In case you’ve lost track, the Jefferson Post has compiled a list of recent decisions by the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, so you, the voter, can keep track of the voting body and how their decisions affect you.
Most recently, the commissioners voted 3-2 to appoint Terry Buchanan to the office of sheriff. Commissioners surprised their constituents earlier this month in choosing Buchanan over long-time Deputy Bucky Absher, who was considered a de facto incumbent for many following the sudden retirement of Sheriff James Williams. Commissioners Jeff Rose, Gary Roark and Paula Perry voted in favor of selecting Buchanan. William Sands and Larry Rhodes cast the dissenting votes.
In October, county commissioners voted 5-0 to enact a High Impact Land Use Ordinance, replacing the county’s outdated polluting industries ordinance. The official adoption of the new ordinance followed months of revisions and a few terse moments between the Ashe County Planning Board and county commissioners. The new law ended a lengthy moratorium on these types of industries. This of course was in reaction to news of a planned asphalt plant in Glendale Springs. The future of that plant is still up for debate.
Although his contract was not set to expire until December 2017, Ashe County Manager Sam Yearick received a two-year extension from county commissioners in October. Following closed session, the board voted 3-2 to extend his contract and increase his severance from one to two years in the event a future board decides to terminate his employment.Commissioners Sands and Rhodes voted against the measure. That move came a month before county voters decided who would fill three commission seats, those held by Rhodes, Roark and the departing Brien Richardson.Previously, Yearick maked a little more than $85,000 per year, once the staff’s cost of living increase is included.
This slight bump in salary was included in the county’s recently approved county budget for all county employees .As it stands now, if Yearick were to lose his job, he would receive $170,000 in severance instead of the original $85,000 that was part of his initial terms, said Rhodes.
Additionally, the commissioners voted to oblige Yearick’s request in giving him a monthly car allowance for vehicle to use as his own. As a result, Yearick turned in the county car he previously drove. He will be given $600 per month for a vehicle. This will be added to his salary.
Rhodes said he voted against the extension on principle alone and didn’t see it as a political maneuver by the board’s majority to preserve Yearick’s job should a future – possibly left leaning board – decide to part ways with him.
County managers regularly work at the pleasure of the board of county commissioners. Previous county managers in Ashe County have learned this lesson, too, as both Dan McMillan and Dr. Patricia Mitchell were fired under murky circumstances. McMillan was let go in 2011 and Mitchell, Yearick’s predecessor, in 2013.
In September, commissioners voted 3-2 to extend its ambulance contract with Ashe Medics through 2024. The term of the contract is set to extend through June 30, 2024 with a current county subsidy of $79,235.57 per month ($950,826 annually) shall remain the same through June 30, 2020. Effective July 1, 2020, the payment will increase by 4 percent to $82,404.99 per month through June 30, 2024. The contract also stipulates that the current provision requiring that the director to reside within 25 miles of the base should be eliminated. Commissioner William Sands said that although he’s pleased with the level of service provided by Ashe Medics, he did take issue with the length of the contract, which he said makes it “more binding.” Rhodes also voted against the measure.