What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor

This is the time of the year where I attend numerous meetings concerning budget initiatives and projects impacting the town.  Following are some meeting highlights.

Two weeks ago I traveled to Cherokee to attend a regional transportation advisory committee [TAC] meeting.  On the agenda was the presentation of a new STIP [Statewide Transportation Improvement Program] priority list for road projects in the seven county region of Western Carolina.

Last year, NC 106 improvements from the Georgia State line to Main Street was high on this list.  Public input coming from two meetings revealing the scope of the project made DOT decide not to proceed with the project.  I thought the proposed design was over developed and should be cut back.  Nevertheless, I publicly stated I would make sure the project as presented would be removed from the list. After attending this last TAC meeting, I can report it is officially and completely off the new priority list, aka, gone away.

I can also state that there are no other road improvement projects for the Highlands Plateau.  Other than repaving of existing roads, I don’t see any changes coming to the plateau highways  for the foreseeable future.  It takes about a decade for a project to make the priority list and go through the funding process. Macon County has two projects on the list, but none on the Highlands Plateau.

I will meet  in Highlands with the NCDOT Division Engineer and the NCDOT Traffic Engineer next week about tractor trailer trucks on the Gorge Road.  A plan to address this growing problem is under development.  Curtailing tractor trailer trucks from the Gorge Road is possible.  Will this plan eliminate all tractor trailer trucks on the Gorge Road? No, there will always be a few who think laws don’t apply to them.

Last Thursday the Town Board held the annual Town Retreat at the Presbyterian Church Coleman Hall.  We always appreciate the opportunity to meet in such a great location.   At  the opening,  I observed we really don’t retreat. I suggested we actually do an all day budget workshop.  Our big retreat expenses were coffee and pastries in the morning followed by box lunches.

The town board will  hold a series of afternoon budget development meetings in April and May.  Also, town board committees will meet concerning developing plans for a new fire station and for changing garbage pickup policies to enhance worker safety and to address the bear issue.  Both initiatives have direct impact on the forthcoming budget.

Tomorrow I travel to Black Mountain to attend a regional mayor’s meeting.  The big topic will be  impending legislation impacting towns and cities.  In May the town manager and I will attend the NC League of Municipalities annual meeting in Hickory. A major tropic will be municipal broadband networks.  With Highlands only months away from constructing our fiber optic network, the town is on the leading edge of this movement.  Many towns are four to five years away from getting to the point where we are now.

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