Police reports | Mt. Airy News

2022-09-10 11:03:40 By : Ms. Macy Chiang

• An aluminum trailer valued at $3,000 has been reported stolen from a local business, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

Police were told Tuesday about the theft, which had occurred at Cooke Rentals on West Lebanon Street. The 6-foot by 10-foot RC TILT trailer owned by the business was discovered missing from a parking lot in August.

• A wallet was lost and possibly stolen Monday at 1986 Rockford St., the address for the Goodwill store.

The black mesh wallet, owned by James Cletus Coble, a resident of Glendale Drive, contained an undisclosed sum of money and a Wells Fargo Bank debit card.

County board seek sales tax hike

In a draft statement of its legislative goals for the coming year the Surry County Board of County Commissioner have identified a one-quarter cent increase to the county’s sales tax as their No. 1 priority.

To make this happen will require a change in the rules governing what a county can do with such a sales tax increase under Article 43 of the state’s general statutes. That article sets conditions on such tax revenues being used for local transportation projects. It is in this area that the commissioners are seeking remedy from the General Assembly to allow for more flexibility in the issuance and use of such a tax increase. Surry County voters would then see the issue on a ballot before seeing any changes to a receipt.

This is not the first time the board has discussed levying an additional sales tax and Commissioner Larry Johnson made it an even more appetizing target when he attached to such a change a potential $3 million windfall for the county.

Vice Chair Eddie Harris mentioned an increase of one quarter-cent to the sales tax rate when County Manager Chris Knopf asked the commissioners to consider what their future legislative goals should be. Commissioners Johnson and Van Tucker agreed with their colleague that they would like to explore raising the sales tax in the county and the board went on the discuss internet sales tax and retail tax revenue.

It was the board’s consensus that the extra quarter-cent sales tax shall be the top legislative priority for the county and Knopf said he would draft the statement as such. The priorities list will be shared with both the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners as well as Surry County’s delegation in Raleigh.

Harris said, “We have had this for many, many years as a goal and I think it is a good option for counties like us. Instead of putting all the burden for revenue on the property owners, which we are very glad to have the property tax rate we do but having the option to (levy an additional quarter cent sales tax) is another tool in our kit that would allow us to keep property taxes down.”

Tucker surprised some with insight into who is paying what portion of property taxes in the county. “There is less than 50% of the people which actually paid property tax. That’s hard to imagine, but if you ask the tax office, they will tell you it is that percentage – or lower. So, it takes a whole lot of burden off a whole lot of people who are paying the biggest part of the load, so I echo the sentiments,” of Commissioner Harris.

“I agree, this is an interesting economy, and we know that inflation is here, but our internet sales have continued to be great,” Tucker said suggesting the inflationary impacts on store shelves may be harder to stomach than prices seen while sitting on the couch in slippers at home. “I think people are still going to buy and they are going to buy from their homes, this is a way to capture some of that activity. It was well worth the effort when a previous board passed a resolution to do a special quarter cent tax. It has been a big boost for the county taxpayers.”

Harris noted that the proposed sales tax increase has been on their radar for some time and is seen as a more palatable and equitable to raise taxes in the county. Not everyone is paying property taxes, as the 40% number cited by Tucker reflects. Everyone from Surry County’s lifelong residents to Mayberry weekenders getting lost on the Sonker Trail will pay a quarter-cent sales tax increase, none will be spared meaning none will be unfairly taxed either.

“Sales tax is the fairest tax, and everybody pays it — the deadbeats, the dope dealer, the working people, the just, and the unjust pay the sales tax. You can’t keep soaking homeowners, especially at a time like this. To put the burden on homeowners just doesn’t seem fair to me, and people who own large tracts of land that are in agriculture or forestry get the present use value. So, it’s the homeowner who gets the stick and that is what the sales tax does is help that situation,” he explained. Harris, among the most fiscally conservative members of the board, has routinely been an advocate for fairness on behalf of home or landowners.

With tourism on the rise in Surry County, the potential revenue to be gained from a one-quarter cent sales tax increase could add big bucks into the county’s coffers.

“Commissioner Tucker, as I recall when you and I came on the board that quarter-cent sales tax increase would have yielded $2 million, now it looks like… we are going to hit right at $3 million,” Johnson noted.

Tucker agreed and said he has been astonished at that time to find the same one-quarter cent sales tax increase in Wilkes County would have netted them only one-fourth the economic impact the same sales tax increase would have in Surry County. “I couldn’t believe it and I verified it with a town manager at that time.”

Harris chimed in that the estimate for Wilkes County at that time had been a $500,000 increase to the county’s coffers from the same sales tax increase.

“With Highway 52, our I-74 connector, and I-77 interchange and with our municipalities as they are, and the sales that they create, and the tourism they bring in: Surry County has a lot to be thankful for on retail sales. A quarter-cent on capturing some of those gains is really big and has been really big for this fiscal budget for this board,” Tucker said.

Surry County has enjoyed a low and stable property tax rate for many years and the board said they want to keep it that way. A quarter-cent change to the sales tax rate, they feel, would be the more egalitarian way for to the county raise additional funds that may benefit all residents.

The Shepherd’s House and Helping Hands will be holding on Sunday what officials there hope will become an annual fundraising event — Freedom Fest.

Although Shepherd’s House Executive Director Jana Elliot said she and others have been working on the event since spring, there was quite a bit of last-minute shuffling caused by the forecast of rainy weather, with the event now set for Cross Creek Country Club from 2 to 7 p.m.

“Weather was just a huge factor in making the change,” she said, referencing plans to hold the gathering at RagApple Lassie Vineyard in Booneville. Elliot said the owners there had offered the facility free of charge, but Sunday’s weather forecast of rain and cool temperatures forced the late scrambling.

“Cross Creek came to our rescue,” she said. “They stepped right up and said ‘We will help you out.’ The entire country club has graciously been opened up to us. We have been treated like royalty for sure.”

The event will feature music by three different acts — Teddy Barney Castle, Red Dirt Revival, and the Crossroads Band — along with musical guest Phil Ray who will be performing between the band sets.

Music is far from the only offering.

“We have a big variety of things available to do,” Elliot said. There will be 16 vendors on hand, with antiques, wood designs, face painting for the kids, ceramics, yard crafters, and a host of other goods for sale.

There will also be three food trucks, as well as food and beverages available for purchase from the Cross Creek dining facilities. Freedom Fest will take place inside Cross Creek, although the outdoor patios and pavilions are available to those attending.

She said all proceeds will go to Shepherd’s House and Helping Hands, and she would like to see enough of a turnout to make this an annual fundraising event.

“We’ve got high hopes for it,’ she said.

Admission cost is $25 per person, $10 for those age 12 and younger. Cash and credit/debit cards will be accepted, and people simply pay at the entrance.

For more information, visit the Shepherd’s House Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=shepherd%27s%20house

Unlike the famous line from a poem, “This is the way the world ends — not with a bang but a whimper,” the Koozies building demolition in Mount Airy has generated much noise and nary a whimper.

“I would say I’ve had lots of people who’ve called me to say they’re glad to see that thing coming down,” Mayor Ron Niland said Friday of the project that got under way this week to raze the dangerous structure at 455 Franklin St.

Housing and commercial uses are among the possibilities for the land left behind, Niland disclosed regarding what he painted as an expected happy ending to a long-troubling situation.

After years of inactivity at the site — accompanied by gradual deterioration of the building also bordering West Pine and North South streets — he and other observers appreciate the haste displayed there since its late-August sale to local businessman Bobby Koehler.

“I’m impressed that he’s moved so quickly,” City Manager Stan Farmer said Friday of the spot where a former private club called Koozies once operated — which now has been reduced to piles of rubble that crews were addressing Friday.

This was echoed by the mayor.

“I’m extremely excited and pleased with the progress Bobby Koehler’s making down there,” Niland added Friday.

Koehler owns Ultimate Towing and Recovery in Mount Airy, which is part of J&E Properties of North Carolina LLC based on Park Drive, the official buyer of the Koozies building. It also acquired the former Mittman body shop during a public auction on April 1.

As was the Koozies structure, the old Mittman shop had been declared unfit for occupancy due to its unsafe condition along with a large red building beside Worth Honda.

City government officials were especially concerned about the Koozies location that was deemed the most dangerous of the three and had been the site of two fires in recent months linked to its occupancy by homeless persons.

In February, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted to issue an ultimatum giving the Koozies building owner, National Decon Holdings of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, 90 days to either correct code violations there or raze the structure.

A failure to do so subjected it to being demolished by the city, and just before its recent purchase the commissioners had voted to seek bids from contractors to carry out the task of clearing the property. The municipality was poised to seize the land in court to help recover the cost involved.

Niland, as he had previously, commended the commissioners again Friday for their action in serving as a catalyst for the sale.

The injection of Koehler into the equation has been a plus, both city officials say.

“He’s pretty much a straight shooter,” Farmer said of Koehler doing what he promises on projects.

New use may be housing

Koehler has not disclosed publicly what the plans are for either the Koozies site or the former Mittman property, but shared some thoughts along those lines with the mayor.

“He’s looking at several things,” Niland related Friday, including possible commercial or residential projects.

“And all of them would be good additions.”

However, no firm decisions have been made at this point, according to the mayor, who is hopeful about what ultimately transpires.

“I want to commend Bobby Koehler for putting something of value there going forward, whatever that might be.”

Meanwhile, it is not known how long it will take to remove all the debris from the former Koozies property and when nearby streets that have been closed for the project might be reopened.

Wendy Carriker, of Mount Airy, was installed as the first vice president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in New Orleans, Louisiana, earlier this summer, for a two-year term extending from July 2022 through June 2024. During her tenure, she will travel to the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to complete federation business.

As first vice president, Carriker will serve as coordinator and liaison for state federation presidents and hold a seat on the club’s strategic planning committee, among other responsibilities.

Founded in 1890, General Federation of Women’s Clubs address issues affecting the well-being of women, children, and families. With clubs in every state and several countries, today’s nearly 70,000 members work strategically to draw attention to and prevent the persistent problems of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse. Members also undertake a wide range of community impact programs, including support of the arts, advancement of education, preservation of the environment, promotion of health and wellness, and engagement with civic affairs.

For Hope Trumpie, Saturday’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Mount Airy can dredge up some painful memories.

But the annual event also is a chance for her to share her story, and hopefully spread the word that the Alzheimer’s Association has vital information and help for those dealing with the disease. And the walk serves to keep the disease front and center in the public consciousness to keep research dollars coming in.

The basic definition of Alzheimer’s, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is that it is a “progressive mental deterioration” which leads to degeneration of the brain — eventually leading to dementia and death.

For people such as Trumpie, it is also a cruel disease which steals a loved one, a little bit at a time, as their ability to drive, shop, do all the basics of taking care of one’s self erodes. At some point, those suffering from the disease will even lose the ability to remember life-long friends and family members.

Trumpie has had to watch three people close to her go through that process before eventually passing away: her mother, a close family friend who she helped care for, and her sister, although her sister died from Lewy Body disease, another form of dementia.

With her mother, Trumpie said there were no major sudden changes that caused great concern at first.

“They were just subtle changes that a lot of times you’d write off as someone being in their early 80s,” she said recently. “But it wasn’t Momma, she wasn’t the type to make mistakes with finances, she wasn’t the type to forget things,” she said. “One summer, Daddy and I noticed she was forgetting things, she was repeating things which was really the big thing. She was still managing the household budget but there were things that were off.”

She had recently had knee replacement surgery, so they wondered if some of the issues were related to that, but her mom’s physician ruled that out.

Afterward she said was a gradual decline.

“For months, everything would seem fine, then there would be another turn. She would forget more things; she would get confused. She would be out driving and say, ‘I’ve never been here before,’ when she had been there many times. Or she might say ‘I wonder how so and so is doing, I haven’t seen them in months’ when she had seen them last week.”

Eventually, she said her mom’s forgetfulness became more serious.

“Then you’re riding with her, and you realize she can’t drive. That was the hard thing — taking away her driving. We had to hide her keys.”

Then came the inability to recognize people.

“She might talk with someone then say, ‘I don’t have a clue who that person is…and it was someone she had been sitting in a church pew with every Sunday.”

“And then, she forgot who we were.”

Trumpie said watching her mom fade meant every few months, or every few weeks, they would have what she called “A new normal.”

Her mom would ask questions about when her dad was going to pick her up — her father had been dead for 55 years at that point — or she might talk about her small family dog that had been dead for years, wondering where the dog was.

Sometimes, Trumpie said her Mom was, in her mind, a little girl again, or at some other point in her life, without any idea the years had gone by.

Trumpie said as if watching the deterioration of someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia wasn’t bad enough, there are other stresses that go with caring for someone.

“If you’re working, if you’re having to work to pay your bills, you are always worried. How am I going to support my family and take care of my loved one?”

In her case, Trumpie said she was fortunate. She and her siblings, along with their dad, were able to handle most of the care giving issues, while her husband took on all of the household duties to free her to spend time with her mom.

Trumpie also worked for a company involved with dementia research, so she had access to information many others may not.

But it was still a stressful time.

“Take care of yourself, get some sleep and get some rest,” she advised those serving as caregivers. “Realize getting flustered is part of the game. They were there for you, they took care of you. Now you take care of them.

“Cherish every minute, try to take a deep breath, realize they are still your parent. They are lost somewhere, they are scared, they don’t know what’s going on, you just really have to be patient. It’s a virtue for sure, it’s easier said than done.”

Watching her mom fade was not the only time Trumpie dealt with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Two years earlier, in 2016, she said her sister died from Lewy Body Disease, which is a degenerative condition that is always fatal.

“It’s a fast-moving dementia that robs them of their cognitive ability, their speech, their ability to move, they lose everything. That’s very hard to work with,” she said. Initially, she said her sister was being treated for Parkinson’s, but they learned she had been misdiagnosed as her condition continued to deteriorate.

And there was a family friend.

Trumpie said her mom was serving as a caregiver for their friend when her mom became ill. After her mom passed away, Trumpie said she assumed the caregiver duties for their friend, watching the same progression of the disease.

Whether Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, she said diseases such as these are among the most difficult conditions on those around the person suffering from the affliction.

“It’s the most heart-wrenching of diseases,” she said. “You lose them over and over and over again. I can clearly remember exactly where I was the last time I heard my mother say my name. I don’t want anyone to go through that, to go through months and months and months without a parent knowing you.”

Despite some somber observances scheduled to be part of Saturday’s gathering, Trumpie said it’s also a time to support one another, to educate others about Alzheimer’s, and to raise money for research.

For her part, Trumpie said she and a number of her family members will be there walking and encouraging folks to donate money to the cause.

