Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor
Tonight is the June meeting of the Highlands Town Board of Commissions. Since we are in Phase 2 of the Governor’s State of Emergency, the meeting will again be held by way of ZOOM. Information on how to access the meeting is on the town website.
I hope this is the last meeting where we only ZOOM. If we are in Phase 3 in July, I believe we will have a face to face meeting that will also have a ZOOM option. The when and how the state will move to Phase 3 is still in question. With the increasing cases of Covid 19, the governor may very well delay Phase 3, and/or continue to curtail the number of people allowed at public gatherings.
A major item on tonight’s agenda deals will issue of opening up town facilities, namely Founders Park, to larger gatherings in Phase 3. There are a number of requests including, concerts, art shows, the wine and food festival and the 5k road race that are upcoming up. The question for the board will be whether these events should move forward and under what conditions. The issue is compounded by the uncertainty of the spread of the virus and what the governor and state health director decides by June 26. Many elected officials in the state would give anything to have a crystal ball to look ahead, but in this state of emergency they will have to make decisions with very limited, and fluid information.
There will also be a public hearing concerning the proposed town budget for FYI 2020/21. As with the public comment period, folks can make comments at the budget hearing. I recommend calling into town hall prior to the meeting and requesting to make a public comment. The names and phone numbers will be given to me for recognition at the hearing. Requests to make a public comment can also be texted to me at (828) 506-3138. I will also open the floor for comment, but with this new technology there is always a concern that someone will be overlooked, so prior notification is recommended.
Tonight the board will also review an RFP for a company to operate our board band fiber optic network. This RFP is a 25 year lease/sale agreement. The agreement that we tried to finalize with WideOpen was a limited 10 year lease that followed the requirements of HB 129. This new lease option also complies with state statues, but permits one company to control the network. I believe there will be several companies making proposals. The network should be ready for operation this fall.
Also on the agenda is the approval of a firm to lead the town through the comprehensive planning process. A number of companies have been interviewed by members of the land use committee and several planning board members. A contract will be approved and work should begin in the coming weeks. It will take about a year for the plan to be developed, written and presented to the board.
Hope everyone can ZOOM in tonight.