The Old Fort Board of Aldermen met Monday night to hear from several presenters about different projects in the area.

First was Jason McDougald, director of Camp Grier, who talked about a public and private partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to connect backcountry trails in McDowell County, starting in Old Fort.

“We are starting in the Old Fort area because that is where a lot of the work has already been done on the forest trails,” he said to the board. “We are hoping to use those grant funds to build out smaller loops to attract a broader range of participants and the result of that would be more tourism and actively engaged communities.”

He said the U.S. Forest Service has committed up to $20,000 to hire a recreational trails coordinator through public funds. McDougald stated they have requested funds from the county, and will do so from the aldermen when it is appropriate.

“That position would work with the Forest Service to identify maintenance issues and then coordinate volunteer efforts to get those maintenance issues taken care of,” said McDougald. “In addition to that we would leverage those public funds with grant resources that would actually generate capital for new trail development.”

The trails they are looking to connect include Kitsuma, Heartbreak Ridge, Snooks Nose and Newberry Creek to name a few, to eventually connect to front country trails such as the Fonta Flora.

“The opportunity that we have is to take those trails that are on the Forest Service land and tie them into the Fonta Flora Trail and that’s where you really get a lot of bang for your buck,” said McDougald. “That’s how people can get from the town centers to the backcountry trails.”

Mayor Rick Hensley agreed it was a unique opportunity for Old Fort.

“It’s going to be big,” he said. “Yeah, seeing how you’re sponsored with the U.S. Forest Service, I imagine there is no impact whatsoever on wildlife whatsoever. Because I know that most of the area you are talking about is bear sanctuary.”

No impact on wildlife, McDougald responded,

“One of the real advantages is the folks in the Grandfather District, they are very open to new ideas.”

In other business:

» Chris Revis with McDowell Broadband Action Team presented to the board about a survey circulating around McDowell for folks to share their information about internet connectivity. He passed out a hard copy of the survey for the aldermen to fill out. “You guys are one of the least connected areas in the county as far as the internet perspective,” Revis said.

» Hensley made the following announcements: Trunk or Treat will be on Thursday, Oct. 31 starting at 5:30 p.m. on North Railroad Street in Old Fort; Nov. 5 is Election Day; Nov. 23 is the Christmas Lighting Ceremony at the Depot starting at 6 p.m.; the Christmas Parade is Dec. 7 starting at 5 p.m. with lineup at 4 p.m.

» The board approved a motion to allow the Route 70 Cruisers have a car show on Commerce Street and Catawba Avenue on Pioneer Day and Oktoberfest.

» Three bids were submitted to the board for parts and labor on the installation of a new clarifier for the waste water treatment plant. “Two are out of commission for the simple fact we don’t need them. Our waste water treatment only runs at 25% capacity. We can take on a lot more people and a lot more plants. According to the state, you have to have one clarifier and one backup,” Hensley said. “Last year, we lost our backup due to being old and deteriorated. Two town meetings back, we all voted on that and spend the money to get the clarifier back up to brand new. We are looking roughly in the neighborhood of close to a quarter of a million dollars. It’s by state law, we have to do this. I know people have said, ‘we could use that money to build bridges,’ well the state is not requiring us to build bridges. This is a large sum of money that has to be spent and has to be done now.” The board chose Kemp Inc. to do the work at a proposed cost of $39,950 for the clarifier and $12,950 for installing four new slide gates. The board approved the bid unanimously.

» The board approved a motion for a five-year lease with the county for the recreation department. “A lot of people think the town is supposed to upkeep this and take care of it. The reason we did this is so we could have Little League games up there also. You don’t want to have two Old Fort teams playing against each other in Marion, that way they can play up there,” said Hensley. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

» A transportation agreement with the City of Marion, McDowell County Commissioners and Old Fort was approved at the meeting. The agreement “requires the governing body of a city or county to adopt a plan known as the involuntary commitment transportation agreement for the custody and transportation of respondents in involuntary commitment proceedings.

» There was no old business

» Under new business, Hensley spoke about an issue he said is affecting the town, “There is a situation that we are going to address tonight. People have always asked about our fines on our ordinances. There have been a lot of fines written out. To this very date, the only fines that have been paid are the ones who have gotten speeding tickets. All the others have not paid. With that being said, we have gotten with other towns, especially our sister town Marion, and if you do not pay your ordinance fines, they tack it on to their property taxes. So if you decided not to pay your property taxes, you will be foreclosed. Plain and simple. I am requesting a motion for all ordinance fines not paid go to property taxes. Motion approved unanimously.” The motion was approved unanimously.

» The next town meeting is Monday, Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m.

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