Absentee balloting deemed safe in Surry – Mount Airy News

DOBSON — Problems with absentee ballots have been a source of controversy nationwide since the 2020 election, but a local official says the process in Surry County is reliable.
A number of steps are in place — from the requesting of ballots until completed ones are returned and tabulated — to ensure an accurate and honest count of votes using that method, according to Surry Director of Elections Michella Huff.
Huff has announced that the 2022 Absentee Ballot Request Form is available, with both a fillable version and a print-only version accessible on the county Board of Elections website.
Under state law, any North Carolina registered voter may request, receive and vote a mail-in absentee ballot — with no special circumstance or reason needed.
Absentee request forms can be returned only by mail or in person — except for individuals covered under the Uniformed And Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, who may return requests via email and fax, based on information from Huff.
Further provisions
An absentee request form is invalid if returned by someone other than the voter or a person such as near relative or legal guardian.
Only voters who are blind, disabled or illiterate may receive assistance from someone else, with voters required to identify who aided them.
Among other rules, the form must indicate a single election date for which the voter is requesting a ballot.
At last report, North Carolina will hold a much-anticipated primary election on May 17 in the wake of recent court challenges over redistricting boundaries.
Huff reported last Monday that Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto the previous Friday of a N.C. House bill that recommended June 6 as a new primary date was one key development. “So, the primary election is still scheduled for May 17,” she advised then — although this was not set in stone with additional legal activity pending.
“Oral arguments will be heard in the case with claims that district maps are unconstitutional,” the local elections director advised Monday. “There is a possibility the court could still decide to push the primary back further.”
Later in the week, on Friday, the N.C. Supreme Court ordered that the state draw a new congressional map after finding it unfairly favored Republican candidates, but made no mention of the May primary, according to statewide reports.
Meanwhile, the candidates’ filing period for various local, state and federal offices affected by the 2022 election cycle is scheduled to resume on Feb. 24 after being halted in December by the N.C. Supreme Court in response to redistricting lawsuits.
Processing absentee ballots
The deadline for requesting absentee ballots is May 10. The deadline to return completed ones is Election Day, May 17, by 5 p.m.
Once local elections personnel receive a completed absentee by mail request, they link it to the voter’s registration. If that person is not found to be registered to cast a ballot in Surry County, he or she will receive a letter saying there is no record of this accompanied by a voter registration form.
Someone could fill out an absentee ballot request form 20 times and mail it in to Dobson, but will still only receive one absentee by mail ballot.
After someone receives an absentee ballot in the mail, choices are made by filling in bubbles, then the ballot is sealed in an absentee ballot return envelope.
The process also requires signatures by two witnesses, along with printing their names and addresses, or certification by a notary.
If a voter forgets to sign or fails to get the witnesses to print and sign their names and provide their addresses, the ballot cannot be accepted.
Once an absentee ballot is received, a barcode on the return envelope is scanned and linked to the person’s voter registration. The ballot envelope then is placed on an absentee report for approval by the Surry Board of Elections at a meeting that is part of the tabulation procedure.
At that stage, a citizen will be counted as having voting and will not be able to cast a ballot at one-stop early voting sites or his or her Election Day polling place.
Another safeguard involves an administrative rule requiring county boards of election to keep a written log of anyone returning an absentee ballot in person.
Also, an absentee ballot may not be returned at an Election Day polling place.
Huff mentioned another step to ensure the integrity of voting via the absentee route.
“Each absentee voter has a unique identifier barcode for their return application, and the state system will not permit two ballots from the same person to be accepted or counted,” the elections official explained.
“Once one ballot is returned and accepted, the voter’s record reflects that he or she has already voted — therefore, if that voter returned another ballot, it would not count.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.
Chamber hosting Business over Breakfast
February 06, 2022
The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce will host a new morning networking event called Business Over Breakfast, with the first gathering set for Friday, Feb. 18.
The event will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Surry County Service Center, 915 East Atkins Street in Dobson.
Business Over Breakfast will feature tabletop networking where attendees can talk about their businesses and exchange business cards. Attendees will rotate tables and have the opportunity to meet almost everyone in the room. People who may be interested in this event are sales managers, sales professionals, business development staff or any small business owner.
The event will feature a buffet breakfast catered by the Ol’ Farmer Restaurant, in Cana, Virginia. The breakfast is open to all members of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce or any prospective member. Sponsorships for the Business Over Breakfast are available and provide marketing for your company and event tickets.
“Traditional business networking is alive and well in Surry County,” said chamber President and CEO Randy Collins. “Attendees will meet many business prospects in a short amount of time. Bring your business cards and come join us.”
Tickets or sponsorships can be purchased on the chamber website www.mtairyncchamber.org. Questions on the event should be directed to Travis Frye at the chamber via email at travis@mtairyncchamber.org.
February 06, 2022
Signs are up for hiring fairs, help wanted ads are listed in the paper and yet there is a disconnect between the number of people who are out of work and cannot find a job, and jobs laying vacant.
“The vast majority of the businesses we have talked to are looking to hire additional workers,” reported Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
Broadly speaking, the nation is getting back to work. The national jobs report was released Friday, it painted a picture of a rebounding economy after the White House had been giving signals a negative report may be forthcoming.
In a surprise to some analysts, the economy exceeding expectations adding 467,000 new jobs in January, and the unemployment rate hovered at 4%. Employment numbers were revised upward for the months of November and December as well.
December, initially reported as a gain of 199,000 new jobs, went up to 510,000. November surged to 647,000 from the previously under reported 249,000. For those two months, the counts were revised up by 709,000.
North Carolina’s labor market also saw notable gains in December, with employment and job openings growing robustly and labor force participation ticking up slightly. The state’s unemployment rate declined to 3.7%, approaching pre-pandemic levels.
“Based on information shared with us from companies that we have met with and talked to, a lot of them have come back to pre-pandemic employment levels,” offered Tucker. “Many are also attempting to hire additional workers.”
In December, the last available data, the unemployment rate for Surry County was 2.8%, Stokes 2.7%, Yadkin 2.7%, Wilkes 3.0%, and Alleghany 3.2%. These are all below the state unemployment average of 3.7%; and, by comparison Patrick County, Virginia sits at 3% and Carroll County 2.6%
Fewer candidates, more choices
Among the unemployed, the number of job leavers nationally increased to 952,000 in January, following a decrease in the wave of labor seen exiting their jobs in the prior month.
Retail and food service were among the fields with the greatest labor exit. For servers scraping by on tips and a $2.13/hourly base rate, waiting around on reopening allowed for some to go back to school or try a new field of work altogether. When restaurants and bars reopened, the workers did not return in nearly the numbers in which they left.
Fewer workers and more openings mean that the statewide labor market is getting tighter, leading to increased hiring challenges for employers. The declining labor pool has caused a shift upward in pay rates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rising 1% in the final quarter of 2021 alone.
Exiting the labor pool are some parents thrust into being teachers overnight who found their time was better spent remaining at home. A recent focus on greater parental oversight of education and school boards has given credence to those who see the potential benefits of homeschooling. Seeing it as the best was to guide their children’s learning, a new crop of stay-at-home teachers has emerged.
Another trend continuing across the country is the move to telecommuting or working from home. Once the stuff only of fables only a select few could do, working from home is becoming a new normal. Friday’s job data report listed the percentage of Americans who were working from home rose to more than 15%, up from 11% in December.
These transitions have led to vacancies “across all industry sectors, manufacturing, retail, health care and the service industry,” Tucker said of local job openings. “Currently there are over 1,000 jobs available in Surry County according to ncworks.gov.”
Who wants to work?
There are some though giving up on the job search and exiting the labor market by ceasing their job search. There are 1.5 million Americans who wanted and were available for work, who had looked for a job in the prior year, but not the month preceding their survey. Also, the count of discouraged workers sat at 408,000, these are ones who believed that no jobs were available for them.
As frequent an uttered complaint as empty shelves at the store, is that there is no staff to help. Some variation of “no one wants to work anymore” is the common refrain among the frustrated.
“This current labor challenge is not Surry County’s alone,” Tucker said, “it is happening all over the US.” Plenty of people around Surry County do want to work however, and there are jobs to be had right now.
The NC Department of Commerce laid out a regional map of employment trends including the biggest employers, and greatest needs. Across the state one of the largest employment needs in every county is that of their school system.
In Surry County the employers listed with the highest number of vacancies are Hugh Chatham Memorial (140), Northern Regional Hospital (71), PruittHealth (41) and Asplundh (30).
Regionally, Novant Health, Hanesbrands, Wake Forest University, McDonalds, Food Lion and Anthem Inc. are listed as having the greatest need for new employees. Novant needs more than 800 workers, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools have 400 openings, and area Food Lions are seeking over 250 workers right now.
NCWorks goes into greater detail, outlining what fields are in most demand and healthcare is at the top of the list. Nurses of all types are in demand: RNs, LPNs and Nursing Assistant are being sought far and wide.
Workforce participation levels remain lower than two years ago, some workers took the pandemic as a time to reassess, and perhaps revalue the relationship with their employer. With a work force returning to pre-COVID unemployment levels, the rate of those returning to work has not matched the need employers have.
It is an advantageous time to be in the job market due to rising wages, the wide range of jobs in differing fields, and employers who are willing to look for candidates with a variety of experience levels. With a gap between labor supply and demand, more help wanted ads will follow.
February 06, 2022
MOUNT AIRY – Insteel Industries Inc. (NYSE: IIIN) reported record net earnings for the first quarter of its fiscal year, with those earnings nearly three times higher than the same quarter a year ago.
For the first quarter of fiscal 2022, Insteel experienced record quarterly revenue of $178.5 million and net earnings of $23.1 million, or $1.18 per share, compared to $8.1 million, or 42 cents per share, from the first quarter a year ago. Net sales increased 49.2% and earnings per share increased 181%.
The firm also paid a special cash dividend totaling $38.8 million, or $2 per share, on Dec. 17 in addition to its regular quarterly cash dividend of 3 cents per share, and ended the quarter debt-free with $63 million of cash and no borrowings outstanding on its $100 million revolving credit facility.
“Our outlook for 2022 remains optimistic. Private and public non-residential construction markets are robust today and key leading market indicators are signaling sustained growth,” said H.O. Woltz III, Insteel’s president and CEO. “In addition, we expect the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to stimulate demand for our products beginning during the latter part of 2022 and gaining momentum during 2023 – 2025.”
“Despite the favorable demand outlook, inadequate availability of domestic hot rolled steel wire rod and persistent labor challenges, both of which were highlighted in recent quarterly reports, are expected to continue impacting our operations during the current quarter. We turned to the international steel market to supplement domestic supplies of steel wire rod and believe our purchasing plan will fill the gaps that caused plant inefficiencies and customer service difficulties over the last three quarters. Our international sourcing strategy going forward will be influenced by the performance of our domestic suppliers during our second and third quarters.”
“We are pleased to have recently completed agreements in principle with a group of capital equipment suppliers for purchases of nearly $20 million in state-of-the-art technology to expand our capacity, improve quality and reduce the cash cost of production. We are still firming up schedules but expect most of these initiatives to come online during fiscal 2023.”
For more information about the company, or its financial performance, visit https://www.insteel.com/
February 06, 2022
Literature can be defined as written works reflecting excellence or lasting artistic merit, and in that spirit an event is scheduled Wednesday at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History in conjunction with Black History Month.
The annual African-American Read-In, now in its 12th year here, will be held from noon to 1 p.m. that day, with the community invited to participate. One needs only to select works written by an African-American author and be prepared to read a poem or an excerpt from a book.
However, listeners also are welcome at the event sponsored by the downtown museum and spearheaded by members of a local group called the Plaid Cloth Literary Society. It is free and open to the public and will take place in the second-floor conference room of the museum.
Marie Nicholson of Mount Airy, a frequent participant of the read-in, views it as having a dual purpose.
“I see it as encouraging people to read and share books and passages from books,” Nicholson said Friday of the literacy aspect that it promotes which goes in hand with a lifelong appreciation of the written word.
Then there is the special focus on books by or about African-Americans which she believes is also important.
Nicholson was quick to name her favorite work Friday:
“Mine is the one I always read, ‘And Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou,” she said.
In that poem, Angelou lauds the value of confidence and self-esteem and how it can be used as fuel to overcome most anything in rising to the occasion and letting nothing hold a person back, including skin color.
James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr. and Toni Morrison are among others whose writings have been showcased at the event over the years.
Nicholson is not sure if she will be able to attend the African-American Read-In this year due to work obligations.
Similar to other public events, it has been impacted by COVID-19 and the spectre of the disease will continue to loom over Wednesday’s proceedings.
Due to coronavirus regulations, masks will required for those attending, organizers say.
The local African-American Read-In is part of a widespread effort endorsed by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.
Since 1990, more than a million readers, nationally and internationally, have gathered annually to participate in the read-in at various venues.
One of its goals is to make the celebration of African-American literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities.
February 06, 2022
The following marriage licenses were issued in Surry County:
– Beaudry Matthew Blanks, 18, of Surry County to Amber Michelle King, 18, of Surry County.
– John Tyler Massey, 23, of Surry County to Hannah Jolida Walker, 24, of Surry County.
– Michael Todd Atkins Jr., 20, of Surry County to Alexis Breanne Wilson, 19, of Surry County.
– Ethan Howard Wilmoth, 28, of Yadkin County to Kapua Lani Brown, 21, of Yadkin County.