“Even if you can’t support us financially, support us through prayer…. just wear the color purple Saturday and think about all those caregivers going through what my family went through.”

Saturday’s walk is at Riverside Park, located at 350 Riverside Drive in Mount Airy. Check-in opens at 9 a.m. with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. and a walk start at 10:30 a.m.

Mount Airy soon will be getting a full-time fire inspector, but funding the new position won’t require additional revenue above what the city Fire Department already is being allocated.

Fire Chief Zane Poindexter believes the addition will improve the level of service to the community, including a “huge boost” in customer service and providing for less wear and tear on fire engines along with adding needed manpower for emergencies.

He said Wednesday that the change involves new ground being broken by the Mount Airy Fire Department in terms of designating one individual to handle inspections at schools, restaurants, industries and other locations to ensure safety.

“The first one ever,” Poindexter said.

“We’ve had fire inspectors, but they’ve been firefighters, lieutenants and captains,” the chief said regarding how other department personnel have performed inspections along with their regular duties with engine companies.

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners approved the creation of the position during a meeting last Thursday night.

“Our department and responsibilities continue to grow and with that the need to rethink certain aspects of our service delivery,” Poindexter stated in a three-page needs assessment that was presented to the commissioners making the case for the new job.

Its main responsibilities will include coordinating and maintaining various fire inspections and re-inspections for about 1,200 occupancies in the city limits, according to information from Poindexter.

In 2021, 426 company-level inspections were conducted which turned up 881 violations, according to an annual report for the Mount Airy Fire Department which also lists 101 re-inspections. Inspections are done in accordance with state code and insurance schedules, including every six months at all public and private educational facilities.

Places such as restaurants, churches and bars with “assembly occupancies” are inspected annually, with two-year inspections done at factory or industrial sites. Inspections of conventional businesses such as those on North Main Street or in strip malls occur every three years.

Among the listed benefits of the new fire inspector function are ensuring that the visits occur on schedule while also lessening the compliance window.

The public further will be aided by having only one person to deal with as opposed to arranging inspection schedules with different staff members for various properties someone might own around town.

Poindexter says the change will be easy on fire engines due to inspections being a large part of a platoon’s work load during a shift and the need to drive engines to the locations involved so firefighters can be ready to respond to any emergency.

“The fire inspector would be utilizing a much-smaller vehicle that costs a lot less to operate, would take a lot less fuel and have a significant decrease in the wear and tear of the larger fire engines which would help them last longer,” Poindexter noted in the needs assessment.

Aside from streamlining inspections, the new position will add manpower to fire-suppression ranks during the inspector’s 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule.

The job will come with the requirement that the inspector be certified to drive all pieces of fire apparatus within the department while on duty, such as deploying its ladder truck to a call if needed.

The new position will cost $61,955 annually, according to a breakdown from the fire chief, including a starting pay of about $40,000 and a benefits package.

In explaining how it will be funded without additional revenue, Poindexter said this will be achieved by cutting three part-time jobs in the department for which funding already has been allotted but are vacant.

These include one part-time inspector and two part-time firefighter positions.

The Mount Airy Fire Department now has 41 full-time and part-time members, which will go to 38 with the cut.

Poindexter’s plan is to eventually have two full-time fire inspectors in the city, but for the present fiscal year only one was sought as a starting point.

• A Mount Airy man has been jailed on felony burglary and larceny charges, according to city police reports.

Michael Dean Myers, 45, of 1220 Banley St., was encountered by officers at his residence Sunday during a domestic investigation and found to be the subject of two outstanding warrants for arrest for burglary/breaking and entering and larceny.

The charges had been issued on July 31, stemming from a July 22 incident in which a gold pocket watch and a wallet were stolen during a break-in at a residential property on Galloway Street, with Jennifer Withers of Northwood Drive as the victim.

Myers was held in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and slated for a Sept. 29 appearance in District Court.

• Two Hillsville, Virginia, residents were arrested as fugitives from justice in Mount Airy on Sept. 1, David Wayne Pullen, 55, and a woman listed as his fiance, Jacqueline Marie Joaquin, 37, both of 309 Spencer’s Mill Road.

Pullen and Joaquin were taken into custody after a traffic stop on North Renfro Street led to the discovery that their names had been entered into a national crime database as being wanted on an unspecified matter in Carroll County, Virginia, where Hillsville is located.

Each was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $10,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in District Court in Dobson on Monday.

• Randy Allen Dillard, 32, of North Wilkesboro, was charged with second-degree trespassing Monday after he was encountered by police during a trespassing call at Northern Regional Hospital, from which Dillard had been banned by security personnel.

The case is set for the Oct. 10 session of Surry District Court.

A series of open house events at a local historic site is concluding this weekend.

The Edwards-Franklin House will be available for visitation by the public on Saturday and Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m. both days. The open house events are free to everyone and provide the chance to see a unique example of architecture in the region up close.

Located at 4132 Haystack Road west of Mount Airy, the Edwards-Franklin House was constructed in 1799 and is considered to be the finest example of its design in the Piedmont.

The house was built by Gideon Edwards and later occupied by his son-in-law, Meshack Franklin, a member of Congress and brother of North Carolina Gov. Jesse Franklin, who served in the 1820s.

The structure was bought in 1972 by the Surry County Historical Society and restored to its grandeur, with many unique architectural components featured.

This weekend’s events are part of a monthly Saturday-Sunday open house series that resumed in May after a two-year shutdown prompted by the coronavirus. “This is the last monthly open house for 2022,” Dr. Annette Ayers, a Surry Historical Society official, confirmed Wednesday.

The open house series has proven to be popular, Ayers added.

“We have been very pleased with the attendance,” she advised.

“Some visitors are discovering the Edwards-Franklin House, cemeteries and (log) water pipes for the first time — other repeat visitors are rediscovering its beauty, architecture and peaceful surroundings.”

This year’s series has been a welcome bounce-back from the two-year COVID-forced shutdown, according to Ayers. “It has been a very successful season from May to September.”

Although the open house events are ending, another opportunity to experience what the Edwards-Franklin House has to offer will come on Oct. 1, when the Surry County Sonker Festival is scheduled there from 1 to 5 p.m.

The annual event that celebrates a deep-dish fruit dessert native to this area has not been held since 2019, also due to the coronavirus.

Surry County Attorney Ed Woltz had a rare follow up item on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting of the Surry County Board of County Commissioner that needed their attention.

He said the county and Mount Airy had been offered a settlement of $90,000 from CK Technologies that would repay both parties for incentive benchmarks that were not achieved.

Woltz explained to the board that in 2005 Surry County agreed to appropriate up to $700,000 for grading and site improvement to the property located at 710 Piedmont Drive.

An additional tax incentive of not more than $286,176 over an eight-year period to match a Mount Airy incentive was also authorized. This funding was to be tied to the benchmarks of capital investment and employment.

While the employment benchmarks were met for most of the term of the agreement, Woltz said, CK Technologies had failed to meet the investment benchmark. Since the pandemic and a decline in business, he said their Mount Airy facility had been sold to another company with a similar name, CK Tech Acquisitions LLC.

He advised the board the new owner was willing to accept the existing terms of the agreement and maintain it as such but suggested it would be easier to end the prior agreement than to add a new party onto it.

“I am tasked with attaining the best deal we could to undo the incentive agreement. The reason being is that the purchaser of CK Technologies was not an original party to the agreement. They are ready to assume the CKT’s liabilities, but it is awkward to bring someone in who was not a party into things.”

“As part of the unwinding process the city of Mount Airy and the county have approved a mirror agreement where the city and county will each receive $45,000. CK Technologies, the county, and the city would then be relieved of further responsibilities under the 2005 contract.”

Along with his Mount Airy counterpart Hugh Campbell, Woltz agreed to the settlement with CK Technologies and needs the board to sign off on the amount of $45,000 to both the county and Mount Airy for a total of $90,000 in repayment for not meeting the benchmarks of the incentive plan.

At a previous meeting CK Technologies had offered $9,000 as a settlement to both parties – combined. “They increased their proposed settlement amount exponentially,” Woltz advised.

At the heart of the matter here is whether the pandemic falls under force majeure, was it an “act of God” level occurrence that would allow CK Technologies to break free from the terms of the incentives package, Woltz said, “There is a cloud over act of God issues.”

The board was told that prior to COVID the company had been meeting the employment benchmarks “by a wide margin.” However, since the pandemic the company has jobs listed and positions open that they cannot fill, a situation to which Commissioner Van Tucker said he can relate. He said at his own business he had jobs he cannot fill right now although he was unsure whether it was the pandemic or the drastically shifting labor markets at play.

CK Technologies settlement offer of $90,000 split between the county and Mount Airy would in essence buy CK Technologies out of those terms of the incentive agreement free and clear. It is a settlement offer however and not the full amount they owe.

Commissioners Eddie Harris and Tucker both said that a company that was too large for the Payroll Protection Program assistance could surely absorb the full amount rather than settle.

Commissioner Larry Johnson from his perch at the end of the dais suggested, “We are going to spend time and money in trying to receive another $7,000? I would be willing to accept the offer.”

“I don’t like it,” Tucker said, “I don’t like it a bit but since we hired (Woltz) to cut this deal and we are in partnership with Mount Airy, rather than squabble over $7,000, I don’t like it, but in the spirit of going along to get along, I won’t vote against it.”

The board voted unanimously to accept the settlement and release CK Technologies and the new owner from the incentive agreement

In other county commissioners’ news:

– The commissioners handled two procedural matters for the coming year in approving their 2023 commissioners’ calendar and setting the Surry County Board of County Commissioner Legislative Goals for 2023-2024. Goals include looking at sales tax flexibility and road improvements along US 52 between the airport and the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway that connects Kernersville to Rural Hall and US 52.

– North Carolina general statute gives the county authorization to transfer property, at no cost, which is deemed surplus, obsolete, or unused from the county to a non-profit corporation. As the county continues to see a potential benefit to the public in repurposing such property, two surplus county vehicles will find new life with local volunteer fire departments.

The commissioners agreed to transfer a 2016 Dodge Charger to the CC Camp Volunteer Fire Department and a 2009 Ford Focus will be joining the ranks of the Four Way Volunteer Fire Department.

– Finally, in the open forum local resident Mark Barr rose to give a suggestion to the board on a change that would improve traffic safety for drivers but more importantly for law enforcement and first responders. “We are in danger,” Barr said grabbing the attention of those listening in the process.

Barr, a former first responder, said that drivers are becoming increasingly distracted and that causes a danger to all parties on the roads as drivers glance down at the phones for text messages and notifications.

He also relayed his experiences on the roads of Galax, Virginia who have a system that he would like to see implemented in Surry County which takes control of stoplights when emergency vehicles are approaching and can change red lights to green to allow emergency vehicles to cross the intersection unencumbered.

“If someone here, right now, had a heart attack and that ambulance just finished a call around North Surry High or Lowgap, that is going to take a while to get here,” Barr said. He added that catching every red light along the way could slow down response when minutes or even seconds can be a life changing difference.

Perhaps the county and Mount Airy could join in incurring the costs of such a system he said. He also said that the costs of the system would theoretically be recouped in the prevention of such an accident with county or city emergency vehicles.

Barr apologized for arriving right from work on the farm, but the cause is important to him. “This is a safety issue, and I will be back. I am not going to give up on this.”

When voting last month to support Pilot Mountain in seeking the reinstatement of PART bus service to Surry, Mount Airy saw it as assisting a sister city — but the big brother in the local governmental family wasn’t amused.

“The Surry County commissioners, we were very displeased in your decision,” Larry Johnson, one of those five individuals, told Mount Airy officials during a meeting at City Hall last Thursday night.

Commissioner Johnson, who represents the Mount Airy District on the county board, said he was speaking on the behalf of the other Surry commissioners in responding to city officials’ Aug. 4 action regarding the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART).

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution of support then, at the request of a Pilot Mountain official, to join that town to the east in asking that the public transportation service to Surry be reinstated.

It was discontinued by the county officials effective with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, citing the cost required compared to the ridership involved — specifically local revenues from a rental car tax which went to support the program.

County did its “homework”

Johnson reiterated that ridership was “very, very low” when speaking during the public forum portion of last week’s city council meeting.

“We did a lot of homework on this,” Johnson added. “It wasn’t spur-of-the-moment.”

That evaluation process centered on the PART parking lot at the Big Lots shopping center just off Carter Street in Mount Airy, but did not involve counting vehicles in the lot but the persons actually getting on and off the buses.

“We used our own eyes,” the county commissioner said, explaining that some parking in the lot are doing so to use the city greenway nearby.

Johnson said since the service was discontinued, only a handful of citizens have complained, including some from Pilot, one from Cana, Virginia, and “zero” from Mount Airy where the bulk of car-rental tax revenues are generated.

The visiting county official remarked that the county could pay each rider a couple of hundred dollars and still come out to the good with the funding equation involved.

Although he voted for last month’s resolution in support of Pilot Mountain, Joe Zalescik, a city commissioner, also voiced some of the same concerns then about low ridership.

While the city council seemed somewhat swayed by a stated need for local residents to have a means of transportation to medical facilities in Winston-Salem — among the stops on the regional PART routes along with shopping venues — this was questioned by Johnson.

He suggested last Thursday that if citizens need a ride to and from a medical procedure that would preclude them from driving themselves, then family members, friends or church members can provide this.

Johnson also took aim at people who used the transportation service as a low-cost means of going shopping or eating out, saying they were being subsidized by those renting cars to the tune of $100,000 annually to fund the program.

“They should do that on their own,” the county official said of such passengers paying their way.

The fate of the rental car revenue is yet to be decided, Johnson advised. He mentioned that PART officials have money coming “out their ears” from various governmental sources to fund the system rather than taxing Surry motorists.

What will become of the parking lot off Carter Street is another question to be answered, based on discussion Thursday.

Another motivation for Mount Airy officials’ support of Pilot Mountain was the notion by recent high gasoline prices would result in greater use of the bus service by the public if it were reinstated.

But comments by Commissioner Johnson indicate that such a reversal is not likely to occur.

“The county commissioners are firm in our decision,” he said.

American Legion Post 123 is sponsoring a Veterans Appreciation event this Saturday, Sept. 10, that will also feature the placement of a 50-year time capsule on the grounds of Veterans Memorial Park located at 691 W Lebanon Street in Mount Airy.

Event organizers ask those participating to arrive at the park at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and the program will begin at 11 a.m. With so many other events in town this weekend, organizers did not want to keep people from enjoying other events as well.

There are invited guests from local government and law enforcement to speak. Organizer Jerry Estes said to look for the ticket booth that will be visible from the road and the event will be taking place there.

