construct a new Dollar General location brought out robust opposition, some residents thought the matter settled.

Now Gammons Auto at 3250 Westfield Road is reportedly under contract, and it has set off alarms anew.

Heather Moore of Moore’s General Store was one advocate for controlled growth along the byway and is a major supporter of a plan to place an “overlay” district along the byway that would help guide decisions on non-residential uses to protect “the rural character and natural environment of the area…and ensure compatibility with neighboring properties.”

The county’s development code is under review and until the county holds public hearings for input, the overlay is still just an idea. The process will be completed within the next six weeks officials said, but in the interim residents of the area have become alarmed by what they consider a late hour land grab before a potential regulation change.

“They are trying to slip it in and keep it in administrative mode at this point so there can be no hearing or public input,” Moore explained of the potential sale. Once the overlay district is in place approval for zoning changes may be harder to obtain, so Moore wondered if the sale of Gammons Auto is trying to beat the regulation change under the wire.

Last summer after the dust settled from the battle between Sheltontown residents against a rezoning request from Teramore Development LLC. to rezone a residential tract to make way for new Dollar General at the corner of Quaker Road and Westfield Road, Moore made a request.

She asked the county to keep her in the loop when any permits or zoning requests were made for a certain group of sites that residents had noted may be potential targets of Teramore Development LLC. Late last week she said she got a call from a county official alerting her that Gammons Auto was under contract and a site development meeting had been requested.

“The planning department informed me that Joe Strickland requested a site plan meeting,” she said Monday. Strickland is part of the group that has been building Dollar Generals in the area over the past several years including on Beulah Church Road, Cook School Road, Zephyr Road, and Mount View Drive.

In September Angela Leonard was one of the few Surry County residents who spoke to the county commissioners raising questions about the fairness of changing zoning rules along the byway seemingly at the request of a handful of businesses who were opposed to Dollar General.

Some may have painted her point of view as being pro-business, but to her it was more an issue of free will and liberty, “My family owns land in that area, and it is zoned commercial. My parents started a business there in 1985 and retired in 2015. They bought this land and worked two jobs and did anything and everything they had to do. They poured their soul, heart, sweat, everything into this land and business.”

She said her parents want to pass the land onto the next generation, but “My question is if we decide to do another business there, are we going to have to get permission of the citizens of the community? Is this not America, the land of the free where you’re supposed to be able to do what you want on your land?”

“I understand the rezoning and stuff like that,” she explained noting the Sheltontown example but wondered if it would stop there. “Now they’re wanting to hold up even permits.”

“If you’re already zoned, I don’t understand that. I don’t understand why a person who has worked, or as a family, and I have worked there ever since I could, I don’t understand why we would have to get permission to do so,” Leonard said.

Part of her argument is that the land belongs to her family so should not she and her family have the ultimate say in what become of Gammons Auto Sales? “My parents can no longer be in there, but in the future if we decided to do anything, is that not our right? Is it not our right to build or produce a company or business on our land?”

There has been no rezoning application from Gammons Auto, the family, or the potential buyer of the land but the overall debate comes down to personal liberty as it applies to land rights versus the subjectivity of what is in the greater good for the community.

For Moore and the proponents of the Scenic Byway Overlay, protecting the character of the land as close to what it is now is what they feel is best for residents, tourists, and the future of the county. Keeping discount retailers off the scenic byway was the main goal and it will enhance the experience for those travelling the byway who are not coming here for the box stores, she said.

Capitalism though thrives on a need for competition, and Leonard said that more competition is good for business as it was for her parents. She said during the Dollar General fight last year that she didn’t know if folks feared competition but that, “business is a gamble, you don’t know. We could have gone belly up, every business is like that. That’s just part of it, you know.”

It was said during that debate that Dollar General and Teramore Development LLC were waging an assault on the rural way of life to which Leonard countered, “I feel there is a not-so-silent assault on me and my family because we have land over there. We cannot put two tires on that pavement before a neighbor is over there wanting to know what we’re doing, why we’re here on our own land, and why we’re doing this or that.”

She went on to say that if the residents of the area could hold that much sway over development choices for businesses that it may be only a matter of time before adding a garage or deck onto one’s home may need permission as well.

Moore said Monday that she has been in contact with members of the county commissioners and that those in opposition to potential development will attend the next board meeting in force.

She said members of her group were given assurances Teramore Development LLC was taking their sites off Sheltontown. Strickland’s involvement in the land purchase has led her to believe that is no longer the case. “We had been told over and over that Teramore was going to leave Sheltontown alone. So, who was lying?”

City residents have been appointed to advisory boards in Mount Airy which are involved with two key facets of local life: history and death.

This included three new members for the Mount Airy Historic Preservation Commission and one for the city Cemetery Trustees Board. The appointments occurred during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last Thursday night.

Those approved for the preservation group are Martha Truskolaski, Norman Schultz and Pamela Hairston.

Their appointments were necessitated by three other individuals no longer being eligible to serve with it or resigning.

Truskolaski was named to fill the unexpired term of Chris Bastin, to run until June 30 of this year.

Schultz was appointed to serve out the remaining term of Carroll Hooker which ends on June 30, 2024.

Hairston was approved for a three-year term to expire on Feb. 28, 2026.

The Mount Airy Historic Preservation Commission is a nine-member citizen board appointed by the commissioners, whose members must be qualified based on interest or experience in history, architecture, archaeology or related fields

It advises the commissioners on historic landmark and property designations and functions as a design review board for proposed changes to the exterior of such properties and structures.

Once a building receives a local designation, for example, any change to its exterior must be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission with the issuance of a certificate of appropriateness before work may begin.

Design guidelines adopted by the commission for use in regulating such alterations ensure the integrity of local landmarks is preserved for future generations, under the stated goal of that group.

Emily Loftis was tapped as a new member for the cemetery board.

She will be filling the unexpired term of Ivy Sheppard, which ends on March 1, 2024.

Sheppard is no longer able to serve on the Cemetery Trustees Board due to her work schedule, city documents state.

It is a five-member group that oversees the municipal-owned Oakdale Cemetery, a 22-acre facility situated along North Main Street which contains more than 6,000 burial sites.

For more than eight months, the traffic flow through downtown Mount Airy has been greatly hampered by the closing of a lane along North Main Street due to a building collapse — a situation that is about to change.

City Manager Stan Farmer says a barricade blocking one of North Main’s two lanes in front of the Main-Oak Emporium structure since the incident must be removed by April 1.

“We need our street back,” Farmer said.

The roof and parts of the walls in the upper floors of the historic building on the corner of West Oak and North Main streets partially collapsed on July 5, sending a cascade of bricks and other debris onto the pavement below.

That incident not only prompted the barrier being placed in front of the Main-Oak site to block off the lane of North Main — which is a one-way street — but the closing of East Oak Street at the corner to allow crews to raze part of the building.

Both closings have remained in place for months with no end in sight until Farmer’s announcement about the requirement for North Main Street to be fully operational after April 1.

That has proven to be a hardship for both motorists and stores in the vicinity of the barricade, which in addition to blocking the lane of travel includes sight-distance issues.

“It’s just hard for people to reach us,” said Jennie Lowry, owner of the Olde Mill Music store near the Main-Oak corner. “I just think people bypass us sometimes.”

Martha Truskolaski, owner of the Spotted Moon gift shop nearby, echoed those sentiments Monday.

“It certainly has had a major impact on those businesses that are directly in front of or close to (the collapse),” Truskolaski said. “It’s caused a lot of confusion.”

Along with the problems posed to commerce in Mount Airy’s central business district, the Spotted Moon owner is glad that the April 1 directive has been issued to the Main-Oak Building developers for another reason.

“It did affect our festivals,” Truskolaski said of downtown events such as the annual Autumn Leaves gathering held downtown in October.

Farmer, the city manager, also mentioned upcoming activities as one reason for issuing the April 1 deadline. Although he chuckled when reminded that this date is April Fools’ Day, no special significance has been attached to it in reference to the barricade-removal deadline.

In February, Farmer had disclosed that the rebuilding project for the Main-Oak structure had reached a key point with repair plans being delivered to the county building inspector.

The approval of those engineering and other documents was required before a building permit could be issued to launch work that the city manager hoped could begin this month.

Farmer, who has monitored the situation closely since the July 5 collapse, said near the end of last week that the building permit had yet to be obtained.

But he said work can still be done on the structure despite the barricade no longer being in place after April 1.

There has been no announcement about when East Oak Street will reopen.

Short-term rental housing has been proposed for the portion of the Main-Oak Building in question.

A state of emergency for the COVID pandemic has formally — and finally — been lifted for Mount Airy which was imposed in 2020.

“It just seems like we need to come out from under it some time,” Mayor Jon Cawley said when announcing the dropping of that status last Thursday night during a city council meeting.

“And it has been three years,” Cawley added. The emergency status officially ended Thursday at 6 p.m.

Former Mayor David Rowe had declared the state of emergency within the municipal limits on March 17, 2020, as the coronavirus raged throughout the country.

It included measures such as restricting access to city facilities and the closing of public restrooms, among others. For example, all business contacts with municipal departments were to be managed by telephone, email or by appointment to reduce exposure to sickness, and minimize necessary cleaning and sanitizing.

Water bills also could be paid only through a drive-through window at the Municipal Building, and access to the Mount Airy Police Department was limited to the front lobby area, except in emergency situations.

Restrictions gradually eased and some of those originally imposed might seem laughable judging by the situation today when few local residents now even wear facemasks in public. This once was a given at a time when some restaurants or stores were closed.

Mayor Cawley acknowledged that in view of such progress, the city government is a bit late in lifting the official state of emergency. He pointed out that the Biden administration previously had done so, announcing on Jan. 30 that public health emergency and national emergency declarations will end on May 11.

California did so at the end of February, while North Carolina’s state of emergency was lifted in August by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Both Cawley and Commissioner Tom Koch agreed that citizens now know what they need to do to protect themselves from the disease.

“State of caution” remains

Despite terminating the state of emergency in the city, Mayor Cawley mentioned that residents should still take precautions against COVID, which continues to be an issue in some workplaces and elsewhere.

Surry County as a whole is presently listed with a COVID community threat level of “medium” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, along with a cluster of five other Northwest North Carolina counties. These include Alleghany, Stokes, Yadkin, Forsyth and Davie.

With the exception of four counties in the central part of the state with the same status, the remaining 90 counties in North Carolina are listed at the “low” threat level.

Under the medium level, persons who are at great risk of getting “very sick” should wear a high-quality mask or respirator when indoors in public, according to the CDC.

In addition, those who have household or social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick should consider self-testing to detect infection before contact, and consider wearing high-quality masks when indoors with them, the federal agency recommends.

The winner of the 2022-2023 District Spelling Bee was Benjamin Albiston, an eighth grade student at Mount Airy Middle School.

The runner-up of the 2022-2023 MACS District Spelling Bee was Nathan Haynes, a seventh grade student at Mount Airy Middle School.

Benjamin moved on to represent the district in the Carolina Panthers Regional Spelling Bee.

They were among students from JJ Jones Intermediate and Mount Airy Middle School who took part in the Mount Airy City Schools District Spelling Bee recently.

Students competed in more than 10 rounds of spelling to see who the winner and runner-up would be for the 2022-2023 Mount Airy City Schools District Spelling Bee. Twelve students earned a spot at the district bee after competing at their school’s grade-level bees earlier this year.

Eighth-grade English/language arts teacher Tobey Mitchell was recently named Teacher of the Year at Central Middle School.

“He brings literature to life and students love to be part of his classes,” school officials said in making the selection. “He is instrumental in helping students achieve success every day.”

The Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery announced Monday that its All-Stars Prevention Group has applied for non-profit status. Charlotte Reeves, outreach coordinator for the Office of Substance Abuse Recovery, said the group would make the transition from a wholly county funded operation to a non-profit this year.

The All-Stars Prevention Group is a group developed by the Office of Substance Abuse Recovery to engage community members to join in on collective efforts to combat substance abuse. Its members seek to promote emotional health and wellness, prevent or delay the onset of and complications from substance abuse and mental illness, and identify and respond to emerging behavioral health issues.

Furthermore, the group will be applying for a federal grant called “Drug Free Communities” (DFC) to aid in its outreach and education efforts. “The purpose of this grant is to focus on reducing the youth vaping, marijuana, and alcohol use,” Reeves said Monday.

“Recognizing that local problems need local solutions, DFC-funded coalitions engage multiple sectors of the community and employ a variety of environmental strategies to address local substance use problems,” the CDC said.

These coalitions aid local communities in finding solutions that help youth at risk for substance use by recognizing that “the majority of our nation’s youth choose not to use substances,” according to the program information.

As demonstrated by independent evaluations the CDC said the DFC Support Program significantly reduces substance use amongst youth, which is the target population nationally and locally. The Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery and the All-Stars are often found in schools or at community events spreading information on prevention techniques to stop substance use disorder before it can start.

The DFC program is aimed at mobilizing community leaders to identify and respond to the drug problems unique to their community and change local community environmental conditions tied to substance use.

It is required that the DFC bring together stakeholders from across 12 sectors of the community from healthcare, law enforcement, education, faith based groups, civic organizations, local/state agencies, and everyday citizens to address local youth substance use.

More than 700 community coalitions across the country receive funding up to $125,000 per year to strengthen collaboration among local partners and create an infrastructure that reduces youth substance use.

Last year the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control granted more than $12.4 million to 99 new Drug-Free Community Coalitions to prevent and reduce substance use in youth.

A total of 745 community coalitions across all 50 states received more than $93 million in grant funding through the Drug-Free Communities Support Program in the last fiscal year according to federal data.

The Drug-Free Communities Support Program is the nation’s leading effort to mobilize communities to prevent and reduce substance use among youth. It was founded in 1997 to provide grants to community coalitions, “To strengthen the infrastructure among local partners to create and sustain a reduction in local youth substance use.”

One of the conditions for the grant is that the organization receiving it be a 501c3 nonprofit, which the Surry County office is not as it is a county agency. The All-Starts Prevention group seeking nonprofit status will open them up to new avenues of funding that would not have otherwise been available like the DFC grant.

According to the Drug Free Communities Support Program 2021 Evaluation, “Since the program’s inception, the past 30-day prevalence of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and prescription drug misuse has declined significantly among middle school and high school aged youth. That report said an estimated 60 million, or 1 in 5 Americans, lived in a community with a DFC coalition.

The Dobson Church of Christ recently marked its 10th anniversary, with special music, prayer, and both the former and present ministers of the church speaking.

The church’s former minister, Ralph Sproles, and current minister, Scott Meadows, both spoke about the past and future for the church. The worship service included special music and singing as well, and ended with a large prayer circle thanking God for His faithfulness along with blessings for the future ahead.

The church enjoyed a potluck dinner after the service.

