TOWN COUNCIL: No Horsing Around…Speed Kills

TOWN COUNCIL: No Horsing Around…Speed Kills
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Maurice Ewing gave an interesting, sometimes poignant presentation about the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show and its impact on Blowing Rock — and vice versa.

By David Rogers. March 14, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — On the surface, 123-years of horse history in Blowing Rock and the challenges of enforcing posted speed limits on Valley Blvd. may seem like diametrically opposed topics for discussion, but both served to enliven an otherwise humdrum regular meeting of the Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners Tuesday night at Town Hall.

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COVER IMAGE: Officer Dan White, left, received special recognition for advanced law enforcement training.

Former economic development professional Maurice Ewing and fellow Blowing Rock Equestrian Preserve board member John Vann (Bluffton, SC)  offered an impressive, even sentimental presentation on the history of the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show. It included a recalling of the successive organizations that host and produce the Horse Show, as well as information on the more than than $7 million economic impact of the 3-week equestrian extravaganza on the region each year, according to a study by Appalachian State University.

The almost 30-minute presentation included an 11-minute documentary video about the horse show, one of just 20 in the United States recognized as a “Heritage” event from among the more than 2,500 equestrian shows nationwide.  The video was produced by a team of students from Appalachian State, integrating home movies taken years ago by Ewing’s family members and interviews with many of the historical figures.  Even if long past their direct involvement, they offered often poignant horse show reminisces of yesteryear and what it meant to Blowing Rock.

Police Chief Tony Jones explains the speed enforcement issue on Valley Blvd.

Blowing Rock Police Chief Tony Jones ended the meeting with a special program on his department’s speed enforcement on Valley Blvd. After detailing that the number of citations written just in the first two and a half months of 2017 are on a pace that will obliterate all previous records for the number of citations in Blowing Rock under the administrations of the immediately past two chiefs, Owen Tolbert and Eric Brown, he told the Town Council and the two dozen audience members and Town employees, “Writing tickets alone will not solve the problem of excessive speeds on Valley Blvd. (Northbound) drivers come around that curve onto a long straightaway and it is four lanes, wide open.”

Jones laid out several alternatives that are most often used by municipalities to slow drivers down, from automatic photo enforcement, speed bumps and roundabouts to flashing warning signs that tell drivers how fast they are going vs. the posted speed limit. One by one, most of them were crossed off the list of potential solutions for Blowing Rock because of state laws or North Carolina Department of Transportation permissibility. Commissioner Doug Matheson pointed out that what wasn’t on the Chief’s list were stop lights at key intersections, such as where Skyline Dr. and South Main St. intersect Valley Blvd.

Commissioner Sue Sweeting pointed out that since Blowing Rock resident Cullie Tarleton is now on the NCDOT board, perhaps he could influence the DOT to re-consider their earlier “data-driven” conclusions that a stop light is not needed at the South Main Street intersection. “And the next one to look at,” Sweeting stated, “should be at the Food Lion intersection. That is dangerous.”

Commissioners Sue Sweeting and Doug Matheson enjoy one of the evening’s lighter moments.

The Commissioners all agreed that speaking with Mr. Tarleton about what the NCDOT might be able to do is a good first step.

In other business, there was considerable discussion about the bids received and not received for the Town auditing firm.  Commissioner Albert Yount questioned the process by which the bids were solicited and evaluated.  Only two firms responded to the request for bids, including Combs, Tennant & Carpenter, P.C. of Boone and Misty D. Watson, C.P.A, P.A., both of Boone.  Request for bids were sent to 15 auditing firms within a 50 mile radius of Blowing Rock. Only four responded, the two bids and two others that expressed no interest.

After discussion, Commissioner Matheson moved to table a decision until Town staff and/or Town Council members could better check with references or customers of the firms submitting the bids.

One of the more interesting topics of discussion included the Town staff’s question about whether or not the interest on unpaid property taxes for 2009 and 2010 relating to a specific piece of property should be released. The property, formerly owned by Hilari Hutto, had been foreclosed upon by the Bank of Granite. The Town had tried to get the bank to pay the unpaid taxes in 2012, but the bank was going through its own reorganization and unresponsive. Now two successor banks later, it is near impossible to collect the principal and interest on the taxes owed. Complicating the issue are two clerical errors on the part of the town where attorneys representing two purchase transactions for the property were told that the tax accounts were current.

Town Manager Ed Evans explains the process for soliciting and receiving bids for the Town Auditor position.

In summary, the Commissioners agreed that the attorney in question, which coincidentally was the Town’s own counsel, Allen Moseley, should not be held liable for the $4,019.34 in interest now accrued on the principal because of two clerical errors by Town staff.  By state law, Mr. Evans explained, the principal amount of the taxes could not be released.  He also stated that a new policy and process is now in place to eliminate the likelihood of such an error in the future.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

  • The Commissioners approved a simplified amended ordinance giving Town staff authority to approve or disapprove of roof lines and the materials used on roofs for both commercial and residential buildings rather than have each one come before the Board of Commissioners. The amendment was prompted by several commercial building requests to employ metal roofs for both new construction as well as remodeled buildings.  The previous ordinance required that if a proposed roof included more than 25% of the surface to be metal, that approval must be received on a case-by-case basis from the Board of Commissioners. The simplified amended ordinance establishes the slope of the roof line, the materials that can be used, as well as the guidance on colors, and in doing so gives the Planning Director more authority to work with builders on compliance.
  • The Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission (BRAAC) will now consist of five board members instead of the seven previously required. A quorum will be three of the five members present at any meeting. BRAAC originally consisted of nine board members, but in 2015 the Commissioners approved a reduction to seven, and now to five.  These reductions stem primarily from a lack of interest by residents in joining the BRAAC board, as well as the lack of attendance of board members at scheduled meetings. Not having a quorum present means that the business of the board cannot be conducted.

CONSENT AGENDA

  • Tax Releases
  • Approval of Draft Agreement with Destination By Design for Sunset Dr. Streetscape for research and planning of the project in preparation for upcoming stakeholder and public meetings to discuss design concepts.
  • Surplus Equipment — News racks.  In yet another sign of the Digital Age’s arrival, this action approves the Town’s disposal of three news racks by electronic auction

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