By David Rogers. October 14, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC – Not kicking the can down a proverbial road was a central theme Tuesday night. Right behind it was a thought that the intersection of Sunset Drive and Main Street is THE “crown jewel” of downtown Blowing Rock.
Both of these thoughts were convincingly advanced at the regular October meeting of Blowing Rock’s Board of Commissioners and Town Council. With very little on the agenda, it still took almost an hour and 45 minutes as the commissioners and mayor dissected the pros and cons of options for crosswalks and other improvements for Main Street intersections with Sunset Dr., U.S. 221 (Yonahlossee Rd.), and Chestnut Dr.
Commissioner Sue Sweeting was particularly adamant in articulating the need for action on these more pedestrian-friendly improvements without any further delays, at the same time pointing out that putting things off in the past has resulted in successively higher costs.
In recommending that the Town put “Option 1” out to bid for the Sunset Dr. and Main St. intersection, as well as an alternative bid for adding a second crosswalk across Main St. at that important juncture in front of Memorial Park, Commissioner David Harwood explained that this central point in downtown is the ”crown jewel” of Main St. and downtown and should see little in the way of compromises in design or functionality.
McGill & Associates’ Doug Chapman, the Town Engineer, presented his firm’s options for each of the intersections, as well as the firm’s cost estimates for each. In passing Harwood’s motion, the Board will now receive and review the various actual bids for the work from construction firms before deciding to go forward with the project. The McGill & Associates cost estimate for the Sunset Drive intersection was $270,000 and they believed closer to $100,000 each for the U.S. 221 and Chestnut Dr. locations, although one option at Chestnut might only be approximately $35,000.
Commissioner Virginia Powell cautioned her colleagues that the Board should not be too hasty in this project inasmuch as an underground water main may have to be replaced in the near future. She suggested that the separate projects be coordinated so that any construction work to replace the water line would not result in the digging up of work just completed for the intersection, including new traffic lights and pedestrian signals.
Town Manager Shane Fox reported that the funds for the intersection projects, once bids were approved and assuming that they arrive in line with McGill’s estimates, were mostly available. The sources include unused budgeted amounts from the Sunset Drive enhancement and beautification project last year (approximately $150,000), and a just received “windfall” of approximately $110,000 from the ABC Board because of unanticipated alcoholic beverage sales recorded during the pandemic. Fox also reported that the General Fund balance was a little more than 53%, so that if needed there were some additional monies available in the General Fund before it went below the Town’s 50% policy benchmark.
Commissioner Doug Matheson reminded his colleagues that the adoption of Option 1 improvements will remove an open area currently used by delivery trucks to load and unload supplies for various businesses on Main Street. He added his reluctance in accepting Option 1 because it would eliminate an open space where buses load and unload passengers.
In other business, the Board of Commissioners:
- Approved the Consent Agenda, which included budget amendments, debt issuance for FY20-21 capital equipment, and the renewal/recommitment of the 2012 resolution passed by the then sitting board suggesting to Watauga County that the EMS coverage of Blowing Rock Fire District is inadequate.
- Approved the voluntary annexation of 252 Heather Ridge Lane
- Approved the replacement of bulk chemical tanks at the water treatment plant
- Heard a report from Planning Director Kevin Rothrock re: the Planning Board’s subcommittee looking at Valley Blvd.
At approximately 7:45 pm, the regular public meeting was adjourned and the Town Council took a 10-minute break before going into closed session. Mayor Charlie Sellers stated that the purpose of the closed session was to receive updated information and that no additional decisions were anticipated.