The Board of Directors of Surrey Bancorp (Pink Sheets: SRYB) has declared a quarterly cash dividend of 12 cents (per share on the company’s common stock. The dividend is payable on April 10 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on March 17.

Ted Ashby, CEO of Surrey Bancorp, said the dividend was based on the company’s current operating results, “its strong financial condition and a commitment to delivering shareholder value.”

Surrey Bancorp is the bank holding company for Surrey Bank & Trust and is located at 145 North Renfro Street, Mount Airy. The bank operates full service branch offices at 145 North Renfro Street, and 2050 Rockford Street and a limited service branch at 1280 West Pine Street, all in Mount Airy. Full-service branch offices are also located at 653 South Key Street in Pilot Mountain, 393 CC Camp Road in Elkin and 1096 Main Street in North Wilkesboro and 940 Woodland Drive in Stuart, Virginia.

Surrey Bank & Trust can be found online at

Life in the backcountry and foothills of North Carolina was hard. Most carved their living out of the land daily, toiling despite weather, aliments, or resources.

The common narrative of early North Carolina is of a man providing for his family; his wife and 2.5 kids. The women and children are seen as afterthoughts, only serving as supporting characters to the male storyline.

If we dive deeper we can see that history is not so black and white and that the fairer sex was heartier and more resilient than previously given credit for. In celebration of Women’s History Month take a deeper look into their lives.

Women settlers in Surry County braved the wilderness with their families to create a life. Finding fertile land, water, and space to hold livestock was of the utmost importance. Once settled, men secured their holdings and hunted for food, and women served as the keepers of the home, an extensive job.

These women were not only caretakers and cooks but also seamstresses, gardeners, healers, weavers, candle makers, farm hands and so much more. They worked from sun up to sun down to keep the household together.

On top of all this work, women had little to no rights. During this period women could not vote nor hold public office, had no money or wealth, could be subject to abuse with no justice, and legally had to identify with their husbands. Widows and unmarried women had more rights and privileges than that of the family wife.

It wasn’t until 1868 that women were allowed to own their property as they had as a single woman, with the assent of their husbands of course. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 secured women’s wages or inheritance as their own without the discretion of a male counterpart.

In 1920 the 19th amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote. This, however, did not give African-American women the same rights, state laws still restricted Black Americans from voting via poll taxes and literary tests. It wasn’t until the 1960s that women gained the right to open bank accounts.

Colonial women carried the knowledge of their ancestors to this new world creating a diversified culture like no other. Surrounded by frontier and unknown foliage, these women often learned from the matriarchal native populations as to the makeup and usage of their new homesteads. They were not afraid to get their hands dirty, while still staying demure for the society in which they lived.

These silent stars built a society and a new country that could have never been without them. North Carolina and Surry County are full of inspirational stories of women who persevered, stood tall, and carved out a remarkable life. Stop by the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and learn some of their stories. Happy Women’s History Month.

Emily Morgan is the guest services manager at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She and her family live in Westfield. She can be reached at or by calling 336-786-4478 x229

“The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” was not playing in council chambers — but lyrics from Donna Fargo’s signature song were recited Thursday night when plans for a mural honoring the local music legend were presented.

It will be joining other murals in downtown Mount Airy depicting entertainment figures with ties to the city, including Andy Griffith, Melva Houston and The Easter Brothers.

“She so deserves it,” Ann Vaughn said of the giant artwork of Fargo envisioned for a wall of the Walker’s Soda Fountain building on North Main Street, the former location of Lamm Drug. It is being spearheaded by the Donna Fargo Mural Committee chaired by Vaughn, a close friend of Fargo’s, and includes about 18 fans altogether.

Fargo hails from the Slate Mountain community and graduated from Mount Airy High School in 1958, when she was known as Yvonne Vaughn and a member of the school cheerleading squad.

After attending what was then High Point College, Fargo migrated west to study at the University of Southern California and became a high school teacher after receiving her degree. She performed at local venues in California before heading to Phoenix, which coincided with the name change to Donna Fargo and the recording of her first single.

In 1973, Fargo won a Grammy for “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA.” She also has received awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association while churning out other hit songs including “Funny Face” and hosting her own syndicated television series.

More recently, Fargo recorded a new CD, “All Because of You,” and also has authored books over the years.

“We know how special she is,” Vaughn said of Fargo’s many admirers. “We know what she’s accomplished.”

“The real deal”

“This wonderful lady has never let that status go to her head,” the committee chair said during her presentation at the commissioners meeting on the mural to honor the acclaimed singer and songwriter.

“She has always remembered her roots,” Vaughn added. “For those of us who know her, she is the real deal.”

Fargo further has been a positive role model while battling serious medical conditions, with Vaughn describing the singer as a genuine person who is “as beautiful on the inside as she is out.”

At one point Thursday, the presenter read the opening passage from Fargo’s famous song which highlights that cheery personality:

“Shine on me sunshine,

Walk with me world, it’s a skippidy doo da day.

I’m the happiest girl in the whole U.S.A.”

The idea of having a mural painted as a lasting tribute to Fargo seemed to be a no-brainer, Vaughn indicated, given that other hometown celebrities such as Griffith and Houston are being immortalized in this way.

“We thought certainly we should have a mural for Donna Fargo,” she said.

In pursuing that project, the Donna Fargo Mural Committee turned to the artist known as “JEKS,” who painted the Houston and Griffith images that have been well-received.

“We know the quality of what this mural will be,” Vaughn said of the one to honor Fargo.

The committee leader related that JEKS — a Greensboro resident whose real name is Brian Lewis — was “honored and thrilled” to be selected for the project and has talked with Fargo since, representing a first for him:

“He advised that he had never spoken to a live subject of all the murals he had done.”

JEKS has developed a rendering of the mural, which includes images of Donna Fargo spanning her career and a centerpiece with Fargo’s face as it appears on the latest CD cover. An American flag is shown in the background.

“We all know Donna is a red, white and blue lady — she loves her country,” Vaughn explained.

JEKS could start work on the Fargo display in late March and be done in a matter of days, judging by the Griffith mural on Moore Avenue taking about a week to complete, according to discussion at Thursday night’s meeting.

Plans call for it to be officially dedicated in July, when Fargo and JEKS are expected to be co-grand marshals of the city’s annual Independence Day parade.

Unlike other projects local officials are briefed on at meetings, no governmental funding is being requested for the Fargo mural from the committee.

“We decided we did not want to go to the city or the county or the TDA (Tourism Development Authority) with our hand out until we do some things ourselves,” Vaughn said of the funding aspect.

The mural itself has a price tag of $20,000 to $25,000, with other expenses also to be involved such as preparing the wall for the painting, lighting, landscaping and maintenance. Horizon Equipment Rentals is donating the use of lift equipment that will be needed by JEKS.

Vaughn reported that multiple fundraising events are planned for the mural project, including the Star-Spangled Donna Fargo Fashionista on March 26 at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History .

It will involve a fashion show featuring more than 20 Fargo look-a-like models, costumes of the singer and never-seen memorabilia. There also will be silent and live auctions featuring signed Donna Fargo items and music by John Rees, a former member of her band.

Another fundraiser will be a talent contest at Mount Airy High School set for April 22, in addition to a gospel event at Slate Mountain Baptist Church — where Fargo was a member of the choir.

Vaughn said the March 26 performance will be especially well attended, which signals success for the fundraising efforts overall and deep support among the public for the mural layout prepared — along with the person behind that.

“I think all Donna’s fans are happy,” said Vaughn — perhaps even matching the elation of “The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.”

RALEIGH — Plans are underway for new bridges at three different locations in Surry County, based on actions during a recent meeting of the N.C. Board of Transportation in Raleigh.

Included is a project targeting U.S. 52 near Pilot Mountain, where bridges on both the northbound and southbound portions crossing over Toms Creek are to be replaced.

The recent meeting by the state Board of Transportation included the approval of funding for specific federal-aid projects, including the bridge work at Toms Creek for which a total $3.6 million price tag has been reported.

State officials say that $922,000 previously was approved for those replacements for preliminary engineering costs, with more funds deemed needed to cover such expenses that have or will exceed the earlier-authorized budget.

Information trickling from a board meeting in February meeting shows an additional figure of $200,000, including $160,000 from the federal government and $40,000 in state funding.

Construction of the two bridges was scheduled to begin this summer, according to an earlier project timeline, but it is not known if that stills hold true because of the DOT recently delaying many major projects due to COVID and funding issues.

The construction will take 18 to 24 months to complete once started.

Plans call for a temporary bridge to be built in the center median between the two bridges over Toms Creek and used as a detour.

Northbound traffic will be routed onto the detour bridge while the new northbound bridge (No. 122) is built. Southbound traffic is to be routed onto the detour bridge while the new southbound bridge (No. 126) is constructed.

The detour bridge will be removed after both new bridges are complete.​

Also during its recent meeting, the N.C. Board of Transportation OK’d preliminary right-of-way plans for two other bridge replacements in Surry County.

One is the bridge on Red Brush Road (SR 1350) over Stewarts Creek.

The other is a bridge that crosses the Mitchell River on Zephyr-Mountain Park Road (SR 1315).

Preliminary right-of-way plans are a mechanism to ensure sufficient space for the construction, design, drainage and control of access involved with the bridge-replacements.

That step will lead to the approval of final plans.

No timetables were listed for the Red Brush Road and Zephyr-Mountain Park Road bridge replacements.

​​The N.C. Board of Transportation is composed of 20 people from across the state. Each member represents a specific transportation division or is an at-large, statewide member. The boards work with the state secretary of transportation and team to make decisions about road priorities.

The Surry County Economic Development Commission (EDP) has tapped an industry development official from Henderson County as the new president of the local organization.

Blake Moyer has been chosen to head the Surry County EDP, according to statement released by Surry County Manager Chris Knopf and EDC chairman Peter Pequeno.

“Moyer brings to the position a well-rounded base of economic development and local government experience,” the two said in their statement.

“We are excited that Blake will be leading the economic development efforts of Surry County,” Pequeno said. “Our community is poised to grow, and we believe he is the ideal person to facilitate that growth.”

“We rely on the EDP to develop and implement strategies for business growth and new job creation in our community,” Knopf said. “We look forward to working with Blake to bring more private sector investment to our county through existing business growth, entrepreneurship, and new business attraction.”

On Friday, Moyer said there were several reasons, both professional and personal, which led him to seek and then accept the EDP post.

“The board has a well-rounded and high-quality vision of what they’re trying to do, a vision that I identify with it,” he said. “I found I really want to be part of that. Surry County has a lot of good assets to attain that vision…I can hopefully help and be a small part of the community achieving success.”

Moyer, who is slated to start in Surry County on March 22, has been the director of industry relations for the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development in Hendersonville for about a year, having assumed that post April 11.

Prior to that he spent nearly three years with the city of Burlington, first as a community engagement intern, then progressing to the position of project manager for the city’s economic development department. There he was selected by the Triad Business Journal as one of its “20 in their 20s” officials recognized for making significant contributions to the triad region while still in their 20s.

“Blake Moyer has become well-versed in economic development practices and standards through his experiences with the Henderson County Partnership and Burlington Economic Development,” the Surry County partnership said in announcing his appointment. “In his most recent position as director of industry relations, he led efforts to retain and grow existing businesses in Henderson County.”

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Methodist University and a master’s degree from UNC-Greensboro. He is on the board of the North Carolina Economic Development Association and chairs the emerging executives committee.

“I am honored to be selected as the next president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership,” he said of his appointment. “Surry County has significant economic development assets including a strong business base, vibrant communities, growing entrepreneurial companies, thriving outdoor economy, and an unmatched quality of life.”

Moyer said he is looking forward to taking up the vision of the local EDP, to “achieve goals over the next few years that help everybody in the community.” He said he believes among the biggest challenges will be to “Recruit and retain quality jobs in the community, and for those jobs to be for the people there in Surry County.”

He said one of the factors that made the Surry County EDP attractive to him was its commitment to a wide range of economic development goals, “From helping out large manufacturers to small businesses on Main Street…I think that’s a good way to go about things.”

Moyer said he believes one factor in Surry County’s favor, in terms of attracting new business, is the fact that it can provide a good workforce from its residents as well as draw from nearby communities.

“You’re not just pulling from Surry County folks, but you’re pulling from a region. It’s a good place to work and do commerce.”

Personally, he said he found the job enticing because he and his wife, Courtney, enjoy outdoor activities and visiting wineries and breweries. As a youth growing up in Burlington, he said he and his high school friends would often take off on the weekends, spending the days in state parks hiking and camping. Pilot Mountain, as well as Hanging Rock State Park in neighboring Stokes County, was among their favorite spots.

Moyer is filling the seat left vacant when Todd Tucker, long-time EDP president, resigned in November to accept a position in Cary with Aqua America, a water and sewer services utility company.

Come Tuesday, it is anticipated that an exceptionally long 2022 campaign season will come to a close when the final voters are cast in a special election in Surry County for the Town of Dobson Board of Commissioners.

Walter White, J. Wayne Atkins, and John Jonczak are facing off again in a three-way contest for two seats on the board after claims of poll worker misconduct threw November’s razor thin outcome into question. Protests and challenges led to hearings yielding the recommendation from the county board of elections to their state level counterparts that only the Dobson commissioners race be run again.

The state concurred and Saturday is the last day for early voting in the special election. Voting will be held at the Surry County Service Center located at 915 E. Atkins St. in Dobson. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In-person voting for the special election is Tuesday, March 7 and Surry County Board of Elections director Michella Huff told voters to note the hours for voting with the polls open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. With only one contest on the ballot and three candidates, she does anticipate that voters can expect the results on Tuesday evening.

“Tuesday’s forecast looks like a great day to come out and vote, if you live in the Dobson Town limits and have not voted yet,” Huff said Thursday.

The process is quick and easy. “It has taken most voters longer to walk in from their car than it has taken them to vote, so it won’t take any time out of your schedule if you are eligible,” she said.

“If anyone does not know if they are eligible, please call us at 336-401-8225 and we will be happy to check for you.”

Huff said that as of Thursday evening there have been 100 in-person early votes counted, including an impressive 28 on the first day of voting. Voters set the bar high that first day, but voter turnout never reached that level again with daily vote totals ranging from one to 16 per day.

After election day, Huff said that the county board of elections will move to the canvass of the special election which they will conduct on Friday, March 17, at 11 a.m. in a meeting that is open to the public.

Once the special election canvass is complete and the election certified, the 2022 election cycle will be complete.

She said that the next big event for the county will be on Dec. 4 at noon when filing opens for federal, state, Surry County offices and Mount Airy municipal offices, as well as all Board of Education seats. The filing period closes on December 15.

On Election Day in November, a poll worker in Dobson was accused of telling some voters that a candidate appearing on the ballot had died. Candidate Sharon Gates-Hodges passed away and her name was not able to be removed from the ballot as voting had begun.

