What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor

On Tuesday the quarterly joint meeting of Macon County, the Town of Franklin and the Town of Highlands was held in Franklin.  These meetings provide elected officials an opportunity to gather together and exchange information. The mayors and chair of the county commission provide reports. Following are highlights of the report I gave at the meeting.

I reviewed a number of initiatives that we are undertaking in Highlands. The first item was where the town stands on the construction of the fiber optic network. The contractor is on location and will start building from the outlying areas into the central hub at the old restrooms next to the town hall parking lot.

I also reviewed the town’s effort to become one of the first BearWise Communities in North Carolina.  We have the bear proof street cans in place.  Bear resistant toters for the commercial areas are on order.  A plan for the residential areas in now in process.

I informed the group that the 630,000 gallon Satulah water tank is now built.  The finishing of the site and testing of the tank will take several months to complete.  Satulah will be paved after the tank is operational.

Road paving is a big item in our new budget.  I let everyone know we will start letting paving contracts later this summer. Hickory Hill, part of Cullasaja and Oak Lane are all scheduled to be paved. Split Rail will be resurfaced after the new $875,000 waterline is installed later in the fiscal year.

I invited Macon County to partner with Highlands in solving the trash and recycling problem here on the Highlands Plateau.  Together we need to build a convenience center that is centrally located near or in Highlands.

I also invited Macon County to partner with Highlands in fortifying the EMS ambulance system. With the construction of the new fire department, there is an opportunity to locate the EMS operation with the fire station.  There might even be a possibility of expanding ambulance service, especially if our local health foundation and HCA are willing to be partners in this effort.

The issue of tractor trailer trucks on the Gorge Road was also in my report.  NCDOT will be deploying radar activated lights in Highlands and in Franklin that will warn trucks not to use the Gorge Road.  The lights will come on only when large vehicles approach the dangerous road.

Partnering with NCDOT, Mayor Bob Scott of Franklin and I will be working with our legislative representatives to pass special, local legislation that would allow cameras to photograph trucks that violate the prohibition of trucks on the Gorge Road.  The cameras would not automatically issue tickets, but would document that truckers, after being warned, continued to go on the Gorge Road. The photographs would help law enforcement build a case against violators.

I also provided an update on building a connecting greenway from Cashiers to Highlands. Maybe both Jackson and Macon counties can help in making the concept a reality.

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