The time capsule is being prepared to be placed and organizers say it has artifacts donated to it that are both focused on local veterans but also on Veterans Memorial Park. Estes said there have been a variety of items added into the time capsule for posterity including medals, dog tags, and press clippings. He said there are medallions from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom representing more than 75 years in defense of the Constitution of the United States.

The purpose of the event is to show thanks to local veterans and to ensure veterans are not forgotten. In 50 years when the Veterans Memorial Park time capsule will again see the light of day, Estes said, “I hope it can show who we were and the things we have done. We made an impact locally, not just in our service, but afterward as well.”

“I want people to know we were here, and we cared enough to give back even after we served.”

East Surry High School held an open house and East District Night to welcome students and parents to campus at the start of the school year. On these days students and parents were able to meet with faculty and staff and tour the campus.

East District night was an evening of food, fellowship, and festivities. The community was invited to East Surry High School to partake in games, food trucks were on site, watch both the football team and band practice, along with other activities.

The annual Francisco FarmFest will be returning this year, with the festivities set for Sept. 17.

FarmFest Along the Sunflower Trail is typically held on the third Saturday of each September, according to organizers, so the community can pause to celebrate its “…farming heritage along with their homegrown and handmade traditions.”

Among the treats awaiting those who attend are the ability to watch antique farm tools in action, shopping for handmade items from local crafts people, visiting an apple orchard, and food for sale to enjoy.

Maps of the Sunflower Trail along with a list of raffle prizes available will be on hand at the FarmFest Welcome Center adjacent to the Francisco Community Building at 7104 NC Hwy 89 West.

Food will be available to purchase — tenderloin biscuits will be available from nearby Southern Classics, while a hot dog lunch with a treat will be available from the Baker’s Corner in the visitor center at lunch.

At the community building will be barbeque sandwiches for sale, and the chance to listen to bluegrass music.

Along the trail is the historic Jessup Mill. Built in 1910, the mill served the community until the late 1970s. The flood of 1979 was the nail in the coffin for the mill. According to local lore, the mill owner, Porter Jessup, was never able to get the mill back up and running after the flood.

At the mill, visitors can listen to Francisco storytellers share tales about growing up in the community, and learn of farming, country stores, and community churches with dinner on the grounds.

The Dan River Basin Association will have a tent where visitors can learn about about wildlife living in the river near the mill.

“Learn how they help us to know how clean the water is,” organizers say of the event. “See water bugs big and small and learn which ones will tolerate some pollution and which ones won’t. While you hold a crawdad (or not), learn about how citizen scientists and DRBA monitor waterways all along the Dan to help address water quality in the basin.”

Before leaving the area, visitors can also check out tobacco being harvested across the road from the mill.

At the George Family Farm will be a display of antique tools, some of which were fashioned in a forge. Delana Bigg will be demonstrating the walnut cracker he designed and built. Biggs’ Nut Buster is a highly functional cracker that is used every winter to crack many, many pounds of local walnuts.

His wife, Glenda Bigg, will be at the farm with some of her handmade doilies, dishcloths, and hats. She also makes a variety of yard art; this year, she will have a crocheted butterfly on sale. There will also be local honey on sale.

The Kordick Family Farm features more than 175 varieties of heirloom apples in its holistic/organic orchard. Visitors will be able to taste a variety of dried apples and see what it takes to make these trees flourish. In addition to fresh apples, a variety of pumpkins will be offered for sale.

The FarmFest celebration always includes a raffle, and this year is no exception. Local artisans contributed a variety of prizes: a handmade Shaker table built from a walnut tree harvested from a local homeplace, a quilt featuring tractors, an owl sculpture, a gourmet Italian dinner for four, an heirloom apple tree, a fabulous basket of treats from Southern Classics, and several pieces of art. Proceeds from the raffle go directly to support the community.

”You can view the prizes and purchase a raffle ticket at the Francisco Community Building,” event organizers said. “The drawing will be held Saturday afternoon, and you do not have to be present to win.“

For more information about FarmFest Along the Sunflower Trail and to see the raffle prizes visit the Francisco FarmFest Facebook page.

Flat Rock Elementary School received grant funds from Surry County Educational Foundation for the Book Bus to run routes over the summer.

Students visited the Book Bus on six Tuesdays, starting at the end of June till the first of August. The Book Bus made six stops throughout Flat Rock’s community. All students chose a free book, read with an adult, and received a bag of healthy snacks

“Flat Rock Elementary School is grateful to all the employees who rode the Book Bus,” officials there said. “Flat Rock Elementary wants to give a big thank you to our bus drivers, Ed Niten and Dawn Solomon, as well as our custodians, Sarah Niten and David Jones, who prepared the Book Bus each Tuesday and also rode to assist with reading to students.”

The role moonshine played in launching stock car racing is well-documented, and the two will come together again Saturday during an annual event in Mount Airy.

Now in its third year, the Moonshine and Racers’ Reunion will be held downtown from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is scheduled to feature appearances by NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison and others from the motor sports world who will be signing autographs.

The event is free and open to the public.

Reunion activities including the autograph session will be centered in the municipal parking lot between Old North State Winery and Brannock and Hiatt Furniture Co. More than 100 race cars, some driven by famous drivers over the years, are expected to be on display along sections of street, eclipsing the number in 2021.

The moonshine component of the reunion will be supplied by individuals who have appeared in the “Moonshiners” reality-television series, such as Big Chuck, with distilleries and demonstrations also planned.

A band, Sons of Bootleg, is scheduled to perform a free concert from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, with a silent auction further slated.

On top of the previous popularity of the Moonshine and Racers’ Reunion, which lost one year of its annual series due to COVID-19, in 2020, organizers are expecting Saturday’s event to take the checkered flag in terms of success.

“It’s going to be bigger than it has been being,” Gail Hiatt, one of the coordinators involved, said of the reunion’s overall scope.

Along with Bobby Allison, racing figures to be on hand include Ronnie Thomas, the 1978 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, and Marilyn Green, the first Miss Winston Cup, along with a lengthy list of other drivers.

Family members of deceased racers also are scheduled to be at the reunion, including those representing such legends as Wendell Scott, Curtis Turner, Tim Flock and J.D. McDuffie.

Phil Marsh, another reunion organizer, said one individual signed hundreds of autographs during last year’s well-attended session that reflects the ongoing popularity of racing in this area — and yes, the moonshine culture.

“Several thousand had to attend,” he estimated regarding the fan reception for the 2021 event. “As far as the crowd, they were lined up everywhere.”

Another highlight of the reunion will be a visit to the site of the Mount Airy Speedway/White Dirt Race Track, located on Race Track Road off N.C. 89 west of town. This is expected to include a makeshift parade there of street-legal race cars present.

Upon arriving, participants will park in a field and hear about the history of the track from Howard Hull, who is in his mid-90s.

That facility, which opened in 1946, was the first organized dirt track anywhere around. One of its competitors was Curtis Turner, who was among the fastest and most-colorful racers in NASCAR’s early years — called by some the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing.”

In more recent times, the abandoned track near Mount Airy has been used for agricultural purposes.

“Its part of history,” another event organizer, Bill Blair, said of the collective reunion activities to rev up Saturday.

Habitat for Humanity will be holding a Drive Us Home drive-through hot dog sale on Saturday.

The event is one of several fundraisers Habitat undertakes to help fund the group’s efforts to build affordable homes for area residents who might not otherwise be able to afford home ownership.

This particular fundraiser will be Saturday, Sept. 10, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Greater Mount Airy Habitat for Humanity Re-store, at 217 S. South St.

For $6 a dinner, the meal includes two hot dogs — including chili and slaw — chips, drink and a dessert. There will also be a 50/50 raffle drawing, at $1 per ticket, as well as door prizes inside the store for $1 per ticket.

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners has made a final decision on which local non-profit organizations will receive a portion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money allocated to the city — totaling $600,000 for five different entities.

In some cases, recipients that had been recommended for the federal funds by City Attorney Hugh Campbell in August were left out of the final 5-0 vote by the commissioners last Thursday night. And in others, organizations initially omitted were included in that action.

Those approved for a portion of the city’s $3.25 million ARPA appropriation include Tiny Tigers Rescue Inc., the Mount Airy Rescue Squad, Surry Medical Ministries, the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter and Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

That final list differs from one presented last month by the city attorney in several ways. He had recommended disqualifying certain applicants from among the 16 total that had applied for the first-of-its kind funding opportunity last winter per an invitation from municipal officials.

Campbell did so based on strict guidelines for use of American Rescue Plan Act funds, granted to help communities nationwide recover from the COVID pandemic, including that the money be used for legitimate public purposes.

This led to non-profit requests related to public-owned buildings or property gaining favor, while those privately held generally were not recommended because the sites involved later could be sold to other private parties not providing public benefits.

That was seen in the initial list recommended by the attorney, which included a $357,500 request from the Surry Arts Council to repair termite damage, replace toilets and renovate restrooms and the entrance to the Andy Griffith Playhouse, a city-owned facility.

Under the same criteria, Rotary Pup Dog Park along the Granite City Greenway had been recommended to receive $18,200 for various uses including signage and benches; Mount Airy Public Library, $20,105 to acquire four early literature stations;

Also, the Mount Airy Junior Woman’s Club, $47,000 for a new playground at B.H. Tharrington Primary School, and Veterans Memorial Park, for which $7,000 was requested to upgrade restrooms and showers to aid special events there. Though privately owned, the park project was considered a public purpose by Campbell.

Meanwhile, Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, also not owned by the municipality, was tapped for funding in the August listing because of museums being considered essential parts of a community under the federal ARPA guidelines.

And the rescue squad also was included in the initial list because of the public purpose it serves.

When the original recommendations were presented in August, Mayor Ron Niland had advised that these would be subject to a final decision by the commissioners after further deliberations.

And this was evident in the final list that added the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter and Surry Medical Ministries while leaving out applicants recommended last month including the Surry Arts Council, Rotary Pup Dog Park, Mount Airy Junior Woman’s Club and Veterans Memorial Park.

In outlining that breakdown Thursday night, City Manager Stan Farmer explained that it reflects a different criteria, which eliminates the public-owned property requirement and instead grants funding for operational uses rather than building-related needs.

This led to Surry Medical Ministries and the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter being approved for operations funding and not facility needs as first applied for by those agencies.

Surry Medical Ministries, which maintains a free clinic serving people without insurance, is getting $125,000, with the Shepherd’s House ARPA funding put at $80,000.

Tiny Tigers Rescue Inc. is designated for $20,000 to help reduce the cost of animal adoption, spay and neuter services by the licensed animal shelter, which officials agree is a worthy item.

Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, with its favored funding status, is getting $225,000 for a sprinkler system and another $100,000 for structural improvements, while the Mount Airy Rescue Squad is receiving $50,000 for new radios to improve emergency communications.

In each case, the five non-profits’ share is less than what was requested.

The city manager said the final list was determined with input from council members.

SAC still may get aid

Money for the Andy Griffith Playhouse improvements could still be in the mix through the remaining funds from Mount Airy’s $3.25 million American Rescue Plan Act appropriation once the assistance is supplied to the non-profits.

In late March, a list of city government projects targeted with ARPA money was released totaling nearly $3 million, mostly for major building and equipment needs.

The Andy Griffith Playhouse improvements are on that list.

Farmer said in August that the money left over from the non-profit requests would be applied toward city projects.

Concern was expressed Thursday night among the commissioners about the Mount Airy Rescue Squad allocation of $50,000 falling short of the $117,349 it sought for mobile radios — even counting another $40,540 approved by county officials though an Invest in Surry program.

The city manager indicated that this could mean squad leaders having to seek assistance elsewhere.

“I don’t know what other fundraising they’re doing.”

Whether the mission is to Save Jones School or rescue the tiny tigers of Surry County, non-profit organizations step in to fill in where gaps are found.

The United Fund of Surry, which helps fund many local non-profit agencies, has received funding from the Surry County Board of Commissioners for enhanced programming directed to marketing and public education to help local organizations.

United Fund will be using those ARPA dollars to host two Leadership Education Bootcamps in October on the topic: Building Dynamic Boards.

“The United Fund is thrilled to provide leadership education opportunities to our community nonprofits,” Executive Director Melissa Hiatt said. “Often leadership education is not possible due to cost for many nonprofits.

“This would not be possible without the support provided from the Surry County Commissioners. We are thankful the commissioners understand the need to support local nonprofits and the services they provide.”

The bootcamps each day are to be split into two sessions. The camp Wednesday, Oct. 5, will hold its opening session “Four Cornerstones of Nonprofit Board Governance” followed by “Capacity Building – the Board’s Role in the Strategic Planning Process.”

On Thursday, Oct. 6, the first session will be “Executive Committees in Action” with the bootcamp culminating in “Balance of Power – the Board Chair and Executive Director.”

These programs offer non-profit leaders tools to develop a “high-functioning, high-performance leadership team.” The sessions also will ask how non-profits can plan to both build and sustain an effective board of directors.

Hiatt said the purpose of the leadership education bootcamps is to help local non-profits resolve some of the questions that surround effective leadership and management of such groups. The seminars can help to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the board chair and executive director of a group which can help foster the peaceful coexistence between both.

Friction at the top levels of a non-profit may trickle down and result in the actual functional apparatus of the group being hindered. Therefore, being able to understand where the role of a board chair and the director begin, and end, can help each leader be more effective with less redundancy of effort or oversight.

As nonprofit organizations grow and hire professional staff the role of their staff and board become more clearly separated. Learning each’s individual roles helps the organization be steered in the right direction by the board but operated and run with the expertise of the staff.

No matter if a nonprofit board runs all of its programs with no paid staff, or if a nonprofit has a robust staff, defining roles and expectations clearly can both ensure smooth operation of the company and achieve greater outcomes for the community.

Also, the bootcamp participants will discuss how to create what Hiatt referred to as “communication norms” that may help reduce conflict and increase an organization’s impact. These norms will further improve the balance of power dynamic and grow participation in meetings by fostering them as collaborative efforts where ideas are welcome.

Speakers for the bootcamps include Mandy Pearce, a certified fundraising expert and the owner of Funding for Good. Joining her will be Marie Palacios, who is the lead consultant of Funding for Good.

Funding For Good has been operating for more than 13 years to assist non-profit groups in streamlining their processes so they can plan their futures and “untangle problems so non-profits can keep creating impact.”

Organization and operation of a non-profit can be tricky work and they assist their non-profit clients in areas like grant writing, fundraising, donor relations, and development of both team and leaders.

With a lot of learning to do on two days split between four sessions, bootcamp participants will be provided with a lunch to fuel afternoon learning.

The United Fund of Surry is excited to present these sessions to local non-profit leaders, but Hiatt says space for the bootcamps will be limited. Registration is ongoing and participation is being capped at 40. There is no cost to attend.