The poll worker in separate occurrences, the state board of elections was told, indicated that Gates-Hodges had died, or in one first person sworn statement it was claimed the poll worker identified John Jonczak as the deceased candidate.

Huff told the county board last year that the conduct of the poll worker was out of line and that they should have been providing no information at all on the candidates. Directing a voter away from a candidate who is dead could have been perceived as endorsement. However, if a voter needs or requests assistance with the process or equipment, that is in their purview.

In its hearing of the protests, the Surry County Board of Elections determined that the poll worker’s actions in pointing out a deceased candidate could have influenced voters’ choices and cast doubt on the outcome of the close election.”

The circumstances that lead to the special election were unique and the prospect of the county needing to conduct another one anytime soon seems unlikely, but anything can happen, according to Huff. “This is a first for me, just another first since 2020; it is surely never boring in the profession.”

Huff was not able to offer any clarification on when the North Carolina Board of Elections would be conducting the next hearing against county board of elections members Tim DeHaan and Jerry Forestieri.

The men are facing possible removal from the county board for allegations that they were derelict in their duty when they initially did not certify the county’s election results despite citing no specific irregularities in Surry County’s election or results, with the exception of the Dobson race.

They both signed a letter saying that the decisions of Judge Loretta Biggs in 2018 regarding voter identification led to a voting system that was open to fraud. She had no right to make such a ruling and dictate election law from the bench the men felt.

DeHaan ultimately did sign off on the certification, but Forestieri did not. He said, “Given the choice of endorsing this 100% or not at all, I would just not sign the certification.”

Bob Hall, a voting rights advocate and former director of Democracy NC, filed a complaint against the men and a fact-finding hearing was held in December to see if there was enough evidence to proceed.

The state board met in Raleigh on Feb. 14 to hear the case, but on procedural grounds the state board hearing has been moved back to be held in Surry County. A date has not yet been determined Huff explained. “The NCSBE has not made an announcement yet, I’m awaiting that too.”

STUART, Va. — The Patrick County Sheriff’s Office has announced charges against and/or arrests of residents from the greater Mount Airy area recently, including:

• Terry Smith, 62, of 2427 Claudville Highway, Claudville, who is charged with misdemeanor assault on a family member.

• Ellis David Horton, 52, of 2004 Springs Road, Mount Airy, who was served with a capias (arrest warrant) for a felony probation violation and a capias for a probation violation involving a felony charge of possessing a Schedule I/II controlled substance with intent to manufacture.

Patrick Deputy D.A. Ullring arrested Horton for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.

• Tiffany Marie Spencer, 28, of 1359 Sandy Ridge Road in Cana, who was served with a capias for failing to appear in court, with Carroll County authorities making the arrest for Patrick.

• Richard Brown Dunford, 76, of 235 Niten Hollow Lane, Ararat, charged through an indictment with aggravated sexual battery of a victim under 13 years old, a felony.

• Jay Steven Harris, 52, of 118 In-Laws Trail, Mount Airy, served with a capias for a felony probation violation.

• Dorian Evander Jones II, 51, of 2967 Willis Gap Road, Ararat, charged through indictment with five felonies: a second offense of manufacturing/distributing a Schedule I/II controlled substance, possession of one-half ounce to five pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, nonviolent possession of a gun within 10 years of being convicted of a felony and possession of a gun involving a Schedule I/II controlled substance.

Jones also was served with a capias for failing to appear in court, with Carroll County authorities making the arrest for Patrick.

Later in a separate warrant service while Jones was incarcerated in New River Valley Regional Jail, he additionally was charged through indictment with another felony, distribution of methamphetamine.

• David Matthew Watkins, 32, of 3838 Hatchers Chapel Road, Claudville, charged with contempt of court.

• Onorio Galarza Rodriguez, 37, of 155 Gwynwood Drive, Mount Airy, served with a capias for failing to appear in court.

• Kirsten Jones, 27, of 363 Marigold Lane, Ararat, charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

• Becky Reena Wilson, 42, of 731 Old County Home Road, Dobson, served with a capias for failing to appear in court.

• Samantha Bell Thomas, 25, of 236 Carrollwood Lane, Cana, served with a capias for failing to appear in court.

While the Friends of Sauratown Mountains will be holding a group hike on March 12 in Stokes County for its members, the real action will be about a month later, with the return of the annual High 5 at Hanging Rock on April 15.

That event offers runners, hikers, and outdoor adventurers a challenge of trying to reach all five of the Hanging Rock Park’s highest peaks in one day — a roughly 10-mile course with plenty of up and down hiking, and climbing, awaiting those who take on the challenge.

Donna Alexander, president of the Sauratown Friends organization, said the event is the organization’s single biggest fundraiser each year. There is the challenging 10-mile course, which includes summitting Moore’s Knob, Cooks Wall, and Hanging Rock Mountains, along with a pass-by of Wolf Rock and House Rock.

“Due to the length, change in elevation and trail conditions, this will be a strenuous hike or run and will test everyone’s physical abilities,” the group’s website said of the event.

For those who would like to take part in the fun, but are not quite up for the big challenge, there is a five-mile walk/hike/run which crests Moore’s Knob.

At the end of the challenge, she said there are food trucks and plenty of people onhand, making it a “festive” atmosphere. Participants also get a t-shirt and plenty of “SWAG,” including a $10 food voucher.

The field is capped at 400 participants, she said, and often includes people from all over North Carolina.

“There were a lot of people from Raleigh,” she said of one of the first things she noticed when helping run the event. “That was my take from that day — there were a lot of people from Raleigh, Durham, that area.”

The participants, she said, tackle the course in different ways. “You can run it and walk it. We have runners, hikers, people who are doing it as fast walkers. Moore’s Knob — it’s very steep, a runner can’t run it, I don’t think.” Regardless of how someone completes the course, she said covering 10 miles of that terrain is “a good day.”

Funds raised from the event are used to meet the various needs of both Hanging Rock State Park and Pilot Mountain State Park.

She said the group uses money it raises for a variety of programs at both state parks. helping to protect the natural resources and help with maintenance and upkeep, along with some educational programs at the parks.

On High 5 at Hanging Rock day, the group, along with people from other agencies, spend the day out on the course as volunteers, keeping participants on track and safe. She said there are even a group of folks from Mount Airy who usually take part in helping out as volunteers.

The cost is $45 per person, and advance online registration ends at 11 p.m. on April 11, while mail-in registration must be received by April 10. In-person registration and packet-pick up is available at the site of the event, at a cost of $55, if there are still slots available.

To register, or for more information — including how to register your dog for the event — visit

Food has a direct attachment to memory as the crowd was told last year when the Hungry for History marker denoting the home of the sonker was revealed in Dobson. It was fitting that a tasty treat with a funny name would be elevated and recognized with the first such marker from the Pomeroy Foundation.

Travis Frye is the tourism coordinator for both the county and the Town of Dobson and as such he conceived another idea to elevate one of Surry County’s favorites to sonker-level status. The humble ground steak sandwich is known to folks who live in and around Surry County, but Frye said the farther you go from these hills — the less likely you are to know what a ground steak sandwich is.

To change that Frye wants to turn the spotlight on the ground steak sandwich and he is launching an initiative including a ground steak website to educate, a ground steak trail to highlight the ten local restaurants serving this unique Surry County dish, and a new arts and crafts event to be called the North Carolina Ground Steak Festival to be held Saturday, June 10 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Dobson Square Park will host the event and Crutchfield and Atkins streets will also be closed to allow folks ease of access to this new family friendly event.

At the festival will be the Flat Rock Ruritans and Central Cafe of Dobson as the primary purveyors of ground steak at the festival. Frye said due to staffing and need to remain open that not all the participants of the ground steak trail will be serving at the event. Those not currently signed up are welcome to contact Frye if they would like to join in.

He said it made good sense to have the Ruritans participate given their long association and deep ties to the area from their years serving ground steak sandwiches at the Autumn Leaves Festival in Mount Airy. Including Central Cafe of Dobson added another option and was good cross promotion for a local eatery from the tourism chief.

On the stage there will be bands at the amphitheater and WPAQ will be broadcasting the event live on radio and streaming it online. Ten local bands with blue grass and old-time string music will be featured that Frye said, “are reflective of our area and heritage.”

Bands will play for an hour to allow them to get into their set and feel the groove said Frye, a musician himself who said as the coordinator he would be too busy to partake in performing. The goal is to have variety in the music selection while highlighting area performers and the local sound of Surry County.

Adding another element will be a juried craft show of handmade goods. Frye said it would be unfair to compare the new event to Autumn Leaves Festival, which he oversaw before exiting that role for the dual tourism job he has now. It took years and effort to grow Autumn Leaves to be the largest such event in the county and one of the largest in the Southeast and the Ground Steak Festival is going to start small.

He said there are about 50 arts and crafts vendors lined up for the event and with his many contacts from coordinating the Autumn Leaves Festival, he said there will be some similar faces showing off their wares in Dobson but there will be fresh faces too. The goal is to draw attention to artisans and crafters from this area along with talented local musicians while enjoying the hero of the day: the ground steak sandwich.

“I am sort of a foodie at heart and I was thinking if we have a barbeque festival, a chicken festival, and an apple festival then why can’t we have a ground steak festival?” Frye mused.

Food brings up memories: the smells and sounds of the kitchen can transport someone to another place instantly. Frye recalls growing up how his great-grandmother would often cook for him. “I’d come in and smell the smells. I’d sit on the couch, and I remember the sounds and smells of great-grandma in the kitchen.”

“We’d sit together, and we’d eat the ground steak she made in her cast iron skillet. I don’t know what it was about that skillet,” Frye said pulling a recollection forward, “but it holds a memory for me. Maybe this festival can bring back memories for other people too.”

Memories cloud with time and there is a tad of disagreement on who made ground steak first. “The Dairy Center and Speedy Chef both lay claim but that’s part of the allure – we really don’t know where it came from.”

He traced the sandwich back through archival records and found it mentioned in the 1930s during the Great Depression. That makes sense he said as the ground steak was “a simple sandwich for blue collar workers” in the mills of Mount Airy.

When the whistle or bell called for lunch, he said workers flocked to Main Street and ground streak sandwiches were among items found at the Canteen being made by Archie Barker dating back to 1936, according to the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

Making limited food do more was a hallmark of the Depression era and Frye made an interesting comparison between the sonker and ground steak: both were meant to use what was available and make it stretch as far as it could go. Beef, salt/pepper, flour, and milk (sometimes) he said are all that make a ground steak sandwich.

It may have been an organic development that came from home kitchens across the area during the Depression that so many folks were making a variation of ground steak sandwiches at the same time with their own tweaks and variations. Likely one such recipe moved from a home kitchen to Main Street and spread from there, Frye mentioned.

The sonker and ground steak sandwich share that fuzzy origin story with no firm genesis to be found. While the sonker has now had its day in the sun thanks its historical marker and recognition; Frye wants ground steak to be considered as well.

“From humble beginnings the ground steak sandwich has a story to tell, and if it brings in tourists – well, we have stories to tell,” Frye said before affirming, “Do I like ground steak? No. I don’t like it – I love it.”

After a long period of inactivity, visible improvements have been occurring at Mount Airy’s historic Satterfield House, the first property deeded to an African-American in Surry County during the late 1800s.

This included a new roof being installed about two weeks ago on the structure located at the corner of North Franklin Road and West Virginia Street, with more renovations planned. It occupies a four-acre site where a Rosenwald school also once existed for local African-Americans.

Monies from an “Invest in Surry” program by the county government paid for most of the new roof, according to Ann Vaughn, a member of the governing board for Friends of the Historic Satterfield House and Rosenwald School.

It is a new non-profit organization made up of various local citizens interested in preserving the history and culture surrounding both entities, among other goals.

The Sandy Level Community Council, which owns the property, was awarded $6,475 last summer through Invest in Surry, which involved a total of $2.1 million in federal COVID-relief funding being distributed to 34 local non-profits.

Vaughn added that the remaining cost for the new roof was provided from the general fund of the Satterfield/Rosenwald project.

Vice Chairman Norman Schultz of the Friends group said this included proceeds from sales of collard green sandwiches during Mount Airy’s annual Autumn Leaves Festival by the Sandy Level Community Council allocated for that effort.

Schultz said Tuesday that with the roof having been installed, other improvements are planned for the Satterfield House including new windows and gutters along with work on the electrical system and the installation of a new HVAC unit.

Grants and donations are being sought to aid with those expenses, said Schultz, who believes all this points to tangible progress at the Satterfield site.

When requesting funding for Satterfield House renovations from the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners in August 2021, Sandy Level supporters announced plans for a community events center to be established there.

However, the scope of that has changed, according to Schultz.

“The purpose of the building is going to be more of a museum,” he advised, saying that contact had been made with Matt Edwards, who heads Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, to assist with this.

“I’m personally excited because I’m a history person,” Schultz said of the revised focus that will encompass both the house and the memory of the Rosenwald school.

That campus operated at the site from 1918-53 during the Segregation Era, one of thousands built to serve primarily the African-American population. The schools were provided through a fund created by Julius Rosenwald, a clothier who became part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck and Company.

Although the Rosenwald school building no longer exists on the Satterfield property, Schultz said plans call for one of its classrooms to be recreated in a room of the house using antique desks and other features.

Old sewing machinery also is to be placed there in reference to how students were taught to be seamstresses at the school.

Plans further include assembling information on both the Satterfield family and the school as part of the museum aspect.

Earlier efforts were concerned with developing a commercial kitchen in the house, which Schultz says have been scaled down to a smaller kitchen operation because there is insufficient space for a full-fledged facility.

The new Friends group hopes to enlist the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County that is working to preserve the former all-black J.J. Jones School elsewhere in Mount Airy, also to include a museum component.

Schultz suggested that both organizations combining their efforts would promote the betterment of each and what they seek to accomplish.

GALAX, Va. — After earlier releasing a partial schedule, the Blue Ridge Music Center this week announced the complete lineup for its annual summer concert series.

A wide array of artists will be appearing on its amphitheater stage from late May through early September as part of the center’s Roots of American Music series. The facility is located at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway about 30 minutes from Mount Airy.

A series of Saturday evening concerts stretching from Memorial Day to Labor Day will be involved.

One notable addition to the talent slate of late is The Sam Bush Band, which is to perform on July 1.

Bush — also known as The Father of “Newgrass” — has a reputation for being one of the liveliest performers around.

He formed the New Grass Revival group in 1972, and over the next 17 years it revolutionized the music of the hill country, incorporating everything from gospel and reggae to rock and modern jazz into its tradition-rooted sound, according to information from the center.

Over the past two decades as a solo artist, Bush has released seven albums and a live DVD. In 2009, the Americana Music Association awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist.

