By David Rogers. September 15, 2014. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Mayor J.B. Lawrence covered just about every facet of Blowing Rock’s Town governance and economy on Monday in his annual “State of the Town” address for The Rotary Club of Blowing Rock’s weekly meeting at Chetola Mountain Resort.
Mr. Lawrence opened his remarks by recalling that Town Manager Scott Fogleman’s first Town Council meeting focused on guns in Memorial Park, but pointed out that as contentious as it proved to be it was not the most intense meeting of the Board of Commissioners that he had presided over or participated in.
“No, the most intense and contentious meeting,” Mayor Lawrence recounted, “was about allowing dogs in Memorial Park.
“But isn’t it wonderful,” asked Lawrence, rhetorically, of the more than 50 Rotarians and guests in attenance, “to live in a town where the most serious thing you are worried about is whether or not to let dogs in the park?”
After his opening, Mr. Lawrence listed several issues considered by the Town over the past year or is facing:
- Chestnut Ridge broke ground. “They’re moving a lot of dirt there right now…This is important to Blowing Rock. If you don’t have a significant healthcare facility in your town, it’s very likely dying.”
- Painting of Town Hall interior
- Upgrades to the Council Chamber, including new projector and a new seating arrangement for both the Commissioners and the attending audience
- Comprehensive Plan Update that covered the character, capital improvements, and to guide the growth of the Town
- Valley Blvd. “Gateway Project” completed by an Appalachian State graduate class in planning
Ongoing work on the Streetscape project
- Ensemble Stage’s proposed Firehouse Theatre renovation. “If you want to keep professional theatre in Blowing Rock, you need to support Ensemble Stage and this project.”
- Progress of the Middle Fork Greenway
- Valley Blvd./U.S. 321 widening project. “I am told they are to finish the stretch between the south Main Street intersection and Shoppes on the Parkway by sometime next year. I don’t see how.”
- Historical Society’s work on the Ice House
- FEMA fixes to Wonderland Trail and Quail Hollow washouts from last summer’s rains. “We all know that when it rains in Blowing Rock it can rain hard. These issues were fully funded by the State and FEMA, but just as we are getting to those we have another problem on Quail Hollow. It will not be covered by anyone else and will cost us a little more than $50,000. That’s why it is nice to have a rainy day fund!”
- New split rail fencing at Town Hall
- Power washed benches at Memorial Park
- New Police Truck. “It is between a $30,000 and $40,000 pickup that we got for about $2,000 of improvements resulting from a drug bust. What we noticed is that the color of the truck is exactly the kind of gray/silver color of our other police cars. So the moral of this story is that if you are driving a gray/silver vehicle and you look in the rear view mirror and see a police car…”
- “White Lights” on Main Street extended through March
Renaming of the Water Plant to honor longtime employee Tom McRary, who passed away in December
- Memorial Park gazebo project, funded by a $30k contribution from Blowing Rock Rotary and $10k from Watauga Community Band
- Welcomed new Police Chief Tony Jones
- Recently passed the Mountainleaf development project. “I think it is going to prove a great connection between downtown Main Street and Shoppes on the Parkway
- Blowing Rock School playground project under way, including a $25,000 contribution from the Kennedy Foundation and family
- Procurement of the Mayberry Car
- Property revaluation that became effective January 1, 2014, Blowing Rock was down 2.4%
- Council adopted a tax increase to 31 cents. “Boone is at 41 cents, Seven Devils at 51 cents, and Beech Mountain at 73.2 cents.”
- Planning started for a new Public Works facility
- Tennis court stabilization project
- Progress on the American Legion renovation project. “The Historical Society has raised about $44,000 of the $50,000 target.”
- Service excellence program of the Town: “Rock Solid Hometown Hospitality”
- CodeRed notification system
- Upcoming Bond Referendum
- Streets: $9 million
- Parks: $1 million
- Water Lines: $2 million
- Sewer Lines: $1 million
Town Manager Scott Fogleman provided extensive detail about the bond referendum
In other Rotary business, Chuck Canady provided additional details for the planning of Career Day, a Rotary-initiated project that provides exposure for all Watauga County 8th grade students to various occupations, including many that do not require a college degree. It will be held at the Holmes Center on Friday, September 26, beginning at 9:00 am and lasting until about 2:00 pm. More volunteers are welcome.
President John Marshall denied that there was any kind of “fix” on after he won the 50/50 pot by drawing the joker from a deck of cards. He immediately donated all of his winnings (approximately $972) “…to the CART bucket.” The club ranked second to Lenoir’s club last year in giving to this important Rotary initiative toward funding Alzheimer’s research.