Contact the United Fund of Surry for more information and registration: www.unitedfundofsurry.org/nonprofit-bootcamp

The anticipated guest of honor couldn’t attend a celebration outside the historic J.J. Jones High School auditorium in person — but her spirit filled the summer air accompanied by even warmer memories of “Miss Sadie.”

Sadie Strickland George had died on Aug. 26 at age 100, shortly after organizers of a school reunion announced her possible appearance for the official unveiling of a plaque recognizing the auditorium’s addition to the National Register of Historic Places.

This was appropriate since Miss Sadie was the oldest-living graduate of the high school that opened in 1936 to serve African-American students in the area and saw its last graduates depart in 1966 with the advent of integration. She was in the Class of 1941, as war clouds gathered.

The plaque unveiling was held Friday night, when the grounds around the auditorium were filled with people attending Family Day there in conjunction with the J.J. Jones High School Reunion scheduled every other year.

This past weekend’s reunion was special since the one that normally would have been held in 2021 was cancelled because of the coronavirus.

And in the interim since the last reunion in 2019, both the auditorium — owned by the J.J. Jones Alumni Association — and the rest of the campus — owned by the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County — achieved National Register status.

The latter group held a plaque observance in July and reunion organizers appropriately scheduled the auditorium portion of the recognition Friday night as part of the weekend gathering of former Jones students from near and far.

Being chosen for the National Register of Historic Places means a building or plot of land has been designated by the government as possessing significant historic, artistic or aesthetic value.

All that seemed to be missing Friday night was Sadie George, who still had a presence there all the same.

“I want to dedicate this ceremony to a young lady we were hoping would be with us today,” J.J. Jones Alumni Association President Nancy Bowman Williams (Class of 1965) told those assembled for the official unveiling of the plaque. It had been mounted on a wall of the auditorium earlier.

“She loved and was proud of her alma mater,” Williams said of Mrs. George.

Although Miss Sadie wasn’t there, she was amply represented by her daughters who carried on the family tradition embodied by the campus.

“She never missed a day (of school),” Sylvia Amaker said of her mother, who excelled in academics. “She was an honor student.”

Her mom also played basketball at the school, according to Sylvia, who has a twin sister, Goldie.

And as was the case with many students of yesteryear, she walked seven miles to school, related Amaker and another daughter present Friday night, Yvette Jones, who won the 1979 Miss Mount Airy Pageant.

Six of Miss Sadie’s eight children are still living and her life spanned five generations — numbering 14 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

In the years after graduating from J.J. Jones High, Miss Sadie would attend a cosmetology school in Roanoke, Virginia, and enrolled at Surry Community College, where she received certificates in office machines and child care.

The Jones grad was employed by Proctor Silex Inc. in Mount Airy, from which she retired, was active in her church and supported many community causes.

Along with acknowledging the role of Sadie George in the school’s heritage during the plaque unveiling, Williams, the alumni president, spoke about the auditorium at the center of Friday night’s event which was erected by school-based talent.

“In 1947, the students and staff that began the task of constructing this building were, I believe, inspired by one of the proven and basic beliefs: that if you want something, if you work hard and are determined, you will be successful,” she said.

“They were successful — this wonderful building is the product of their determination, hard work and belief that they could do it,” Williams remarked. “Here we are, seventy-five years later, looking at this building.”

Friday’s Family Day also included a car show, fish fry, a wrapping of the maypole that perpetuated a campus tradition, music and a time set aside for the former students to share memories from their class days.

And one couldn’t help but think Sadie George was surveying the scene with an appreciative eye.

“J.J. Jones will never forget you, Miss Sadie,” Williams said during the program.

“We thank and honor you.”

The staff at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History have been hard at work preparing for classes to start back in Surry County.

Last week, Programs and Education Director Cassandra Johnson went on a county wide trip to more than 20 schools in a single day to invite educators back into the museum.

“We already have six schools signed up for a field trip this year, and I’ve already started getting the traveling trailer out to teach with. I have high hopes that more children from all over the county will be able learn about their history this year with us,” she said.

The museum takes pride in offering field trips, new and updated exhibits, free history talks, the traveling history trailer, a new traveling exhibit, more STEAM focused education opportunities, and much more this year. They are also excited that the award-winning Tar Heel Jr. Historians Club is starting back.

The Jr. Historians first meeting will be held at the museum on Thursday, Sept. 8, at 3:30 p.m. and students in fourth through 12th grades are encouraged to join. The club meets weekly on Thursday, and kids get to learn more about local history while having “lots of fun.”

While spreading the word to schools, Johnson also got to stop at Surry Central Middle School to congratulate Alisha Griffin for winning the museum’s Treat-A-Teacher grand prize. “Thank you to all of our local educators who visited us over the summer, and we’re looking forward to seeing teachers as they visit us with their students this year,” Johnson said.

For those with questions about scheduling a field trip, tour, or any of of the museum’s other opportunities, contact the museum at mamrh@northcarolinamuseum.org or call 336-786-4478.

In keeping with the intent of Labor Day, Mount Airy’s sanitation personnel will not be running routes on that holiday honoring the American worker with a day of rest and relaxation.

This will include no yard waste collections on Monday. The next such pickups are scheduled for Sept. 12 a week later.

In addition, commercial garbage routes normally run on Monday are to be serviced on Tuesday instead.

The same one-day delay also will be in place for the city industrial route in being moved from Monday to Tuesday.

Municipal offices also will be closed Monday in observance of Labor Day.

Perhaps fittingly right after Labor Day, workers are scheduled to begin the monumental task of tearing down the Koozies building in Mount Airy which has long been a concern locally over its deteriorating condition.

This is coming on the heels of a recent sale of the property at 455 Franklin St. condemned by city officials as a major safety hazard and deemed unfit for occupancy.

That transaction broke a stalemate between them and National Decon Holdings, a Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, entity that owned the structure and ignored repeated notices to either bring it up to code or have the building razed.

It was announced last week that the 1.34-acre site had been bought by Bobby Koehler, owner of Ultimate Towing and Recovery in Mount Airy, which is part of J&E Properties of North Carolina based on Park Drive.

“That is where the thanks needs to go,” City Manager Stan Farmer said Thursday night during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners regarding how the persistent problem is being solved.

Both Farmer and Mayor Ron Niland also applauded the board for voting in February to give the out-of-town owner 90 days to act or else the city government would proceed with the razing and seize the land left behind to help cover that expense.

Just before the sale, the commissioners had directed the city manager to seek bids from contractors for the job.

Officials agree that this seemed to spark action by National Decon Holdings which otherwise wouldn’t have occurred, culminating with the purchase.

The city manager added Thursday night that he is looking forward to seeing what is developed on the vacant site once housing a Quality Mills facility and most recently a private club called Koozies which has been closed for years.

Koehler has not disclosed what if any plans are being pursued along those lines.

Meanwhile, work has been occurring on the property in recent days in preparation for the tear-down. This included the removal of doors and windows and outside walls being painted with messages including “do not enter” and noting the demolition starting date.

Since last fall, the building has been the site of two fires linked to occupancy by the homeless.

Yellow caution tape also encircles the entire building, which is bordered by North South and West Pine streets in addition to Franklin Street.

Ralph Hardy of Hardy Brothers Trucking is seen celebrating ahead of his 90th birthday on Friday afternoon at the company’s facility in Siloam.

A group photo was taken with the man of honor Ralph Hardy, seen in center with birthday sash.

A vintage truck was on display during the birthday celebration of Ralph Hardy of Hardy Brothers Trucking.

Ralph and Payge Hardy, Jan Bowen, Jill Dockery, and Eddie Hardy pose for a photo at the 90th birthday celebration for Ralph Hardy.

• Two people were arrested on assault charges after a recent incident in the city, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

Patrick Wayne Robinson, 40, and Jennifer Diane Draughn, 32, both of 445 Culbert St., were encountered by officers during a domestic disturbance on Aug. 26 at that location, where Robinson allegedly shoved Draughn to the ground and she is accused of hitting him in the face and back with her hands.

Robinson was charged with assault on a female and Draughn, simple assault. Both were held in the Surry County Jail without privilege of bond, standard procedure in such incidents, with the case set for the Sept. 23 session of Surry District Court.

• Police were told on Aug. 13 that a Nintendo handheld game system valued at $550, owned by Elisabeth Danielle Kaye, had been stolen from her residence in the 400 block of Granite Street by an unknown party.

• Gary Carson Leake, 54, of of 706 Hamburg St., was charged with second-degree trespassing on Aug. 10 after he was encountered by officers during a civil disturbance at a residence on Linville Road from which he was found to have been banned on June 20, police records state.

Leake is scheduled to be in District Court on Sept. 19.

Two schools of thought regarding downtown Mount Airy— a need to plan for the future vs. a “leave Main Street alone” sentiment — collided head-on during a passionate public hearing Thursday night.

And after listening to 18 speakers for more than an hour — most opposing or skeptical about a downtown master plan update — the commissioners voted 3-2 to adopt that document considered a blueprint for major changes in the central business district.

The unusually large number of citizens offering comments was matched by a huge crowd of spectators jammed into the Municipal Building for the occasion — which overflowed into an adjoining lobby.

After the split decision for which Commissioner Marie Wood was on the winning side, she attempted to allay fears by some in the massive audience that the outcome will serve to severely transform North Main Street — the key downtown artery.

“I have no problem with this plan because it is a plan,” Wood said in arguing that a guideline is simply involved and not set in stone as far as definite changes. “It is a step forward for this city.”

Commissioner Jon Cawley — who voted against the proposal along with the board’s Tom Koch — offered a more-ominous view and wondered why it was so important to hold a vote on it Thursday night.

“It seems like we’re in a rush tonight to pass it — and I can’t figure out why,” Cawley said of the plan, pointing out that he likes many of its aspects, but also is concerned about what happens next.

“We could start tearing up the streets next week — I know that sounds facetious, but it could happen.”

The downtown master plan update, prepared by the Benchmark consulting firm based in Charlotte, has been in the works since last fall, when city officials agreed that an original one from 2004 needed refreshing.

Benchmark, a firm that has handled similar projects for other cities, completed the document earlier this summer and made it available for public consumption.

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted last November to commit $67,000 in city funds for the update along with money from the group Mount Airy Downtown Inc. for a total cost of about $125,000.

After being commissioned for the project, Benchmark conducted a series of meetings to gain local input for the final document along with formally surveying the community.

But multiple speakers opposing the adoption of the updated master plan pointed out Thursday night that the citizens involved in that process represent only about 4 percent of the city’s population.

“Mayberry tourism is growing,” Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison of Mount Airy Downtown, a plan backer, said during the hearing. “The charm of Mayberry remains on Main Street because downtown growth is planned, it’s intentional, it’s purposeful and it takes into consideration who we are and where we are going.”

After her comments, Morrison asked other supporters in the audience to stand.

This was followed by plan skeptic Martha Truskolaski, owner of the Spotted Moon gift shop downtown, asking those against it to do the same thing during her time at the podium.

There were conflicting opinions about whether the “anti-plan” group outnumbered the “pro” contingent, or whether their numbers were about equal.

Many speakers’ statements were greeted by applause.

While the downtown master plan update proposes major changes in the downtown area as a whole, including new housing, parking and other developments on adjoining streets such as Franklin and Renfro, its main drag was the primary concern of hearing speakers.

A key part of the update focuses on vehicular travel downtown and new streetscape configurations, with the plan recommending that one-way traffic be maintained along North Main Street — the chief artery through the central business district.

However, the new plan includes five different one-way options, three of which would involve switching from the present two lanes of travel to one with either angled or parallel parking on one side. The street itself would be 20 feet wide.

This reflects a desire to create “flex space” to allow more outdoor dining and other changes on sidewalks which would be accomplished by providing a 20-foot space on each side of the street.

Sidewalks of 12 to 20 feet wide are eyed, along with the addition of trees, burial of above-ground utility lines, strategically placed loading zones, new decorative street lights and a removable bollard system.

Many of those speaking Thursday night see such changes as detrimental to a downtown area they say is already appreciated by local residents and tourists alike who appreciate its quaintness and hometown qualities separating Mount Airy from large cities.

The opinion of Gene Clark, also embraced by others, was, “Why do we think we need to change the appearance?” of Main Street.

“We don’t need to look like Asheville or Charlotte,” added Clark, a city council candidate this year. “We need to look like Mount Airy.”

That was echoed by John Pritchard, another council candidate. “I don’t want us to be like a cookie-cutter town — we are what we are and it works.”

“Your downtown is a blessing — it takes you back in time,” said hearing speaker Devon Hays, who moved to the Pine Ridge community nearly two years again from California.

Hays praised the “nice wide street” existing now.

“You’ve got something special — don’t blow it,” he said, a comment that drew a shout of “Amen!” from a woman in the back of the room along with applause.

A similar view was expressed by Norm Schultz, who moved to Mount Airy one year ago because of its down-home qualities. He objected to the “gentrification” that seems to be involved with the master plan update — defined as a process to make something more refined, polite or respectable.

“I’m not against growth,” Schultz continued in reference to the suggestion that the proposals would foster economic gains.

“If you change the street, you take away small-town America.”

“The way it is now it’s so perfect,” hearing speaker Karen Armstrong remarked. “But to take it and change it completely, that’s heartbreaking to me.”

Also weighing in Thursday night was Shirley Brinkley, a former city commissioner who acknowledged that the updated master plan seems to contain good elements and ones not so good while also expressing a specific concern.

“I am totally and completely against making Main Street one lane,” said Brinkley, who is concerned how this might affect deliveries to businesses along that route and the hilly terrain of side streets which would preclude their use as alternatives.

And two downtown businessmen, Corky Fulton of Fancy Gap Outfitters and Mark Wyatt of Wyatt’s Trading Post, each expressed concerns about parking spaces on North Main being lost.

“The one thing you don’t want to do is take a single parking space away from downtown Mount Airy,” Fulton said.

Randy Collins, the president and CEO of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, another hearing speaker, supports the update, invoking the old saying “failing to plan is planning to fail” in doing so.

Collins said he initially was concerned about how streetscape changes might hamper large downtown events such as the Autumn Leaves Festival sponsored by the chamber, but said he was assured these wouldn’t be harmed.

“All of our questions and concerns were addressed,” Collins said.

“Change is inevitable, and we have to plan for it,” the chamber official observed, a point of view also offered by two other speakers favoring the plan update, Len Fawcett and Lauren Jennings.

Yet former Autumn Leaves Festival Director Travis Frye, now tourism coordinator for both Dobson and Surry County, was not as optimistic as Collins.

Frye questioned whether enough definitive study on how events will be affected has been undertaken.