– Timmothy Shane Sharpe, 50, of Haywood to Delana Gaye Shinault, 51, of Surry County.
– Joseph Coy Barr, 23, of Surry County to Courtney Faith Kempa, 18, of Surry County.
February 05, 2022
It began simply with two local women wanting to join a garden club in 1956 — a natural inclination given their interest in plants and flowers — only to learn three existing ones in Mount Airy had no vacancies.
So what did Eleanor Powell-Hines and Katherine Parries do? Well, they started their own group, the Modern Gardeners Garden Club, which is still going strong after taking root 66 years ago — including making its mark with a number of beautification efforts throughout the community.
These involve attractive areas onlookers admire and appreciate, including a mini-garden where North Renfro and North Main streets converge, a pollinator garden near City Hall and holiday decorations at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and the historic Moore House.
Yet most people probably don’t stop to consider how those attractions came about — which was certainly not because of magic but the planning and literally down-to-earth hard work on the part of Modern Gardeners.
“So often what you do is not recognized,” club President Joy Barlow said Thursday of its efforts during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, while also acknowledging a subdued form of admiration lurking under the surface.
“A lot of times you put the work in, but you don’t realize how much it is appreciated,” Barlow added.
She mentioned as an example the pollinator garden on South Main street in the vicinity of the post office and Municipal Building which was launched several years ago to promote a process that’s important for agriculture.
Club members periodically work there to maintain the garden, which it designed and planted, invariably interacting with passersby who respond positively.
“It’s always amazing the people who come by that are visiting the town, and people who live here, who comment on how lovely it is,” Barlow observed regarding the site boasting such flowers as zinnias and marigolds.
And local government officials also showed Modern Gardeners members how much they are appreciated Thursday when the group received official recognition for its service to the community.
“This club does so much individually and collectively to make our city a better place,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley said during the meeting attended by the bulk of its membership.
Story of growth
Yokeley detailed the history of Modern Gardeners starting with the efforts by Powell-Hines and Parries.
When they weren’t able to join any of the existing groups in 1956, Fanny Jones, the president of one of them — Mountain View Garden Club — did lend a hand.
Jones suggested that the two friends start a new club, which would be sponsored by Mountain View Garden Club.
“Eleanor and Katherine gathered together a group of women in Mount Airy who had an interest in flowers and gardening and thus began the Modern Gardeners Garden Club,” Yokeley read from prepared remarks.
“Over the past 66 years the club has continued with a group of 24 diverse women, young at heart, who love gardening, preserving the environment and contributing to the education of children and adults as well as beautifying our community.”
A former state president and five Master Gardeners are among their ranks, Yokeley mentioned in praising the group that has spearheaded a number of projects:
• Both spring and fall plantings at Main and Renfro at the entrance to the downtown section of North Main Street;
• Maintaining planters on Market and Oak streets and in the new Melva’s Alley;
• Buying and dedicating two yellow benches overlooking the pollinator garden, one honoring Powell-Hines as a charter member and founder of the club and the other, Michella Huff, former city landscape supervisor;
• Providing floral arrangements for the lobby of Northern Regional Hospital;
• Conducting quarterly garden therapy with the exceptional children’s class at Tharrington Primary School;
• Coordinating the yearly planting of a tree on Arbor Day in conjunction with city parks and recreation staff members;
• Participating with two other clubs in a biennial “blooms” tour of local gardens to raise funds for more beautification efforts;
• Assisting Surry County officials with the addition of a Blue Star Memorial at the old county courthouse in Dobson to honor military members and sponsoring another memorial at the state welcome center on Interstate 77;
• Conducting a fall bulb sale to aid other projects.
“This group is a great resource and benefit to the Parks and Recreation Department’s Grounds Maintenance Division,” was the word Thursday from Darren Lewis, who heads that department. Even though he could not attend the council meeting, Lewis prepared special remarks for the recognition occasion which were read aloud by new City Manager Stan Farmer.
Barlow, the Modern Gardeners president, also applauded that partnership when speaking Thursday, especially with Luke Danley, who took over as landscape supervisor for Huff after she became Surry County’s elections director.
But similar to a rose in full bloom, Thursday was a time for Modern Gardeners to shine.
“They help with many projects and are essential to the beautification efforts in Mount Airy and the downtown area,” the statement by Lewis continued.
Barlow and other club members seemed to soak in all the accolades like water through mulch on a hot day.
“I’m especially touched by the words of Darren Lewis,” she said.
February 05, 2022
Brandon Landry of Ponchatoula, Louisiana, graduated from Surry Community College and Surry Early College High School in 2016, and his education and training have allowed him to work across the nation in a variety of industries.
Landry just completed a work assignment at the Chevron Pasadena refinery outside of Houston, Texas. From there, he moved on to start a new assignment at Valero’s refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“I started out welding in various refineries and chemical plants in southeastern Louisiana. I broke my dominant wrist in 2019 and switched over to pipefitting due to loss of range of motion in my dominant hand, but I still take shorter welding jobs when work slows down. I’ve traveled all over the country in the last few years working turnarounds at different refineries and chemical plants.”
Landry’s work has taken him as far as Kenai, Alaska. He has hopes to travel to Canada and the United Kingdom for work in the near future. In the meantime, he’s working on building up his capital in order to start his own business in southern Louisiana.
He attended classes in the welding technologies program at Surry Community College as a student dually enrolled at Surry Early College High School. He obtained his welding technology diploma as well as American Welding Society (AWS) certifications through the program.
“My experiences at the college in the welding program were always a good time while I was learning my trade. I made some really life-long friends that I still keep up with,” said Landry. His former classmates include Eric Trejo, who is now the program’s lead instructor.
Overall, Landry looks back on his time at Surry Community College as a positive experience. “It’s a great place to learn welding. The instructors are very qualified, and your education can take you far if you put in the work.”
To learn more about the welding program at SCC, contact Trejo at 336-386-3350 or trejoer@surry.edu.
February 05, 2022
BLUEFIELD, VA – While 2021 definitely offered its challenges, it was a banner year for First Community Bankshares Inc. (NASDAQ: FCBC).
The bank, in reporting its fourth-quarter and year-end results, experienced a record annual net income of $51.17 million, or $2.94 per common share. Although fourth quarter income — $10.56 million, or 62 cents per share — was down slightly, the bank declared a 27-cent dividend, which is 8% higher than the same dividend from a year ago. The quarterly dividend is payable to common shareholders of record on Feb. 11 and is expected to be paid on or about Feb. 25. This marks the. 37th consecutive year of regular dividends to common shareholders.
Annual net income stood at $51.17 million, an increase of $15.24 million over 2020 and represents a 45.54% increase in diluted earnings per share compared to 2020.
“A reversal of $8.47 million in the allowance for credit losses in 2021 accounts for a large portion of the increase in net income,” the bank said in releasing the information. “The decreases in credit loss provisioning are primarily due to significantly improved economic forecasts and GDP growth in the current year, as well as strong credit quality metrics, versus prior year provisioning driven by the pandemic.”
Net income for the fourth quarter of 2021 decreased $995,000 to $10.56 million compared to the same quarter of 2020. “The decrease was primarily driven by a decrease in net interest income of $2.49 million, or 8.97%, due to the current historically low interest rate environment, as well as a $1.67 million decrease in accretion on acquired loans,” the bank said.
First Community Bankshares Inc. is a financial holding company providing banking products and services through its wholly owned subsidiary First Community Bank. First Community Bank operated 49 branch banking locations in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee including Mount Airy.
For more information on the bank, or additional details of the company’s year-end financial report, visit https://www.firstcommunitybank.com/
February 05, 2022
Cedar Ridge Elementary School was awarded the 2022 North Carolina Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (NCASCD) Lighthouse School Award on Friday.
The Lighthouse Award is presented annually to schools that have furthered student achievement in innovative and creative ways and have nurtured a positive and supportive school and community atmosphere. The award was presented at the 2022 North Carolina Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development Conference.
Cedar Ridge was one of two schools statewide to receive the award from applications representing school systems statewide. Cedar Ridge Principal Donna Bledsoe credits the student success to “utilizing a multi-tiered support system for academics and behaviors through the implementation of the district Leadership Framework.”
Students are taught leadership skills to foster their successes both inside and outside the school setting, being trained in zones of regulation, the use of calming corners, mindfulness, and yoga practices. “Through these practices, students and staff can model leadership firmly rooted in self-awareness and resiliency to lead self, lead others, and in turn change the world around them,” said Bledsoe.
In 2021, Surry County Schools implemented a leadership framework, intending to create a culture of leadership to equip students and staff to live, learn, and lead as productive citizens. Bledsoe and Amanda Moser, school counselor, were integral parts of the Leadership Design Team which created the vision and helped with lesson planning for district implementation.
The staff at Cedar Ridge took what they learned through designing the framework and adopted these strategies in their school. Classrooms have flexible seating practices, utilize fidgets, and have calming corners. Teachers greet students each day and have check-in systems for students.
Moser leads staff professional development in effective practices, along with daily coaching of both students and staff for implementation of effective classroom practices to ensure we maintain an inclusive school environment. The adoption of these practices has had a dramatic effect on discipline referrals, having decreased 83% in the past five years.
Cedar Ridge also prides itself on providing choices for students. Each student, kindergarten through fifth grade, gets their choice of a 50-minute enrichment each week, which focuses on an individual’s passions, innovations, and exploration. During this time, students may choose to create in Minecraft, innovate in robotic practices, learn to code, garden, practice yoga, train for a 5K, enhance their digital arts practices, or even learn to play instruments like the banjo.
Along with these opportunities for student choices, Cedar Ridge has encouraged students to find the joy of reading in what they call “joy practices.” These practices include “random reading spots,” where students can take and lend books, monthly literacy focuses, and schoolwide reading goals.
“The effect these practices have had on the school has been outstanding, increasing media center circulation by 3,000 books over one academic year,” the school said. During the 2021-22 school year, the school has used its monthly reading focus to incorporate a different country each month to broaden the students’ diversity of literature. The school is not only hoping to spark joy in reading but also practice equity in literacy offerings for students and continue to grow the next generation of global leaders.
“I am proud of the culminating efforts by our staff over the years to create a school climate where we work to bring joy to learning through innovative practices which focus on doing what is best for our students in all areas. I am blessed to be able to learn and lead along with this wonderful staff as we continue to put students first in all we do each day,” said Bledsoe.
“Cedar Ridge Elementary School is a prime example of what a Lighthouse School should look like,” said Superintendent Dr. Travis L. Reeves. “This school emphasizes sparking joy and shines a bright light on positive learning environments for students based on our leadership framework. I am proud of this staff and administrators for their leadership and dedication to their students. The past two years have been a challenge, but this group of committed educators has continued to serve their students with a caring heart and high expectations. Congratulations to Mrs. Donna Bledsoe and the staff at Cedar Ridge for being a Lighthouse for their students.”
February 04, 2022
Holiday gatherings, a return to public concerts and meetings, along with the easing of mask and social distancing mandates are among the many measures a pandemic-weary public have been hankering for.
Unfortunately, as society is beginning to give in to those wishes, COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing, hitting some of the worst numbers of the pandemic.
That is true locally as well, with the number of new daily cases skyrocketing, patients needing hospitalization outpacing the number of beds available, and the number of COVID related deaths again climbing.
“The past three to four weeks have been among the worst we have seen over the course of the pandemic,” said Maggie Simmons, assistant health director for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, on Thursday Surry County reported 153 new COVID cases over the previous 24 hours. The county has averaged 127 new cases each day for the past two weeks, and the overall death toll has risen sharply, standing at 292.
Simmons said not only is the number of new daily cases a major concern, but the percentage of tests which result in a positive finding is another measure of how serious the latest wave of infections has become.
“If we take a look at the percent positivity from December 2020 when we experienced our most significant wave of COVID-19 cases, our positivity rate at its peak was approximately 25%,” she said. “Then we had another peak around September-October of 2021, and the positivity rate did not exceed 20%.”
Now? Simmons said the recent positivity rate has been 35%, and that is down from close to 40% in mid-January.
Those numbers have again strained local health care efforts.
“Our census continues to be higher than normal,” said Robin Hodgin, senior vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer at Northern Regional Hospital, on Thursday. “Today, we have a total census of 106 including skilled nursing and an acute census of 76,” she said.
Those numbers are actually an improvement, she said. Last week the figures were considerably higher.
“Our total census peaked at 122 with an acute census of 91,” Hodgin said of last week’s figures.
On Thursday of this week, around noon, she said the hospital had 36 inpatients hospitalized because of COVID-19, and 78% of those are not vaccinated. The intensive care unit was full, with seven of its 10 patients there because of COVID. The step-down unit, for critical patients who are slightly less serious than those in the ICU, had all 12 of its beds full, with eight of those patients suffering from COVID.
In addition, she said patients needing hospitalization are being held in emergency department beds because no regular hospital space is available. As of Thursday, there were eight such patients, although the figures were higher last week.
Simmons said the best means of prevention remains getting the vaccine, along with continuing to wear masks in public, practicing social distancing, and washing hands frequently.
Across the county, she said 35,714 persons, or roughly 50% of the population, has been fully vaccinated with two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of J&J. Another roughly 2,200 Surry County residents have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine, while 15,451 of those fully vaccinated have received a booster vaccine.
She said Surry County Health and Nutrition Center is still offering vaccinations Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Testing is likewise being offered at these locations and times:
– Central United Methodist Church, 1909 North Main Street, Mount Airy on Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.;
– Dobson Farmer’s Market, 903 East Atkins Street, Dobson, Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.;
– First United Methodist Church, 210 West Marion Street, Pilot Mountain, Sunday through Thursday, 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.