The roster for the upcoming concert series overall is strong on bluegrass and old-time music, organizers say.

Running the gamut from traditional to contemporary, these bands include, in addition to that of Sam Bush, Steep Canyon Rangers, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, The Kody Norris Show, The Lonesome River Band, Ashlee and Andrew, The Cabin Creek Boys, The Crooked Road Ramblers, The Slate Mountain Ramblers of Mount Airy (another late addition to the lineup) and Doc at 100, billed as a special Doc Watson tribute concert.

This year’s series also features a variety of younger artists who have been influenced by the traditional music of the Blue Ridge region but who are adapting it and carrying forward these living traditions in unique and exciting ways and to younger and more-diverse audiences.

Those artists include Amythyst Kiah, Sierra Ferrell, Watchhouse, John R. Miller, Rissi Palmer (Color Me Country Radio), Scythian, Larry Bellorin and Joe Troop and DaShawn and Wendy Hickman.

• May 27: The Lonesome River Band, plus Ashlee Watkins and Andrew Small;

• June 3: Scythian, plus The Cabin Creek Boys;

• June 17: Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, plus The Crooked Road Ramblers;

• June 24: Amythyst Kiah, plus Foreign Landers;

• July 1: The Sam Bush Band;

• July 8: The Jeff Little Trio, plus DaShawn and Wendy Hickman with Sacred Steel;

• July 15: Rissi Palmer, plus The Martha Bassett Band;

• Aug. 5: The Kody Norris Show, plus The Slate Mountain Ramblers;

• Aug. 19: Doc at 100: A Doc Watson tribute concert;

• Aug. 26: Larry and Joe, plus Shay Martin Lovette;

• Sept. 2: An Evening with Steep Canyon Rangers.

Performances start at 7 p.m. on Saturdays during the concert season, with admission gates opening at 5:45 p.m. Ticket prices range from $20 to $40. Tickets, season passes (full, half and Pick 3), along with memberships, can be obtained at

The center, a national park facility, celebrates the sounds and musicians of the mountains. It is a venue partner of The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail and Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway/National Park Service maintains and operates the facility, including staffing the music center along with a visitor/interpretive component.

Chief Nathanael Webb and Assistant Chief Corey Scearce of the Mount Airy Rescue Squad recently presented to the Surry County Board of Commissioner a proposal to add paid part time staff on to their squad.

“Adding paid personnel would help ease the burden on volunteers and more importantly ensure rescue response to the ill, and injured in our community,” Webb said.

He requested $55,000 as an annual allotment to add four part time members on his squad saying that figure should cover uniforms, training, and taxes for all four positions. This figure “is on track with what a lot of fire departments are doing, even less than some. We feel like that is a really reasonable request.”

Surry County is served by six rescue squads and the Mount Airy Rescue Squad serves a 177 square mile district that is the largest service area for any agency, except for the sheriff’s department and EMS. The squad is also the only heavy rescue certified squad in the county which sets them apart and makes them a county wide resource, Webb said.

“A lot our fire departments have paid part time, and some full time, staff. With us being the busiest department in the county and the current (staffing) situation we are in, I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable for us to be one of those departments,” Webb explained.

Webb reminded the county commissioner that his squad is chartered for 40 but only has 25 in its ranks. While the call volume has not declined, the number of able-bodied volunteers to respond has. “We’d love to have 40, this is the lowest we’ve been in several years… I tell people in this economy you can’t get people to work for money, much less for free.”

He is proposing adding four paid part time staff to the Mount Airy Rescue Squad to cover peak hours 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. The paid staff would be able to increase the number of calls responded to and aid in additional coverage for neighboring squads.

“Please consider the request as not just a monetary expenditure, but as an investment in the health and safety of our county,” Chief Webb said.

In 2022 the squad had 7,283 hours logged in 911 call response, community service, meetings, trainings, and work details. The Mount Airy Rescue Squad was paged to 2,098 calls, 216 non-emergency calls, and supported 112 standbys for sporting event, protocol, fire, and EMS standbys.

For comparison, the second highest was Dobson Rescue Squad with 1,020, Surry EMS 15,315, and Surry County Sheriff’s Office fielded the greatest number, 53,305.

Mount Airy Rescue Squad also transported 27 patients when Surry EMS was not available to do so and did so without sending the patient a bill for transport which Webb said was offering a countywide service to all residents even though his squad holds the Mount Airy moniker.

Of the calls received the squad respond to 1,278 (55%) of those calls which he said is good considering he is short-staffed. “That’s a lot for 25 volunteers especially when most are working during peak hours.”

Regarding calls that were missed, Webb reassured that no major fire, accident, or emergency was missed. The rescue squads have a system akin to their volunteer firefighter cousins where they provide coverage from multiple stations to one emergency.

Commissioner Van Tucker asked what sort of calls were being missed and if it were all cats stuck in tree type of non-emergencies. Assistant Chief Corey Scearce explained many of those calls are for breathing issues, or requests for assistance in being lifted from a fall.

Webb said, “The intent is that if we had a paid person that we would respond to 100% of calls with the exception of when calls overlap.”

Commissioner Bill Goins asked for a breakdown of calls from the county versus within Mount Airy City limits. Webb explained they run 80% of their calls within the city where they respond to all medical calls. In the county however, the rescue squads are more commonly utilized for their rescue expertise.

County Manager Chris Knopf asked if this request was in addition to or replacing the annual allotment from the county for the rescue squad association. Webb said he knew of one other squad that was considering making a request to add a paid staff member, “But tonight, I’m exclusively requesting this as an annual allotment for Mount Airy Rescue Squad.”

He also explained that he would be making a similar presentation and ask of the City of Mount Airy commissioners at a date to be determined.

A city student is fighting to recover from a bullet wound received during an incident that allegedly was a setup — involving him being lured to a site outside town where two girls supposedly were waiting.

The 15-year-old victim remains a patient at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he is being treated for the wound to the stomach suffered early last Friday.

He was airlifted to the Winston-Salem hospital and initially listed in critical but stable condition as a result of the shooting in the 200 block of Woodbridge Drive off Pipers Gap Road.

The Surry County Sheriff’s Office has not released his name — nor that of an older cousin of the victim who is said to have pulled the trigger and also is a juvenile. He stands accused of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill, inflicting serious injury.

However, the boy shot has been identified on social media as LG Perez, a sophomore at Mount Airy High School.

LG has been able to talk and stand up some since undergoing surgery at the Winston-Salem hospital, where he is expected to remain a patient at least in the short term after narrowly surviving being wounded.

“He may require more surgery,” said Wendy Odum of Mount Airy, who heads a local non-profit organization called the Birches Foundation that aids the community and is trying to assist the youth’s family. This includes launching an online GoFundMe campaign.

“The young man is very fortunate to be alive,” said Odum, whose work has included spearheading drug-prevention and other efforts.

Last Friday’s shooting was described as the latest chapter in an ongoing dispute between LG Perez and his cousin, which is said to also have involved a recent fistfight.

While the Surry Sheriff’s Office has released no details regarding the circumstances surrounding the Friday incident, one source says it relates to an ongoing bullying situation.

The city student was lured to the Woodbridge Drive location on the pretext that the two girls would be there, only to find the older cousin waiting who subsequently shot him, the source said.

Odum, meanwhile, said she has learned from the family that the bullet fired into his stomach had a downward trajectory and lodged in a thigh, which could have been worse with an upward angle.

The injured youth was able to make his way to some woods behind a nearby residence and call 911.

“Because he had an iPhone, they were able to locate him,” Odum related, and the shooting victim was airlifted from that site to the Winston-Salem hospital — a Level 1 trauma center.

While LG Perez has been involved in some violent situations lately, “he’s a harmless kid,” she said.

Odum, whose grandson is a senior at Mount Airy High, said she had met the mother of L.G. Perez previously and is familiar with the woman’s financial circumstances that have been greatly tested by her son’s ordeal.

“She reached out to me,” Odum said Wednesday.

“LG has a long road to recovery and we are asking friends and community members to consider donations of financial support,” says a statement for the GoFundMe account established on the family’s behalf.

“His mother has been at his side and has not left,” it adds. “Funds for meals and incidentals while this young man is hospitalized would be greatly appreciated.”

The youth’s mom works at a convenience store in Bannertown and hasn’t been on the job since the shooting.

“She has no car,” Odum said of another element involved.

As of Wednesday afternoon, eight donations had been logged for the GoFundMe campaign that has a $2,000 goal.

A Galax, Virginia, man was killed earlier this week when the plane he was flying crashed shortly after take-off in Carroll County, Virginia.

Caleb Glick, 74, was found dead among the wreckage of his airplane, in a wooded area of Carroll County on Tuesday.

Glick and his plane were reported missing Monday after he did not arrive at his intended destination in Burlington Monday afternoon. He had flown his plane out of Carroll County, departing Twin County Airport in Laurel Fork and was reported missing later that day after he did not arrive at his planned North Carolina destination.

That set off a search near the Carroll County and Patrick County line by the Virginia State Police, Carroll County authorities and volunteers near the Carroll County and Patrick County line, but those search efforts were hampered Monday afternoon and evening by high winds, with gusts exceeding 50 mph at times. That prevented state police from using helicopters in the search.

Search efforts where largely suspended after dark, resuming on the ground Tuesday morning at daybreak by Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Virginia State Police personnel, and helicopters were added to the search later when winds died down.

According to the Virginia State Police, at approximately 11:35 a.m. on Tuesday, search crews located the missing aircraft.

“State police responded to the 600 block of Little Bit Road near Hillsville and confirmed the wreckage is that of the missing aircraft,” Virginia State Police officials said in a press release. “The pilot, and the plane’s only occupant, was discovered deceased in the wreckage. … The FAA and the NTSB have both been notified. The crash remains under investigation.”

The plan had been scheduled for arrival at the Burlington Alamance Regional Aircraft in North Carolina Monday. The privately-owned Cessna 150 aircraft departed the Hillsville-Twin County Airport in Virginia earlier that day, according to the state police.

While no definitive cause of the crash has been released, pending a full investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, authorities said it appears high winds were a major contributing factor.

Dobson Elementary School recently named its Teacher of the Year and Teaching Assistant of the Year for the 2022-23 school year.

Renee Fowler, a third grade teacher, was named as the Teacher of the Year. She has been with Surry County Schools for 23 years and all but two of those years at Dobson Elementary School. She is married to Stephen Fowler, and they have two children Jess and Miles Fowler.

Dee Snow was named Teaching Assistant of the Year. She has been with Surry County Schools since 2009 and at Dobson Elementary for the past seven years. She is married to Chad Snow, and they have four children, Courtni-Morgan Fargis, Mason, Carter and Mattie-Grace Snow.

Principal Nicole Hazelwood and Assistant Principal Ashley Queen surprised each of the winners with the announcement of their selection with flowers and balloons.

A record turnout helped the Surry Arts Council raise more than $35,000 during its annual Arts Ball held earlier this month at Cross Creek Country Club. The ball featured a silent auction, passed canapes and soup, a seated dinner, and dancing to the live music of the Band of Oz.

The Mardi Gras theme was present throughout the club. Centerpieces were provided by Airmont Florist, Cana Mount Airy Florist, and Creative Design Flowers. These were available for purchase in the silent auction. Melissa Sumner, coordinator of the Arts Ball, worked with a committee of volunteers from schools, the Surry Arts Council Staff and Board, and the community.

The auction had hundreds of items. The meals hosted in the homes of local chefs were among the most popular items along with vacation condos and homes. Schools donated items built in classes including a porch swing and Adirondack chairs. Baskets ranged from movie night themes to a lottery ticket basket to sports-themed baskets. Clothing, jewelry, home baked items, and many gift cards were among the items purchased.

A photo booth provided by Ish & Ash Productions provided another fun opportunity for guests. There was a line at the booth throughout the evening.

Proceeds from the arts program goes toward taking arts programming to area school children and youth. This year, thousands of students have already enjoyed arts programming provided by the fundraising from the Arts Ball last year.

In addition to directly paying for arts programs, the arts ball proceeds leverage grants from Chorus America, the North Carolina Arts Council, and South Arts. Students receive free arts programs in their own schools and have the opportunity to bus to the Blackmon Amphitheatre, the Historic Earle Theatre, and the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Students also have field trips to the Andy Griffith Museum, the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall, and the Siamese Twins Exhibit at no cost. These field trips include guided tours, scavenger hunts, and music.

The Surry Arts Council provides its venues to the schools for holiday and year-end choral and band programs at no cost to the schools. The Surry Arts Council also works with schools to host interns, provide art instruction in both in-school and after-school programs, in summer programs, and through many other partnerships.

Photos courtesy of Robbie Curlee and Kenny Hooker can be found on the Surry Arts Council website

Dobson residents and businesses recently got a chance to meet their new town manager, during a meet-and-greet Friday, but it was far from the first day on the job for Jeff Sedlacek.

The town’s board of commissioners hired Sedlacek in December, and he officially started his new post on Jan. 3, at the start of the new year.

Sedlacek, who grew up in King, was familiar with Dobson before applying for the job. He attended Surry Community College while working on his degree, before transferring to Appalachian State University.

The town manager’s post came open in June, when Laura Neely left the post after being appointed as finance officer for Surry County. The town board appointed town clerk and assistant town manager Misty Marion as interim until the board hired Sedlacek.

Sedlacek had been serving as strategic initiative manager for the Cleveland County government in Shelby since November 2021. Prior to that, Sedlacek was a management analyst for Cleveland County and earlier served as a budget consultant for the town of North Wilkesboro.

“I saw the position through the league of municipalities, I’m originally from King, this was a good opportunity to get a little closer to home.”

Competition for the Dobson opening was fierce.

“We had 60 to 70 applicants,” said Dobson Mayor Ricky K. Draughn. “We had some real good candidates; he was the top. He just had a lot of good ideas, the way he presented himself,” Draughn said of some of the factors that impressed the commissioners. He said the background checks came up spotless, and the folks he had worked with all had good things to say about their experiences working with Sedlacek.

Sedlacek said he has enjoyed his time thus far in the county seat.

“I was fortunate enough to get the position,” he said of the town manager post. “I’m grateful for it, grateful for getting a chance to meet the great people here.” He said he has been spending a good bit of his time over the past two months meeting with the board, learning the goals of the board members, and familiarizing himself with the townsfolk.

Sedlacek said when he started college at SCC, he initially hoped to become an attorney.

“Then I saw the price tag of a law degree, that was shocking.” Not long afterward, he attended a manager’s program, where he was able to meet with and interact with a number of town and city managers, where he began to refocus his career goals.

He said being creative, working with various governmental agencies and partner organizations attracted him to the field.

“You just have a number of services that require you to leverage a number of avenues to serve people. The vastness of government is what attracted me to it.”