“My concern is we don’t have enough detailed information,” said Frye, who believed this should be supplied before the adoption of the plan.

“Progress is not progress just because we want it to change,” he added. “The streets are a concern to me, especially where it affects tourism.”

Frye also said the street must be wide enough to accommodate a fire truck.

Local business owner Donna Hiatt said during the hearing that repairs to existing infrastructure — such as streets, sidewalks and the water system — should be undertaken before changing North Main Street.

There also were concerns Thursday night about where the money needed to do that would come from.

“Who is going to pay for it? — I think it’s going to be the taxpayers,” hearing speaker Grant Welch said.

Local construction workers haven’t been sitting down on the job, judging by the progress made on new, much-needed public restroom facilities in downtown Mount Airy.

“It’s going well,” City Manager Stan Farmer said this week of the project unfolding beside Brannock and Hiatt Furniture Co. in a municipal parking lot between that business and Old North State Winery. It started about two weeks ago.

During a meeting on June 16, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted to awarded a $104,900 contract to Colt W. Simmons Construction Co., a local firm, to build the restroom facilities.

When finished, these are to be similar to ones located on the Granite City Greenway behind Roses, city Public Works Director Mitch Williams has noted, which will include two bathroom units and a brick exterior.

Along with the contract sum of $104,900, a 15-percent contingency fund was included to cover unforeseen expenses, for a total project cost of $120,000.

Farmer added Monday that the construction so far has not been hampered by inclement weather, which always looms as a factor at this time of year.

“Presumably, they are to be done by the end of September, in plenty of time for the Autumn Leaves Festival” in October, Farmer said of work crews.

The availability of public restrooms is always an issue during that event at which thousands of people flood the downtown area, with facilities at businesses generally not open to the public.

Restrooms were viewed as a particular need for the 400 block, or northern end of the central business district.

Before the latest project was pursued, the nearest public restrooms to that section were reported to be almost two blocks away at the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.

The only other such facilities downtown are even farther away, at the southern end of the North Main Street shopping area in the Jack A. Loftis Plaza rest area where an Easter Brothers mural is located.

Funding for the new restrooms had been approved last fall through a city budget amendment totaling $295,000. It was set aside for an array of downtown projects, including the new restrooms, the updating of a master plan and others, with the group Mount Airy Downtown Inc. also committing $297,000.

The city manager acknowledged this week that some people have questioned the time lag between that approval and the construction actually getting under way this summer.

This resulted from municipal officials considering a possible alternate location for the new restrooms at a site near Trinity Episcopal Church, north of the site beside Brannock and Hiatt Furniture Co., which ultimately was abandoned.

“We took about eight weeks to work with the church at their location,” Farmer explained regarding the delay.

It takes more than a little effort for a scout to reach the rank of Eagle, so when Tyrese Kindle from Boy Scout Troop #49 decided to start working on his Eagle Project he immediately thought of his home church, The Church – The Body of Christ in Pilot Mountain. Pastors Floyd & Sharon Dodson were thrilled at his decision to contribute even more to the church and its members than he already has.

For his Eagle Project he took it upon himself to beautify the area around the baptismal pool that was recently built. Prior to the Eagle Project, Kindle took on a personal project of building several firepits in this area. As part of the beautification project, he built a large cross, several benches and did landscaping around the existing firepits. Due to Covid, the church met outside often, so he felt beautifying this area would give members another place to gather and talk while the fire pits would help them stay warm. It could also be used for any other church activities. “My project is to create a nice-looking place for the church to gather and use as they see fit,” he said.

As a finishing touch, he wanted to remember his late Grandmother, Rosaline Davis, who was also a member of The Body of Christ. He enlisted the help of his uncle, the Deacon Burnard Allen from The House of God in Mount Airy, to make a plaque to be placed at the foot of the cross he built. The granite plaque reads “TBOC Beautification Project by Bro Tyrese Kindle, Troop 49. In Honor of my grandmother Sis Rosaline Davis.”

“This project has enhanced the property around the baptismal pool. We are so humbled and appreciate Bro Tyrese Kindle being led to do this project to gain his Eagle Badge. We enjoyed watching him work and complete something that many people, including his church family, will enjoy for years to come. It was an amazing transformation and scripturally sound because in building the Cross, he gave honor to whom honor was due,” the Pastors Dodson wrote.

“We are so blessed to have Tyrese be an example to the young people who are in church with him. After finishing this project and earning his Eagle Scout badge, we believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will be used by God for the advancement of the Kingdom of God and also be a valuable young man as a future visionary and leader to all mankind. What a noble plan done with integrity.”

Scouting has been a part of the Kindle family, as Tyrese’s sister, Mycah Kindle, was also involved in Venture Scouting, a branch of Boy Scouts of America. Venture scouting was an important part of her life, as she dedicated many years to volunteering, going on adventures and generally having fun. She has held leadership positions within scouting, most notably being a youth staff member for National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT), a leadership training for scouts within her region.

She recently graduated as a part of the class of 2022, after spending the last two years pursuing a major of History – Pre Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Campbell University in Buies Creek with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Ms. Kindle is also a member of several honor societies for History and Academic Leadership. Her leadership reached beyond honor societies as she was a resident assistant for first year students during her second year.

As Chairman Bill Goins of the Surry County Board of Commissioners is always quick to point out when recognizing new Eagle Scouts – it is an achievement that still carries weight and the lessons learned from scouting have stayed with him to this day.

To find out more on scouting, visit: www.girlscouts.org or www.scouting.org.

• A Mount Airy man has been jailed under a $50,000 secured bond as a fugitive from justice from another state, according to city police reports.

Chadwick Lee Haynes, 47, of 337 Fairview Drive, whom officers took into custody last Thursday at the local probation office on State Street, was found to have been entered in a national crime database as wanted in Carroll County, Virginia, on an unspecified matter.

Haynes was scheduled to be in court Wednesday in Dobson.

• Shannon Lee Wall, 47, of 130 Chimney Rock Lane, Lot 24, was charged with second-degree trespassing on Aug. 20 at a Garden Terrace location from which he had been banned by the property manager last October.

Wall is facing a Sept. 12 appearance in Surry District Court.

• Lowe’s Home Improvement was the scene of a felonious larceny discovered on the morning of Aug. 17 which involved power equipment with a total value of $2,515 being stolen and carried away from the store by unknown suspects.

The items included EGO-brand products — a 56-volt, 18-inch chainsaw; a 56-volt, 21-inch self-propelled, select-cut lawn mower; and a 15-inch string trimmer — along with a DeWalt 13-point planer and a DeWalt 12-inch sliding compound miter saw.

More details have emerged for Family Day Friday at the former J.J. Jones High School in Mount Airy.

The event, open to the community, will be highlighted by the official unveiling of a plaque designating the auditorium as part of the National Register of Historic Places, scheduled between 5:45 and 6 p.m. at the Jones School Road site.

It is occurring in conjunction with the J.J. Jones High School reunion, an every-other-year gathering organized by graduates of the school that exclusively served area African-American students from 1936 to 1966.

Since the last reunion in 2019 (with the schedule for the biennial celebration interrupted in 2021 by the coronavirus), the former campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Friday’s plaque observance will be limited to the auditorium, which is owned by the J.J. Jones Alumni Association.

A similar commemoration for the rest of the school, owned by the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County, was held in July. That group recently had acquired the property, which houses L.H. Jones Family Resource Center, after many years of ownership by the county government.

Apart from the plaque unveiling, other activities scheduled during Family Day on Friday outside the auditorium include a classic car show from 4 to 6:30 p.m., exhibits inside the building from 4 to 9 p.m. and a traditional winding of a maypole, between 6:15 and 6:45.

A storytelling session is scheduled from 7 to 8:30 p.m. during which former students will tell about their days at the campus.

Blast from the past music will occur from 8 to 9 p.m.

There is no cost to attend the activities, except for dinner on the grounds — a fish fry slated from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at a cost of $12 per person.

Fish fry tickets will be available at the door.

National Register T-shirts also are to be sold for $15.

Other activities are planned Saturday and Sunday at the auditorium as part of the school reunion, which has been known to attract former J.J. Jones High students from locations including Alaska.

The 2022 reunion theme is “Homecoming — Our Spirit Endures.”

Similar to episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” itself, one never knows who might pop up in Mount Airy during Mayberry Days and this year the special guests for the festival will include actress Ruta Lee.

Lee, who appeared in two memorable episodes of the series and has enjoyed an accomplished television and movie career otherwise, is a newcomer to the event, as will be Daniel Roebuck, a cast member from the “other” show starring Griffith, “Matlock.”

And then there’s Dreama Denver, wife of the late Bob Denver — best known for his title role in “Gilligan’s Island,” another long-running 1960s sitcom, soon after appearing on “The Andy Griffith Show” — who also will attend Mayberry Days.

The annual celebration of characters, places and events associated with that program will be held this year from Sept. 19-25, spearheaded by the Surry Arts Council. Mayberry Days was launched in 1990.

Lee, Roebuck and Denver will be joining celebrities from episodes of the show who earlier have appeared here during Mayberry Days, including Ronnie Schell, Rodney Dillard, Margaret Kerry and Dennis Rush.

Surry Arts Council Executive Director Tanya Jones says that organization doesn’t actively recruit special guests for the festival, explaining that Schell was the catalyst for Ruta Lee’s upcoming appearance.

Schell, who guest-starred on “The Andy Griffith Show” along with playing Duke Slater on 92 episodes of the “Gomer Pyle” TV series, told Lee that she should come to Mayberry Days.

“She had known about it,” Jones said, and was able to work the festival into her schedule this year.

“We’re, of course, excited to have Ruta Lee, a new face from the show,” the arts official added. “We’re excited that she can join us this year.”

Lee portrayed Jean Boswell in a 1962 episode, “Andy on Trial,” an attractive young reporter who is sent to Mayberry to try to dig up dirt on Sheriff Taylor after he gives her publisher a traffic ticket.

She made a second appearance on “The Andy Griffith Show” in “The Hollywood Party” in 1965, basically playing herself, an actress the sheriff encounters while on a trip to California which makes girlfriend Helen Crump jealous.

Lee, both a dancer and actress, also is known for her roles in the movies “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957), “Funny Face” (1957) and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954).

The performer, now 82, has continued to rack up credits on TV programs on top of appearing in numerous episodic series and game shows dating to the 1950s.

“Even now, she looks nice and pretty,” Jones said.

During Mayberry Days, Lee will be sharing stories from the two episodes as the featured guest for Professor Brower’s Lecture on Sept. 24 and making other appearances throughout the festival.

The Surry Arts Council official also is enthused about the appearance of Daniel Roebuck, who made an impromptu visit to Mount Airy in June while on a swing through North Carolina.

“He is a very cool guy,” Jones said of the actor known for his role on “Matlock,” a legal drama that ran on the NBC and ABC networks from 1986 to 1995. Roebuck played Cliff Lewis, the junior partner of the law firm headed by Andy’s Griffith character, Ben Matlock.

Roebuck also is known for film work, including as Deputy Marshal Bobby Biggs in “The Fugitive” and “U.S. Marshals,” a sequel to “The Fugitive.” His other TV appearances have included the series “Lost.”

“He’s going to do a little show on Friday evening (Sept. 23),” Jones said of his involvement during the Mayberry Days week, “What it Was, Was Andy Griffith.” That title is reminiscent of Griffith’s comedy monologue “What it Was, Was Football.”

Bob Denver died in 2005, but his widow Dreama, who is an author, continues to carry on the actor’s heritage, including Mrs. Denver’s scheduled appearance at Mayberry Days from Sept. 22-24.

Her husband can be spotted in an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” titled “Divorce, Mountain Style” as Dud Wash, a memorable character married to Charlene Darling.

This was about six months before “Gilligan’s Island” hit the airwaves. Earlier, Bob Denver had gained famed in the role of beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on the popular program “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”

Dreama Denver’s planned appearance in Mount Airy is coming on the heels of a recent digital reissue of an audiobook for Bob Denver’s autobiography “Gilligan, Maynard and Me.”

She will be meeting fans and signing copies of her books, among other appearances.

While welcoming the first-ever special guests to Mayberry Days, the annual celebration also will remember those who long were part of the event.

“We are recognizing this year a lot of special folks we have lost in the past few years,” Jones said.

This included two people from the show who have died since the last Mayberry Days, Betty Lynn, the actress known for her portrayal of Thelma Lou, who passed away last October, and Maggie Peterson Mancuso (Charlene Darling), in January.

A special memorial service is planned for Lynn, who had moved to Mount Airy in 2007 and won many friends locally.

Jones mentioned that unlike a service held for Andy Griffith at Blackmon Amphitheatre after his death in 2012, the tribute to Lynn will take place at an indoor venue, the Historic Earle Theatre, to avoid any interference from rain.

Several local favorites will perform this weekend in Mount Airy. Jim Quick and Coastline return to the Blackmon Amphitheatre on Thursday followed by Phatt City on Friday and Cat5 on Saturday. All three bands are set to play at 7:30 p.m. each evening.

Pulling from the threads of Soul, Blues, R&B, and Americana, Jim Quick and Coastline weave together their own genre of music known as Swamp Soul. Delivered with precision by frontman Jim Quick and his band, this group captures the true, honest spirit of traditions born and bred in the small southern towns of America.

Phatt City is a nine-member band that plays the best of Beach, R&B, and dance music. Phatt City draws inspiration from the bands Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire as well as the energetic audiences that attend their concerts.

Cat5 burst on the scene in June of 2019 from a trio of top East Coast Bands. The band performs everything from beach music, originals, top 40 country, ’90s country, old yacht rock, and classic rock. Cat5 is a group of professional musicians that have come together with a common purpose to provide the best music possible to audiences all over the world.

Each concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. Admission to each show is $15 or a Surry Arts Council Annual Pass.

Children 12 and younger are admitted free with an adult admission or Annual Pass.

The Dairy Center, Whit’s Custard, and Thirsty Souls Community Brewing will be at the concerts to provide food, snacks, drinks, beer, and wine for purchase. No outside alcohol or coolers are allowed to be brought into the Amphitheatre area.

Those attending are asked to bring a lounge chair or blanket to sit on.

Tickets 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, contact Marianna Juliana at 336-786-7998 or marianna@surryarts.org

There were hugs, handshakes, cheers and tears of happiness from Hamptonville residents on Tuesday night following a vote from the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners to deny a rezoning request that would have allowed for a rock quarry 1500 feet behind West Yadkin Elementary School.

“It’s just unbelievable. I cannot believe how well the commissioners supported us. It was not necessary here,” said Danny Steelman. Steelman was part of an organized group of neighbors who opposed the mine project from the start.