– Elkin Presbyterian Church, 151 Hillcrest Drive, Elkin, Sunday through Thursday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
While the testing is free, registration is recommended. To register, call 1-877-562-4850.
February 04, 2022
If winter has already seemed too long, then it is permissible to go ahead and think about spring. Currently closed for the season, it is not too early to dream of the thaw and set your gaze on the horizon for the Elkin and Mount Airy farmers markets to reopen in late April.
For a better experience, the public is asked to provide feedback on the Surry County Farmers Markets ahead of their 2022 openings by taking a short ten question survey.
Building a better market
Surry County is fortunate to have choices in farmers markets available at three locations spanning the county that operate on different schedules to allow for more people to attend. From April through November the Surry County Farmers Markets located in Mount Airy and Elkin will be ready to serve. Dobson’s market location has a shorter market season that beginning in June.
These markets provide an option for local buyers to grab fresh fruit, produce, and meat right from the farm and skip the rigmarole of the supermarket. Supply chain problems, meet you match – the tandem of locally grown and locally sold can overcome out of state shipping delays.
To better accommodate the communities that they serve, feedback is being sought from the public on usage of the markets. For those who have taken advantage of one of the farmers markets, the survey is to gauge what works and what does not.
The survey asks about any items people want to see added, probes whether food trucks would be a nice addition, and asks what day and time are best for farmers market shopping.
Conversely, for those who have not taken the farmers market plunge, the survey would like to identify ways in which market officials could encourage new shoppers to come out and shop for fresh, local commodities.
Perhaps the prospect of seeing a food truck to grab a bite would be the inducement needed, or maybe hectic family scheduling means a weeknight farmers market option may need to be considered. This is the purpose of polling the public on preferences.
COVID created opportunities
“The COVID pandemic showed us vulnerabilities in the food supply chain and the need for local products to meet consumer demand,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in describing a new grant program last year.
“During the pandemic, consumers experienced limits on meats as shopping transitioned mainly to grocery stores and farmers markets with restaurants closed or limited. This program is designed to increase the meat processing capacity in the state for smaller processors to help ensure a stable supply of fresh, locally grown and processed meats.”
The state began the aptly named Increasing Meat Production, Efficiency and Capacity (IMPEC) grant program which is aimed at independent meat and seafood processing facilities. Benefits will be seen by the producers, processors, and consumers by ensuring an uninterrupted supply of top-quality North Carolina meat products.
“We have seen the shortage in the grocery stores,” Troxler said at the Council of State meeting on Tuesday. “The idea is to increase efficiency so farmers can sell directly to the public.”
Processors reported that after the pandemic started the were overwhelmed with new demand. By providing federal and state funds to local processors the goal has been to decrease the lag times to get livestock processed closer to the farms from which they came.
“We have been hugely successful in the first three parts of the program, increasing processing facility participants by 40%. We are going to do another round of $17 million. It’s vital to the food supply for North Carolinians.”
He also thanked North Carolinians during a Southern Farm Network interview for purchasing foods grown and processed in-state, “You are providing a much-needed boost to the ag economy and helping our farm families during these trying times. I know you are getting high quality products. Farmers and agribusinesses appreciate your support.”
When the markets reopen and vendors return, they look forward to serving the community, but also supporting one another in a small-town synergy. “Supporting small business is important to me and being a part of the farmers market helps to do just that,” said Angie Hemmings of Pipers Gap Soap Works.
“I use beeswax in my lip balms from one of the local vendors and lard from another vendor in some of my soap. The farmers market is all about supporting local small businesses.”
The survey can be found at:
February 03, 2022
• Movie prop money has made another illegal appearance in Mount Airy, according to city police reports, but the experience was not exactly entertaining for a business victimized.
This occurred last Saturday night at the Papa John’s pizza establishment on Rockford Street, where $10 in motion picture currency was passed by an unknown party in order to obtain goods.
Such currency typically is labeled “for motion picture use only,” but has been passed at various local businesses in recent years due to its resemblance to the real thing. The first reported case here occurred in 2017.
• A break-in was discovered Saturday at the residence of Patty Morton in the 1200 block of Newsome Street, which involved entry being gained through a secured front door.
Nothing was listed as missing, but damage put at $200 occurred to the door frame.
• Gravely’s Appliance Service on West Pine Street was the scene of a break-in that occurred during the early morning hours last Friday, when a brick was thrown through a front window to enable the theft of an undisclosed sum of money.
February 03, 2022
COVID-19 has done its best to undermine all facets of American life, but it hasn’t tuned out old-time and bluegrass music that has been around for generations and will outlast any pandemic.
This is evident with a 74th birthday celebration being observed this week and also the entity it is honoring — radio station WPAQ in Mount Airy — which will include a free concert this Saturday evening downtown featuring five groups.
That occasion will mark a return to normalcy after a virtual event last year.
The local radio station first hit the airwaves on Feb. 2, 1948 and continues to play a profound role in preserving the traditional music rooted in this region. WPAQ’s longevity has been regaled with a yearly musical extravaganza at the Historic Earle Theatre and Old-Time Music Heritage Hall on North Main Street.
“For many years this has been an annual event to celebrate the ‘Voice of the Blue Ridge,’” Jennie Lowry of WPAQ mentioned in reference to the station’s status among fans of mountain music.
At this time in 2021 as the coronavirus raged and public gatherings were curtailed, organizers had to rethink the logistics surrounding the concert in the auditorium of the theater typically drawing huge crowds. Yet the show still went on in a sense.
“Due to the pandemic, last year’s event was an on-air compilation of past concerts,” recalled Lowry, who is known by many as the host of a weekly “Merry-Go-Round” show broadcast live over WPAQ.
The program’s origin coincides with that of the station in 1948 and is the second-longest continuously running live radio broadcast in the nation, behind only “The Grand Ole Opry.”
Although a semblance of the free annual entertainment event managed to take shape last year despite the pandemic, Lowry says organizers are welcoming a return to a full night of bluegrass and old-time performances.
“The staff of the station is really looking forward to a live in-person event this weekend.”
Full-fledged concert
Saturday night’s concert, for which the festivities are to kick off at at 5:30 p.m., will feature five of the most favorite traditional acts in the area.
The talent list includes The Goodfellers, The Country Boys, The Slate Mountain Ramblers, The Nunn Brothers and Harrison Ridge.
Lowry stressed that admission to the concert will be free, with concessions available.
WPAQ, Mount Airy’s first radio station, was founded by the late Ralph Epperson, a native of Patrick County, Virginia, using bricks and locally crafted beams.
Epperson, who died in 2006, sought to provide a “stage” for local musicians and promoting the area’s talent.
In the Internet era, the station on Springs Road has been able to expand its traditional musical programming reach to new audiences outside the regional listening area through daily live streaming.
WPAQ now is co-owned by Epperson’s son Kelly and the latter’s wife Jennifer, with Kelly Epperson serving as general manager.
“Many things have changed since Ralph Epperson first signed WPAQ on the air back in 1948, but the music remains the same,” Lowry added. “WPAQ still features and promotes local and regional acts on its daily programming.”
February 03, 2022
Mount Airy officials are said to be setting their sights on a problem structure at 455 Franklin St., commonly known as the Koozies building.
At one time that site was part of the then-thriving Quality Mills manufacturing operation, but after it and other local textile companies closed in the wake of NAFTA, the building eventually housed a private club known as Koozies.
That club closed more than a decade ago and the structure has been sitting vacant in recent years. Around 2015, it became the poster child for what a now-defunct city redevelopment committee labeled as a blighted area occupying parts of Franklin Street along with Pine and South streets nearby.
The former Koozies building was thrust into the public eye again in late November when a fire broke out there which was caused by a homeless man, reportedly one of multiple persons who had taken up residence there.
That individual was charged with breaking and entering. He had been occupying a portion of the structure fronting West Pine Street located diagonally across that roadway from Mill Creek General Store.
November’s blaze caused minimal damage, but prompted concern by city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter about further potential problems with the unoccupied and deteriorating structure.
“I made a recommendation that it be torn down as soon as possible due to the public safety hazards,” Poindexter said Thursday afternoon when discussing the situation after a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting at City Hall, where the Koozies topic arose.
It was not on the agenda for the meeting, but reportedly was to be discussed by officials during a closed session after the regular part of the meeting concluded.
This was to include an update on where the situation with Koozies stands at the moment. No specific action was expected to be taken after the property matter discussion behind closed doors.
The fire chief, who was not part of that discussion, said outside the meeting area that the biggest concern he has about the building is vagrants occupying it as was the case with the fire in November.
It is not secured, Poindexter said. “It’s not being taken care of,” he added regarding the upkeep and maintenance of the structure.
One problem concerns the fact that the property is now owned by an out-of-town entity, National Decon Holdings, LLC, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, according to Surry County tax records.
It was divided into suites by the holding company, which has publicly announced no plans to improve its condition.
Local officials faced a similar situation about five years ago after the Mayberry Mall shopping center had fallen into a severe state of disrepair.
The mall was then owned by a businessman in New York state who neglected its upkeep, posing hazards to public safety which threatened the future of the shopping center.
Officials said then that if the owner failed to take action to correct those problems as requested, state statutes would require the city government to abate the structural issues on its own— including having the mall torn down.
The costs of that were to have been recouped through the filing of a lien against the owner, which would require the debt to be settled before the property changed hands.
A firm in South Carolina bought the mall before any of that transpired and made major improvements to the facility.
February 02, 2022
Cedar Ridge Elementary School partnered up with the American Red Cross and hosted the school’s annual blood drive recently.
”Our team of Student Ambassadors helped pass out snacks and show donors where to go, during the event,” school officials said. “We were able to collect 27 viable pints during (the) event
February 02, 2022
Pilot Mountain Middle School’s seventh grade students recently combined a love of art and food.
The students did so by creating “some beautiful and delicious-looking Chick-fil-a art,” school officials said in announcing the project. “They really enjoyed this project and took a lot of time creating their masterpieces.”
February 02, 2022
Nester Hosiery has announced multiple promotions aimed at strengthening operations of the Mount Airy-based manufacturer that is a leading U.S. maker of performance merino wool socks and the parent company of the Farm to Feet sock brand.
The moves were made in support of Nester Hosiery’s branded and licensed business units.
This included Chris Nitzsche being named general manager of licenses and Matt Brucker as general manager of brands, including Farm to Feet.
Anna Draughn was promoted to the position of director of merchandising, wherein she will focus on all Nester brands including Farm to Feet and licensed brands Ariat, Keen and Woolrich.
“Chris and Matt have been involved in almost every sector of the Nester business and by focusing their efforts on these business units we will further drive growth and improve the service we provide to our partners,” Chris Bevin, Nester Hosiery’s senior vice president of brands and licenses, said in a statement.
“To ensure we reach and exceed our goals we are putting dedicated staff and substantial resources (in place),” Bevin added.
Nitzsche joined Nester Hosiery as Farm to Feet vice president of sales in 2017. Brucker was hired in 2019 as vice president of sales focused on Nester’s private-label business.
In their new positions each will be responsible for all aspects of their respective business units.
Draughn joined Nester in 2015 as marketing and sales coordinator and most recently was wholesale merchandise manager.
Earlier this year, Nester Hosiery had announced the appointment of Bevin as its senior vice president of brands and licenses. He previously was president of the Balega sock company.
Nester Hosiery is considered a key manufacturer in the outdoor industry, operating state-of-the-art knitting, finishing and packaging equipment to make premium performance socks for leading outdoor brands and retailers as well as under its own Farm to Feet brand.
Customers tend to value the company’s manufacturing capabilities in producing innovative socks along with its commitment to social and environmental responsibility, according to insiders.
The Farm to Feet brand of wool socks was launched in 2013, featuring an all-American recipe of U.S. materials reflecting an exclusively domestic supply chain, manufacturing operation and workers.
February 01, 2022
• An Elkin woman was charged with driving while impaired last Saturday after a traffic collision in Mount Airy, according to city police reports.
Officers encountered Heather Leann White, 32, of 120 Dawson Trail, in the area of Willow and Orchard streets in reference to that incident, with the investigation leading to White also being charged with driving while licensed revoked.
The accident resulted in White receiving treatment at Northern Regional Hospital, where blood was drawn to establish her alleged impairment. She is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on March 28.
• Belk in Mayberry Mall was the scene of a larceny last Wednesday, when a Tommy Hilfiger jacket, gray in color, and two pairs of True Craft pants — merchandise valued at $150 altogether — were stolen from the department store by an unknown suspect.
• A theft occurred at Dollar General on South Main Street last Wednesday, when 25-ounce containers of Bud Ice beer and Twix snack pack candy bars were taken from the store by an apparently known individual. The incident was still under investigation at last report.
• A break-in was discovered on Jan. 24 at Hutchens Laundry and Cleaners on Spring Street, where property valued at $1,700 was stolen after access was gained through a rear door.
Included were a Hewlett-Packard 15-inch laptop computer, gray in color, along with two flat-screen television sets, miscellaneous 18-volt power tools, electrical supplies and a battery.
• An elderly city resident was reported to have been the victim of a first-degree burglary and common-law robbery on Jan. 22. It involved an individual apparently known to the victim, Henry Ford Carter, 88, forcibly entering Carter’s apartment in the 500 block of Worth Street and taking an undisclosed sum of money.
