McDowell County seeks transportation advisory board

As McDowell continues working toward the creation of a transportation department, county officials are seeking qualified and committed people to serve on a new advisory board.

The subject of a new transportation advisory board was discussed during Monday’s regular meeting of the McDowell County Commission.

The N.C. Department of Transportation has been working with county staff over the past month on the development of this new department for McDowell. This process involves the creation of transit-specific policies and procedures, which will be presented to the commissioners for their consideration at a future meeting.

County Manager Ashley Wooten said one of the big steps is the appointment of a transportation advisory board. It must have representatives from various segments throughout the local community. Wooten added it would be helpful to have the board in place before July of next year in order to help with the development of the new department.

This board would be a liaison between the residents of McDowell and their county government when it comes to transportation issues. It would discuss and make recommendations on unmet transportation needs in McDowell. It would review and make recommendations on the service, schedules and billing and help to resolve complaints when requested by the transit director. It would recommend policy and suggest changes to the transit director and the County Commission on the transportation needs of McDowell residents, among other duties.

The state DOT recommends that such a board have representatives from the Department of Social Services, senior citizen agencies, public and business sectors, volunteers and local government. There must be representatives from the elderly, minority, disabled and low income segments of the county.

At Monday’s meeting, the commissioners voted to have such an advisory board. Wooten said interested persons could get more information by calling, emailing or visiting the County Administration Building.

In other business, the commissioners heard another update about the proposed shooting range for McDowell. Last month, they agreed to keep the pressure on the N.C. Wildlife officials and not let this process drag on.

Wooten told the board that the county staff has been in constant contact with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission about this planned facility. A sound test at the proposed site is still scheduled for the next several weeks. County staff members plan to travel to Raleigh soon and talk more about this project with state officials.

In addition, the commissioners heard an update about the county greenway trail.

County officials have talked with the Asheville engineering consulting firm of McGill Associates about the greenway trail that is planned for the county’s property on Old Greenlee Road. The layout of the trail and the associated facilities are being driven by the floodplain, the road access, and other factors.

“We are still working to develop a timeline and will share one as soon as possible,” said Wooten.

The county received money from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, N.C. Division of Water Quality and other sources to construct the park. The local match is $293,000, with portions of that coming from the city of Marion and others, according to Wooten.

Although no formal action was taken, county officials said they are continuing to move forward with this effort.

“This board is very dedicated to our greenways,” said Commission Chairman David Walker. “People need adequate spaces to exercise.”

The regular County Commission for October is traditionally held at Historic Carson House, which served as the first seat of county government when McDowell was formed in 1843. The historic plantation served as the first courthouse for the newly formed McDowell County and the first commissioners met in the dining room. The basement of the house was the first jail.

At Monday’s meeting, Amanda Elledge Finn, executive director of Historic Carson House, and Chuck Abernathy, the chairman of its board, talked to the commissioners about how they are meeting in the same place where their predecessors back in 1843. Next year, McDowell County will celebrate its 175th anniversary with special events planned for Sept. 23 through Sept. 29, 2018.

“We love this house and its history,” said Walker.

In other business, the McDowell County Commission:

  • Held a public hearing to close out the Appalachian Regional Commission grant for the Universal and Harmony Grove water lines, which have been completed. After hearing no comments, the commissioners agreed to close out the grant project.
  • Heard an update on the courthouse renovation work. County staff has met with architect Chuck Hamrick and his mechanical engineer to discuss the additional work for the courthouse. Wooten said the goal will be to have a final draft of plans available for the commissioners in the next several weeks. The estimates to add a third courtroom, replace all of the windows and install the new heating and air conditioning system are more than $3 million.
  • Approved a contract for engineering and inspection services for the Stacy Hill Road water line project.
  • Approved a policy for emergency services overtime and agreed to waive two occupancy tax late filing penalties.
  • Appointed Leah “Hoppi” Robertson to the Adult Home Care/Nursing Home Advisory Board and John Gossett to the Region C Workforce Development Board.
  • Approved a permit for the Glenwood Christmas parade, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 25. Last year, the state DOT changed its road closure process for major events and now requires a local government to approve a temporary ordinance for closing a road.