What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor

This afternoon [Thursday] the public hearing concerning the Highlands Planning Board STR [short term rentals] recommendations will begin at 5 p.m. at the Highlands Community Center.  A signup list will be at the door for folks wishing to speak.  Speaking requests can also be emailed to our town clerk at:  Gibby.shaheen@highlandsnc.org.  

Instead of speaking, folks can send comments to the above email address.    All written statements must be labeled as a statement for the hearing and post the name of the writer.  Commissioners will have access to written statements after the hearing.

I request the written statements to be no more than 500 words.  Hearing speakers will have 3 minutes to make their remarks to the board.   Speakers can also submit written statements also.

I hope that  speakers will focus on the planning board recommendations. These recommendations are the central purpose of the hearings.  Also, this meeting is a listening session for the Highlands Board of Commissioners. There will be no final actions taken by the board during or at the end of the hearing.

The hearing will be available for remote viewing through YouTube TV. At the last board meeting there were problems with the audio of the YouTube broadcast.  A microphone used for the broadcast had a mechanical defect. I have directed staff to make sure this problem has been corrected and will not happen again.

Information on how to access the hearing remotely is on the town website. The planning board recommendations and guidelines for the hearing are also located on the site.

Plans are being made for the Town of Highlands Annual Retreat. Normally we conclude the retreat around 3 pm.  I think this coming retreat will go into the late afternoon. 

During the retreat I, along with the commissioners, will share views on what the town should focus upon as we develop the new budget.  I have two strategies that I believe staff and commissioners should follow in budget prioritization and development.

First, the town should seek ARPA funds to do several major water and sewer projects. At the last board meeting two resolutions were passed to apply for grants through the American Rescue Plan.  If the town receives part or all of the multimillion dollar funding for these projects, other town funds would be freed up to address impending water and sewer projects that were identified in the 2019 Water Assessment Management and Master Plans.

Second, Highlands currently has strong reserves in the general and enterprise funds. We have been in this robust reserve position in years past.  Like in the past, this year’s budget should generously use reserves to address major projects and town improvements.  For instance, we need to continue to invest in road paving projects like we have in the last several years.  There are also projects in stormwater management, recreation and in developing a smart cities grid that should receive full consideration.  We also must continue to competitively compensate employees in order to recruit and retain a strong town workforce.

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