What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor

Tonight [Thursday] is the December meeting of the Highlands Town Board of Commissioners. The meeting is at the Highlands Community Center next to the ball field. It begins at 7 p.m. with public comment.

The meeting will have two parts. First, the current board will complete old business. There will be two public hearings, one for the annexation of the Ellis property that is adjacent to the Ravenel Subdivision.  The second hearing will be for the zoning of that property to R1.

Also under old business will be an update from Kaye McHan, the director of the Highlands Chamber of Commerce, concerning the impending snow festival in Founders Park.  The festival will be held Saturday, Jan. 29.  Equipment will be brought in prior to Saturday to make snow.  Kaye will present the schedule for the snow-making process.

The first item under new business will be the swearing in of the mayor and two board members, Amy Patterson and Eric Pierson.  

I will be starting my third term as mayor.  I am honored to serve Highlands for another four years.  The town is facing many challenges and opportunities. In coming weeks I will review what I believe are future decisions for Highlands that will have to be addressed.  Certainly, the town has several immediate issues for the board to review. The short term rental issue is a current, major issue followed by the adoption of the Highlands Comprehensive Community Plan.  Both issues impact how Highlands will progress and develop as a community in the coming years.

Another new item will be the presentation of the completed town audit by Martin and Starnes Associates.  This current audit has also been sent to the North Carolina Local Government Commission where their accountants have reviewed the audit that the public accountants conducted.

Another pressing item will be a budget amendment to replace a critical sewer pump station on Arnold Road. For several months our town crews have been managing this situation.  The town has rented portable pumping station in order to bypass the failing station.  Our workers have been trying for months to acquire parts to get the station back on-line.  The supply chain backlog has impacted our ability to acquire critical parts. In the meantime, our town engineer determined that the best longterm solution would be to replace the entire pump station which is about 22 years old.  It is analogous to repairing an aging car, the pump station will fail again down the road if we simply replace some needed parts.  Our public works director wants to appropriate the funds now, rather than wait until a new budget year in July. He indicates that even with ordering the new pump station immediately, it could take months for the order to be fulfilled. The town is currently dealing with supply chain issues in serval major departments.

Another item under consideration is to purchase a portable pump station in case another fixed station fails.  The town should always plan for worse case situations. 

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