Strength in numbers

Published 11:24 am Thursday, October 20, 2016

WINTON – They came by the busload, several buses that is, with the intent to rally their county leaders into taking action on a long-standing issue.

They left, by the busload, seemingly content with the answers they received.

On Monday night at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, in excess of 150 individuals turned out to rally support for an improved, or new, senior citizen nutrition site in Ahoskie.

The crowd was so large that they lined the walls and spilled out the door of the commissioners meeting room on the second floor of the Hertford County Courthouse. After attempting to accommodate the crowd by bringing in additional chairs, a decision was made to move the meeting into the District Courtroom. There, the crowd filled every seat while others chose to fill the available spaces in the jury box.

Several individuals addressed the board, during the public comments portion of the meeting, about the deteriorating conditions at the Ahoskie Nutrition Site, currently located in the cafeteria/lunchroom area of R.L. Vann School on Holloman Ave.

Hazel Downing was among those in attendance at Monday’s commissioners’ meeting to ask for a new location for the R.L. Vann Nutrition Site.

Hazel Downing was among those in attendance at Monday’s commissioners’ meeting to ask for a new location for the R.L. Vann Nutrition Site.

“We thank you for all the nutrition sites in our county; the one in Murfreesboro is beautiful, but we need a building like that in Ahoskie,” remarked Hazel Downing, who said she was representing the Hertford County Office of Aging, the agency in charge of operating the nutrition locations.

“That’s why we are here tonight in number; we’re here to ask for a new nutrition site in Ahoskie,” Downing added.

Commission Chairman Ronald Gatling addressed the crowd, saying this issue had come before the board eight months ago.

“I shared then with the commissioners of the bad condition of the R.L. Vann site,” said Gatling. “Last month, Commissioner (Curtis) Freeman visited the site during that storm with all the rain, he saw the leaks, he saw the mold, he saw the poor condition of that building.”

Gatling said the county was currently in negotiations in an attempt to move the nutrition site to another location in Ahoskie.

“I can’t say more than that at this point; but I can say that the process is underway and all the commissioners are in favor of moving forward with this plan,” Gatling said. “We are aware of the plight of R.L. Vann and we will do everything we can to help this situation.”

Claude Odom of Harrellsville came out in support of a new location for the Ahoskie site.

“It’s nice to hear that the Ahoskie issue is now a mute point,” Odom stated.

He added that the social aspect of meeting for lunch was much more than about food.

“It’s a time where they can get out of their homes and come together for fellowship,” Odom said. “You have friends here tonight, not enemies; we as a group are thankful for your consideration to address the issue with the R.L. Vann site.”

Commissioner Freeman agreed that the issue with R.L. Vann is now a “mute point.”

“We are in the process of working on something; we can’t say more about that until the deal is finalized and etched in stone,” Freeman stressed. “I know the problems at R.L. Vann; I’ve been there. We all agree that we do not want our senior citizens to be in those conditions. Just hold on a little longer and we’ll take care of it.”

“I really appreciate the turnout for this meeting; it’s a pleasure to serve our citizens,” said Commissioner Bill Mitchell.

“Thank you for sharing your concerns,” Commissioner Garry Lewter remarked. “I’m glad to say that we’re on top of this issue and we hope to have you in a better facility much sooner than later.”

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams offered a rough timetable of moving the Ahoskie Nutrition Site to a new location.

“It will take some input from this group, the seniors, of what they want to see in a new location and how they want us to lay out the facility,” Williams noted. “We want you to know that we’re not making plans without input from the folks who will utilize the facility.”

Williams added that the commissioners have stressed to her to “do it right.”

“We’re not going to drag out feet on this, however, please be patient as we do want to do this right and do it correctly,” she said.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal