The pop up winter weather event this week led much of the Surry County Board of Commissioners meeting to be postponed as presentation speakers and Eagle Scout honors were safest left for another time.
The commissioners heard from LaShene Lowe speaking for the African American Genealogical Society of Surry County and their umbrella group, the Save the Jones School Committee. She spoke on their continued desire to save the property, “We are here to let you know we are indeed seeking ownership of the school, and all properties associated with the site.”
“We want to remind you that a former slave donated the land where Jones sits and he owned the land where Graham Field was originally. His offspring sold it. We want all the history back. We want to remind you it is a National Historic Site because of the struggles current and former alumni experienced.”
The school building itself has value for its design elements and that physical link to the rich past of the Jones School. However, it is the emotional and spiritual connection to generations past that an institution such as Jones passes on and where legacies are founded.
Legacies and traditions like that of the Jones family themselves. From JJ and Ora Jones to son Leonidas and his wife Eleanor, a direct link to a love of education served the greater good of Surry County for many years.
“We are proud of our people, and we want out young people to be instilled with pride that Jones faculty and staff shares in their personal growth.”
“The morays, traditions and culture came from their personal experience within their families. It came from the prestigious HBCU, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, they attended.”
“This is our history you are trying to sell to support needs of Surry County,” she added. “We, the organization, are spearheading the effort to obtain our history. We don’t want it lost like our history has become in the United States.”
The comments from Lowe were made to the commissioners during the open forum of the meeting, and were not attached to any specific motion or action the board handled on the evening. Commissioner Eddie Harris stated that as a fan of history and genealogy himself, he wants to find the best way to preserve the Jones School “now and into perpetuity.”
The commissioners have all expressed an interest in preserving the school site. Commissioner Larry Johnson has brought up this point at several meetings where it was not on the agenda, a simple yet effective reminder to the public the issue is still on his mind.
The Board of Commissioners has planned a retreat-style meeting to have further discussions on Jones School.
In other Board of Commissioners news:
– The commissioners gave their approval to issuance of the Board of County Commissioners seal onto a commemorative plaque in the Sandy Level community. Julia Mitchell, representing Sandy Level, informed the board the plaque would be located near the site of the old Rosenwald school.
Rosenwald refers to the thousands of schools that were built primarily for the African-American population in the early 20th century through a fund created by Julius Rosenwald, a part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck and Company. The cost of the sign itself has already been covered, so this was a procedural vote from the board which approved the usage of their seal.
– The board gave approval to a new list of surplus items from the county. These are items that the county has determined are no longer needed, and what can be transferred to another county department will be. For example, the Dobson and Elkin rescue squads will receive transfer of power stretchers from excess stock in Surry County.
Items not being transferred will be available for auction being handled by Rogers Realty and Auction. Rogers has not yet set a date for the auction, but has begun the preparations for such. Items in the surplus items auction range from office equipment, obsolete airport signage, to flat beds and dump trucks. More information on the surplus items auction will be found here when available.
– A 911 Interlocal agreement needed the authorization of the board before it could be sent for approval from Mount Airy and Elkin. Surry County receives money for 911 funding, and the agreement stipulates how the funding can be used, as well as providing recourse if state funding is misused. Commissioner Mark Marion moved the agreement be accepted, and the board approved it.
– County Manager Chris Knopf delivered a late present from Santa in the form of additional grant money to the county. He asked the board to approve an amendment to the Earthquake Recovery Grant Program.
The board was notified that a $45,000 project to make repairs to the parking lot behind the permitting building was completed. Knopf also reported that $50,000 of repair work to Fisher River Park was partially completed.
Additional inspection from the state yielded an additional $30,000 to make repairs at the health department and also $75,000 for repairs to the Surry County Historic Courthouse in Dobson. The board agreed to enter into agreement with the revised grant amounts.
– The Surry County Rural Health Center is looking to expand again, and Todd Tucker of the Surry County Economic Development Council was on hand to field questions from the commissioners. The health center is eyeing an expansion totaling nearly $387,000 and creating an additional ten jobs. The state grant would facilitate up to $10,000 per job, for a total grant of $100,000.
Similar grants have been applied for by the health center before, and Tucker noted that the stipulations on those grants were met. Commissioner Mark Marion spoke firmly in his support for the health center and pointed that it has grown significantly to a mix of more than 40 full- and part-time employees servicing 6,100 rural patients. “It’s very well needed in that area, and I fully support it.”
Commissioner Johnson suggested the board cover the $5,000 grant application fee for this round of expansion. The measure passed 4-1 with the nay vote of Commissioner Harris being lodged over the grant application fee only. The Surry Rural Health Center expansion will move forward with a public hearing later this month.