In Dobson, he said his main job is to carry out the vision of the board of commissioners. While there are a multitude of areas to focus on, he said there are three primary areas at present — sewer service expansion, the streetscape program, and community development.

“I think our biggest priority right now is our sewer plant upgrades,” Mayor Draughn said. He explained that while the town’s sewer plant does have some room to increase service so the need is not critical, he said implementing upgrades could be a timely process.

He explained the permitting process from state officials could be lengthy, followed by needed engineering studies, then searching for grants and other sources of funding could take two years or more.

“I may be too optimistic with that,” he said of the timeframe.

Sedlacek explained the town’s plant is rated by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to handle up to 350,000 gallons a day, and the town is generally between 60% and 70%, although periods of heavy rainfall can raise that even more.

“We’re not at capacity, but it’s time to start thinking about it (expansion). At 90% you get a formal letter from DEQ, and you have to find a way to increase capacity.”

As usage climbs closer to that limit, he said the opportunity for business and industrial growth could also be limited.

The good news, he said, is that where the discharge is released near Cody Creek, the allowable limit is 850,000 gallons, so there’s plenty of room for growth there, it is just a matter of expanding the sewer plant operations.

“When business looks at a community sewer and water infrastructure is one of the top three things they look at,” he said, adding that power availability and internet service are the other two.

While he and the board will be looking at ways to upgrade the sewer plant, he said there are plenty of short-term tasks to keep him busy and help make the town successful.

“One of the other biggest things is working with closely with various community partners. I’m looking forward to learning the partners…to being part of the community.”

Donors at American Red Cross blood drives scheduled across Surry County during March might come away lighter in one respect, but their wallets or purses will be fatter.

That’s because those who give will receive a $10 Visa prepaid card by email, plus a chance to win a $3,000 Visa prepaid card to help with gas or grocery expenses.

This campaign recognizes the fact that many folks are struggling with inflation, as highlighted by the message from the Red Cross: “Lend an arm; we’ll lend a hand.” At the same time, it addresses an ongoing need for blood and platelet donors by the Red Cross, the nation’s chief blood-collection agency.

Five winners will be chosen for the $3,000 prepaid cards.

Blood drives are coordinated through the Winston-Salem office of the American Red Cross for Surry and neighboring counties, with this schedule released for local collection events in March including dates, times and locations:

• Wednesday from 2 to 6:30 p.m. at Rockford Elementary School, 719 Rockford Road, Dobson;

• Monday at the Surry American Red Cross building, 844 Westlake Drive, Mount Airy, 1:30 to 6 p.m.;

• March 14, Salem Baptist Church, 430 Rockford Road, Dobson, 2:30 to 7 p.m.;

• March 19, Salem Fork Christian Church, 2245 White Dirt Road, Dobson, noon to 4 p.m.;

• March 20, Elkin Rescue Squad building, 940 N. Bridge St., 1:30 to 6 p.m.;

• March 22, Mountain Park Elementary School, 505 Mountain Park Road in the State Road community, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;

• March 22, Fellowship Baptist Church, 1421 Little Mountain Church Road, Ararat, 3 to 7 p.m.;

• March 24, Elkin High School, 334 Elk Spur St., 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.;

• March 25, Blues Grove Baptist Church, 3607 Red Brush Road, Mount Airy, 2 to 6:30 p.m.;

• March 26, Slate Mountain Baptist Church, 3644 E. Pine St., Mount Airy, 1 to 5 p.m.;

• March 27, Pilot Mountain First United Methodist Church, 210 Marion St., noon to 4:30 p.m.;

• March 29, East Surry High School, 801 W. Main St., Pilot Mountain, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Donation appointments can be made by visiting Give Blood or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

This process also can allow one to determine the availability of appointments for drives on the schedule.

Prospective whole blood donors must be in good health, feeling well and at least 16 years old in most states, along with weighing no less than 110 pounds.

An individual can give every 56 days, up to six times a year, according to information from the Red Cross.

Surry Community College Cosmetology and Nail Technician/Manicurist students had the opportunity to serve the special needs population in Feburary by helping them to prepare for the Night to Shine prom sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Cosmetology Program Director Robin Minton arranged the community service opportunity for her students in partnership with Salem Baptist Church in Dobson.

“We are honored to be involved in the Night to Shine prom preparation for a second time,” Minton said. “It’s a privilege to be a part of this night and to help these folks feel special and loved all day long. They get to feel beautiful all day and all evening.”

Minton said not only is this way to give back to community, but it is also a learning experience for her students.

“It’s a good experience for students to know that everyone is not the same and to be able to adapt to different experiences and people.”

Seven special needs individuals filed into the Cosmetology Salon on SCC’s Dobson campus that Friday morning. They were treated to manicures, makeup application, haircuts, and styling by the students. SCC offers a degree and diploma in cosmetology and certificates in natural hair care specialist and nail technician/manicurist.

The Night to Shine prom is a complimentary event for people with special needs hosted by local churches around the world. The event is open to anyone living with disabilities, ages 14 and older.

The mission of the Tim Tebow Foundation is to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need. This mission is being fulfilled every day through 16 initiatives in the fields of orphan care and prevention, special needs, children with profound medical needs, and anti-human trafficking. To learn more about the Tim Tebow Foundation visit

A study conducted by the Surry County Sheriff’s Office and presented last week to the county commissioners found that the local law enforcement agency is paying less than many neighboring agencies, presenting a challenge to the sheriff’s office that may necessitate changes to compensation to keep the county competitive at hiring time.

The sheriff’s office shared results of an examination of base pay for deputies and detention officers comparing those to other local departments. What they found was a starting pay for both sets of officers that was below what is found in neighboring counties, in some instance by quite a margin.

With a stiff labor market and applicants few and far between these pay rates are hurting the Surry County Sheriff’s Office efforts to recruit. Officials who compiled the study wrote the job market “is currently changing with the new generation of applicants, you are seeing it in your own businesses, most of them see dollar signs, instead of the future.”

“Across North Carolina law enforcement agencies have pursued higher starting pay, raising pay of current staff to stabilize the compression issues. And providing public safety with a fair salary for the harsh and dangerous jobs they do on a daily basis,” the study said.

The image of law enforcement has not helped matter either. “Over the last few years, law enforcement across the United Sates has taken a hit. With bad press coming from the news media and increased restrictions against law enforcement, it has become difficult to attract and hire qualified candidate and retain existing staff.”

The sheriff’s office has been in need of staff and will have a greater need as the time nears to open the new jail. As of Feb. 13, the Surry County Sheriff’s Office had six deputy openings and seven openings for detention officers. According to the study, Surry County employees more than 150 in the sheriff’s department.

Also, they said, “of additional concern is within the next five years, approximately 15 employees can retire from SCSO or detention, with five of those set to retire this year.”

Filling those positions was going to be challenging anyway as many discussions with county level department heads has yielded a similar outcome — there are more openings than there are interested parties. As the board recently heard from the county’s interim social services director Wayne Black, finding any applicant is a challenge; finding the right one may seem a faraway dream.

Officials with the local sheriff’s office believes they may be better able to compete with other law enforcement agencies by raising the base starting pay for deputies and detention officers. They presented a comparison to a first-year starting salary for a police officer in Mount Airy which is $47,500 compared to the starting Surry County deputy rate of $36,672.

To that the Surry County Sheriff’s Office comparison noted, “We have two employees who have been sworn deputies since 2004 and 2008, and they are still earning below the starting salary of Mount Airy Police Department.”

The study also pointed out a newer deputy that has been on the force since 2021 will have to work “approximately 20 years and they are will still be making just $47,388,” or less than Mount Airy’s new base rate.

A first-year officer in Pilot Mountain or on Surry Community College’s security force would start at $40,000 and Dobson police start at $37,903 according to the presentation. For an apples-to-apples comparison, the starting rate for Stokes County deputies is $37,929, Yadkin $37,132, Wilkes $40,410, Forsyth $44,511 and only Alleghany came in lower at $36,491 – but the board was told this was being negotiated at this time.

For detention officers it is even more complicated as the larger counties have thrown a wrench in the machine by offering not only higher starting pay, but lofty signing bonuses.

A Surry County detention officer would start at $35,172 but could cross the county line to Forsyth County to start at $44,511 with a $5,000 recruiting bonus paid out over 18 months. Guilford County is offering $40,688 base pay and $5,000 sign-on bonus and Iredell County starts their day shift detention officers at $41,258 and night shift at $45,626 with a $2,500 signing bonus.

The need for detention officers across the state has grown so dramatically that the hiring standards were modified to allow 20-year-olds to apply for detention jobs; 21 was the previous threshold.

Not all officers in other departments are able to take squad cars home as Surry County deputies can, even across county lines as Commissioner Bill Goins clarified. He noted that the benefits package offered by the county, he felt, was more competitive than that being offered by the city of Mount Airy.

A change to the way in which law enforcement agencies can recruit will be taking effect on July 1, 2024. At that time the standard will be that an applicant must be certified in basic law enforcement training (BLET) before being hired as a deputy, detention officer, or telecommunicators certified for roles in the dispatch center.

The board was told that currently agencies such as the Surry County Sheriff’s Office can hire prior to someone being certified and do on-the-job training before taking classes for detention officer, for example. That system has allowed individuals to see the environment, have hands on experience, and know whether this is the type of job is what they are genuinely interested in pursuing.

Surry County is no exception to the general shortage of applicants experienced across much of the nation. As the local sheriff’s office will be recruiting from the same talent pool that will itself have decreased in size due to the BLET policy change, they said competing against other departments with a higher base rate is hindering their ability to recruit.

It “adds an additional strain on the SCSO hire qualified candidates… when we are competing with agencies that have the same benefits or better,” the memo signed by Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt read.

There will need to much more discussion on this issue but Commissioner Larry Johnson and Goins both started batting around new starting pay rates for the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, which would then follow the county’s existing step raise schedule.

Goins gave an estimate of a starting rate at $39,000 for deputies and $37,000 for detention officers; Johnson suggested $40,000 for deputies and did not specify the rate for detention officers.

Raising these base levels is a change that would be hard to revert from, and some at the county level wondered aloud why Mount Airy raised their police base pay so far, so fast. They have done it, so the bar has been set locally nearly as high as Forsyth County has.

The study summarized, “They place their lives on the line for (us) for 18 to 19% below the starting average across North Carolina because they have the passion and drive to do so. They strive to make Surry County the place of safety and security, a place the county citizens would want to live in.”

The Easter Brothers gospel bluegrass group brought fame to Mount Airy through its many performances over the years, and although the brothers have passed on their musical heritage is being kept alive in multiple ways.

This will include an upcoming event billed as The Easter Brothers Hometown Festival to “celebrate the life, songs and legacy” of the popular trio. It has been spearheaded by Grant Welch, an Easter Brothers fan and family friend, along with Mayor Jon Cawley.

The festival is scheduled for April 22, beginning at 4 p.m. at the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mount Airy, featuring a performance by Jeff and Sheri Easter. Jeff is the son of James Easter, the last of the brothers who died in December 2021, after the passing of Edd and Russell in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Jeff and his wife Sheri Easter have a huge following in their own right, Cawley pointed out Monday. But they are expected to perform some of the brothers’ favorites during the festival along with their own material.

The two have captured multiple Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association of the United States and live in Lincolnton, Georgia.

“Jeff and Sheri are keeping it alive,” Welch said of The Easter Brothers’ memory and love for Mount Airy, also crediting Denise Easter, James’ wife, and Teresa Shockley, his daughter, longtime operators of Mayberry’s Music Center downtown along with James.

Sheri Easter’s mother is a member of another acclaimed gospel group, The Lewis Family, hailing from Lincolnton.

“It’s going to be a special night,” Welch said of the upcoming event on April 22, which will be a Saturday. Tickets for it are available from the Andy Griffith Playhouse at a cost of $20, with Cawley mentioning that 100 already have been sold.

“If this goes well,” Welch added regarding the festival, “it’s going to happen every year.” That might include the festival stretching over an entire weekend.

Cawley, who is listed as a “special guest” for the April 22 event and will handle announcing chores then, described this Monday as a way of paying back the three Easter Brothers for all they did on behalf of Mount Airy.

Not only are they thought to have written more than 400 songs which brought fame to this city, the brothers won numerous awards for their music including Traditional Bluegrass Band of the Years honors two times in a row.

Cawley says the Easters never forgot their local roots, always mentioning their hometown of Mount Airy wherever they performed. “And how proud they were of it,” the mayor observed.

“I just want to show our gratitude for what The Easter Brothers have done” in promoting Mount Airy, he said of one motivation for the upcoming festival.

At the same time, both Cawley and Welch hope it will introduce more people to the brand of gospel music the brothers are famous for and become part of local tourism efforts in this respect.

“I am an Elvis Presley fan and I found out he liked The Easter Brothers,” the mayor said of another basis for his admiration of the trio and what it accomplished in the musical world.

Welch said launching The Easter Brothers Hometown Festival is the fulfillment of a longtime dream for him personally, along with other efforts he has been involved with on the group’s behalf including the development of a mural honoring it downtown.

A museum celebrating the brothers also will open this spring.

“The Easter Brothers mean a lot to me,” Welch said.

• Jewelry valued at more than $400 was targeted during a recent theft at Walmart, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

The crime, reported on Feb. 17, involved a known party “defeating” an anti-theft device at the store earlier in the month to steal merchandise including two 10-karat jewelry sets, two pieces of gold-filled crucifix jewelry, three items of 18-karat gold-plated jewelry, a 14-karat yellow-gold piece and a 14-karat medal. The property is valued at $434 altogether.

While a known party is said to have committed the theft, no charges had been filed in the case at last report.

• A break-in and larceny involving a motor vehicle occurred on Feb. 17 in the parking lot of the Roses shopping center on West Independence Boulevard, where a 2014 Chevrolet Equinox owned by Kimberly Marlana Maracic was entered while unlocked.

A Marc Jacobs tote bag, a Chanel bag containing unspecified items, a gray in color Moto G cell phone and a Blu tablet were listed as stolen, with the total value of the property put at $470.

• Multiple vehicles were entered at Golden Corral on the night of Feb. 17, when a blunt object was used to break windows and steal items from inside including a Craftsman four-piece power tool combination valued at $280, an undisclosed sum of money and a black and red pocketbook valued at $30.

A 2014 Chevrolet Malibu owned by Greta Houchins Payne of Stuart, Virginia, was targeted along with a Ford F-150 pickup and a Nissan Sentra, with model years not given. Annie Hughes Collins of Jonesville also is listed as a victim of the incident.

Last week the Surry County Board of Commissioners heard a concern during open forum on the conduct of dogs in the area and specifically whether or not there should be additional rules in place regarding dogs who are off leash and not being handled by their owner.

Betty Fellows told the board she has had more than one close encounter with a large dog in her neighborhood. “Over the past 23 months I have had four aggressive dog incidents in my neighborhood, three in my own yard,” she explained.