Real Estate Developer Jack Mitchell set off something of a firestorm in the community when he began test drilling on a nearly 500-acre property near 3641 Hwy US 21 last year. Neighbors immediately became concerned that the site could be used for fracking or a lithium mine. NC Policy Watch environmental reporter Lisa Sorg broke the story in December of 2021. At that time Mitchell told NC Policy Watch that his company Synergy Materials was doing “due diligence” to determine the best use of the property. As Mitchell had previously been involved with companies specializing in ‘frac sand’, there was great concern from neighboring property owners.

In March of this year, Mitchell announced in a letter to neighbors that the plan was for the site to become an aggregate quarry operated as Three Oaks Quarry. Community residents remained staunchly against the proposal, voicing concerns over property values, possible damage to wells and groundwater supply and the close proximity of the site to West Yadkin Elementary School.

Three Oaks Quarry held a community information session and presented multiple documents to the Yadkin County Planning Board detailing the many mitigation efforts that would be put in place to eliminate or minimize effects of the mining operation on the area. Even a suggested condition of an annual contribution to the school did little to dissuade residents from their position.

Tuesday’s meeting was a continuation of a public hearing on the matter that began at the Aug. 15 Yadkin County Board Meeting. The Yadkin Planning Board voted 3-2 in June to recommend approval of the rezoning request from Rural Agriculture to Manufacturing Industrial I. The matter then went before the county board where both sides were given 30 minutes each to speak. Attorneys for each side both indicated to the commissioners that it was their duty to vote on the matter based on the county’s land use plan. Tom Terrell, attorney for Three Oaks Quarry, noted that the county’s land use plan does indicate that quarries go in rural agriculture areas and also argued that the property in question abuts an area designated for economic expansion. Craig D. Justus, attorney representing Hamptonville residents, argued that despite the fact the land use plan states that quarries can go in rural areas that doesn’t mean that is always the appropriate place.

Justus also argued that the rezoning request was improper due to the fact that the proposed access road to the site was not part of the rezoning request and should be, however it would not meet set back requirements from homes near the road. A possible error in the documents approved by the planning board listing the acreage to be rezoned as 160 rather than 265 acres was also discussed at some length.

Bob Hagemann, an attorney for the county, informed the board that both of those issues could potentially be cause for litigation by either party depending on which way the vote went but said he did not think the board should put great weight on those matters when considering its decision. He reiterated that the land use plan was the main item that should guide the decision.

Commissioner David Moxley wasted no time in making a motion when the time came. Moxley’s motion was to adopt a statement of consistency and reasonableness finding that the rezoning request was not consistent with the adopted 2011 Land Use Plan.

Among the reasons noted in the motion was that the “adjacent land uses are predominately single family residence and agriculture operations with low development intensity.”

“The proposed mine is not low intensity and not in character with surrounding land uses,” said Moxley.

The motion also stated that there was “insufficient information available indicating the proposed operation would minimize potential impacts.”

The motion was seconded by Commissioner Frank Zachary and was approved 4-0. Commissioner Gilbert Hemric was recused from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

Kitsey Burns Harrison is the Editor of the Yadkin Ripple. She may be reached at 336-258-4035 or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @news_shewrote.

The public long has been fascinated by moonshining and those manufacturing illegal liquor in the hollows of North Carolina and Virginia — with one of that craft’s most-colorful figures to be highlighted in Mount Airy soon.

Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton was a moonshiner, bootlegger and entrepreneur from Haywood County known as a rebellious individual who brazenly defied authorities in practicing and defending what many consider a natural mountain tradition.

Sutton, who suffered an untimely death in 2009, is to be featured by Neal Hutcheson, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, author and photographer, who will appear here for a pair of events on Sept. 11.

From 1 to 3 p.m. that Sunday, Hutcheson is scheduled to present his 2021 book “The Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton” at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History on North Main Street and discuss the unique place moonshining holds in the Appalachian heritage.

This is part of a History Talks series hosted by the museum, with admission free to public. The program will be held in the third-floor classroom of the facility.

“The Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton” won a 2022 National Indie Excellence Award and a 2022 Outstanding Book Award from The Independent Publishers Book Awards, the largest unaffiliated book contest in the world, according to promotional material regarding the author’s upcoming appearance.

Hutcheson recounts Sutton’s path to fame in “The Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton” and attempts to sort fact from fiction, concluding that “the accumulation of stories, songs, eulogies and tributes about Popcorn offers a fascinating illustration of the process through which folk become folklore.”

Later on Sept. 11, at 4 p.m., Hutcheson is slated to present his film that has become a cult classic “This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make,” at the Historic Earle Theater on North Main Street, hosted by the Surry Arts Council.

This is coinciding with the 20th anniversary of that production.

In “This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make,” Sutton demonstrates the art, craft and history of moonshine distillation.

The documentary originally was available only on VHS tapes bought from the moonshiner himself — which rapidly circulated as people made home copies and passed them to friends and family while laying a foundation for his growing fame, according to Hutcheson.

It eventually drew the attention of television producers in Boston and New York.

“This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make” was digitally remastered this year and it is that version of the film which will be screened at the Earle in a theatrical context.

The presentation is to include an introduction and a question-and-answer session with the filmmaker.

Tickets cost $8 plus tax, with proceeds to benefit the Surry Arts Council.

The local non-profit organization operates the Andy Griffith Playhouse, Andy Griffith Museum and Blackmon Amphitheatre in addition to the Historic Earle Theatre.

Surry Arts Council Executive Director Tanya Jones is enthusiastic about the upcoming presentation on a figure whom she agreed highlights a culture widely embraced in this region of the country.

Born in Maggie Valley, Sutton died in March 2009 at age 62 at his home in Tennessee, committing suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning while facing prison on federal charges relating to moonshining and illegal firearm possession.

Though he is gone from that scene, Sutton’s name comes up frequently on the popular “Moonshiners” reality-TV series on the Discovery network, which has broadened his fan base.

This has included modern-day moonshiners making liquor runs at one of Sutton’s old still sites using his recipes, uncovering a stash of his liquor and sometimes working with one of Sutton’s associates, JB Rader.

Hutcheson’s best-known works center on Appalachian heritage in transition.

He has been the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship, the Brown Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society, the North Carolina Filmmaker Award and three regional Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

A Hutcheson documentary “Mountain Talk” (2002) also featured Popcorn Sutton, and along with “This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make,” he produced two other documentaries with Sutton, the Emmy-winning “The Last One” (2009) and “Popcorn Sutton – A Hell of a Life (2014).”

• In a type of case rarely occurring in Mount Airy, a local man was charged Saturday afternoon with abandoning a dog, according to city police reports.

Joseph Cole Simpson, 24, of 2015 Springs Road, is accused of dropping off an 8-week-old canine in the middle of a roadway earlier that day and driving off without returning, police records state. This occurred on North Hills Drive near Country Hills Drive, located off North Main Street in the vicinity of Springs Road.

A resident of Country Hills Drive reported the incident.

The breed of the dog was not listed, nor any information about its present whereabouts.

Simpson, who was charged with abandonment of an animal, a misdemeanor, is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on Oct. 17.

• A break-was discovered Saturday at a city residence which involved the theft of miscellaneous clothing and a book bag with a total value of $425. Amanda Dawn Lara of Hamburg Street is listed as a victim of the crime that occurred when an unknown party kicked in a side door to gain entry to her home.

Gregory Wayne Childress Jr. of Newsome Street also is a victim of that incident.

• Police learned on Aug. 10 that scrap metal had been stolen from an unsecured dumpster at Scenic Chevrolet Buick GMC on Rockford Street. No loss figure was listed.

• Phillip Fitzgerald Mitchell, 36, of 536 Linville Road, was jailed under a $5,000 secured bond on Aug. 9 after a traffic stop on North Main Street near Taylor Street led to a revelation that he was wanted on four felony charges, for which Mitchell was the subject of outstanding warrants.

These include breaking and entering of a motor vehicle, attempted larceny, larceny and possession of stolen goods, which had been filed on Aug. 4 with no other details given.

The case is set for the Sept. 12 District Court session.

The latest figures on tourism spending in Surry County indicate that it is soaring — judging by a 45.4-percent increase reported — but still are below the pre-pandemic level.

Yet local officials see reason for optimism in a breakdown showing that domestic and international visitors to and within Surry County spent $136.99 million in 2021, which was slightly below that of 2019 — the last calendar year B.C. (before COVID).

“I think we’re on the upswing,” Mount Airy Mayor Ron Niland said of a segment of the economy hard-hit by the coronavirus both locally and elsewhere in 2020 when many large events were cancelled and venues closed.

Niland was encouraged by the fact local tourism activity seems to be returning to where it was before that crisis wielded its grip.

“I think people are getting a little more comfortable with the COVID protocols,” the mayor added Monday.

The local tourism-spending statistics come from an annual study commissioned by Visit North Carolina, a unit of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

While the $136.99 million figure compiled for 2021 seems lofty, the spending level failed to eclipse that of 2019, when $137.79 million was logged.

Another distinction is that while the 2021 numbers reflect both domestic and international visitation, those for 2019 were for domestic visitors to and within the county — and not internationally. It was not readily known how much of a factor foreign tourists are in Surry County.

Other highlights of the latest report show that:

• The travel and tourism industry directly employees more than 854 in Surry County, down from 880-plus in pre-pandemic 2019;

• However, the total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Surry County was $31.7 million in 2021, higher than the figure reported for 2019, $21.03 million.

• State tax revenue generated in Surry County totaled $6 million through state sales and excise taxes, and taxes on personal and corporate income, compared to $7.57 million in 2019;

• About $4.4 million in local taxes were generated last year through sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses, higher than that reported for 2019, about $2.95 million.

Statewide, visitor spending in 2021 rebounded by 44.9 percent to reach $28.9 billion, representing about the same percentage increase from 2020 as the 45.4-percent gain in Surry.

Both Mayor Niland and Jessica Roberts, executive director of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority and Tourism Partnership of Surry County, believe the recent addition of various attractions locally are making a difference.

Niland mentioned as one factor the weekend events in the Market Street Arts and Entertainment District held during the warmer months, which include live music, along with the usual “Mayberry Experience” that also has been enhanced recently.

“Our new Andy Griffith Mural project in partnership with Mount Airy Downtown Inc. and the city of Mount Airy by the artist Jeks has brought in new visitors and those returning who are loyal to our various Mayberry attractions,” Roberts agreed.

Some segments of the local tourism economy also have been expanding, according to Roberts.

“In the last few years, Mount Airy and Surry County have seen additional lodging opportunities being offered through various online booking companies like Airbnb and Vrbo,” the local tourism official advised.

“And many of those opening in our various downtown areas throughout Surry County and also in and around the vineyards in the Yadkin Valley.”

Other growth has occurred despite COVID-19, Roberts mentioned.

“During the pandemic, we have also seen various renovations at local establishments throughout the county and additional wineries opening with more to open in the future.”

Mayor Niland believes this area is well-positioned for the future, on the heels of 2021 spending returning to some semblance of normalcy.

“I think we will do even better in the next few years,” he said, “particularly with the things we have in the downtown area.”

Roberts says the latest numbers are a testament to the important role tourism plays in the local economy year in and year out by providing jobs, tax revenue and other value.

“The ultimate goal of our tourism efforts in Surry County and Mount Airy is to bring in more visitors annually who will spend more money and stay longer in our region, including new and repeat visitors.”

Patrick County Receives Awards for Tourism and Economic Development (news release submitted by Rebecca Adcock, Director of the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce)

Several Patrick County, Virginia agencies recently were recognized with tourism awards presented by the Friends of Southwest Virginia.

During an awards ceremony on Monday,

For awards in Excellence in Tourism,

The Patrick County Tourism Office won an Excellence in Tourism award for Best Print Ad for their Our State magazine ad featuring trails. The tourism department also won the award for Best Long Video — more than 60 seconds.

In the categories of Excellence in Tourism Partners, Front Porch Fest won the Outstanding Festival of the Year with less than 10,000 in attendance. The event, sponsored by One Family Productions, is an annual music festival held at Spirithaven Farm near Stuart, Virginia.

Pickle & Ash Restaurant won Outstanding New Tourism Business of the Year. Pickle & Ashe is a resturant specializing in locally grown and sourced food.

In the category of Excellence in Tourism Leadership, the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce won Outstanding Tourism Partner of the Year.

Sunday, Sept. 11 will mark 21 years since terrorists attacked the United States in what has become known as the 9/11 attacks, and a local organization will commemorate the anniversary of that day as part of a nationwide program.

On Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. the Children’s Center of Northwest North Carolina will hold a service to remember those lost on the largest attack on United States soil since Pearl Harbor.

The event will include the reading of the names and short biographies of 50 victims of the attack – such as where they worked, if they had children, their hobbies. For some, there will only be names to read, and at a minimum, that they are not forgotten.

“It is important to let the public know this event is taking place and that we are taking time to remember all those who lost their lives,” said Valerie Smith, the center’s community relations coordinator. “This event is special and sacred, and we will never forget the men, women, and children who lost their precious lives that tragic day, and still are losing their lives.”

According to Smith, the event will include a key note address by Maj. Scott Hudson of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office and performances by members of the Surry Central High School Chorus. The East Surry High School JROTC will present the colors.

The impact of the two decades of war that followed the Sept. 11 attacks won’t be lost on attendees.

The center will host the event at its Pfc. Adam L. Marion Resource Center at 520 North Main Street in Dobson. Marion was killed in action during his service in support of the Global War on Terror.

Smith said the event is open to the public and free. It will be held outdoors at the center’s flagpole.

The Children’s Center received funding through a grant from Global Youth Justice Inc., a non-profit organization based in Boston. On Sept. 11, the center will be one of 75 sites chosen by that organization to hold a commemorative event.

The 9/11 Flag of Honor Across America Memorials is sponsored and funded by the federal agency AmeriCorps National Day of Service and Global Youth Justice. It is one of only two new federally sponsored National 9/11 Day Projects by the Federal Agency AmeriCorps, and largest nationally coordinated 9/11 Day Project since September 11th, 2001.

Additionally, the 50 names that will be read will appear on a Flag of Honor, which travelled to the World Trade Center prior to being delivered to the Children’s Center.

Staff and adult and youth volunteers from the center’s teen court and community service programs, which are spread across seven counties in Northwest North Carolina, will converge on Dobson to host the event.

“We are grateful to receive the funding to make this event happen,” said Smith. “We hope the surrounding community will come join us for what will be a meaningful and solemn remembrance of the lives lost on 9/11.”

The center is located at 520 North Main Street in Dobson.

Surry County has tremendous outdoor resources including parks, trails, rivers and more — but is hoping to elevate that to another level by participating in a new regional initiative.