February 01, 2022
The uncertainty over the future of the former J.J. Jones High School has already pushed one local agency into a move — the Mount Airy Disabled American Veterans chapter has moved from the school to its former location at Veterans Park on Lebanon Street.
Tom Starbuck, a member of the group, said the agency has moved its operations to the brick house at the park — a location it had been in until moving to Jones School three years ago.
The school, which served the local Black community from 1936 until 1966 when area public schools were desegregated, has continued as a community resource of sorts, with the county leasing parts of the building to various agencies. Among those agencies was the DAV.
“They were wonderful to us,” Starbuck said of the folks his agency worked with in leasing the space at the Jones Center. However, he said the “instability” of what will become of the building and grounds pushed the group to make the move.
The Surry County Board of Commissioner members have voiced hopes to sell the property because of the rising maintenance costs. While a number of groups and individuals have stated they want to see the Jones School purchased by a local agency to preserve the historic facility, no buyers have yet come forward.
Starbuck said he has nothing but good to say about the facility, but he’s glad the DAV is back at Veterans Park, in a building the group helped renovate in years past. He hopes the new location will be easily accessible by area veterans.
“Our county has an exceptional large veteran population,” he said.
The DAV, he explained, offers several services for those who have served the nation in the armed forces.
Among those is the weekly opportunity for veterans to meet with a counselor who is certified in helping veterans navigate the often confusing network of requirements and federal agencies. The counselor knows the forms and procedures and can help veterans secure health and other benefits.
He explained that in some cases, veterans suffering from health issues as they age might be eligible for benefits related to their military service, even if the health problems did not surface until years after they left the military.
Starbuck said the group also offers transportation service for area veterans, including trips to the VA facilities in Salisbury and Kernersville.
“We are one of the few DAV chapters offer that kind of service,” he said. Locally, the transportion offering was cut out during what he called “the height of the pandemic,” but it is now back in use.
He said the group also meets at the new location the fourth Tuesday of each month, at 6:30 p.m. for dinner and sociliazing, with a business meeting starting around 7.
For more information about the DAV, call 336-789-0328.
February 01, 2022
A Lowgap man was arrested Monday on a charge of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
Jacob Grey “Jake” Shelton, 24, of 280 Watershed Road, was confined in the Surry County Jail after being taken into custody by officers in Mount Airy. He is being held under a $100,000 secured bond.
The sexual exploitation of a minor charge, which is a felony, had been filed last Thursday through the Surry County Sheriff’s Office.
Shelton came to the Mount Airy Police Department Monday afternoon to be served with an arrest warrant in the case, with the large secured bond subsequently set by Magistrate Merlin Scales.
An investigation that led to the charge against Shelton originated at his home on Watershed Road in October, Maj. Larry Lowe of the Surry Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday, relaying information from the detective who handled the case.
Due to its sensitive nature, no further details were released, including the age of the alleged victim or any specifics regarding the accusation.
“The case is marked as a juvenile (matter) and that’s the reason why we can’t release anything else,” Lowe explained.
Under state law, the offense of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor can be issued against a person who uses, employs, induces, coerces, encourages or facilitates a minor to engage in or assist others to engage in sexual activity.
This can include doing so for the purpose of producing material containing a visual representation depicting that.
The charge also applies to a person who permits a minor under his custody or control to engage in such sexual acts, or who records, photographs, films, develops or duplicates for sale or pecuniary gain material which includes a visual representation of the activity.
A mistake of age is not a defense to a prosecution in such a case, the law states.
Shelton is scheduled to appear in District Court in Dobson next Wednesday.
In January 2019, the Lowgap man was facing three charges of assault on a female, according to previous reports.
February 01, 2022
A rash of incidents involving financial transaction card fraud and obtaining property by false pretenses has struck Mount Airy, with four businesses and an area bank victimized so far in a scheme netting hundreds of dollars in merchandise.
The crimes unfolding in recent days have concerned an unknown suspect representing himself as the card holder and purchasing goods by fraudulent means.
Those cases came to light last week, targeting the Circle K convenience store on North Main Street, Walmart, the Sheetz convenience store and 601 Vapor and Tobacco Inc. on Rockford Street.
The crimes resulted in total property losses of $368.
In addition to the businesses, the Carter Bank and Trust office in Hillsville, Virginia, is listed as a victim of the incidents.
Michelle Leah King of Hillsville, a employee of Circle K in Fancy Gap who apparently is the rightful card holder, reported the crimes last week involving transactions occurring earlier in the month.
The suspect bought $80 worth of lottery tickets and $18 in food via the drive-through at Sheetz; $95 in gas at Circle K on North Main Street; a jacket, Wrangler pants, socks and Busch Ice beer at Wal-Mart, having a total value of $66; and unspecified “consumable goods” valued at $109 from 601 Vapor and Tobacco.
At last report all the crimes were under investigation by the Mount Airy Police Department, which as of Monday had no further word on any other offenses perpetrated by the same suspect or his possible arrest.
“Our folks are still working the fraud cases trying to identify the suspect,” Police Chief Dale Watson advised.
It was not known if this might include reviewing store surveillance footage in an effort to capture his image.
The crimes constitute felonies.
February 01, 2022
Rather than getting a new sheriff in town, which his coming from Texas might suggest, Mount Airy has its latest city manager aboard.
Stan R. Farmer is now on the job to oversee the day-to-day functions of the municipal government. He is taking over for Parks and Recreation Director Darren Lewis, who has been serving as interim city manager for several months and will return to his regular position full-time.
Farmer’s hiring by Mount Airy was announced on Jan. 6, with a Jan. 31 date set for him to begin work.
He said Monday at City Hall that the first order of business involves simply getting accustomed to the new surroundings.
“Where is the printer — how do you turn on the computer?” Farmer said regarding the usual logistical adjustments faced. “And where are the paperclips and things like that.”
Before coming to Mount Airy, Farmer was city manager in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, for 13.5 years before resigning in October. He earlier held the same job in two North Carolina municipalities, Selma and Lucama.
Along with extensive academic credentials, he served five years with the U.S. Marines Corps, including in Japan.
Farmer’s appointment as city manager in Mount Airy capped a widespread search to find a successor for Barbara Jones, who announced her retirement on Sept. 9 after a 30-year city government career. Jones had been manager since 2010.
The recruitment effort attracted 21 applicants from a number of states, a pool subsequently whittled to five. Farmer became the finalist after a round of interviews and his hiring on Jan. 6 was approved unanimously by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
“Stan came highly recommended and has the credentials to lead our city forward,” said a statement issued at that time on behalf of Mayor Ron Niland and the commissioners.
His hiring around the first of the year was timed to coincide with the start of the city’s annual budget process for 2022-23. The process usually commences at that time and will lead to the adoption in June of the spending plan for the next fiscal year beginning on July 1.
While many budgetary issues await along with the ongoing Spencer’s redevelopment involving former industrial property owned by the municipality, Farmer says for now his goals with the city government are basic in nature. This includes “meeting the people” and making the rounds with department heads.
The new city manager also has said he was looking forward to getting to know folks in town.
His first week on the job will include a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners scheduled Thursday at 2 p.m.
January 31, 2022
The library story times are open for anyone who would like to come in and join us. Masks are recommended if you have not been vaccinated. Mondays at 4 p.m. Bilingual storytime for children — listen to a story in English and Spanish); Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., Toddler Time for children ages 2 and 3; Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Book Babies for children aged birth to 2 years old; Thursday at 11 a.m., Preschool Storytime for children ages 4 and 5.
Surry Community College is offering a fun and free English as Second Language (ESL) class at the Mount Airy Public Library Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Anyone interested should contact Jennifer Pardue at 336-386-3674.
Hooked – Come join our crochet and knitting club, every Wednesday at 3 p.m. Bring your own yarn and make the group project or bring your own project to work on.
Tai Chi has returned to the library. Join us each Friday at 10 a.m. This class is beneficial for those with limited mobility.
Make It Mondays will meet the third Monday of each month, craft materials will be provided.
The Community Book Club meets the third Wednesday of the month at 1 p.m.
It’s Yoga Y’all – Yoga with Ms. Heather will be the third Saturday of every month at 10:30 a.m. unless otherwise noted.
LACE, the Romance Readers Book Club meets on the last Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m.
Classic Movie Monday. On Jan. 31, we will celebrate Sherlock Holmes’ birthday by watching, The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Hammer film production starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
The YVEDDI Retired Senior Volunteer Program & the Surry County Senior Center is partnering with the Mount Airy Public Library and the IRS to provide free tax preparation at the library. VITA sites provide free income tax preparation for low-to moderate income taxpayers (generally those who make $57,000 and below) who need help filing their returns. To schedule an appointment, call 336-415-4225.
Virtual Author Visit on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. to meet with author Wiley Cash virtually and hear him discuss his new book, When Ghosts Come Home.
Keep up with all events on our FaceBook pages, https://www.facebook.com/groups/fmapl and https://www.facebook.com/mtapublibrary or our website https://nwrlibrary.org/mountairy/
January 30, 2022
DOBSON — Along with culinary delights such as grilled Arctic salmon and seared duck, a local restaurant has cooked up success by being ranked as one of the best dining establishments in the nation.
Harvest Grill, located at 286 Cabernet Lane on the grounds of Shelton Vineyards just outside Dobson, is one of only two businesses in North Carolina named to Yelp’s Top 100 U.S. restaurants list for 2022.
It came in at No. 79, with Machete in Greensboro ranked 18th on the list.
Yelp is an entity based in San Francisco which processes user reviews and recommendations on the best food, shopping, night life, entertainment, things to do, services and more.
To compile its ninth-annual restaurant list, Yelp reached out to its users for feedback on their favorite dining spots. Yelp then ranked each restaurant by total number of submissions, ratings, reviews and geographic representation, among other factors.
“Spending time at Shelton Vineyards is so relaxing— great wines and a gorgeous property — the icing on the cake is Harvest Grill,” was among the comments by “Yelpers” which led to the rating.
“They offer an extensive farm-to-table menu and a great wine list (most of the wines by the glass, so you can try different wines with each course) — everything we tried on the menu was delicious.”
Harvest Grill specializes in what is known as New American cuisine, loosely defined as assimilating flavors from the melting pot of traditional cooking with innovative uses of seasoning and sauces. It reflects a trend of modernized dishes predominantly served at upscale fine dining establishments in the U.S., which originated in the 1980s.
“Picturesque grapevines set a lovely backdrop,” the Yelp website states in summarizing the basis for Harvest Grill’s ranking. “Not surprisingly, this bistro-style eatery offers a large selection of vineyard-produced wines, alongside a compact menu of ‘sophisticated comfort food.”’
Harvest Grill Executive Chef Mark Thrower also used a more specific term Friday, “Southern sophisticated,” to describe the philosophy by which it operates.
Thrower explained that this relates to how most chefs enjoy preparing dishes that their grandmothers cooked, which he likes to take to another level while using a formula of traditional techniques blended with fine local products.
Harvest Grill does not serve standard duck or chicken, for example, but that raised on sustainable farms along with other products the restaurant uses to ensure top quality.
The establishment also is noted for its crab cakes served with gribiche (a cold egg sauce) and shoestring fries, according to Yelp.
Thrower added that he was “kind of shocked” when learning that the local restaurant had made the national top-100 rankings.
“It was just one of those wonderful feelings,” he indicated, which one gets from having his or her work recognized in such a way. “I was kind of like, ‘where did this come from?’”
Yelp’s top-rated restaurant is Cocina Madrigal in Phoenix.
Thrower says the local establishment’s rating not only speaks well of Harvest Grill, but the community as a whole.
“It’s an awesome opportunity” the chef said, to build on the restaurant’s success by expanding its array of locally produced foods and thereby involve more area farmers.
A dozen people are employed in the kitchen at Harvest Grill, which also has about 10 servers.
The top-100 ranking emerged as a bright spot in the same month that Charlie Shelton, a co-founder of Shelton Vineyards with his brother Ed, died.
January 30, 2022
How Mount Airy handles the evolution of “the threes” — tobacco, textiles, and tourism — will be a key part of its future.
Those were the words of Dr. Swanson Richards, keynote speaker of Thursday night’s Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce annual meeting at Cross Creek Country Club.
Richards, former assistant superintendent of Surry County Schools, superintendent of Watauga County Schools, president of Surry Community College, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, and the chamber’s 1980 Citizen of the Year Award winner, gave a brief overview of the region’s economy history, one filled with laughter as he told jokes, and filled with optimism as he looked to the future.
“Tobacco was king,” he said, recalling as a boy coming to Mount Airy with tobacco from his family’s farm, hearing the auctioneers selling off tobacco in one of the city’s four large auction barns.
He said livestock, poultry, and other goods were also sold in city markets, but tobacco was the big product. Regardless of what was being sold, he said Mount Airy provided a market, a place people “had to come” to sell their goods.
Later, the textile industry became a major component of the local economy — and furniture factories — with large firms employing thousands of area residents.
Again, he said Mount Airy was a central market, where people “had to come” to find work.
Over the years, the market has changed, he said. Government supports for tobacco have faded away, and textile firms moved production facilities to other nations, where labor and other costs are significantly cheaper.
That leaves the final T — tourism. Richards said that years ago, area leadership recognized the growing potential for tourism and started working toward making the city and Surry County a tourist destination.
One difference, however, is that with tobacco and textiles, people needed to come to Mount Airy to conduct business. With tourism?