“All four times this almost 100 pound dog was at large off the leash and not controlled, and the dog is not controlled by voice commands from the owner,” she said.

These incidents have led her to believe that there needs to be tougher laws or regulations that can help control the behavior of what she terms “aggressive dogs.”

She referred to the state statues on a potentially dangerous dogs which are defined, in part, as one who, “Approached a person when not on the owner’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack.” Fellows said this fits her example perfectly as the dog in question was for most of these incidents in her own yard.

“Our county and our state need stricter and tougher laws to protect all citizens from aggressive uncontrolled dogs, and I advocate from personal experience,” she said before laying out the details of the incidents she has had with this particular canine.

She said like many, she is a dog lover and has had dogs of varying sizes. “I love dogs, I’ve owned dogs and big dogs too, but they were trained, they were controlled, and they obeyed,” she said.

The concern with the neighborhood dog is its size and that it would overpower her own older dog. She asked the board to consider if a child had been at play when one of these incidents had occurred, at least one of which produced a bite to her own dog.

Fellows said she and other residents in the neighborhood like to be out and about on foot, but she knows that some people are not walking that way to avoid the dog. “That dog is controlling our neighborhood, and no dog is paying taxes,” she said.

Her husband Don expressed concern that their attempts at recourse have not yielded much. “I’m concerned that when all I was told is to take pictures and all you’re going to do is get a fine, and what happens next time? You get another fine, maybe more, but is that really a deterrent?”

Don said when people get caught speeding they may go to something like traffic court and then driving school. He wondered if there could be some sort of penalty for dog owners who cannot control their dogs that could end up with obedience training. He made it clear that taking someone’s dog is not his goal.

Betty said, “We as a county have to have stricter law to protect citizens… my neighborhood is held hostage because this dog is not controlled by the owner.”

A local resident with a history of violence will be spending at least 25 years in prison for a murder conviction in Wilkes County earlier this month.

Tyler Blake Daughenbaugh, 24, of 909 Hunter Drive, Mount Airy, who also has lived in the Zephyr community near Elkin, pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge in Wilkes Superior Court on Feb. 13, according to media reports from Wilkesboro.

Daughenbaugh originally had been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of James “Jimmy” Leroy Conley, 53, who was found dead in his yard in the Pleasant Hill community just west of Elkin on June 13, 2021.

The Mount Airy man was arrested two days later by law enforcement personnel from both Wilkes and Surry counties. They took Daughenbaugh into custody without incident while he was on a riding lawn mower in a wooded area near his home, according to media reports.

He is said to have been an acquaintance of Conley’s who shot the Wilkes man because Conley’s name was similar to that of another person who Daughenbaugh thought had molested his daughter and lived in another area.

Daughenbaugh’s sentencing for second-degree murder resulted from a plea agreement in which he also admitted guilt for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon during the incident. He drew an active sentence of 25 to 31 years and was transported from Wilkes County to Central Prison in Raleigh on Feb. 20, according to state penal records.

The Mount Airy Police Department, Carroll County (Virginia) Sheriff’s Office and State Bureau of Investigation assisted Wilkes County authorities in the case.

The June 2021 shooting in eastern Wilkes was not the first violent incident in which Daughenbaugh has been involved, based on previous local reports.

Less than a year before, in July 2020, Daughenbaugh had been charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury, after allegedly shooting Wesley Dale Hall, 27, during an argument at the latter’s home in the Dobson area.

The argument was over personal property, investigators said, with Hall being wounded in the mid-t0-upper torso, deemed non-life-threatening.

Daughbenbaugh was jailed under a $200,000 secured bond in that case.

This occurred four months after Daughenbaugh had been released from prison on Surry County charges of speeding to elude arrest, failure to heed lights/siren and felony possession of a firearm by a convicted felon which had been filed in 2018.

However, there is no conviction record for the Mount Airy man on the assault case involving Hall, which apparently was dismissed or he was found not guilty in court.

Daughenbaugh’s conviction record — among various drug, larceny, weapons and other cases — does include a felony charge of assault, inflicting serious injury issued in July 2016. It stemmed from a domestic dispute in Mount Airy.

United Fund of Surry and Funding for Good will be hosting a leadership education series beginning with “Fundraising for Success: What nonprofits need to know to move from research to results.” The classes will be held on March 1-2. The seminars will be held at the viticulture building at Surry Community College in Dobson.

“On the first day we will focus on how to craft a written fundraising plan and how to implement effective fundraising strategies with your board,” said Melissa Hiatt, executive director of United Fund of Surry. “Day two will focus on grant writing and effective grant research.”

The seminars will help participants understand the kinds of roles that board members can play in development and fundraising, and how to determine if your organization is prepared to apply for grant funding.

Featured speakers for the leadership education series will be Mandy Pearce and Marie Palacios from Funding for Good.

The workshop is free, and lunch will be provided.

Space is limited to 40 people and registration is first come, first served.

To register for the workshop visit

A local teen who was listed in critical but stable condition after being shot early Friday morning is improving.

The victim, whose name was not released by investigators but is said to be a 16-year-old sophomore at Mount Airy High School, has been able to talk since undergoing surgery, according to sources relaying progress reports from his family.

However, he is not able to walk normally as yet although the youth has taken a few steps while recovering from the incident in which he was shot in the stomach by another juvenile believed to be an older cousin.

A prayer vigil was held Sunday night for the local student who was at a location outside the city limits when injured.

The victim was transported to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem after being found by county deputies responding to a call about the shooting around 1:40 a.m. Friday in the 200 block of Woodbridge Drive, Mount Airy. It is located off Pipers Gap Road.

Although the male cousin who allegedly committed the crime initially was thought to be an adult, he actually is also a juvenile, according to the Surry County Sheriff’s Office. Names of both individuals therefore have not been released.

A juvenile petition was issued on the alleged perpetrator for assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill, inflicting serious injury. He was taken into custody on the day of the shooting, according to Maj. Scott Hudson, who was unsure Monday if the youth was still being held.

While the Surry Sheriff’s Office has not released circumstances behind the shooting, sources say it was part of an ongoing dispute between the two individuals which also had involved a fistfight between them recently.

That led up to the altercation early Friday, according to sources.

The teen wounded is described as well liked by his classmates and industrious, including holding down an after-school job.

At last report the shooting was listed as an active investigation by the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, which has received assistance from the State Bureau of Investigation.

Gentry Middle School recently named Heather Grant, who teaches eighth grade social studies, as the 2023 Teacher of the Year.

She has worked at Gentry Middle School for the past ten years and has also taught at Chestnut Grove Middle School. She majored in History and secondary education in college and has enjoyed teaching for the past 17 years. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who brings history to life for her students on a daily basis with hands-on, engaging lessons.

Modern offices are a far cry from the days of bulky roll-top desks, uncomfortable wooden chairs, pot-belly stoves and other meager furnishings of drab, dark environments that would make Ebeneezer Scrooge proud.

At Interworks in Mount Airy, the local area’s first-ever co-working space, it’s a totally different story.

The sparkling new facility certainly contains elements of today’s maximum-efficiency offices such as high-speed Internet and other cutting-edge communications technology, and comfy ergonomic-friendly furniture for offices, which at Interworks might be a cube, private room or entire suite.

Safe to say the decor there is a departure from the old-style arrangements lacking imagination and creativity.

Then there are extra amenities to be found at Interworks which are perhaps uncommon, but make the work setting as pleasant as possible while also promoting functionality: a lounge with a big-screen television set; kitchen facilities including refrigerators, microwave ovens, a coffee bar rivalling Starbucks and an ice machine. Countertops, tables and chairs are available for dining.

Executive suites upstairs are even equipped with a fully stocked liquor bar and private restrooms.

Interworks has large and small conference rooms, projection screens for PowerPoint and other presentations, whiteboards, state-of-the-art printing capabilities, access to books and relevant newspapers including The Wall Street Journal.

In a word — what it offers to business professionals of all types is flexibility with a capital “F.”

“That’s the name of the game when it comes to this,” Interworks founder Michael Brannock said of the key concept embodied by the facility launched in Mount Airy earlier this month.

“This is the first co-working space in Surry County,” Brannock explained while giving a tour of its spacious, cozy confines at 190 Virginia St. which represent an investment of just over $2 million.

“Really, the closest one is in Winston-Salem,” added Brannock, who says there is nothing similar in what he calls the “Rural Triad” region.

From the outside, Interworks resembles other two-story buildings downtown, which obscures the presence of the luxurious surroundings to be found inside the 14,000-square-foot structure.

The Interworks design didn’t overlook atmospheric qualities that can be important for one’s mental state — and productivity.

“We wanted light — we wanted color,” Brannock said of the open, airy ambience that resulted.

Even the artwork planned for Interworks’ large lounge/office area has a purpose other than decorative. Brannock says all the paintings and similar features to eventually grace its walls will be made of soundproof materials to lessen the echo in the room.

If someone needs to take a private call while in the lounge section during the middle of a meeting, they can go to one of four enclosed phone booths there.

To provide further inspiration, walls are adorned with famous quotes from titans of business such as Henry Ford and Mark Cuban which Brannock hand-picked.

It seems that everything a person can face during the work day has been accommodated at Interworks.

While new to Surry County, co-working spaces have caught on in other areas.

Co-working is a communal-type arrangement not employed in traditional office settings, which involves personnel of different companies or businesses sharing space. This allows cost savings and convenience via the use of common infrastructure such as equipment, along with cleaning and other services.

Brannock says someone needing a small office, for example, can rent one at Interworks and avoid the Internet and utility hookup hassles that normally would be required along with having to manage and maintain a building.

As a longtime executive of the Workforce Unlimited staffing firm, he saw a need for co-working space in Mount Airy.

“I absolutely think this is an asset to the community when it comes to economic development,” the local businessman said, “to help Mount Airy move forward.”

Brannock also referred to local “Vision” studies in 2021 during which citizen committees identified various goals for economic development and other segments:

“One of the big things that came out of that was a need for co-working space.”

Brannock consulted with Todd Tucker on the Interworks project, before Tucker resigned as president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, who fully supported the effort along with city officials.

Those taking space at Interworks on an ongoing basis so far — known as “members” — include six different companies or individuals, according to Marie Talbert, its business manager.

Among them are Mountcastle Insurance; a furniture business; a flooring contractor; and a person working in a bookkeeping capacity at Thirsty Souls Community Brewing nearby who has a separate space at Interworks where he can ply his craft without interruptions.

“There are lot of individual professionals who would love office space,” Brannock said of those Interworks caters to, along with businesses. The trend of more residences downtown also falls in line with the desire of some living there to have offices nearby.

Businesses using the Interworks facility can put their logos on office windows, with name plates placed on cube spaces.

In addition to the other benefits of co-working spaces are the camaraderie and collaboration that develops among the varied occupants. “We feel like it’s a community within a community,” Brannock said, a contrast to the loneliness persons working out of their homes sometimes experience.

At the same time, Interworks’ scheduling flexibility offers a place for such individuals to escape the kids and dogs for a while — “just a place to come,” Brannock said of what amounts to a simple change of scenery. Day passes can be had at the site for $30.

Members have 24/7 keyless access in a security-oriented environment, along with mail-handling services through the providing of a professional business address.

Interworks also has a manned reception area where visitors are greeted.

Event space part of mix

The idea of developing the Interworks facility coincided with Workforce Unlimited’s move from an office complex on Caudle Drive to a building formerly housing a family insurance business, which was owned by David Pruett until bought by the staffing firm.

Workforce Unlimited, which fronts West Independence Boulevard, is in the same building as Interworks located to its rear on Virginia Street.

“It’s meant for them to be a part of this,” Brannock said of the Workforce family, “but it’s also meant to be kept separate to avoid confusion.”

Renovations got under way at the beginning of 2022 for the Interworks facility. “It took the better part of the year, but I think it was worth it,” Brannock said.

Along with office space, Interworks offers a venue for special meetings or events which can accommodate about 75 people.

“You can rent meeting space by the hour,” Brannock said, which includes the option of food being provided by downtown restaurants.

Offices are available on a month-to-month basis or long term (one year), with additional details on membership options listed on the website.

Instead of a bridge to nowhere, a sidewalk to somewhere is being constructed along West Pine Street in Mount Airy to aid pedestrian access to areas including the Emily Taylor Greenway.

The work is occurring near a bridge over Lovills Creek in a busy section of town near the Lowes Foods shopping center and Creekside Cinemas.

“This project will help provide a safer route for residents to walk to shop, work and/or access the Granite City Greenway,” Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Director Peter Raymer explained Thursday.

City Public Works Department employees in the Street Division are constructing the concrete sidewalk that will lead from the shoulder on the south side of West Pine Street directly to the Emily B. Taylor section of the greenway. When complete, it will operate much like an on-ramp or exit ramp of a highway.

Members of a crew working there Thursday said they were about halfway finished with the new walkway.

Raymer mentioned that Public Works Director Mitch Williams is overseeing the project, which was recommended in the Comprehensive Pedestrian Plan for Mount Airy dating to 2013.

That plan notes that in addition to being a vital link into and out of Mount Airy, West Pine Street (N.C. 89) “has a critical interface with the Emily B. Taylor Greenway,” and also New Market Commons, the shopping center including Lowes Foods and other businesses.

“Currently there is no connection to the greenway nor are there sidewalks along the bridge crossing,” the 10-year-old plan further states.

Aside from that specific site, the study cites problems from overall fragmentation, or gaps, among walkways around town and a need to provide more access for pedestrians.

Before beginning the present task to supply the direct link to the greenway, municipal workers constructed another span of connecting sidewalk along West Pine Street on the western side of the Lovills Creek bridge.

The project at hand recognizes the fact that rather than fitness purposes, some people use the greenway to better access business or other locations along its route, as opposed to walking and cycling on busy roadways and risking injury or death.

“We are excited that this project is taking place in an effort to make our community more connected and walkable,” Raymer added.

Along with meeting an immediate need, a big-picture consideration is involved, evidenced by a 5-0 vote by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners on Jan. 5 in favor of a resolution of support for the long-range connection of greenways across Surry County.

This eventually could lead to all municipalities, recreational areas and surrounding trail systems in the county being linked via paved trails and sidewalks, officials have said.

• Alleged reckless driving by a motorcyclist on a city street has led to him being jailed on multiple charges including speeding in a school zone, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

Driving violations on the afternoon of Feb. 15 involving Donovan Luke Kendrick, 23, of Toms Creek Church Road, Pilot Mountain, occurred on Rockford Street toward Hamburg Street, where Mount Airy Middle School is located.

Kendrick, operating a 2017 Suzuki, subsequently was arrested on Quaker Road at Westfield Road and charged with reckless driving to endanger and driving while license revoked in addition to speeding in a school zone. He was held in the Surry County Jail under a $4,000 secured bond and slated for a March 22 appearance in District Court.

