Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor
Tonight [Thursday] is the February Highlands Town Board meeting by way of ZOOM. The access codes are on the town website. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. with public comment.
The board will hear from several groups concerning events planned for the spring and summer. Community event planning is still a challenge since uncertainty remains concerning the spread of COVID in the coming months. Availability of vaccines, virus mutations, following basic protocols, and the governor’s emergency orders are all unforeseen variables. Nevertheless, I appreciate the plans and contingencies that community groups will develop.
A major topic of the meeting will be an update on the NCDOT plans and schedule to repave Main Street and 4th Street in the business district, plus all the way to Clear Creek and Buck Creek roads. The plan calls for the work in the downtown area to begin on March 15. The contractor has developed a block by block plan. A street section, for instance from 2nd to 3rd, will be closed for a 24 hour period. Detours will be in place. The milling of the closed section will be done at night and the paving done in the day. After the paving is completed that section of the street will be reopened to traffic. DOT will be announcing a projected final schedule at any time. With good weather, the paving of downtown could be completed by the end of March. Bad weather conditions would inevitably delay the schedule.
DOT will paint the parking spaces ASAP after the paving. We have been informed at a previous meeting that the parking will be done according to the state parking standards. Also, ADA handicap spaces will be created that meet current federal requirements.
The town staff has had two very good planning meetings with DOT officials and the contractor. State officials have been very understanding of our special situation in the downtown area. With that said, they also have emphasized that Main and 4th Streets are state highways and that the work will meet current state, not town standards. Later in the year there will be work done by the state at intersections to improve the curbing and walkways to meet handicap requirements.
Some folks may note that there have been changes to earlier plans. The initial plan was to pave one side of the street and keep the other side open. The original completion date was Memorial Day. This new plan accelerates construction so downtown should be paved and striped sometime in April.
In a crisis, such as COVID, communities are stressed. On the other hand, the best in people comes out. The Highlands Cashiers Community Vaccination Clinic vaccinated over 1,400 people this past weekend. It was only possible because of the 200 volunteers and over 20 nonprofit agencies that have worked together to make it possible. The clinic serves both Macon and Jackson counties. Clinic volunteers have been motivated by love and kindness toward others. This special effort reaffirms that we are truly a caring community.