By David Rogers. June 18, 2015. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Widening U.S. 321 through Blowing Rock has been a major “thorn in the side” of residents, business owners and visitors alike the past few years. The NCDOT’s modernization project has been plagued not just by weather-related delays, but also the financial default of the original general contractor, Taylor and Murphy, Inc., the time required for identifying and negotiating with a replacement (which turned out to be Maymead, Inc. of Mountain City, TN), and the new general contractor’s organizing the large number of sub-contractors required for the various project elements.
A large number of Blowing Rock constituent interests, while acknowledging the problems in getting started with a contractor facing financial failure, have had enough of what they are calling unnecessary delays and extensions of time granted by the NCDOT.
The peasants are raising their pitchforks over this issue.
One Blowing Rock resident observed to Blowing Rock News last week, “These government bureaucracies have a habit of dragging their feet with taxpayer money until the peasants start raising their pitchforks. Well, the peasants are now raising their pitchforks over this issue.”
In late May, the Blowing Rock Civic Association (BRCA) formed to address community problems and opportunities using the collaborative resources of a variety of constituent interests. Organizing chairman of BRCA, George Wilcox, met with Town Manager Scott Fogleman with an offer to work together on Blowing Rock’s problems and opportunities.
“One of the things that came out of that discussion,” Mr. Wilcox reported to Blowing Rock News, “is a question by Mr. Fogleman about whether we could do anything to help speed up the construction of U.S. 321 through town. I told him that we just might be able to lend a hand in that regard.”
Quick Action and Even Quicker Response
Appeals by BRCA officers, including Mr. Wilcox as President and North Carolina Superior Court Judge (Retired) Robert M. Burrough, Vice President of BRCA, to both Governor Pat McCrory and Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata have resulted in a high profile meeting on June 30, 2015, at 11:00 am at the Blowing Rock Country Club. BRCA is serving as the meeting’s host, but the key speaker will be Mr. Mike Holder, the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (statewide) Chief Engineer.
In his letter to Secretary Tata, Burroughs asked for what was described as “…much needed help to get this project completed, with grave concerns about the traffic safety hazards, the devastating impact on businesses, and the negative effects of extraordinary traffic congestion caused by this seriously delayed project. These (problems) are rapidly multiplying,” the letter added, “with the increase in the town population and visitors as the economically important summer (tourist) season gets underway.”
Further delay of this project can be a financial knockout punch.
Mr. Burroughs told Blowing Rock News last week that Mr. Tata immediately responded by asking Mr. Holder to travel to Blowing Rock and address this project, personally.
Burroughs pointed out to Mr. Tata that the State of North Carolina announced in December of 2011 that the widening of U.S. 321 through Blowing Rock would be completed by October 1, 2015. “It now appears that unless the State makes a far greater effort the project could drag on until 2018 (and perhaps beyond).
“Further delay of this project,” Burroughs’ letter continued, “can be a financial knockout punch to a number of our fine folks who are struggling to make a living from local businesses….Additionally, plans (by the contractors and NCDOT) to close off major local streets this summer can lead to tragic accidents, blocking of emergency vehicles, and lengthy traffic jams on overloaded, narrow neighborhood streets. We are already experiencing serious traffic delays due to this project.”
Wilcox told Blowing Rock News Thursday night that the meeting was originally scheduled for the Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue Station on Valley Blvd., but the response to our meeting invitations has been so great that we felt we needed to move it to a larger facility. “We are encouraging all constituent interests to attend this meeting,” Wilcox said. “You don’t have to be a member of BRCA. We want everyone to come. It is an opportunity to hear and be heard.”
Underlining Wilcox’s invitation, Mr. Burroughs said, “As a former elected official, I will tell you that citizen involvement does very significantly influence politicians and government officials. If a number of Blowing Rock citizens, friends, organizations and business owners speak out forcefully on this matter, this project’s completion will be expedited.”
In its press release about the meeting, BRCA’s official statement concluded, “Blowing Rock Civic Association is pleased to support our Town government in urging that immediate extra resources and urgent actions be dedicated to finish this project safely, quickly, and competently.”