• Police learned Monday of a break-in and larceny involving a motor vehicle which had occurred on Feb. 17 in a parking lot at the home of Abbie Larae Wagoner on Jasper Pointe Circle.

Wagoner’s 2016 Nissan Rogue was unsecured at the time, enabling the theft of an Aldo black and brown snakeskin purse, a cowhide print wallet and an apartment key. The property taken is valued at $145 altogether.

• A break-in occurred Sunday night at the residence of Gary Warren Chilton on Mitchell Street, where the front door was kicked multiple times by an unknown suspect.

Nothing was listed as stolen or damaged during the incident.

• Merchandise with a total value of $670 was stolen from Ollie’s Bargain Outlet on North Renfro Street as the result of a break-in discovered on Feb. 16.

A window of the business was broken to gain entry, leading to the theft of three portable air conditioners, two vacuum cleaners and a pair of portable heaters.

Shoals Elementary recently announce its January Leaders of the Month.

The character attribute for January was “Respectful.”

“The students chosen this month show what it means to be respectful as they go throughout their day,” school officials said. “They show respect to their teachers, classmates and others they interact with daily. We are so proud of our Mountaineers for making a difference in the world.”

ARARAT, Va. — There is always room for more love in the world, including in Ararat where that word is now prominently displayed in a highly decorative way on the front of Willis Gap Community Center.

This did not occur through a desire to promote romance or this month’s celebration of Valentine’s Day, but this week’s official unveiling of the newest sign in Virginia’s LOVEworks program.

It is a statewide branding initiative designed to promote historic life experiences across the Commonwealth and strengthen awareness of the longtime “Virginia is for Lovers” message.

The new LOVE sign at Willis Gap Community Center which was welcomed during a special unveiling program Wednesday afternoon recognizes the center’s presence as a key stop along The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. The Crooked Road is a 330-mile driving trail through the mountains of Southwest Virginia which connects nine major venues and more than 60 affiliated locations and festivals that visitors can enjoy each day of the year.

That includes the Willis Gap Community Center Open Jam, a weekly series ongoing since the 1990s which showcases multiple musical genres including Appalachian heritage old-time, bluegrass, country and gospel. Musicians and singers of all skill levels are welcome at the Friday night performances that have become popular with fans.

Wednesday’s unveiling event celebrating travel and tourism in Ararat included officials representing the community center, Patrick County Tourism Department and others, according to information from Mary Dellenback Hill, secretary of the Willis Gap Community Center Board of Directors.

Hill has been a member of Willis Gap Community Center for more that 20 years and also is involved in local tourism efforts to promote the Ararat area.

She lent her artistic talents to the center by designing the new LOVE sign that incorporates a musical theme featuring imagery of instruments.

A depiction of an upright bass forms the letter “L,” The Crooked Road logo the “O,” a leaned-over mandolin and fiddle the “V,” with a musical note resembling an “E” completing the word LOVE.

After all board members at the center approved Hill’s design, she sent the concept to David Stanley of SilverLivingDesign, who created a computer image for it that allowed the finished product to be made at another business called SignSpot.

Wednesday afternoon’s program included remarks by Patrick County Tourism Director James Houchins, who also read a statement in honor of the occasion from Carrie Beck, the executive director of Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, Hill related.

“The Crooked Road is excited for this unique LOVE sign in Patrick County,” it reads. “The passion of Willis Gap Community Center’s Open Jam leaders and participants is evident in their love for heritage music.”

Beck added that “there is a long history of pickers and legends that have been in this building, so this sign is an amazing way to showcase their pride in this event. The Crooked Road is thrilled to have partners in the region that make heritage music every week with such dedication and thinks that the LOVE sign is a true beacon for Ararat and the Dan River District of Patrick County.”

Otto and Nellie Hiatt began the open jams in their home, according to Hill, which became so large that the sessions had to be moved to Willis Gap Community Center at 144 The Hollow Road.

Attorney General Josh Stein has sent a memo to all 100 North Carolina counties with “a request for you to take action to secure additional opioid settlement funds for your county.” The nation has been in the grips of the opioid epidemic for many years and with settlements agreements being reached between states and drug manufacturers, promoters, and distributors some tangible penalty has been assigned to parties that promoted the opioids for mass consumption that led to the current crisis.

Stein helped lead recent negotiations for $21 billion in new national settlement agreements with Walmart, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Allergan Finance, LLC, Allergan Limited, CVS Health Corporation, CVS Pharmacy, Inc., and Walgreen Co., as well as their subsidiaries, affiliates, and officers which is being called the Wave Two Settlements.

The Wave Two Settlements will bring the state more than $600 million in addition funds atop that $750 that already received as part of Wave One Settlements with Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisoureBergen as well as the drug maker Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals which Stein was also among the lead negotiators.

Assuming the defendants sign off on the final settlement, not a foregone conclusion hence Stein’s memo, Surry County will get an additional $7,274,337 from the latest round of settlements. These funds will be in addition to the money the county has already begun to receive from the Wave One Settlements totaling $9,087,494.

Of the 114 counties and municipalities listed to receive funds in Wave Two, Surry County will get the fourteenth largest payout, versus the county’s rank of 37 out of 100 counties in population.

“In travelling across North Carolina in recent months I have learned firsthand about the many innovative programs to address the opioid crisis hat counties and municipalities are funding with money from the Wave One Settlement. These settlement funds have the potential to bring significantly greater resources to your county to address the opioid epidemic,” Stein wrote.

“I am excited about the many new or expanded programs that can be funded with the additional resources from Wave Two.”

In all there will be five new settlements coming according to Surry County Attorney Ed Woltz, who advised the county commissioners that each would need to be acted upon separately. He and County Manager Chris Knopf were given authority to sign and submit upon receipt these settlement offers without further action from the board.

“The defendants will agree to finalize the Wave Two Settlements only if the vast majority of local governments across the nation sign onto them,” the memo read.

“We are hoping to achieve the same unanimous approval of Wave 2 Settlements,” Stein said. “I’m proud that the strong partnerships between the state and local governments in North Carolina produced 100% local government participation in Wave One. This enabled the state and the participating local governments to receive 100% of our collective share of the national settlement funds.’

Assuming the same level of participation as was found in Wave One, which Stein’s office is expecting, these funds could reach the county in the latter half of 2023.

– The Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery was approved to enter one-year contracts for media services with WIFM radio and in print to implement a sustained 12-month county wide communications campaign. The goal is to educate on topics involving substance use and mental health. The request said that the campaign is an essential element in the implementation of the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Prevention Plan that is ongoing through 2024.

The commissioners approved $4,500 for radio ads on WIFM, and $12,647.25 for print advertising,

The Prevention Plan seeks to build community awareness through education and developing community readiness and to reduce the availability of illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and vapes for the under-aged. The local office seeks to strengthen anti-drug use attitudes through sharing information and engaging with youth to enhance their life skills and drug refusal techniques.

By doing so the county’s goal is to reduce risk and improve protection in families by setting rules and opening lines of communication. Their theory is that communication will help kid’s feel more connected and strengthen social bonding that took a hit during the isolation of the pandemic.

Based on the feedback provided by the organization’s Communities Needs Assessment, this campaign will focus on suicide prevention, fentanyl education and prevention, targeted youth vaping prevention, and further promotion of Red Ribbon Week.

Also, Mark Willis, director of substance abuse recovery, gained board approved in a separate action to reallocate a $100,000 surplus from the Partners Recovery Grant to New Hope New Beginnings, a non-profit in Mount Airy that is seeking to open a transitional home for men on Rawley Avenue.

These were state Department of Health and Human Services funds allocated to Partners Health Management on a one time basis to address the needs of county residents who are struggling with disease. The Office of Substance Abuse Recovery gave Partners a list of priorities in 2021 which they received assistance on including funding the intervention team and establishing the re-integration program which helps those completing their time in jail with housing, treatment, and employment.

– Commissioner Larry Johnson is going to let greenbacks do the talking for him. He has offered to sweeten the pot and personally increase the stipend per bag of litter collected through the county’s litter program by $1 per bag.

That makes one bag of trash collected worth $8 – beating the federal minimum hourly wage. If a 501c3 group would like to participate as a fundraiser that county welcomes that but given the lack of participants, this program has been extended to contractors so there is an opportunity here for an industrious group or individuals to clean up both literally and figuratively.

As genial as he is known to be, don’t show up with a bag of litter at Johnson’s home. Contact the Development Services Department at 336-401-8357 for more information.

DOBSON — A local teen was shot early Friday, apparently resulting from an ongoing dispute with an older cousin who also is a juvenile.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that the victim is a student in Mount Airy City Schools, who was wounded in the stomach during an altercation with that relative and taken to a hospital in Winston-Salem.

“The juvenile victim was transported to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and his condition is listed as critical but stable,” said a statement issued by the Surry County Sheriff’s Office late Friday afternoon.

It received a call about 1:40 a.m. Friday in reference to a shooting near the 200 block of Woodbridge Drive, Mount Airy, located off Pipers Gap Road.

Deputies arriving on the scene found the male juvenile victim with an apparent gunshot wound.

Those officers requested the assistance of the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Detectives and agents arrived on the scene to further the investigation of the shooting.

While that investigation was still ongoing late Friday afternoon, a juvenile petition has been issued on the other juvenile male involved for assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill, inflicting serious injury.

The names of both the victim and alleged perpetrator were not released because of their ages.

“This incident is still an active investigation,” the statement released Friday afternoon added. “If any updates come available, the Sheriff’s Office will release the information at a later time.”

Sheriff Steve Hiatt expressed thanks to the State Bureau of Investigation and Surry County Emergency Medical Service for their assistance in the incident.

There were indications from multiple sources that the juvenile who was shot recently had been in a fight with the cousin.

That dispute is said to have led to another altercation overnight Thursday when the youth was wounded.

The time has come for county leaders to begin preliminary planning ahead of crafting the budget for the next fiscal year, which begans on July 1. Before sessions to hash out specifics the commissioners first hold a budget planning retreat, which was held this week at the Yadkin Valley Heritage & Trails Visitor Center in Elkin.

“It’s always interesting, it’s always challenging,” Vice Chair Van Tucker said of the budget process at the onset. At these sessions the board is able to discusses the previous budget along with incoming revenue, hear from department heads and local leaders on what their needs for the upcoming budget may be.

There can be a lot of change between the first meeting proposals to the finalized departmental budgets so these preliminary discussions will help the board members as they prepare to hold more extensive budget hearings in the coming months with individual departments where the nitty gritty details are hashed out.

Before budget talks can begin in earnest the commissioners needed to get a grasp on the county’s prior budget and balance sheet, so Penny Harrison of the tax department presented tax collection data.

Commissioner Larry Johnson has previously taken, and took again, a moment to thank the taxpayers as he marveled at the consistent rate of tax collection the county achieves. Having that consistency in both the property tax rate and the rate of collection will help make better forecasts.

The county budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023, which ends on June 30, is $93,597,569 in expenditures versus revenues at $82,665,933. The county’s total year-end fund balance at the end of the most recent fiscal year rose $34 million to more than $91 million, but most of that figure is earmarked for specific projects. The unassigned balance available to be used also rose $3.5 million to $17.8 million. This is one of the measures of greatest financial health for the county according to analysts.

Assigned funds were set aside for additional capital projects to the tune of $16 million and future education spending at over $9 million. Johnson asked for a breakdown of these funds to see where they came from and what they future projects they are set aside for.

Categories of greatest spending for the county were 29.75% of the budget on education, 14% on law enforcement, 11.6% on department of social services, 9.4% on public health, and 8.8% on emergency services.

The budget has line items of projects that have expired with their balances not being fully spent or projects that come in under budget and the board was told that prior to the retirement of Rhonda Nixon that she had been going through to close out accounts and clean up the books. Neely, who took over for Nixon, gave one example of a $900,000 balance being unused that this type of maintenance turned up.

She went on to explain some ideas she had to lower the county’s debt responsibilities by paying off projects early using this surplus funds. The board was anxious to hear more about her proposal to pay off the $2.5 million Flat Rock/Bannertown water and sewer project and turn operation of that over to the City of Mount Airy.

The project has a balance remaining of $2.1 million and the last payment the county made of $136,846 paid a whopping $89,845 in interest and fees. Neely said the interest rate on that loan is high and with the payoff amount she was quoted it could save the county $1.2 million over the remaining course of the loan.

Some members were ready to vote on this action that would save the county money, and lower water bills for those customer which Neely said were high in this area.

Commissioner Mark Marion said it would be one less headache to deal with and Johnson concurred saying, “We don’t need to fool around with it and administer it; it’s not worth it.”

There was no motion made nor vote taken, so this remains a theory from Neely that the board found appealing but would like more information.

Conversely, the board took a rare piece of action in the form of a vote on a vehicle purchase request form Chief Deputy Larry Lowe of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office. He told the board that sheriff’s office was approved in this budget year for nine squad cards and had received three of them, leaving six outstanding.

Lowe explained that through some miraculous turn of events, seven pursuit rated squad cars were found sitting on a lot in the Midwest and the county’s purchasing agent Miranda Jones made inquiry to check availability. With long delays in securing pursuit rated law enforcement vehicles, the department was eager to gain approval to use existing funds to purchase six of the seven cars using only money the office already has.

The board approved that idea and County Finance Officer Laura Neely said Thursday that the calls to the dealer were fruitful; the squad cars are available. “The dealer has confirmed that they are still available, and we are supposed to get the paperwork Friday to sign.”

North Carolina has the largest Senior Games in the nation.

At least, that’s the message from Bradley Key, the coordinator of programs, special events, and volunteerism for Surry County Parks and Recreation when he was speaking during Monday’s meeting of the county commissioners at which local competitors were honored.

“Thanks for highlighting one of the positive things going on in our community,” Key said. “We were very well represented at the state level.”

The participation was robust, he said, and out of 140 participants that competed at the local level with Yadkin Valley Senior Games in the spring there were 27 participants went on to seek greater glory at state finals in the fall.

Yakin Valley Senior Games and Silver Arts is one of the 53 sanctioned programs making up the North Carolina Senior Games Inc. which encourages and challenges all senior adults aged 50 or better to stay healthy and active.

North Carolina Senior Games is sponsored state-wide by the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services.

Since its establishment in 1983, the senior games have become the largest Senior Olympic program in the nation, serving more than 60,000 participants across the state each year.

Key said the Yadkin Valley Senior Games and Silver Arts offer 25 different sporting events. For those seeking enrichment along with their friendly competition there are 30 cultural, literary, heritage and performing arts events each year as well.

“We set the bar for California for New York, for states that are bigger and have more seniors than us. They look to us to set the bar for senior programs that provide and encourage a healthy lifestyle year round,” Key said with pride.

