Plans for town beautification and a resident’s concerns over the responsibility of a private water system were discussed in Monday’s Old Fort Board of Aldermen meeting.

In the biggest announcement of the evening, Mayor Rick Hensley said the town of Old Fort was given a $100,000 grant for downtown revitalization and rural economic development for the 2017-2018 year.

“This is huge news for us. I about fell out of my seat when I heard it,” said Hensley. “Now, we can make the town even better and we’ve got $100,000 to do so.”

Hensley credited divine intervention.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the Good Lord above for blessing this little town,’” he said. “He has blessed this town in the last few years. We’re the state gold festival, we’ve had small businesses coming in just about one a month, not to mention that a lot of these manufacturing plants were at the job fair, looking for work. We’ve got jobs, we’ve got businesses, and we’ve got a little bit in the budget to make this town look even better.”

Hensley also extended gratitude towards the other board members, saying, “They’ve done a marvelous job, they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing and I think the Big Man Upstairs approves. I believe in giving credit where credit is due.”

With the town beautification grant, Old Fort has now been provided $600,000 by the state in infrastructure and development, along with the previous $300,000 for water and sewer and a $200,000 Ethan Allen grant

In public comments, Craig Bartholow, a resident on Holly Ridge Drive for two years, addressed concerns over the maintenance and responsibility of water distribution on his street.

“My wife and I have no ill feelings at all toward the town of Old Fort. We’re just trying to get help from whoever can point us in the right direction,” said Bartholow.

According to Bartholow, he is one of seven houses on Holly Ridge Drive connected to a private water system use to regulate pressure between each house, with his also connected to a city meter in case one or the other fails. In speaking to the board, he stressed that there was confusion over who was responsible for maintaining the water in the private system and, if it was up to the owner himself, if he would bring the system up to code.

“I and the two houses on my side are probably better off because we’re connected to the main water supply, while the poor people on the other side of the mountain are drinking out of whatever’s in that swill of a tank. God only knows what they’re drinking or if they know what’s going on,” said Bartholow.

In response, Hensley told Bartholow, “You are one of seven, and we’ve already heard from a few. With your situation at this present time, he (the owner) is your problem, but we are going to address Holly Ridge later tonight.”

In other business:

  • Bids continue for street paving in town, with Old Fort Cemetery finally paved. According to the board, paving and fire hydrant lines on West Crawford Street are among the first priorities.
  • Aldermen adopted resolutions for the water and sewer grant, with $150,000 toward water assessment and $150,000 for sewer and a grant fee of 1.5 percent.
  • The aldermen discussed further developments on Holly Ridge Road, in tandem with Bartholow’s concerns. According to Old Fort Chief Melvin Lytle Jr., who has been overseeing maintenance, minor discrepancies have occurred over the appropriate location for a meter at the pump house. The board agreed to put a meter outside the pump house to establish equal maintenance between the private water system and the city itself.
  • Larry McMahon, former Burke County attorney, was hired as the new Old Fort town attorney.

The aldermen entered a closed session before dismissing at 6:52 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 11 at 5:30 p.m.