Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor
This past weekend we were all victims of that frustrating winter storm. Our town electric crews were the most frustrated. With the constant falling trees, limbs and power poles, they struggled to keep the power grid operative. When one line was put back up another would fall. I want to thank them for all their hard work and long hours of service. Their work is dangerous, especially in storm conditions, and I always worry about their safety. I also want to thank all the town crews and staff that worked beyond the normal call of duty during this unique winter storm. Tonight [Thursday] we have a town board meeting at the Highlands Community Center next to the ball field. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. with an opening public comment period. The board will hold a public hearing concerning a loan to finance the construction of the aerial portion of the fiber optic network. After this hearing the town will seek permission from the NC Local Government Commission to take out the loan. The process will take several months before construction can begin. The board will hear a report from Cassie Wilson of Martin and Starnes Associates concerning the annual town audit. That audit has also been sent to the Local Government Commission where their accountants will review and analyze the town audit and finances. Lamar Nix, director of Public Works, will make a recommendation that the town hire through DOT the paving company who has the state contract to pave Main and 4th Streets. While here, the contractor would also pave a section of 5th Street and Carolina Way. The town was already planning to pave these streets. Hiring the state contractor to do this work while paving the state projects should save money for the town. The board will review the tree planning proposals for the center section of Main Street. This project has been in development for several months with the design changing over a series of meetings. The latest plan is a scaled down design that has DOT approval. In my report, I will review the North Carolina Attorney General’s statement concerning the Mission HCA sale and the creation of the Dogwood Health Trust that was issued last week. Stein stated his office would carefully review all aspects of this important conversion. The AG stated he wants to make sure the sale price is accurate, that the Dogwood Trust is set up to reflect the diversity of the entire service area and that the five smaller hospitals have sufficient protections. I will urge the Attorney General to establish strong provisions that allow communities to buy back these small hospitals if HCA decides to close them. Case in point would be the Highlands Cashiers Hospital where residents have invested millions of dollars in its construction and operation. It is simply unacceptable for a corporation to ever sell it to another entity that would not operate it as a healthcare facility.