“They don’t have to come,” he told the audience of more than 200 people. “You have to entice the people to come.”
While the region has multiple tourist draws — two he mentioned specifically were the area’s musical heritage and the Blue Ridge Parkway — he said the key to sustained success lies in another resource: The region’s people.
He said the people of Mount Airy and the surrounding region are what visitors can’t find anywhere else, and those people, how they work, how they interact with visitors, and how they pursue their vision will be key for the city’s continued economic growth.
Richards, who told the gathering he is close to 92 years of age, said there is plenty of uncertainty in the economy now, as is the case with national news and events. But, he is bullish on the future, saying he believes three words sum up what he sees: “Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity, in the coming days, in the coming months, in the coming years.”
January 30, 2022
DOBSON — Three Surry County rising seniors will be representing Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation as delegates in two youth programs this summer.
Kaesi Blythe of Mount Airy, Surry Central High School, and Jay Mitchell of Pilot Mountain, Surry Early College High School, have been chosen as SYEMC delegates for the N.C. Youth Tour trip to Washington, D.C. In addition to this trip, they also will be eligible for a $500 renewable college scholarship to the school of their choice.
Applicants had to complete an application which consisted of character questions, an essay question about the Cooperative Business Model and an oral presentation of the essay. Applications were reviewed and voted on anonymously by a variety of employees.
Kaesi and Jay made oral presentations of their essays during a Zoom judging event attended by SYEMC employees and three judges — Paul Mott, government affairs specialist for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives; Emily Nail, executive director of the Cooperative Council of North Carolina; and Travis Frye, program and events director for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce. They both made strong impressive presentations, and we are honored they will be representing SYEMC on this trip.
During their trip, they will attend a leadership conference, tour national museums and sites, meet their elected officials at the U.S. Capitol and make new friends from across the country. They will have the chance to exchange pins with each of the other delegates from different states, with the goal of trying to get as many different pins as possible.
They also will be eligible to apply for scholarships awarded through the N.C. Electric Cooperatives.
Jordan Leos of Dobson, a student at Surry Early College High School, was the runner up in the NC Youth Tour program. He will be attending Cooperative Council of NC’s Leadership Camp this summer at Camp Monroe in Laurel Hill.
The camp features interactive workshops and presentations, outdoor recreation, leadership development, team building activities and small group sessions with an emphasis on how cooperatives operate. They will make lasting friendships with students from across the state.
Students will learn what cooperatives are all about and how they operate. They will have a chance to form their own T-shirt cooperative, including an election of a board of directors and manager. By attending this camp, they are eligible to apply for the Jim Graham $1,000 college scholarship, which they can apply for their senior year of high school.
For any students who would be interested in participating in one of these trips, eligible to students their junior year of high school, visit the company’s website at syemc.com.
January 30, 2022
Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush, along with his band, will return to the Historic Earle Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 12, in a show set to begin at 7:30 pm. The show is part of the Surry Arts Council’s Blue Ridge and Beyond Series. The Earle is the halfway point on Bush’s 2022 tour with 28 dates spanning through September.
An originator of the progressive bluegrass movement, often called the “Father of Newgrass,” and member of the ground-breaking band New Grass Revival, Bush is an International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame member, four-time Mandolin Player of the Year, and a multi-Grammy winner.
Bush first came to acclaim as a teen fiddler, when he was a three-time national champion in the junior division of the National Old-time Fiddler’s Contest. He recorded an instrumental album, Poor Richard’s Almanac as a high school senior and in the spring of 1970 attended the Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove. There he heard the New Deal String Band, taking notice of their rock-inspired brand of progressive bluegrass.
Bush joined Ebo Walker and Lonnie Peerce in the Bluegrass Alliance. Bush played guitar in the group, then began playing mandolin after recruiting guitarist Tony Rice to the fold. Following a fallout with Peerce in 1971, Bush and the remaining band members formed the New Grass Revival, issuing the band’s debut album the same year. Walker left soon after, replaced temporarily by Butch Robins, with the quartet solidifying around the arrival of bassist John Cowan.
New Grass Revival was hired by Leon Russell as his supporting act on his 1973 tour, issued five albums in their first seven years, and eventually became Leon Russell’s backing band. New Grass Revival reached new heights with a three-record contract with Capitol Records and a conscious turn to the country market but at their pinnacle called it quits. Bush then worked the next several years with Emmylou Harris’ Nash Ramblers, Lyle Lovett, and toured with the Flecktones.
After a quarter-century of making music with New Grass Revival and collaborating with other bands, Bush went solo. He has released seven albums and a live DVD over the past two decades. In 2009, the Americana Music Association awarded Bush the Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist.
“With this band I have now I am free to try anything. Looking back at the last 50 years of playing newgrass, with the elements of jazz improvisation and rock and roll, jamming, playing with New Grass Revival, Leon, and Emmylou; it’s a culmination of all of that,” said Bush. “I can unapologetically stand onstage and feel I’m representing those songs well.”
Tickets for the Feb. 12 show in Mount Airy are $55-$80 and are available online at www.surryarts.org, via phone at 336-786-7998, or at the Surry Arts Council office at 218 Rockford Street. For additional information, call the Surry Arts Council at 336-786-7998 or contact marianna@surryarts.org.
January 30, 2022
The Surry Regional Association of Realtors met on Dec. 17 for the group’s annual Christmas celebration. The event was held at the new venue in Mount Airy, The Vintage Oak Estate. Members were treated to dinner catered by 13 Bones and enjoyed music from DJ Blanton Youell.
During the event the 2021 Realtor of the Year award was presented to Dana Whitaker of Rogers Realty and Auction. The award was voted on by member Realtors.
Also during the event, the 2022 excutive board members were sworn in. Steve Yokeley and Eric Hodges are directors, Bobbie Collins is state director, Maggie Cockerham is treasurer, Stephanie Montgomery is vice president, Brenna Pearl Ocampo is president, and Dana Whitaker is secretary.
January 30, 2022
The following marriage licenses were issued in Surry County:
– Abby Lynn Soots, 44, of Surry County to Marley Noel Burton, 36, of Surry County.
– Johnny Lester Soots, 64, of Surry County to Elizabeth Ann Godley, 63, of Surry County.
– Jonathon Rodriguez Tapia, 24, of Surry County to Karla Yanitza Fuentes Perez, 25, of Surry County.
– James Dwayne Creed, 44, of Surry County to Alycia Marie Diaz, 33, of Surry County.
– James Arnold Mason, 23, of Botetourt County, Virginia, to Abigail Mae Yerkes, 23, of Botetourt County.
January 29, 2022
RALEIGH – High Path Avian Influenza has now been confirmed in 53 hunter-harvested wild waterfowl at three sites in North Carolina — Hyde County, a site located on the Pamlico/Beaufort County line and a new site in Bladen County.
These are the first wild birds in the United States to have Eurasian H5 HPAI since 2016, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. The positive samples were collected by USDA as part of its ongoing surveillance program for early detection of HPAI in collaboration with state wildlife agencies.
“These findings continue to support evidence that high path avian influenza is currently present in the Atlantic Americas migratory flyway,” said State Veterinarian Mike Martin. “Wild birds can carry this virus asymptomatically and potentially spread it to domestic poultry. We strongly encourage all poultry owners to follow strict biosecurity measures for at least the next 30 days, which is the time frame these birds are anticipated to be migrating through the state,” he said in a statement released Jan. 27.
Biosecurity measures include keeping domestic birds isolated from other people and animals in an enclosed environment. Bird owners should also keep their flock away from ponds where they might encounter migrating birds.
“While sampling is occurring in the eastern part of the state, the Atlantic Americas migratory flyway covers the entire state. This means that all bird owners need to implement strong biosecurity measures and keep their birds in an enclosed environment,” Martin said.
This type of HPAI virus is considered a low risk to people according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but it can be dangerous to other birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry. HPAI is also not a food safety issue.
All bird owners are encouraged to know the warning signs of Avian Influenza and implement steps to protect their flock.
The warning signs of HPAI include:
• Reduced energy, decreased appetite, and/or decreased activity;
• Lower egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs;
• Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb and wattles;
• Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb and legs;
• Difficulty breathing, runny nares (nose), and/or sneezing;
• Twisting of the head and neck, stumbling, falling down, tremors and/or circling;
• Greenish diarrhea.
If someones has birds that sick or dying, report it right away to a local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986.
For more information on avian influenza and additional steps to protect a flock visit www.ncagr.gov/avianflu.
January 29, 2022
UScellular has promoted Levi Beverly to sales manager for the company’s Mount Airy location at 752 S. Andy Griffith Pkwy.
In this role, Beverly is responsible for leading his team of wireless technology workers to help customers select the devices, plans and consumer electronics to best meet their needs. Beverly has three years of wireless experience.
“At U.S. Cellular we hold ourselves to a high standard to ensure that we provide our customers an excellent wireless experience,” said April Taylor, area sales manager for UScellular. “Levi’s commitment to that standard and to this community makes him the perfect leader for our Mount Airy store.”
Prior to this role, Beverly served as a retail wireless consultant at the Mount Airy location.
UScellular is always actively looking for professionals with sales experience, excellent communications skills and an enthusiastic commitment to customers. Store leadership and full and part-time retail wireless consultant sales positions are available. Interested applicants can apply online at UScellular.jobs.
January 29, 2022
Loraine Wiley Patrick, 80, of Mount Airy, passed away Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, at her home with her loving husband by her side. She was born in Floyd County, Kentucky, on Jan. 21, 1942, to the late Evert and Opal Gertrude Hunter Wiley. Mrs. Patrick was a loving wife, and sister who will be dearly missed. She is survived by her husband, Jimmy Patrick; sisters, Glynda Butters, and Betty Adams; a brother and sister-in-law, Larry Wiley and Patty; special friend, Bonnie McKinney; many nieces and nephews. In addition to her parents, Mrs. Patrick was preceded in death by a sister, Ruth Jones; brothers, Bobby Wiley, Donald Wiley, and David Wiley. A funeral service will be held Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at 2 p.m. at White Plains Baptist Church with the Rev. David Tucker officiating. Burial will follow in the church cemetery. The family will receive friends Wednesday from 1 until 2 p.m. at White Plains Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to White Plains Christian School, 609 Old Highway #601, Mount Airy, NC 27030. Moody Funeral Home in Mount Airy is serving the Patrick family. Online condolences may be made at www.moodyfuneralservices.com.
January 29, 2022
Since the attack on the capitol that tried to stop the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election, investigators have not stopped. Federal law enforcement agencies are at the moment devoting technical resources and personnel to scouring over videos and still images in an attempt to mete out justice from a sad day in America history.
With more than 750 active federal cases and suspects from around the country, some feel the prosecutions from the events of Jan. 6 have been slow in developing. However, there has been significant movement on two cases with local ties.
So far 184, or 22%, of those facing charges from that day have plead guilty. The most common charges are the ones centered around being in and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol itself. As the building was on lockdown, no entry of any kind for any reason was allowed by unauthorized personnel.
The charges ramp up in severity from there: civil disorder; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon or inflicting bodily injury; entering and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds; and conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, to name a few.
A handful of North Carolinians were charged with unlawful entry and nothing else, these charges stem from curfew violations or other offenses in which suspects did not enter the capitol complex. These are not being approached by prosecutors with the same zeal as those who enter into violence with law enforcement or entered the capitol illegally.
So far, only three cases from North Carolina have yielded guilty pleas and the most recent of those against Anthony Scirica of Winston-Salem was only recently decided. When asked by FBI investigators if he wished he had stayed outside the capitol building, he replied, “I don’t know. I’m not really sure. It might make a good story in like 50 years when I’m a grandfather.”
Four charges were filed against him including violent entry and disorderly conduct in a capitol building. He plead guilty to demonstrating in a capitol building, the other charges were dismissed. The sentence handed down was for 14 days in jail, with credit for one day served.
Scirica will be spending seven intermittent weekends in jail and pay both a fine and restitution in the amount of $500 each for his role in the attempted overturning of a presidential election. Outcomes such as this have become frustrating to prosecutors, judges, and some everyday citizens.
Chief Judge Beryl Howell of DC District Court has referred from the bench to the Justice Department’s “schizophrenic” approach that is limiting judge’s abilities to hand down the sentences they feel meet the severity of the crimes for what last fall she called the “crime of the century.”
Judge Howell spoke specifically last October at a sentencing hearing on fines such as Scirica owes and repeated her criticism that prosecutors are only asking each misdemeanor rioter to pay a small fee to fix damages, even though millions of dollars were spent on repairs and security in the wake of the insurrection.
That brings the focus closer to home with the case of Virginia “Jenny” Spencer, of Pilot Mountain. Spencer and her husband Christopher are both charged with the most common four charges: entering a restricted space, disorderly conduct in that space, disorderly conduct in a capitol building, and demonstrating inside a capitol building.
Allen Orenberg, Spencer’s defense lawyer, argued that his client had no intention of joining in with a mob that day. “She did not suit up for combat. She did not hide her face. She was not armed, and she committed no violent actions. She did not destroy anything. Jenny Spencer’s only desire was to participate in a Democratic process.”
The Spencers went to Washington, D.C. to attend the rally of former President Donald Trump where he repeated claims the election was fraudulently stolen. Orenberg in court papers acknowledged there was no evidence of such a fraud. He went on to say that it is “mindboggling” that the lawyers who brought such “frivolous” lawsuits have not been sanctioned.