It takes help to achieve the level of success the Yadkin Valley and North Carolina Senior Games have achieved, he said. “Without folks like Jackie Lewis, Bob Keck, and Randy Moore – these guys make this program work.”

“They are participants and certified ambassadors and without folks like these guys spreading the good news about senior games to our community, we wouldn’t be as strong and healthy as we are.”

Registration for the 2023 Yadkin Valley Senior Games and Silver Arts will run from March 1 – Mach 31 with events taking place in May and June.

There are many ways to register he said including at local fitness or senior centers, on the Surry County website under parks and recreation, on Facebook at Surry County Parks and Recreation, on or by calling 336-401-8235.

John Brame: Silver Tennis Mixed Doubles

Pattie Brame: Silver Tennis Mixed Doubles

Linda Edwards: Gold Line Dancing – Small Group

Jon Foresman: Silver Pickleball Doubles

Elizabeth Freas: Bronze 50-yard Freestyle, Silver 100-yard Freestyle

Hobert Freeman: Bronze 400-meter Dash

Bonnie Hensel: Silver Pickleball Doubles

Susan Howlett: Gold Pickleball Doubles

Robert Keck: Bronze 50-meter Dash, Bronze Pickleball Doubles, Gold Tennis Doubles

Winston Kobe: Gold Pickleball Doubles

Jackie Lewis: Silver Basketball Shooting, Bronze Football Throw, Silver Croquet, Bronze Pickleball Doubles, Bronze Pickleball Mixed Doubles, Gold Tennis Doubles

Traci McGuire: Gold Line Dancing – Small Group

Daniel Merritt: Silver 10k Run

Randy Moore: Bronze Football Throw, Silver Softball Throw, Silver Billiards, Bronze Bocce, Bronze Horseshoes, Gold Mini Golf

Mary Jane Russell: Gold Line Dancing – Small Group

Sherry Smith: Gold Line Dancing – Small Group

Kathy Taylor: Gold Pickleball Mixed Doubles

Mitchell Taylor: Gold Pickleball Mixed Doubles

Phyllis Wagoner: Silver Pickleball Doubles

Derek White: Silver Pickleball Singles, Silver Pickleball Doubles

Judy Absher, Michelle Brown, Gary Stevens, and Linda Tilley were also among the contingent representing Yadkin Valley Senior Games.

When photographer Will Warasila drove from Durham to Walnut Cove in early November 2018, he thought he was just going to observe a healing service for people who had possibly been harmed by coal ash pollution from Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Steam Station. He had no idea that just four short years later in November 2022, he would be in Paris, France, at the largest photo book expo in the world—debuting his photo book with pictures of the people he had met in Walnut Cove.

Now Warasila is bringing his creation, published by Gnomic Book, to Walnut for a book release event at the Walnut Cove Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. There will be light refreshments and copies of his book for sale—half-price for local residents.

Although Warasila admits he is not particularly religious, he also acknowledges that he was moved by that 2018 outdoor church service under the big tent at The Well. He was particularly struck by one statement from the event’s organizer, Pastor Leslie Bray Brewer: “Bitterness will kill you quicker than coal ash.” Although he was initially puzzled by that statement, he ended up choosing it for the title of his photo book.

Brewer often chuckles when she thinks about that line she spontaneously uttered at the healing service. “I am a former high school English teacher,” she explains, “so after I said it, I worried that I should’ve instead phrased it as ‘Bitterness will kill you more quickly than coal ash.’ But I was later relieved that grammar experts online agree that, although what I said was more informal, either usage is now acceptable.”

Then she shrugs with a smile, “Besides, that’s how we say it out here.”

When Warasila heard Brewer speak that line, he was admittedly torn, having a hard time understanding how she could expect people to forgive a corporation whose byproduct possibly poisoned them. However, he came to understand that hatred and bitterness can be a threat to health as well and that it was possible to lovingly forgive yet still firmly require Duke Energy to do the right thing and clean up the coal ash mess.

Walnut Cove became a regular stop on Warasila’s travels. He worked with Caroline Rutledge Armijo, founder/director of the local nonprofit The Lilies Project to gather photos and interviews from those who had lived near the coal-powered steam station. These were submitted to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality as part of a grassroots demand that Duke Energy transfer the coal ash, which had long been in unlined ponds, to a safer place.

DEQ agreed and ordered the mega-company to do just that. Many of Warasila’s photographs which were part of that fight are featured in his new 100-page hardcover book and can be seen in Walnut Cove on Saturday.

Warasila, a North Carolina native, received his BFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2015 and most recently, his MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University in 2020. He has taught photography courses at Duke and also UNC-Chapel Hill. His photos have been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine, The New Yorker, the New York Times, Southern Cultures Magazine and many other publications. One of his photos made the cover of TIME magazine in late September 2022.

“I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a mover and shaker in the international photography world,” Brewer says. “Will’s passion for environmental issues and his skill with the camera will take him far. I will always believe that his coming to Walnut Cove was a divine appointment.”

Saving someone’s life in an emergency, when every second counts, can be a challenging and intense experience — but 11 members of the Mount Airy Fire Department have done just that.

Lt. Jake Henley, firefighter Isaac Crotts, Lt. Brad Harrell, Lt. Dusty Smith, Capt. Trey Leonard, Lt. Justin Mayes, firefighter Dustin Swaim, Capt Scottie Wolfe and Capt. Danny Vipperman were recognized for lifesaving actions by the city council during a special ceremony at a meeting last Thursday night.

Two other department members also are on the list who did not attend, Steve Everett and Dalton Simmons.

Each person involved is credited with saving one life during 2022 and was issued a certificate.

The lifesaving award presentation is an annual observance recognizing the contributions firefighters make in addition to battling blazes, a gesture that never gets old, city officials say.

This has had special significance since 2010, when municipal fire personnel took on the extra role as first-responders to a wide range of emergency medical situations in addition to their normal functions. That was a major expansion of a service previously launched in 1997 which was limited to cardiac calls.

Those expanded responses might include a heart attack case, drug overdose, stroke, diabetes-related issue, cutting/stabbing, shooting, drowning/diving accident or cases of unresponsive persons.

“The opportunity to save a life doesn’t come on every call,” Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said when the lifesaving honors were bestowed by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

But department personnel have proven they are up to that task as needed, which involves providing effective pre-hospital care to victims in various emergencies.

Administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), removing an obstruction from an airway or controlling bleeding in a trauma situation were examples of that mentioned by Justin Jarrell, basic life support/public relations coordinator, who spoke during the recognition program.

With an average response time of less than three minutes at last report, city firefighters often reach a scene and render initial care ahead of EMS paramedics who provide advanced treatment that stabilizes patients until they reach a hospital.

Being credited with a medical save is a strictly defined process, which assesses the tangible role a firefighter played in prolonging someone’s life, whether it be restoring a pulse or someone’s ability to breathe.

Under program guidelines, multiple fire personnel can play a role in saving a single patient, according to previous reports. One firefighter might be engaged in chest compression and another ventilation, while someone else administers basic drugs the department is allowed to provide.

A county audit committee examines every case carefully to gauge the difference first-response efforts made in the outcome of an emergency to qualify as a save.

“We are very fortunate for the services they provide,” Commissioner Chad Hutchens said of the city firefighters.

“Departmental saves are up to 110 since the inception of the medical program in 1997,” Poindexter noted Wednesday in reference to the human equation behind the statistics.

“After the 2010 move to go ‘full medical response,’ our save numbers per year started going up significantly due to the fact we were afforded the opportunity to answer more medical calls,” the city fire chief added.

“The more calls we answered, the more chances we had to perform lifesaving measures — we projected that and it did in fact come true.”

• The Tractor Supply store on Rockford Street was the scene of a crime discovered Monday which involved the larceny of property valued at $2,600, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

A locking cable was cut overnight Sunday, enabling the theft of Coleman products including a go-kart with a black frame and red seat; a gas-powered 100cc mini bike, black in color; and a green and black gas-powered mini bike. The damage to the cable was put at $50.

• Sage Andrew White, 32, of Madison, was jailed under a $91,500 secured bond on a felony drug charge and warrants for arrest for 16 other felonies, including larceny of a motor vehicle, on Feb. 13.

White was encountered by officers during a traffic stop on Hamburg Street, leading to a consent search of the 2010 Ford Focus he was operating. This led to him being charged with possession of methamphetamine, a felony; possession of marijuana; possession of drug paraphernalia; and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

A routine records check also revealed multiple outstanding warrants for the Madison man on felony charges issued through the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, which in addition to larceny of a motor vehicle include possession of stolen goods, financial card theft, 12 counts of obtaining property by false pretense and breaking or entering of a motor vehicle.

Those warrants had been issued in March 2022, with the exception of the one for vehicle theft which had been filed in October 2021. White is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court next Monday.

• A break-in occurred Sunday at the residence of Gene Rees on Marion Street, where an unknown suspect kicked in a front door to gain entry.

Nothing was listed as stolen, but damage to the door was put at $250.

• Damage to municipal property was discovered Sunday at a restroom facility on West Independence Boulevard adjacent to the Emily B. Taylor Greenway, where graffiti was written on walls, police records state. No damage figure was noted.

Whether it involves good old-fashioned neighborliness or a matter of supply and demand, a long-awaited flow of water from Mount Airy to Pilot Mountain has begun.

A line-extension project in the works since 2018 — when the city agreed to sell part of its excess supply of H2O to the nearby town — finally reached fruition in recent days.

“It’s all working wonderfully and everything’s good to go now,” City Manager Stan Farmer said Tuesday regarding the water to Pilot Mountain being turned on last Friday.

This coincided with Pilot shutting down its own water plant and beginning to rely exclusively on the supply from Mount Airy, a changeover accompanied by few glitches.

“Well, we’ve not had many issues at all,” Pilot Mountain Mayor Evan Cockerham said Tuesday. “It’s really been a smooth transition.”

Plans for the $4.5 million construction contract which was involved called for extending a 12-inch water line from the end of the city service area in the Holly Springs Road section to Pilot Mountain’s water system near Toms Creek.

In addition to the two municipalities, the Surry County government agreed to help fund the effort to serve the eastern portion of the county.

The deal was motivated by a deteriorating utility infrastructure in Pilot Mountain which was deemed more expensive to repair than connecting to an existing city water line running southeast to Holly Springs. Grant and zero-interest loan funding was tapped for that effort.

“We think it will be a great partnership,” Mount Airy Public Works Director Mitch Williams said Tuesday.

While the water transmission itself is going swimmingly, the project was hampered by a situation in which the receiving of certain parts needed for its completion was delayed. “Typical with all construction now,” Williams said of a condition brought on by the pandemic.

“The supply-chain interruptions last year were big,” Farmer, the city manager, agreed.

William said shipments of items such as valves and pipes were involved.

That situation improved to allow much work to occur on the extension during 2022 and now the water transmission is at full operation.

“So far, so good,” Williams added Tuesday.

Cockerham, the Pilot Mountain mayor, said the few issues encountered with the switchover have been minor in nature, with no line breaks or other developments of that magnitude occurring.

“We didn’t have anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “We had to fine-tune the water pressure” due to Mount Airy’s pressure being higher than Pilot’s, with tank levels also addressed.

There were some reports of cloudiness in the water at first, which were cleared up, according to Cockerham.

The Pilot Mountain mayor credited the public works staffs of both municipalities for getting everything up and running.

Under the agreement between the two, Pilot Mountain is buying no less than 100,000 gallons daily from the city and no more than 2 million, a cap that anticipates future growth in Pilot.

Mount Airy also is selling water to Dobson and Carroll County, Virginia, to serve southern areas of it, as part of an ongoing goal of finding new customers for its surplus supply. It resulted from closings of industrial plants over the years which were large users.

Early on in 2020, Williams reported that the city had a water-production capacity of 8.5 million gallons per day, but only 2.3 million were being used at that time — leaving much leeway for additional taps.

Mount Airy officials recently have courted an unnamed manufacturer in California which would be a major water consumer if it were to expand in the city.

In an era when good news surrounding local industries has been hard to come by, Mount Airy officials are making the most of such a development by Renfro Brands.

“Any expansion is good,” Commissioner Tom Koch said of plans by that company to enlarge an existing operation on Riverside Drive.

Koch was speaking at a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting last Thursday night, when the board gave final approval to an incentive package for the project which it initially had OK’d in November, joining a similar one by county leaders.

Officials have said the project will involve a consolidation of Renfro warehouse/distribution operations locally which also had been considered at two other locations in Alabama and South Carolina where the company has operations.

The ultimate decision to choose Mount Airy not only will create 35 jobs, but preserve 63 already here which would have been lost with a consolidation elsewhere.

“I just think it’s a good sign that the operation they have, they’re expanding it,” Commissioner Koch said of a decision that reflects the company’s confidence in this community.

Commissioner Phil Thacker, a retired director of engineering for Renfro, pointed to the company’s long history in Mount Airy, beginning with its founding here in 1921.

“I think it is an amazing accomplishment and I certainly hope it continues for many more years,” Thacker said of Renfro’s success and contributions. “It’s had the opportunity to make jobs available in this community for a long time.”

The unanimous vote by the Mount Airy commissioners putting the finishing touches on the incentive package was described by City Attorney Hugh Campbell as a bit of legal housecleaning.

“It just kind of finalizes it,” Campbell said, “for reasons of efficiency.”

The incentive package had been fast-tracked in November as both municipal and county officials scrambled to influence Renfro’s decision to expand here amid competition from the other states for the endeavor then dubbed secretly as “Project Cobra.”

“We just front-loaded the incentives — I don’t know that they’ve done that before” Campbell said of the city commissioners.

Last week’s action by them does not change any of the terms involved.

“Everything is exactly the same,” the city attorney said, with the exception of taking “mays” out of the agreement and replacing those with “wills.”

Renfro will receive $36,341 from the city and $36,244 from Surry County in the form of local government incentives. These are performance-based and reflect a company investment in taxable property as part of the package. It plans to invest about $2 million in equipment and infrastructure at the expansion location.

“The incentives are subject to a clawback if the company fails to perform,” Campbell said of provisions that will require it to make financial reimbursements should it, for example, decide to remove machinery or equipment acquired through the agreement.

“That seems unlikely,” the attorney said, given Renfro’s track record here.

Also at the meeting, the city commissioners voted 5-0 to rezone property on Carroll Street from a business to residential classification.

This occurred after no one spoke against that move during a public hearing affecting a .542-acre parcel in the 900 block of Carroll Street which is now vacant.

The zoning change, from a B2-CD classification (General Business with conditions) to R-6 (General Residential), will accommodate the construction of a duplex housing unit, Planning Director Andy Goodall has said.

Samuel and Letonia Moore, the owners of the property in question, who live on Hickory Street, had requested the zoning change.

While the commissioners had questions about the proposal, they ultimately voted unanimously for the rezoning.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News