High and Hard: Blowing Rock sewer request earns unintended consequences

High and Hard: Blowing Rock sewer request earns unintended consequences
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By David Rogers. May 15, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — A Blowing Rock homeowner requested that the Town Council approve providing his family with access to the municipal sewer system so that he could presumably do away with the legacy septic tank system currently serving the property. Instead of a prompt “yes” or “no” decision, what he got on Tuesday night was the Board of Commissioners’ almost hour-long realization that they didn’t have any kind of long-term, comprehensive plan for extending sewer service to the more than 300 parcels within the municipal limits that currently are NOT served by the municipal sewer system.

COVER IMAGE: Doug Chapman (lower right) discusses the sewer line issues relating to Grandfather Ave. and Chestnut Circle. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News

“The man wants a yes or no answer to his question,” said Commissioner Albert Yount in bringing the hourlong discussion to a head.

And as a consequence of not having a plan — nor sufficient money in the budget — the Commissioners had no alternative but to say “no” to the request — even though they took no formal vote.

High and hard.

Why the reluctance to vote on the matter was as unclear and bewildering to the two-dozen audience members as the almost 60-minutes of roundabout discussion that was finally brought to a head by Commissioner Albert Yount, who reminded his fellow commissioners that the resident and his construction contractor were simply looking for a yes or no answer to their request.

Memorial Tree Fund will help support the newly planted trees and landscaping.

Meanwhile, Jim Steele and Virginia Powell challenged the idea of the Town spending exorbitant amounts of money — not in the budget — to extend sewer for one, possibly two residents without having any kind of comprehensive plan that would be fair to all taxpayers and the many property owners now without municipal sewer service, should they want it.  As a consequence, the Board muddled through approving a study, subject to a probable special work session or summer retreat discussion about what kind of study they want and how much they are willing to spend to produce it. The commissioners then waffled around taking a vote while Steele and Yount said they would have to vote “no” based on what they knew at the time.  Seeing the writing on the wall, the applicant’s construction representative got up and left.

Town Manager Ed Evans provided an appropriate perspective in his opening comments about the issue when he declared, “High and hard.”  He went on to explain that those qualities are usually the reason that certain residents in town don’t have municipal sewer service.  Their property is at higher elevations, so requires a greater than average ability to pump the water and waste.  Those same properties probably also feature a lot of rock, he said, which is much more expensive on which to build or install any needed sewer infrastructure.

Tell AppalCart Where To Go

Craig Hughes discussed AppalCart’s future in Watauga County, including a potential increase of service between Blowing Rock and Boone

Under New Business, the Commissioners heard a report by Craig Hughes of AppalCart creatively entitled, “Tell AppalCart Where To Go.” He reflected on the feedback received from Watauga County residents, business owners, and Appalachian State students and faculty during an April series of “drop-in” sessions hosted by Blue Ridge Electric, Appalachian State University’s College of Education, and the Town of Blowing Rock. Included in the ideas being entertained by the Watauga County-based public transportation agency is the possibility of providing regularly scheduled (i.e. hourly) service between Boone and Blowing Rock. Currently, AppalCart provides service from and to Blowing Rock on a “call the night before” basis. No vote was required by the Commissioners on this subject.

The Commissioners unanimously approve a plan and design elements brought forward by Jennifer Brown, Director of Parks & Recreation, for a MemorialTree Fund Recognition program.  The Memorial Tree Fund program acknowledges donors of $2,000 or more on what Brown described as a public art piece, a tree trunk and branches made from bronzite Corian, with leaves of gold acrylic mounted to clear acrylic.  The “tree” will be “planted” in a bed, not on a wall.  In its May 3rd meeting, the Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission (BRAAC) unanimously approved the design and location, as well as a BRAAC payment of approximately $7,400 to defray the cost.

Doug Matheson and Virginia Powell study the design proposal for Memorial Tree Fund.

In the Consent Agenda, the Commissioners unanimously approved a renewal of the Town’s audit contract with Misty Watson, CPA.  Although the audit contract was approved last year as a three-year contract, there was a provision that it be renewed by a vote of Town Council every year. A routine Community Improvement Bond-related budget amendment was also approved.

Under Manager’s Report, Town Manager Ed Evans noted:

  • The current phase of the Bond was funded on Tuesday, with an interest rate slightly more than 2.9%
  • Trusses were installed for the roof on the Parks & Recreation building. The total of the renovation project is nearing completion.
  • The construction of the new wall behind Town Hall is complete except for some steps
  • The basketball courts in Memorial Park have been totally reworked, with the lower card widened by approximately eight feet to facilitate three pickleball courts
  • New sod has been installed in Memorial Park
  • The North Carolina League of Municipalities will have a different type of event this year instead of its typical Town Hall Day. It is scheduled for May 29th, 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Registration is required to attend.
  • Town Council will hold a special budget workshop meeting on Friday, May 18th, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

The meeting was adjourned at 7:29 pm.




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