This included about 25 people gathering Thursday afternoon at White Elephant Beer Co. on Market Street in Mount Airy for an introductory community open house meeting. It was organized by representatives of Mountain BizWorks, a non-profit organization based in Asheville.

Mountain BizWorks is spearheading a fledgling program known as Building Outdoor Communities, which seeks to maximize opportunities offered by the bountiful natural resources of western North Carolina.

The rural development partnership targets 25 counties in all, including Surry.

Building Outdoor Communities is designed to support affected communities in developing, prioritizing and implementing their individual outdoor infrastructure and economic goals.

This will allow the counties involved “to capitalize on their extraordinary outdoors and build places that people love,” according to a description of the new program that stresses drawing in people lured by the mountain culture.

“We’re looking to pull more of this business into western North Carolina,” said Joanna Brown, one of the Mountain BizWorks representatives visiting Mount Airy.

Based on the tone of Thursday afternoon’s meeting, the program seeks not only to fully develop outdoor resources to attract tourists but companies seeking to expand to places possessing such attractions that are becoming more and more popular.

“People around the world are infatuated with finding ways to connect with nature,” Building Outdoor Communities Specialist Bradley Spiegel told those gathered at White Elephant Beer Co.

“There’s just so many cool stories to tell to attract people to this place,” Spiegel said of the western North Carolina landscape and the high-quality outdoor recreation access it offers.

While this has always existed, the coronavirus pandemic seems to have heightened interest in areas with such scenic and recreational value among employers, he advised.

“Companies are looking to relocate to places with outstanding outdoor assets,” Spiegel explained in reference to a business expansion and recruitment component involved with the program.

The Building Outdoor Communities initiative is funded in part by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). It was established by Congress years ago to foster economic development in the depressed region of Appalachia.

Appalachian Regional Commission officials work with the people of that 13-state region, including North Carolina, to create opportunities for self-sustaining progress in areas such as economic development and critical infrastructure.

Among the ways the new program will help targeted communities by driving outdoor industry growth are providing financing, training and mentorship for existing businesses and entrepreneurs — balancing that with conservation, organizers say.

Technical assistance and connectivity opportunities also will be offered.

Building pathways to a “robust and talented workforce” is among the goals of the new program.

Determining what Surry County wants to be from a branding standpoint is listed as one of the questions to be asked as part of the process, along with assessing what’s here now and what else is needed.

Local tourism official Jessica Roberts says one concern in Surry involves taking the load off Pilot Mountain State Park — which tends to be overflowing with visitors — by getting them interested in under-used attractions locally they might not even know about.

Roberts says another focus should be on providing more access points for local waterways.

Surry County Parks and Recreation Director Daniel White said Thursday that there is also a need for more mountain biking facilities locally, along with supporting ongoing pedestrian and biking opportunities and the possibility of connecting these in the future.

White further pointed to another outdoorsy opportunity: developing the 34 miles of the Mountain to the Sea Trail course that runs through Surry.

In addition to Roberts, White and Jenny Smith from Mount Airy Visitors Center, others in attendance Thursday afternoon were Mount Airy officials including City Manager Stan Farmer, Commissioner Joe Zalescik and Darren Lewis, assistant city manager.

A Pilot Mountain town official, Scott Needham, also was there, as were representatives of Stone Mountain State Park and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council that aids economic-development efforts in this area.

Surry County Economic Development Partnership President Todd Tucker was another person who attended.

Tucker was enthusiastic about one key starting step, building a local working group of citizens who represent a cross-section of stakeholders in the outdoor recreation industry to advance the Building Outdoor Communities initiative.

“Who wants to be involved?” he said of a key question needing to be answered as part of that process.

J’s HVAC Unlimited, a Mount Airy-based heating and cooling services company in operation since 2005, announced this week that it is rebranding its image with a new look and new name.

“But (the company) will continue to build upon the excellent customer care that has earned it the best HVAC company in the Mount Airy News’ (Mounties Award) for the past 10 out of 11 years,” the company said in a statement announcing the change.

The firm is changing its name to Jay’s Heating, Air & Plumbing to reflect its new focus.

“We’ll be sporting a new brand, new truck wraps and a new website for our new era of continued outstanding customer service,” said Jamie Vaughan, owner of Jay’s Heating, Air & Plumbing. “We’ve been known for our fire and ice logo for years but felt it was time to modernize our brand with an updated look that is sure to turn heads. Our new name also reflects some of the expanded services we plan to introduce over the coming year.”

Vaughan’s love of the trades comes from a long family history of working in the HVAC industry. His grandfather started a heating and cooling company in the 1920s where Vaughan’s father also learned the trade before starting his own company. Then Vaughan followed suit, working for his father for more than 10 years before starting J’s HVAC in 2005.

“I learned the trade from a young age and have always sought to provide the best customer service I can for my customers,” he said. “That includes keeping up with new technology and trends that help the customer get better service. We want our image to reflect our commitment to industry innovation.”

Vaughan said some of the new trucks are already out on the road and the Mount Airy community can expect to see the new logo soon. A new website explaining the company’s services will soon follow.

The company’s employees have more than 50 years of combined experience in the industry and its team members carry a number of certifications from the top manufacturers in the HVAC industry. Jay’s provides a number of services including residential and commercial HVAC care, planned maintenance agreements, Aeroseal duct sealing, generators, duct cleaning, mold removal and more.

For more information about Jay’s Heating, Air & Plumbing, call 336-690-5253 or visit their website at www.jayisontheway.com.

Pilot Mountain Middle School teachers and administrators are making a point this year of recognizing and praising positive behavior.

When a faculty member finds a student displaying exemplary characteristics of a “great leader,” the student is given a Positive Office Referral Ticket.

“This is all part of the school’s leadership framework to celebrate student success in exemplifying leadership qualities,” school officials said.

Dobson Elementary students and staff recently celebrated the start of the school year with their eighth annual Parade of Success through the town of Dobson.

They were cheered on by family and friends who lined the streets. The Dobson Police Department, with Chief Shawn Myers, the Surry Central high School band, directed by Jordan Martin, Surry Central cheerleaders, and the high school’s ROTC with Sgt. Greg McCormick led the parade.

Two Surry County businesses were honored this week when the Piedmont Triad Business Journal held its annual Triad Family Business Awards lunch.

Shelton Vineyards, of Dobson, was presented with the 2022 Heritage Award, the top award given at the event.

Johnson Granite, of Mount Airy, was among a dozen other firms in the Greater Triad Area honored with a Family Business Award.

During a round table discussion at the awards gathering, co-founder Ed Shelton described the winery start-up as “a hobby that got out of hand.”

He and his brother, Charlie Shelton, founded the winery, which began when the brothers purchased 400 acres of farmland outside of Dobson.

“He thought that opening a winery would be a good thing for our hometown that had been suffering after losing manufacturing and textile mills jobs to companies in Mexico and overseas,” Ed Shelton said of his brother’s push for them to begin a vineyard and winery.

The winery is one of the oldest in North Carolina, having opened in 1999. In previous interviews, the Sheltons have said they felt the Yadkin Valley region of North Carolina offered opportunities for a wine industry to develop and thrive, a prophecy which came true.

The Yadkin Valley became North Carolina’s first federally approved American Viticulture Area in 2003, and opened the doors for converting much of the area’s former tobacco farmland into vineyards.

Since Shelton’s opening, more than 150 wineries across the state have opened.

“We were far from an overnight success. After such a huge investment in land, infrastructure, machinery and vines it took us 20 years to turn a profit,” he said at this week’s awards ceremony. “That’s not the formula most North Carolina wineries follow, most of them start small with family members growing grapes and working the business and then they expand. We did the reverse of that, and luckily for us, it paid off.”

Johnson Granite was among 12 other family businesses recognized at the awards ceremony.

The business began in 2000. Larry D. Johnson had spent much of his life in the stone business, and his son, Brian H. Johnson, was selling building supplies after finishing college, when the two considered the idea of opening a business together.

“The demand for granite countertops was just starting to catch on in our area, so we decided to take a leap of faith,” the younger Johnson said.

So the pair, along with Linda Johnson who manned the books and the schedule, opened Johnson Granite.

The firm grew, and over the years other family members joined, starting with Lisa Johnson.

“I started out sweeping the floors and other odd jobs like that, and eventually, they’d give me a little more to do and then a little more to do until I worked my way up to being a stone polisher, and I’m proud to say I got pretty good at that,” she said this week.

Karen Johnson Coalson came on board next. With a background in bookkeeping she signed on as a secretary, while her twin sister Kimberly Johnson Marshall followed, working on the sales floor. Four of the five Johnson kids eventually joined the family business, with the oldest sister, Mary Johnson Holt, electing to follow her heart by continuing in her career in healthcare as a registered nurse.

Larry Johnson, now retired from the business, said the company has done well, but it was not always easy. He recalled some lean times during the aftermath of the 2008 housing crisis.

“It was tough,” he said. “We had grown and there were more people than just our family depending on us. We were forced to make sacrifices, and that started at the top, but we promised our employees that if they’d stick with us, we’d make it right in the end. I’m proud to say we didn’t lose a single employee during that time and were able to return all that had been lost to our team…and then some.”

Jennifer Slate, a member of the Johnson Granite staff, contributed to this story.

WESTFIELD — A community group doesn’t often get the chance to celebrate a major longevity milestone, and the South Westfield Ruritan Club made the most of that occasion with a recent event marking its 60th anniversary.

Many local residents attended the drop-in gathering on Aug. 13 along with several out-of-towners drawn to the big celebration, according to Barbara S. Collins, a club representative.

“They enjoyed browsing the history and pictures of the club,” Collins added.

The drop-in format was employed for a three-hour period as opposed to having everyone gather en masse at a specific time, in order to lessen the COVID threat.

Those attending got a chance to view displays of plaques, pictures and newspaper articles documenting the club’s history, in addition to sharing memories and enjoying the fellowship.

The origins of the South Westfield Ruritan Club date back more than six decades, when Bob and Hallie Flippin donated land to benefit the community by being used for a local Ruritan club.

This occurred during a growth period for the Ruritan organization nationally, after the emergence of its first club in 1928 in the Suffolk, Virginia, area.

The Ruritans now are known as America’s top community service organization with more than 23,000 members in nearly 1,000 clubs in small towns and rural areas.

While the recent event was focused on celebrating its 60 years in existence, members of the South Westfield Ruritan Club also engaged in public service. This included not only serving free food to all who attended but sending some to shut-ins of the community, Collins reported.

Along with helping others there, the South Westfield Ruritan Club has provided scholarships to local students over the years, including two annually for youths continuing their education at Surry Community College.

The group also operates an ongoing backpack program to supply area students with backpacks and food, donates money and provisions for families undergoing hardships and engages in many other similar efforts.

WESTFIELD — A community group doesn’t often get the chance to celebrate a major longevity milestone, and the South Westfield Ruritan Club made the most of that occasion with a recent event marking its 60th anniversary.

Many local residents attended the drop-in gathering on Aug. 13 along with several out-of-towners drawn to the big celebration, according to Barbara S. Collins, a club representative.

“They enjoyed browsing the history and pictures of the club,” Collins added.

The drop-in format was employed for a three-hour period as opposed to having everyone gather en masse at a specific time, in order to lessen the COVID threat.

Those attending got a chance to view displays of plaques, pictures and newspaper articles documenting the club’s history, in addition to sharing memories and enjoying the fellowship.

The origins of the South Westfield Ruritan Club date back more than six decades, when Bob and Hallie Flippin donated land to benefit the community by being used for a local Ruritan club.

This occurred during a growth period for the Ruritan organization nationally, after the emergence of its first club in 1928 in the Suffolk, Virginia, area.

The Ruritans now are known as America’s top community service organization with more than 23,000 members in nearly 1,000 clubs in small towns and rural areas.

While the recent event was focused on celebrating its 60 years in existence, members of the South Westfield Ruritan Club also engaged in public service. This included not only serving free food to all who attended but sending some to shut-ins of the community, Collins reported.

Along with helping others there, the South Westfield Ruritan Club has provided scholarships to local students over the years, including two annually for youths continuing their education at Surry Community College.

The group also operates an ongoing backpack program to supply area students with backpacks and food, donates money and provisions for families undergoing hardships and engages in many other similar efforts.

The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Job Fair on Friday, Sept. 9 at Mayberry Mall in Mount Airy from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The job fair is open to anyone looking for a part-time or full-time job, or for those already working but perhaps looking for a job change. Admission is free to all job seekers.

“This will be our sixth year doing a job fair,” said Randy Collins, chamber president and CEO. Additionally, the chamber has held a student job fair the past two springs for area high school and college students.

Collins said the fair still has spots open for area employers looking to recruit for current or expected job openings.

The chamber official said even in the relatively short window the organization has been holding job fairs, the labor market has seen some major shifts.

“We’re obviously in a labor shortage,” he said. “There are more jobs than there are people to fill, there’s no doubt about that…Years ago people were complaining the labor rates were so low, saying ‘I can’t live on X.’ Now those people are way above minimum wage. Whether it’s a livable wage, I’ll leave that to others…labor rates are up, even manufacturing plants that were paying X amount…let’s say $14-$15 an hour, are now paying $18 or $20 an hour. The employers are doing everything they can to attract people.”

While some still point to federal stimulus money that allowed individuals to subsist while out of work as a reason the job market was initially tight once COVID restrictions began to ease, he said that is not what is happening now. The available labor pool is simply not keeping up with job growth and demand.

“On the federal side, my understanding from the state and federal contacts I have, the federal money from COVID or the Recovery Act or whatever have pretty much run out,” he said.

Despite the tight labor market, he said job fairs such as the one the chamber is providing are still important

“We feel it’s necessary to provide an opportunity for these companies to promote the jobs that they have,” he said.

In addition to the jobless, Collins said the job fair may attract people who are employed, but “Who are looking for something down the road, something else. Maybe something more fulfilling, or they’ve always dreamed of being an auto mechanic or a wielder, and now they’re making changes to do that.”

Because of the tight labor market, he said this is a great time for those in the market for a new job. He said this year’s job fair, with employers set up at the mall between Belk’s and Hobby Lobby, will be open until 6 p.m., giving individuals who already a job a chance to visit after 5 p.m. The chamber job fairs usually attract more than 50 employers who will have information on open jobs.

The chamber’s upcoming job fair still has openings for local businesses wishing to set up and recruit prospective employees, and still has opportunities for area agencies to take sponsorship roles for the event.

Interested employers or sponsors should contact Jordon Edwards at the chamber for vendor and sponsorship fees. Email her at jordon@mtairyncchamber.org. Registration is open on the chamber website at www.mtairyncchamber.org or www.mtairyncchamber.org/events/job-fair-2022.

