Updated handicap signs, a concerned mother starting a drug awareness program and an update on the town’s caboose fire were discussed in Monday’s Old Fort Board of Aldermen meeting.

In the biggest announcement of the evening, Old Fort Mayor Rick Hensley stated that the town would be implementing updated handicapped signs for businesses to place in their parking lot. According to Hensley, numerous complaints were raised in the past regarding handicap signs that did not display fines or statutes, resulting in the general public taking spaces without being issued tickets.

“The Old Fort Police has talked to local businesses and they are all in agreeance to mark handicap parking all through town,” said Hensley. “Some of the people who’ve been parking in these spots are going to be surprised when they find that big ticket

Hensley said the town has received the new signs and will be going up on a later date.

In public comments, Julie Monte, a Texas mother who moved to McDowell in the last year and a half, raised concerns about after-school activities for children well as the ongoing drug problem in the county.

“My first question has always been, ‘What is there to do around here for the children?’ My family and I go to Morganton, we take our children to Asheville, we spend our money there and we spend our money there,” Monte said. “All of that time and money spent over there just to have something for our kids to do because there isn’t much to do here. Aside from that question, the other question has been, ‘Why is there such a huge drug problem in our county?’ I got a lot of different answers, and when it came down to it, people want to see something done to give activities for children that they look forward to that keeps them busy.”

Her solution: MADE (McDowell Anti-Drug Education), a weekly anti-drug program aimed at educating children on identifying and avoiding substance abuse and peer pressure. According to Monte, MADE would comprise DVDs tutorials sponsored by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World and parent-involved activities like role playing and comments from local law enforcement that would further illustrate the hazards of drugs and alcohol.

“This will not solve all of our county’s problems, but provides positive options that weren’t there previously,” said Monte.

The aldermen were enthusiastic about her proposal and, in an effort to help facilitate her requests – including raising funds, offering printing services and information booths at upcoming events – also recommended taking the issue to Marion City Council and the County Commissioners.

In other business:

• In a public statement, the Aldermen offered their thoughts on 9/11 and urged citizens to give thanks to every law enforcement officer or firefighter they see for their daily contributions. In addition, the board wished to keep those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in their thoughts.

• In regard to the recent news about the vintage caboose burned over this weekend, Hensley confirmed that the fire was ruled intentional and that Old Fort Police are investigating the case. The caboose will be closed to the public for Railroad Day, but the outside will still be available for public viewing. In final remarks on the issue, Hensley said, “Old Fort’s resilient, we’ve been knocked down before, but we always get back up.”

• In old business, the board thanked Alderman Melvin Lytle Jr. and the Department of Transportation for paving work.

• Hensley offered a Mayor Recognition Award to retired Old Fort teacher and longtime volunteer Terry Wilson. “(Terry) has volunteered more hours than anyone I know of. He has offered more services, set a great example for our community and is an outstanding citizen in the town of Old Fort,” said Hensley.

• The board briefly discussed uses for the town’s recent beautification grant, with suggestions ranging from street lights, concrete, benches, the Rockett Building and repairs on the burned caboose.

• This year’s Oktoberfest in Old Fort is slated for Oct. 6 and 7; Railroad Day is scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 16.

The next Board of Aldermen meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 9.