He went on to explain that Spencer saw media coverage of the protests after the police killing of George Floyd and that persuaded her that the only way her voice could be heard was through protest. Furthermore, she also felt that she would not face criminal liability if she did participate.
Jenny Spencer entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and plead guilty to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a capitol building. Christopher Spencer has an additional charge of “Obstructing of Official Proceeding” and has plead not guilty, he is awaiting trial at this time.
Prosecutors had sought to deliver a hefty sentence to Virginia Spencer for her participation in the Jan. 6 riot, when prosecutors included in their sentencing documents information they had previously withheld, that the Spencers had their 14-year-old son “in tow” with them.
“There are lawful means available to change or challenge actions you disagree with,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said before handing down Spencer’s sentence. “But they don’t include a violent insurrection.
“It must have been a traumatic experience to witness this kind of violence. I really hope (your son) is all right,” the judge said in the sentencing decision on Jan. 7. At that time Spencer was sentenced to three months in jail and 36 months of probation.
Orenberg filed a motion on Spencer’s behalf saying the government had overreached on their sentencing. He argued it was not allowable for her to be sentenced to both jail time and then probation for the same crime.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly agreed with Orenberg and issued a new sentence for Virginia Spencer on Jan. 19. Now, she will still be serving three months in jail and face fines, her 36 months of probation have been removed.
The government it seems would rather see jail time rather than none, a sentiment echoed by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan at a sentencing hearing last fall, “There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government besides sitting at home.
“The country is watching to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in the history of this country before, for actions and crimes that threaten to undermine the rule of law and our democracy.”
January 28, 2022
PILOT MOUNTAIN — Freakish circumstances surrounding a race car falling from a trailer and causing a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle on U.S. 52 are being blamed for the death of a Pinnacle man.
“It was a crazy mess,” First Sgt. J.M. Church of the N.C. Highway Patrol said Friday of the accident scene Thursday afternoon near Mile Marker 131 on the four-lane highway just north of Pilot Mountain State Park.
Officials were notified around 4:15 p.m. about the wreck that encompassed both the northbound and southbound portions of U.S. 52 and resulted in the death of James Corey Jefferson, 47.
A chain-reaction series of events unfolded as a 2003 Freightliner rollback wrecker driven by Billy Joe Cline, 44, of Rural Retreat, Virginia, was headed north while hauling a car. The truck also was towing a utility trailer with a race car on the back.
Straps securing the race car somehow came loose and it fell into the roadway in the path of a 2008 Nissan passenger car being driven by Tammy Harmon Moore, 53, of Mount Airy.
“It was one of those little dirt-track cars,” Church described, saying potential charges are pending against Cline after a review by the Surry County District Attorney’s Office.
All this transpired in the left northbound lane, continuing with the race car plowing through a guardrail, crossing the median and heading into southbound traffic, encountering a 2017 Ford passenger car containing Jefferson and his wife, Kimberly Dawn Jefferson, 42.
“And they hit head-on,” said the Highway Patrol spokesman, who added that James Corey Jefferson was killed on impact.
The race car resembled a bowling ball crashing into pins due to the momentum involved, said Amanda Mecomber, a Michigan woman who witnessed the incident while traveling a short distance behind the hauler en route from Fayetteville.
She said one of the passenger cars involved appeared to have been cut in half. “It was bad.”
Kimberly Dawn Jefferson suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem along with Moore, the woman in the first vehicle that collided with the race car.
Neither Cline nor a woman identified as his wife, Tammy Nunn, were injured.
Mecomber said witnessing the carnage unfold left her “just praying for the families, because it was pitiful.”
Southbound traffic on U.S. 52 was shut down completely for more than two hours after the incident, with northbound travel reduced to one lane for about 45 minutes. Vehicles also were rerouted onto Key Street at Pilot Mountain to avoid the scene.
A southbound traveler from Illinois told The Mount Airy News after 6 p.m. Thursday that the stranded motorists largely were being patient although some were backing up and heading onto the median in an attempt to leave the scene.
Trooper Terry Bullington investigated the accident.
All those involved were wearing seat belts.
Difficult to comprehend
First Sgt. Church said the Highway Patrol usually is focused on causative factors such as excessive speed or driver impairment — neither of which were involved Thursday afternoon — and developing statistics to help understand and prevent motor vehicle accidents.
But the one Thursday afternoon defies such analytics, he acknowledged.
Cline was certain that he had properly secured the race car, only to have it come loose for some unexplainable reason, Church said.
“There’s nothing we could have done to prevent that,” he said of precautionary measures promoted by the Highway Patrol. “It was just a horrific event.”
There is a bit of a silver lining concerning the notion that more vehicles, and fatalities, could have been involved during a busy travel time on U.S. 52.
“A miracle is what I would call it,” Church said.
Yet this does not offset the tragedy associated with the death of Jefferson in occupying a particular spot where his vehicle collided with the race car.
“Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Church said.
January 28, 2022
Sure, scouting offers many activities for youths including camping, hiking, swimming and more — but along with the fun, leadership and other skills are developed which translate to the real world and make it a better place.
“I do think scouting offers so many things that are transferable,” local businessman Chad Tidd said Wednesday afternoon during a kickoff luncheon at Cross Creek Country Club in Mount Airy for an annual Friends of Scouting fundraising campaign locally.
Whether sleeping under the stars or shooting the rapids in a kayak, scouting provides adventures that teach valuable life lessons such as teamwork and perseverance, added Tidd, owner/manager of Chick-fil-A in Mount Airy, one of two special speakers Wednesday.
To him, scouting is more about a sense of adventure than anything else — specifically, leaving one’s comfort zone and engaging in activities that are challenging while also helping a person grow.
“Real-life applications” abound with scouting, said the other speaker on Wednesday’s program, Dr. Travis Reeves. While he is best known as the superintendent of Surry County Schools, Reeves also is an avid outdoorsman and a member of a scouting family, including both he and wife Leslie long serving as leaders in the program.
Too many youths raise themselves, Reeves said of how some immerse themselves in pastimes such as video games.
Scouting is a way to bridge that gap by having “kids being kids” while getting outside, he explained.
Measurable growth results along the way, including through leadership activities that later pay dividends in the business world and other realms, according to Reeves, who cited his son Ridge, 13, as an example.
Ridge is a Boy Scout who applied skills learned through scouting — such as respecting the environment and working with others — to a public service gesture.
“He organized a community cleanup in our neighborhood,” said his dad, which required planning, developing a safety checklist along with road assignments/maps and relaying instructions to participants in achieving cooperation.
“It looked like he grew three inches,” Reeves said of the impression he had while watching Ridge lead the proceedings en route to a successful campaign in which 54 bags of roadside trash were collected in 2.5 hours.
Tidd said the same applications of scouting skills also have occurred at Chick-fil-A.
“I have employed over the years lots and lots of scouts,” said the owner/manager, who explained that the key traits he looks for in a worker include being hungry, humble and smart. These tend to go hand in hand with values stressed by scouting such as being self-aware, resilient, courteous and trustworthy.
Tidd mentioned Eagle Scout Jeremiah Campbell as one he has employed who embodied such qualities, whom the Chick-fil-A official said possessed a quiet determination along with being personable and self-aware.
“Not only of oneself, but also their surroundings,” he said of such individuals. “Putting others first.”
Though Tidd said he is engaged in a “glorified fast-food” endeavor with Chick-fil-A, such characteristics can be beneficial regardless of one’s chosen field.
Fundraising effort
The chief goal of Wednesday’s kickoff event involved drawing attention to the need for funding to support programs offered by the local scouting district to ensure a continuation of its work with young people in Surry County. It has weathered a number of financial and other effects during the pandemic.
“When we are investing in the youth in our area, we are investing in our future,” Ann Vaughn, a veteran scout supporter who is chairing the annual fundraising campaign, told those assembled Wednesday afternoon.
“This organization means so much to so many,” said Daron Atkins, chairman of the newly created Seven Rivers District that includes Surry and neighboring counties. It operates under the umbrella of the Old Hickory Council of the BSA (formerly Boy Scouts of America), based in Winston-Salem.
This year’s fundraising goal for the district is $24,500.
“It costs the Old Hickory Council $200 to fund one scout one year,” Vaughn said.
The donation process can include supporting a scout, several of them and maybe a patrol of eight. “Or if the spirit moves you, an entire pack or troop,” Vaughn said of the Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups in the area.
Surry facility praised
Along with opportunities within individual troops or packs, a traditional beneficiary of fundraising efforts is Camp Raven Knob, a 3,200-acre facility in the Lowgap area which at last report provided summer jobs for about 120 staff members,
“We are so fortunate to have it in Surry County,” Atkins said of the camp that offers such activities as swimming, hiking, rappelling, archery, boating/kayaking, nature study, marksmanship and more.
“It is a paradise for scouts,” Dr. Reeves said during his time at the podium. “Leslie and I feel at peace when we’re at Camp Raven Knob and we believe our scouts do, too.”
“The magic of Raven Knob is the people,” said Chris Lawson, another scout leader who spoke Wednesday.
Local citizens and businesses can aid the scouting mission by sending checks payable to the Old Hickory Council, BSA, 6600 Silas Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem, NC, 27106.
Atkins said local donations should be designated for programs in Surry County.
Vaughn and Atkins also can be contacted, respectively, via annlvaughn@gmail.com (336-374-9990) or daron_atkins@yahoo.com (336-401-3708).
“The money stays local,” Atkins said.
“It goes to help the youth.”
January 27, 2022
• A Mount Airy man is facing trial on motor vehicle-related charges recently filed in Pender County, according to city police reports, including reckless driving/wanton disregard.
Luis Daniel Ortiz Osorno, 21, of 131 Churchill Lane, also is accused of hit and run/leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and having no operator’s license. City arrest records indicate that the charges originated through a Division of Motor Vehicles enforcement unit in Kenansville on Jan. 13, with no other details listed.
Outstanding warrants in the case were served last Saturday on Osorno at his residence. He was released under a $10,000 unsecured bond to appear in Surry District Court on Feb. 17, even though the alleged offenses occurred in Pender.
• John Claude Ayers Jr., 35, listed as homeless, was charged Saturday night with possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, a felony, after he was encountered by officers during a welfare check in the area of Lowes Foods on West Independence Boulevard.
Ayers, who is facing an additional violation of possessing drug paraphernalia, was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and slated for an appearance in District Court this coming Monday.
• Abigail Marie McHone, 27, of 756 McBride Road, was charged Saturday with driving while impaired and resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer after police encountered her during a welfare check at 127 Franklin St.
McHone is free on a written promise to appear in Surry District Court on Feb. 14.
January 27, 2022
When the Surry County Commissioners received the county’s economic report card at their meeting last week, they made sure to put it right on the refrigerator door. With revenues up and a growing general fund, the healthy report on the county’s finances warmed the commissioners.
Travis Keever delivered the financial report to the board, while it was his first year leading the audit of Surry County Gould Killian CPA Group, P.A. have been performing the service for several years. He offered thanks to the county and the various departments he needed to work with to bring the audit to a successful conclusion.
First on the menu was a review of the county’s financial statements and disclosures. The audit team issued an unmodified opinion on the county financial statement, meaning they found the financial statements to have been presented fairly and in compliance with accepted accounting principles. “This is of course what everybody wants to have when they have an audit.”
The next component of the audit reviewed the internal controls over financial reporting as well as compliance with key laws and regulations. While not a full internal control audit, the auditors were testing “those controls that are most impactful to the numbers on the financial statement,” he said.
There are many ways in which the audit team was investigating these internal spending controls. Keever made a detailed description of areas for inspection, “we conduct interviews, review processes in place, and observe transactions as they occur. We review examples of cash disbursements, and ensure proper authority was given, and that budgetary authority existed.”
They also view a sample of employee payroll to make sure the rates of pay are right, are for the right number of hours, and that a supervisor approved those hours. No problems were found in this report either, “We did not notice any material weaknesses in internal controls. We noted zero instances of reportable non-compliance with laws and regulations. So, that’s as good as report as we can give on that one under the audit’s standards.”
Compliance with federal and state grant awards was the topic of the third report. The auditors tested key grant provisions and compliance requirements and eligibility requirements for some of the larger federal and state funding sources for the county. This year the audit checked on the Medicaid program, as the board was told is done every year due to the size of the programs.
This year the audit also tested the state aid at to the airport, funding from the CARES act and funding from state Department of Environmental Quality clean water agreements. “Through this testing we found that the county complied with all significant compliance requirements and eligibility rules related to the grants.”
Finally, the audit looked into internal controls over compliance, that is to say how do the agencies police themselves to make sure they are complying? Keever used Medicaid as his example, “The review of internal control over compliance, which is primarily looking at things like, take Medicaid for example, making sure that the Medicaid supervisors are reviewing files accordingly, and any corrections are getting made in a timely manner, things like that. We noted no material weakness in those controls over compliance.”
The board was then walked through the financials for the county and shown how country revenues had increased from 2020 to 2021, while the county “held the line on expenditures.” This led to a $7 million net gain in one year to the county’s fund balance.
Keever told the commissioners the state pays close attention to funds on hand versus appropriations. The state would like governments to have 8% of their annual expenditure budget available as funds on hand, he noted Surry County is carrying a balance closer to 50%.
The property tax rate has stayed the same, but the audit shows that the amount of taxes collected still goes up every year due to organic nature of a growing tax base. The report pointed out Surry’s high tax collection percentage is “on the high end of county’s we work with.”
