Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor
Last weekend was busy. The Highlands Wine and Food Festival was once again a great success. I also want to recognize Highlands American Legion Post 370 and the Highlands Police Department for putting on a moving Veterans Day program despite Monday’s pouring rain. New veterans bricks were dedicated at the Veterans Memorial. Phil Potts had also organized the placement of flags on the graves of veterans earlier in the week. It was a long Friday for me. I traveled with Barrett Hawks and Franklin’s Mayor Bob Scott to Raleigh to meet with folks at the North Carolina Attorney General’s office. It was a good two hour meeting where we discussed issues about the conversion process and sale of Mission to Hospital Corporation of America. We stressed to officials the importance of the rural hospitals in this region. I also brought up the concern about a buy back provision should HCA decide to close our hospital. We discussed the representation on the Dogwood Health Trust and the proposed $15 million donation to our hospital foundation. I strongly advocated for that donation to be made in full at the time of the sale. The AG will soon decide whether to approve the sale as proposed. I hope he will set forth several conditions to the sale that address the concerns that have been identified. The petition that I wrote about last week is still available for signing at my town hall office. Tonight is the November Highlands Town Board Meeting at the Highlands Conference Center next to the ball field. It begins at 7 p.m. with a public comment period. There are several important items on the agenda. The board will be briefed on the meeting staff had with DOT officials concerning planting trees on Main Street. Just to be clear, the DOT rejected the plan that the board had reviewed at the October meeting. On the other hand, DOT engineers proposed an alternative design that the board will review tonight. There will also be a public hearing on rezoning the property across the street from the Conference Center. The property is currently split zoned with the front zoned B4 and the back part zoned R2. The rezone request is to make the entire property R2. Another big item will be how to effectively manage the bears in town. The primary focus will be a decision about bear resistant street cans in the business and public areas of the town. I will also present to the board feedback and ideas that I received about bear management from the last Community Coffee with the Mayor. The street can problem is just one part of a comprehensive approach to the problem. I believe we are at the point where the town must require bear resist containers in both the commercial and residential areas. Highlands is not the only community dealing with this growing bear problem. The key to solving this problem is cooperation from everyone in the community.