• An Elkin woman was arrested in Mount Airy Tuesday on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretense, according to city police reports.

Meghan Danielle Macemore, 27, of 130 Hill St., was taken into custody at the probation office on State Street after she was found to be the subject of that charge, which had been filed by Elkin authorities on July 27 with no other details listed. Macemore also is accused of second-degree trespassing in a warrant issued on the same date in Elkin.

She was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and slated for a Sept. 9 appearance in District Court.

• Michael Shane Dodd, 40, of 1710 S. Main St., No. 14, has been arrested as a fugitive from justice wanted in Georgia and jailed under an $80,000 secured bond

Dodd, who was taken into custody on Aug. 18 in a parking lot at 182 W. Pine St., was found to be the subject of an outstanding warrant from that state on an unspecified matter, apparently including the theft of a vehicle, according to local arrest records.

Dodd also was charged at the time of his apprehension with two felonies, possession of a stolen motor vehicle (a 2017 Ford Explorer valued at $22,000), owned by Janice Robertson of Clarkesville, Georgia, and possession of a firearm by a felon, identified as a handgun.

The suspect is slated to appear in Surry District Court on Monday.

• Michael Andrew Marshall, 38, of 130 Rocky Lane, was jailed under a $20,000 secured bond on Aug. 18 for two counts of assault on a government official and resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer.

Marshall was encountered by authorities on Worth Street near South Main Street in reference to a suspicious-person investigation, during which he allegedly swung a closed fist at Officer Dillon Harris, striking him in the head.

The suspect then tried to run away, arrest records add, before being taken into custody and transported to the police station. While being processed, he again allegedly struck Officer Harris in the head with his fist. Marshall is scheduled to appear in District Court next Monday.

• A North Carolina dealer’s plate, serial number ID055096, was discovered stolen on Aug. 16 from a vehicle at H&H Auto Sales on West Pine Street. It is valued at $39.

• Christopher Dillion Bobbitt, 29, of Galax, Virginia, was served with outstanding warrants at the police station on Aug. 10 for a series of charges including felonious breaking and entering, felony larceny, assault on a female, assault on a child under 12 and injury to personal property.

No other details were listed regarding the charges, for which Bobbitt was confined in the Surry County Jail without privilege of bond. The case is slated for the Sept. 26 session of District Court.

• A Sony Playstation game console valued at $250 was discovered stolen on Aug. 8 as the result of a break-in at the Broad Street residence of Amber Caudill Kelly, the victim of the theft.

Entry was gained by kicking in a side entry door.

A New Jersey-based company that includes SouthData in Mount Airy among its holdings is now engaged in bankruptcy proceedings, with no word on how this might affect the local operation.

OSG Group Holdings Inc., a billing and marketing firm, filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection earlier this month, according to numerous online reports.

Chapter 11 is a part of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code which allows a financially troubled entity to restructure its debts while maintaining control of the business operations, as opposed to shutting down and liquidating assets to pay creditors.

OSG was described by one observer this week as “a conglomerate” that operates in numerous areas, including the SouthData facility on Technology Lane off Riverside Drive.

SouthData, which had been founded as a private company in 1985 to print payment coupon books for financial institutions, was sold to OSG Billing Services in July 2014. At that time SouthData employed about 80 people locally, with the sale to the much-larger company expected to expand production and jobs here.

More recently, OSG Group Holdings has accumulated $824 million in debt. This coincided with malware attacks in 2021 which caused a major disruption and declines in revenue from customers who went with other service providers as a result, according to media reports.

OSG is said to have proposed a restructuring plan aimed at reducing its debt to $690 million, for which approval was anticipated in a court hearing on Friday.

This optimistic outcome seems based on OSG gaining creditor support for that proposal before filing for bankruptcy in the District of Delaware, based on reports referencing the “prepackaged” plan.

It reportedly is aimed at allowing the company to withdraw from bankruptcy protection soon.

Attempts Friday to reach Kenny Meredith, chief financial official of SouthData, concerning how local employees might be affected by the OSG situation, were unsuccessful.

They are now believed to number between 80 and 100.

OSG Group Holdings Inc. operates in 19 countries altogether.

With voter access continuing to be a major issue nationwide, a local case involving the number of early balloting sites that will be open in Surry County this fall is expected to be settled soon.

A matter normally decided by the Surry Board of Elections has been shifted to the state elections board, which is required due to the local group’s failure to reach unanimous decisions on the scope of those locations.

The five-member Surry board has been weighing whether only the Mount Airy and Dobson early voting sites should be open for one-stop, early absentee balloting preceding the off-year November general election — or Dobson only, as required by law.

Four locations operate during election years involving presidential races, also including Pilot Mountain and Elkin, which additionally was the case for a recent primary.

“September thirteenth is the date that the State Board of Elections will be meeting and they will be hearing from two of our board members,” local elections Chairman Dwayne Carter said Thursday.

During a meeting in Dobson on July 20, the Surry Board of Elections — made up of three Democrats and two Republicans — rendered a bipartisan 4-1 vote to have only the Mount Airy and Dobson early voting stations.

This was followed by another 4-1 vote to just operate the Dobson location.

Such failures to reach unanimous decisions on the local level automatically trigger the state intervention in Raleigh.

That was the case with another local issue during the spring surrounding early voting sites for a May 17 primary, after a non-unanimous decision on a proposal to open all four stations, which the North Carolina board ultimately approved.

The procedure involves local members arguing on both sides of such proposals before the state board.

Tim DeHaan, a GOP representative on the Surry group, will be making the case for maintaining only the Dobson location, while Democrat Drew Poindexter of Dobson is to advocate for both Dobson and Mount Airy.

“And, of course, the state board would have the authority to deny both of those requests,” Carter said — thus ruling that all four locations be offered. But it is not likely to go that route, he added, which would be against the wishes of the entire local board.

Based on the immediate action taken by the state after local representatives appeared for the spring hearing, officials in Raleigh likely will make their decision during the Sept. 13 session.

Unlike some charges on a national scale about alleged attempts to limit voter access by curtailing early absentee ballot casting, the local considerations are economic in nature.

Early voter turnout was low in both Pilot Mountain and Elkin for the May primary, and that would be expected again for this fall’s general election, which Carter has said makes it hard to justify personnel and other expenses involved.

In contrast, the Mount Airy early voting site, in a county government facility behind Arby’s, is generally heavily used.

The Surry County Board of Elections voted 5-0 in July to close early voting stations on two Saturdays before the election, also because of participation factors. That service will be available only on the Saturday before the Nov. 8 general election, which is mandatory.

The late Betty Lynn was known to millions of “The Andy Griffith Show” fans as the long-suffering, sweet-hearted girlfriend of Deputy Barney Fife.

Over the decades since the show left the air, many of those fans got the chance to meet her — Lynn was a frequent guest at Mayberry-themed festivals and fairs around the country and a regular visitor to Mount Airy’s Mayberry Days. After moving to Mount Airy in 2007, she became a fixture in Andy Griffith’s hometown, not only attending Mayberry Days each year but later making regular appearances at The Andy Griffith Museum to meet with fans and sign autographs.

Lynn, who passed away Oct. 16, was a favorite among the show’s fans, because she cared about them and showed it — often spending time chatting with them, getting to know them, even recalling them in chance meetings years later.

Her fans will soon have the opportunity to get to know her better, to learn about her childhood, her early career, her Mayberry years, and what she was doing in the years after “The Andy Griffith Show,” with the publication of her autobiography, “Becoming Thelma Lou: My Journey to Hollywood, Mayberry, and Beyond.”

The hardback book, coming in at more than 300 pages, will officially be released Aug. 29 — which would have been her 96th birthday. The Surry Arts Council will be observing the day with a book release event at The Andy Griffith Museum.

“We will be having drawings for Betty Lynn memorabilia ranging from a purse, hat, jewelry, sunglasses, and other treasures from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.,” said Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council. Jones. A close friend of Lynn’s who wrote the Forward in the book, Jones said copies of the book will be on sale beginning that day. “The first 50 books sold will include a bookmark autographed by Betty,” she said. The museum will be selling the books at $40 each.

While Betty died last autumn, two men who helped her compile and write the book — Jim Clark of Nashville, Tennessee, and Tim McAbee, of Sevierville, Tennessee — recently said they believe her fans will enjoy the work.

“I think people in Mount Airy especially will like it,” Clark said. A writer and co-founder of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watcher’s Club, Clark has been a life-long fan of the show and grew to know Lynn well over the years. “The book has got a lot about Mount Airy toward the end, when she moved to Mount Airy. She loved living there, she has so many nice things to say about the people of Mount Airy.”

McAbee, a concert and event promoter who has been involved in organizing many of “The Andy Griffith Show” cast reunions over the years, said he believes fans will come away from the book with a greater appreciation for the vast career Lynn had apart from “The Andy Griffith Show.”

“I think being in the USO, and some of the conditions she traveled in and performed in, as a young lady right out of high school,” are among the revelations in the book he said stands out in his memory. “She was in the China-Burma-Indian theater (during World War 2). Even though she wasn’t on the front lines, the travel was terrible, being the lone female, she was in tough conditions. I never really gave that much thought until I heard her describe that.”

That period of her life, just after she turned 18, was a sometimes-harrowing experience. She and some of her USO colleagues traveled into remote areas to entertain and visit with soldiers in hospitals. That often meant sleeping on torn, filthy mattresses on floors, traversing rugged countryside, and dodging Japanese soldier encampments to get to the remote soldier hospitals.

Another part of her story that stands out for McAbee is the expansive career she had prior to landing the role of Thelma Lou.

“It’s amazing the career she had during the Golden Years of Hollywood, the people she worked with, the films she was in, long before ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ I think that will surprise a lot of readers, all the things she did.”

McAbee said he first met Lynn while attending the Jan. 19, 2000 ceremony unveiling the Hollywood Walk of Fame star dedicated to Don Knotts.

“That’s where I really started to get to know her,” he said. He invited her to several of the Mayberry cast reunions he was producing at Pigeon Forge, and over time he was struck with the stories of her career and her experience in the entertainment industry.

“It was the downtime during those shows we got to hang out and I really got to know her. On my part, that was the impetus for the book. I encouraged her to share some of those stories, some of her memories.”

Once she gave her approval for the idea, McAbee said he began recording many of those talks, and the two of them turned to Clark to help, because of his writing and publishing background.

“Betty and I both just admire him so much, his knowledge involving the show…he was the first person we brought on board to help us with the book.”

From there, it was a matter of sporadic meetings with Lynn, recording her memories for the nearly two-decade long project.

Clark, whose friendship with Lynn dates to when he met her while she was involved with the 1986 Return To Mayberry movie, acknowledged that was a long time for a single book to be under production.

“It was very much a Mayberry pace,” he said with a laugh. “We took our time with it. She was busy doing other things, we were busy, we just kind of worked it in when we could. There was a lot of ebb and flow to our process.”

There were periods, he said, when she was less interested, and interviews would stop for while. McAbee said the 2006 death of Don Knotts affected her deeply, halting work on the project for a couple of years. Still, they always returned to doing interviews and transcribing the recordings.

Then, in 2020, he said Lynn told them the time for compiling information was over, so the writing began in earnest.

“It was pretty much done before it was started,” Clark said of the writing process. “Betty has such a great memory for details about her life…she is such a great storyteller….we didn’t change much of anything other than organizing and doing the things you need to do when you change from spoken word to written word. It really is her telling her story.”

“The process went right up until she passed,” McAbee said.

As Clark was writing and organizing, any loose ends or questions that came up they were able to get Mount Airy resident and photographer Hobart Jones to slip over to see her, with a recorder in hand, to ask her a few questions, allowing Clark to finish the manuscript before she died.

“Fortunately, we got it all written and she got a chance to look at the manuscript and approve before she passed away in October,” Clark said.

While she didn’t see the final product, Clark said the cover photo is one that Lynn often said was among her favorites. All totaled, the book spanning her life includes 140 pictures — some from her childhood, others from her USO services and pre-Andy Griffith career, and many others taken by Hobart Jones and others in more recent years.

“We view the book as one final gift from her to her fans,” Clark said. “I hope people enjoy it, maybe learn some things they didn’t know, see some things they hadn’t seen.”

“Becoming Thelma Lou: My Journey to Hollywood, Mayberry, and Beyond“ will remain on sale at The Andy Griffith Museum after the Aug. 29 launch party. It will also be available, in both hardback and soft cover editions, at Weaver’s Department Store (https://www.weaversdepartmentstore.com/index.php) and at other retailers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, and others.

It’s always special when former classmates who shared a unique period in history get together, and an upcoming reunion of J.J. Jones High School graduates in Mount Airy will have added significance.

This will include a number of activities centered around the auditorium of the former all-black campus on Sept. 2, including the official unveiling of a plaque commemorating the site’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places last year.

The Jones alumni normally would have held a reunion in 2021 as part of an every-other-year meeting schedule, but that gathering was cancelled due to lingering issues with the coronavirus.

So the historic commemoration is planned for Sept. 2 to kick off a weekend of reunion activities for those who attended J.J. Jones. The school served African-American students in this area from 1936 to 1966, when it closed due to integration.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing with getting on the National Register,” said Edward McDaniels, a local resident who graduated from J.J. Jones High and serves on a reunion committee.

In honor of that occasion, Sept. 2 will be Family and Community Day on the grounds, according to J J Jones High School Alumni President Nancy Bowman Williams (Class of 1965).

The alumni group owns the auditorium, with other parts of the former campus long held by the Surry County government and leased to an agency operating a resource center that includes various agencies

Reunion organizers say the public at large is invited to Family and Community Day, which will give everyone the chance to celebrate the National Register status and the J.J. Jones heritage overall.

“This is for the community,” said McDaniels, who believes it is important for youth to be involved.

Old pictures and other mementos typically are displayed during each reunion, which once again also will include the wrapping of a maypole with colorful ribbons.

“That was a traditional activity at the school every year,” Williams explained.

While no specific times for the Sept. 2 slate of activities could be obtained from reunion planners Wednesday, these are expected to get under way around mid- to late afternoon and continue through the early evening.

The gathering also will include a fish fry at a cost of $12 per person.

Planners also are excited about the possible attendance on Sept. 2 of the oldest-living graduate of J.J. Jones High School, Sadie George, a member of its inaugural commencement Class of 1941.

George still lives in Mount Airy and is believed to be around 100 years old.

“She is the last one of them,” McDaniels said of that pioneering group of grads.

“We’re hoping that she can be there for the unveiling of the plaque,” Williams said of George.

Up to 150 former Jones students are expected to be present for the reunion weekend as a whole.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News