The summary was a positive one and when Commissioner Van Tucker asked for a comparison of Surry’s report to similarly sized communities, Keever gave the best answer he could, “The opinions that we gave are the highest level that we can give under the audit standards, and we didn’t have any findings. By rule that’s about all I can say, but read into that what you will – there’s nothing I can say any better about the shape the county is in.”
January 27, 2022
PILOT MOUNTAIN — An accident on U.S. 52 Thursday afternoon resulted in one confirmed fatality, according to a local emergency official.
It occurred at 4:10 p.m. along the southbound portion of the highway in the vicinity of Pilot Mountain State Park, where an unusual type of collision unfolded.
“The only thing we’ve got for sure right now is a car hauler (involved),” said Eric Southern, Surry County’s director of emergency services said shortly before 5 p.m.
A car, possibly a race car, being transported on that truck apparently fell off “and another vehicle struck it,” Southern added.
The person killed apparently was either the driver or a passenger in that vehicle, but details of the mishap were still being unraveled at last report. Injuries were reported to multiple persons.
Southern said the severity of the accident was resulting in the shutdown of U.S. 52 by public safety personnel at the scene.
This was requiring traffic on the highway to be temporarily diverted onto Key Street from the Pilot Mountain exit of U.S. 52 there. Traffic was reported to be stalled on the highway since the crash.
No other information was immediately available from the N.C. Highway Patrol late Thursday afternoon.
January 27, 2022
Surry Early College High School student Jay Mitchell has been selected as a Youth Tour Delegate for the Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation.
Jay will travel to Washington, D.C., this summer and spend a week attending leadership conferences, touring national museums, visiting historic sites, and meeting with elected officials. Jay will also receive a $500 annual renewable scholarship to be used toward his higher education.
“Surry Early College is proud of Jay for displaying leadership and presenting his essay to the Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation,” school officials said.
Surry Youth Tour is an annual competition for Surry County students more information can be found at www.ncelectriccooperatives.com.
January 27, 2022
Mount Airy officials are alerting owners of local businesses to the presence of state grants available to help offset the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Time is running out to seek assistance from the Business Recovery Grant Program administered by the N.C. Department of Revenue, for which the application period closes on Monday.
“It’s economic-recovery money for businesses that may have been hurt,” Mayor Ron Niland said of segments impacted.
“And they can apply for a variety of things.”
Two types of grants will be offered to eligible businesses, according to information posted on the city government Facebook page:
• A hospitality grant is available to an eligible arts, entertainment or recreation business, in addition to an eligible accommodation or food service business such as a hotel, restaurant or bar (under NAICS Code 71 and 72).
• Reimbursement grants target eligible businesses not classified in NAICS Code 71 and 72 and which did not receive funding from other relief efforts including the Paycheck Protection, COVID-19 Job Retention Grant and EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) Advance programs.
The Business Recovery Grant Program will issue a one-time payment to eligible North Carolina businesses that suffered an economic loss of at least 20% during the pandemic, officials say.
Under the guidelines, the grant sum will amount to a percentage of the economic loss demonstrated by the eligible business or $500,000, whichever is less.
The Department of Revenue plans to reduce grant sums if the total assistance requested exceeds the maximum funds authorized for the Business Recovery Grant Program by the state of North Carolina.
Mayor Niland stressed that the COVID assistance being provided through the state government is not connected to federal coronavirus aid the city of Mount Airy has been tapped for through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP).
Eligible business owners are encouraged to apply online for the recovery grants now through Monday at the www.ncdor.gov website.
January 26, 2022
PILOT MOUNTAIN — Two students were recognized for patriotic efforts by Pilot Mountain Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Post 9436 and its auxiliary during their recent monthly meeting.
They included Luke Tedder, Buddy Poppy King, and Riley Arnder, Voice of Democracy winner, who were tapped for those annual honors by the VFW post and auxiliary for 2021-22.
Each student read related essays to the groups’ members during the meeting and received certificates of appreciation and monetary gifts from auxiliary President Margie Nichols and Commander Kem Byrd of the VFW post.
In order to qualify for Buddy Poppy King, Luke also helped distribute Buddy Poppies with auxiliary members during a poppy promotion in Pilot Mountain for three hours in August.
The VFW Buddy Poppy program provides compensation to veterans who assemble the poppies — replicas of vivid red flowers symbolizing the great loss of life during war.
Meanwhile, the Voice of Democracy program of the VFW involves students competing for scholarships and incentives by writing an essay on an annual patriotic theme.
Luke, 12, is a seventh grader at Meadowview Middle School just outside Mount Airy.
The Buddy Poppy King is the son of Ian and Meredith Tedder of Pilot Mountain and the grandson of Bill and Yvonne Tedder of King and Greg and Sherryl Tucker of Pinnacle. Janie Kye of Tobaccoville is his great-grandmother and Luke also has a younger sister, Leah.
His hobbies include fishing, reading, camping, running cross country, baseball and basketball.
Riley, 16, the Voice of Democracy winner, is a 10th grader at Access Books and More in Pilot Mountain. He is the son of Michael and Tammy Davis and grandson of Johnny and Rhonda Parker, all of Mount Airy.
Other family members include a younger sister, Madison; an older stepsister, Alishia; and an older brother, Lathan.
Riley counts basketball, listening to music and watching movies among his hobbies.
Officials of the Pilot Mountain VFW and auxiliary say they wish both students much success in the future.
January 26, 2022
DOBSON — Surry-Yadkin Works was recently highlighted in the North Carolina Business Committee for Education’s (NCBCE) annual meeting. Surry-Yadkin Works was noted as an example of “high quality work-based learning.”
The Surry-Yadkin Works program is the collaborative effort of four public school systems in Surry and Yadkin counties including Elkin City Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools, and Yadkin County Schools, as well as Surry Community College, to create a unique approach to a regional internship program.
Surry-Yadkin Works Program Director Crystal Folger-Hawks emphasized the importance of creating successful matches between local employers and their needs along with the student interns and what they wish to gain experience in. She also noted the importance of monthly training in fields like public speaking, human resources development skills and OSHA 10.
NCBCE included interviews and success stories from Altec interns Jesus Nava, Daisy Garcia, Tyler Ramey and Rylan Loggins; Tampco intern Amani Tilley; Scenic Automotive Group intern Evelin Lara; and former intern and current Altec employee Adriana Landaverde.
During the fall 2021 semester, 31 Surry-Yadkin Works interns were working in 21 businesses and organizations throughout Surry and Yadkin counties. All interns received a stipend to cover transportation costs, and many employers also paid them for their work.
The funding for Surry-Yadkin Works is a joint effort with commitments from the Surry County Commissioners and the Yadkin County Commissioners. An anonymous contributor donated $100,000 prompted by a presentation about the program at an educational summit. Surry-Yadkin Works officially began on Jan. 1, 2021.
For more information about the program, contact Folger-Hawks at 336-401-7820 or folger-hawksc@surry.edu or visit www.surryyadkinworks.org. Follow Surry-Yadkin Works on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram @surryyadkinworks and on Twitter @SurYadWorks.
January 26, 2022
The United Fund of Surry County is moving, and officials there are hopeful of helping a local historic landmark reopen to the public in the process.
The United Fund, based at 137 Moore Avenue in downtown Mount Airy, will be closing its doors at its present location today, with hopes of reopening in the William Alfred Moore House on Monday.
“We’re packing up our offices now,” United Fund Executive Director Melissa W. Hiatt said Tuesday.
She said the idea to move to the Moore House began taking root in September. It was then that her agency had an event recognizing United Fund champions, holding the gathering at the Moore House.
Hiatt explained the present location, a small second-floor office, is a difficult place to hold events. There is little parking, and not a lot of room. Thus, whenever the agency wants to host a gathering or have a large meeting, it is forced to rent another location in town, as well taking supplies out of storage, transporting them, then returning and storing once again.
“It would be easier if we had a free standing space off to itself, where we could hold business meetings without having to go off somewhere else,” she said.
When holding that September meeting at the Moore House — which as largely been closed to the public since the start of the coronavirus pandemic — she had in idea: Perhaps the United Fund could move there, meet its facilities needs, and offer help to the Moore House Foundation as well.
“When people want to see the house, or arrange tours, we’ll be there. There will be someone in the building who can help.”
Hiatt also said she plans to help the Moore House Foundation with website design and its social media presence to attract more attention.
The Moore House, built in 1860, is the oldest continuous standing structure in Mount Airy. William Alfred Moore was a local merchant and industrialist who built the home, where he and his family lived. The home, owned by the Mount Airy Restoration Foundation, no longer has full time staff or volunteers manning the home. Hiatt said after having the idea, she discussed it with foundation board members, who were open to the move.
While the idea first came up in September, and those talks largely took place in October and November, Hiatt said her agency wanted to delay the move until now, once the busiest part of the United Fund’s annual fundraising was behind them, as well as the holidays being past.
Now comes time for the move.
“We hope to be open for business over there on Monday,” she said. .
She said it will be good, financially, for both of the agencies as well.
“They need a revenue stream, our rent will help with the revenue stream…it is a cost saving measure (for us) also,” she said. “I think it will be a great partnership. We’re excited. I’ve met with their board, we’re excited about the possibility of some things that can happen over there…It’s a beautiful space, it was breaking my heart to see it sitting there locked up.”
January 26, 2022
In conjunction with its primary function of battling blazes, the Mount Airy Fire Department logged fewer first responder calls during 2021 — not because the medical-related emergencies involved declined, but the usual suspect: COVID-19.
“Last year at this time we lost a whole entire shift for a two-week period,” Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said during a city council meeting last Thursday night when presenting an annual report of departmental activities.
Due to fire personnel being under coronavirus quarantine or actually having the disease, Poindexter said a temporary pausing of the first-responder program resulted at times last year.
But he emphasized in follow-up comments on Tuesday that this manpower issue did not compromise the department’s main mission of fire suppression, or prevent its personnel from answering “very urgent” medical calls.
“We did not pause all of it,” Poindexter said Tuesday of times last year when the medical response function was curtailed, after being asked if any serious repercussions stemmed from this.
Fire personnel continued responding to serious cases such as CPR, cardiac and those involving traffic accidents. Also, they were available whenever called to assist the Surry County EMS, for example, in helping to load patients into ambulances.
“But we’re back to answering medical calls fully now,” Poindexter said at the meeting.
The Mount Airy Fire Department expanded its services in December 2010 to include responding to all medical incidents in the city limits except for those at staffed facilities.
Department members answering those calls typically are on the scene several minutes ahead of the Surry County EMS and render vital care during that time which can mean the difference between life and death. This might include restoring pulses or normal breathing.
Before 2010, medical calls had been answered on a limited basis by firefighters since 1997.
The fire chief explained Tuesday that the personnel pause resulting from COVID ensured that sufficient numbers would be available to handle any blaze.
In 2020, Mount Airy firefighters weren’t dispatched to any call where coming into contact with COVID-19 patients was a possibility, per a request from the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services aimed at reducing the number of responders being exposed.
Numbers down
Last year’s results reflected a two-year phenomenon.
After logging a record 1,957 fire and emergency medical-related incident responses during 2019 — pre-pandemic — the total dropped to 1,113 in 2020. For 2021, the number was 1,189.
The yearly totals include both critical cases and performing other services such as assisting invalids and handling situations involving alarm system or smoke detector malfunctions.
EMS calls were “way down,” the fire chief said, numbering 664, but still constituting 55% of all calls handled by the department.
Fire-related incidents totaled 525 during 2021, which doesn’t mean there were that many structural blazes. The breakdown includes a significant number of incidents involving malfunctioning or unintentional activations of smoke detectors, alarm systems and sprinklers.
In 43 of the 525 cases, firefighters were dispatched to a scene only to have the calls cancelled en route.
The department was involved in 19 building fires. However, 11 of those occurred outside the city limits but counted by Mount Airy due to a mutual aid pact with neighboring volunteer fire units in which city personnel respond to incidents in their jurisdictions as needed and vice versa.
This netted eight in-city fires, “so we are about where we are normally,” Poindexter said of that number. In 2020, the Mount Airy Fire Department responded to 12 structural fires, up from nine the year before.
Fire losses amounted to $184,650 last year — compared to a pre-incident value of $2.5 million, which Poindexter considers a good ratio.
He also is proud of the department’s average yearly response time of two minutes and 58 seconds.
Poindexter lamented the fact that Mount Airy fire personnel were able to conduct only 15 public education events last year — “which is tremendously down, and of course we all know why.”
January 26, 2022
This is the last call for bids in the Surry County surplus items auction being conducted by Rogers Realty and Auction.
The county’s auction has all sorts of office furniture, Nautilus exercise equipment, and used airport signage. Medical exam beds, office sofas, locker bays, a gumball machine, rolls of old coins, restaurant trash cans and an ice cream cooler are all available as well.
On the vehicle and heavy equipment side the county is auctioning off a dump truck, flat beds, industrial size trash compactors, truck scales, as well as a two and half ton military truck.
The Rogers Realty and Auction website offers descriptions of the items and does make note of any known mechanical issues with the power equipment or vehicles. All auction items are sold as-is.
Biding closes today at noon, with one lot closing every two minutes beginning at 12 p.m., these times can be extended if last minute bids arrive.
For the winners of items in the equipment and vehicle group, item removal will be Thursday, Jan. 27 and Friday, Jan. 28, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 237 Landfill Road, Mount Airy. The only day for assistance with loading will be Thursday, January 27.
Thursday, Jan. 27 and Friday, Jan. 28, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. will be the pickup time for items in the office and exercise equipment group. Buyers will be notified of pickup addresses and are responsible for all loading and hauling of purchases.
A full list of items is found at: https://www.rogersauctiongroup.com/auctions/detail/bw74622
January 26, 2022
Local businessman, educational benefactor and southern gentleman Charlie Shelton passed away over the weekend, he was 86.
Shelton had retired to the Charlotte area, and he was living at the Southminster retirement community in Charlotte. His daughter Mandy Houser, and son, Chip Shelton, confirmed to the Charlotte Observer their father had fought a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
A name that may now be most recognized with Shelton Vineyards, Charlie and younger brother Ed Shelton took the lessons learned from their upbringing in these parts out into the business world. The impact Charlie Shelton had on this area is great, and he left an impression on those he met.
“Charlie’s message would be the example he set in life,” Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris said in remembrance of Shelton. “That anyone even from humble origins can achieve great success in life if they work hard, persevere, and seek out the great opportunities this country provides.”
The brothers Shelton worked in construction together after both realized separately that college was not the path that was meant for them. After planting cabbage for cash at age 12, and three acres of tobacco at 15 Charlie was not scared of working with his hands. After graduating from the Franklin School, “my dad told me I needed to go to college,” Charlie said in a profile piece for North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry in 2004.
Charlie was already enrolled at NC State to study textile engineering when his father Reid got him a summer job at the Mount Airy Knitting Mill that changed the trajectory of his life. He recounted in 2004, “I pushed cloth boxes in the mill the whole summer,”
“The windows were painted blue and I couldn’t see the sun. I decided right then and there that I didn’t want to be in textiles in any way.” After a drive to Raleigh to get back the deposit from State, that was the end of textiles. He asked Reid for a loan of $5,000 – what Charlie said school would have cost – to build his own home and make his own way.
His enterprising spirit saw its flare up in 1958 when Charlie started Blue Ridge Enterprises, his first business venture with former classmate Dee Meadows. Late in 1962 Charlie and Ed went in business together for the first time, forming Fortis Enterprises. “Fortis” means strength in Latin, and it was Ed’s wife Dotti who suggested it and the name carries on to this day.
They built homes one at a time as money allowed, and they scrapped and saved wherever possible to keep costs down. Betty Baker, Fortis’ first bookkeeper recalls Charlie telling her to turn the adding machine tape over to use the reverse side. The Sheltons streamlined the process of home building by using pre-cut framing lumber. Every major piece was pre-cut, lowering waste, and raising efficiency and Fortis profits soared.
Selling Fortis, Charlie and Ed were able to retain management and retain the Fortis company name in 1971. After a loss of confidence with the new ownership group, Charlie exited the company in 1977 knowing Ed would follow soon thereafter – which he did. The town of King was a major winner from the brothers exit from Fortis and the company’s later sale. The brothers donated more than a half million dollars in profits to projects benefitting King and King Elementary School.
After Fortis, the last company they founded was Shelco Inc. a general construction company which they sold to a group of employees in 2003 after having relinquished managerial control years earlier. Ed, also featured in the 2004 NCCBI profile, said of their decision to sell to their employees instead of selling for profit, “We’ve got about 250 employees who have worked hard for us and helped make this company, so they should have some fun with it like we did.”
Never one to rest, Charlie had spotted something that interested him as their Shelco time was ending, an old dairy farm in Surry County. “I paid $1,600 an acre” Charlie reminisced during his profile interview. “Three days later, I told Ed about it. At the time I just wanted a piece of land to get out and walk around on once in a while. We gave the use of the land to the local farm community for hay.
“Then one day I told Ed that I’d like to try a little bit of vineyard up there on the property. He said he didn’t want to have anything to do with it, so I decided that I’d fool around with about 20 acres. Then he tells me that if I want to do 50 acres and build a pretty entrance, he might be interested.”
What was to follow is now the stuff of textbooks and state board of tourism brochures. Charlie and Ed were responsible for petitioning the federal government for American Viticultural Area recognition for North Carolina’s first AVA, The Yadkin Valley, which was approved in 2003.
The significance of this recognition cannot be overstated when it comes to credibility in the wine market. The Yadkin Valley now has more than 40 wineries according to NCWine.org. Signage along North Carolina highways pointing out the wineries are there thanks to the Sheltons as well.
To facilitate the vineyard, and to create the homegrown talent that would be needed to run a successful winery, they made generous contributions to Surry Community College and underwrote for the enology program in its infancy.
“Years ago, when we began thinking about the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture & Enology, we envisioned graduates from the program at Surry Community College working in the local community to help it grow and prosper,” Shelton said in article published by YadkinValleyNC.com in 2018.
Shelton Vineyards’ current winemaker Ethan Brown is an alum of the Surry Community College program, the desire for homegrown talent has been realized.
Commissioner Harris said he had seen Shelton’s passion up close, “He and his brother Ed always sought to help the young women and men who sought to better themselves through Surry Community College. I saw that firsthand as a trustee on the college board. He gave mightily to this county; the results are visible everywhere and he could care a less as to your socioeconomic status.”
“Charlie was a very thorough person,” his brother Ed said in their profile. “He always tried to do the right thing. He was also pretty determined. If he set his mind on doing something, he made sure it got done.”
January 25, 2022
City officials have taken steps to address transient housing after residents complained about an unlicensed establishment operating in their midst, but issues remain regarding another form of short-term rentals, Airbnbs.
“I think what we’ve got here is a good start,” Mayor Ron Niland said after last Thursday night’s action by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
The board essentially made it harder for transient rooming establishments to exist in the city, including limiting the number of areas in which they may operate.
It was the presence of just such a facility at 204 W. Church St. which brought a group of residents to the Municipal Building in September to complain about what they perceived as a threat to the general welfare and safety of their neighborhood.
This allegedly included much police activity at the house where persons from far reaches of the country were said to be renting rooms by the month. Another resident of the neighborhood echoed similar concerns during a December council meeting.
“They also came and spoke to the Planning Board,” city Planning Director Andy Goodall said Thursday when outlining the events leading to the commissioners’ vote that tightens regulations.
The neighborhood opposition — containing an undercurrent of wanting to prevent the same situation from occurring elsewhere in town — led to proposed municipal ordinance changes by the Planning Board, an advisory group to the commissioners, which the latter approved unanimously.
New rules
One key change involves removing the term boarding/rooming house from the books and replacing it with rooming house alone — while also differentiating between transient and non-transient establishments.
Transient facilities are now permitted only in R-4 (Office-Residential) zones with a special-use permit, based on city government documents, with greater leeway in place for the non-transient variety.
A transient rooming house is defined as any single dwelling unit containing no more than five guest rooms and limited to that number of people where rent is paid, with transient specified as staying less than 30 days. Non-transient is defined as more than 30 days.
Wording that has allowed boarding/rooming houses in the R-20 (Single-Family Residential), R-6 (General Residential) and R-4 (Office-Residential) zoning districts was stricken for purposes of the amendment package.
The unlicensed facility on West Church Street was in an R-6 neighborhood, with Goodall earlier reporting that the owner decided not to pursue a permit because of strict building codes governing such establishments.
Under the revised ordinance, facilities must meet city minimum housing and state building codes before a certificate to operate is issued.
The changes also call for a house to be overseen by a resident manager, who Goodall said can be the owner.
One parking space is required for each guest room and one for the manager, located at the side or rear of the structure.
The planning director said due to the special-use permit status for transient rooming houses which also requires a hearing process, residents of an affected area will have a step up on the proceedings. “The surrounding neighbors will get notice of that,” Goodall explained.
He believes this was one of the issues with the West Church Street case.
Last Thursday’s action came after a public hearing on the proposal, which drew residents from that area.
However, only one spoke, seemingly on behalf of the group, and that was to express gratitude for how the city government handled the matter.
“I want to thank all of you,” Tim Ayers told Mount Airy officials. He had been one of the most-vocal residents to complain about the situation in September.
Mayor Niland thanked Ayers and the other residents for being patient throughout the process.
Board concerns
The changes were accompanied by comments from council members about the implications for other types of housing in the city limits.
Commissioner Steve Yokeley asked how the new ordinance might impact Airbnb, also known as Air B and B, sites, along with shelter facilities.
Airbnb refers to a rental idea that dates to 2007 in San Francisco, where two roommates in need of money loaned out spaces in their apartment to persons attending a design conference because of hotels being overbooked.
They gave their endeavor the name “Air Bed and Breakfast” since guests slept on air mattresses. The concept later expanded to other locations where short-term vacation rentals of cabins, beach houses, unique homes and even boats are offered to travelers.
“Bed and breakfasts have their own category,” Goodall said of local regulations, with the same also true of shelters.
“As of right now we don’t regulate Airbnbs,” the planning director added concerning that specific housing type.
He said it occupies a murky area where circumstances can be difficult to establish, such as a single-family dwelling becoming a two-family dwelling in violation of certain zoning rules.
The mayor acknowledged much “gray area” in this regard.
Commissioner Jon Cawley was quick to comment on potential problems with the lack of Airbnb guidelines from an operator’s standpoint. “At what point do you say, ‘I’m not a boarding house, I’m an Airbnb.’”
Goodall said Mount Airy is awaiting guidance from state officials regarding the relatively new form of accommodation.
But he advises anyone planning to open an Airbnb facility to first check with the Mount Airy Planning Department.
Street closures approved
When is a street not really a street? The answer: when it’s never built in the first place and exists only on paper, but officially remains on the books until finally removed by the commissioners.
That occurred at the meeting with two unopened streets, one located off North Andy Griffith Parkway in the vicinity of Food Lion and the other off East Haymore Street in the middle of town.
Both of the “streets” are less than 1,000 feet long and never were accepted for maintenance by the municipality or N.C. Department of Transportation.
Generally, street-closing requests are initiated to allow neighboring property owners right of way or other access to sites which would not be possible if the street status is in place.
Public hearings also were required for the closings, but only one person spoke during either, Jody Phillips, who had requested the change for the location off East Haymore Street.
“This property has been in my family for generations,” said Phillips, who mentioned that varying lot configurations for residential acreage over the years ended up with a small parcel left over containing the “street,” which serves no purpose.
Rights to the property involved will be split between him and a neighboring landowner, Phillips said.
Local businessman Tom Webb requested the other closure off North Andy Griffith Parkway.
January 25, 2022
Several East Surry High School students finished first or second in FBLA Regional Competitive Events at Lake Norman High School recently.
Among those are: Citlali Martinez, finished first in Business Communications; Samantha King, second in Introduction to Business Procedures; Liannette Chavez, second in Job Interview; Kimberly Whitaker and Karlee Bryant, first in T-shirt Design Spirit Event.
All of these students will now advance to State Leadership Competition in Greensboro.
January 24, 2022
The Zach Smith Fund of The Winston-Salem Foundation recently announced that $18,452.50 was granted to six Mount Airy teachers in December to support teacher-originated activities in the classroom.
Among those are:
– Candice Fenton-Haynes, Jones Intermediate School – $4,452 to support student iPad pencils for individualized learning;
– Dora Mitchell, Millennium Charter Academy – $1,000 to support a Fiber Arts class;
– Elizabeth Barrios, Tharrington Primary School – $3,000 to support Spanish language reading materials;
– Jennifer Jones, Mount Airy High School – $1,355 to support Masterclass access for student enrichment;
– Jodi Wilmoth, Jones Intermediate School – $ 4,645.50 to support a paperless, eco-friendly, innovative classroom with equipment and furniture upgrades;
– Polly Long, Mount Airy High School – $4,000 to support the Blue Bear Bus mobile classroom project.
The Zach Smith Fund was created in 2009 with gifts made in memory of Zach Smith from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, and his family and friends. The fund provides grant awards annually to educators in Mount Airy.
For additional information, visit wsfoundation.org/teacher-grants.
January 24, 2022
Charlie Shelton, one of the founders of Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, has passed away. Details on his passing are not immediately available.
“As someone who has worked with Charlie for over a decade he was a giant of a man and monumental catalyst for positive change in Surry County,” Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris said in praise of the late Shelton.
“His humble origins never left him in his pursuit and love for our community college and making our county and region a better place to live.”
Shelton attended Surry County Schools and was a graduate of Franklin High School class of 1953.
Charlie and his brother Ed Shelton worked together in construction and real estate development for the majority of their working careers. The last company they founded was Shelco Inc., a general construction company which they sold to a group of employees in 2004.
The brothers also founded and own The Shelton Companies, a private investment firm based in Charlotte. The Shelton portfolio of companies also includes Fortis Homes, King Sash & Door Company, and Carolinas’ Distribution Services.
The Sheltons were also responsible for petitioning the federal government for American Viticultural Area recognition for North Carolina’s first AVA, The Yadkin Valley that was approved in 2003. Through their work and dedication to their state and community they helped put North Carolina on the map “as one of the top wine producing states in the nation.”
“When we broke ground, there was one other winery in the Yadkin Valley and a total of 12 in North Carolina. Now there are 38 wineries in the region and 120 in the state,” Charlie Shelton told ‘The Land Report’ in 2014. Today, the state claims more than 400 vineyards and 100 wineries.
More than a solid member of the community and a catalyst for change in the county, Charlie Shelton will also be remembered for his manner. Commissioner Harris recalled, “His folksy southern gentlemanly approach to life was an inspiration and example to all.“
More information on Charlie Shelton and remembrances will follow in Wednesday’s edition of the Mount Airy News.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News