Greetings from BRCA 28605!
This week as we approach the end of 2023 here are the Civic Highlights of 2023 for the Town of Blowing Rock – compiled by Janie Sellers, Vice Chair, Blowing Rock Civic Association.
- 2023 was proclaimed the Year of the Trail in Blowing Rock, consistent with the State level proclamation and recognizing, among other things, that the Town assumed ownership of the Glen Burney Trail in 1903
- Town received a “clean” audit report on its financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022 (it was noted that at June 30, 2022, the Town’s expendable, unassigned fund balance was $4,044,257, representing 33.56% of the Town’s General Fund expenditures and transfers for FY 2022 (the collection of accounts receivable on the Town’s books at FY 2022 year end would have increased the fund balance to 43.11% of General Fund expenditures); another noted highlight was that the Town had earned and maintained a AA+ debt rating on its 3 outstanding series of general obligation bonds)
- Blowing Rock Brewing’s petition for voluntary satellite annexation was approved (property is at the southwest corner of Route 321 and Edminsten Road)
- The new stoplight at the corner of Green Hill Road and Route 321 was installed (DOT expense)
- An interconnect agreement relating to water access was put in place between Boone and Blowing Rock
- Downtown Wi-Fi expansion and additional security cameras approved ($65,000)
- AMI water meter project approved and contractor selected (Fortiline Waterworks for Kamstrup water meter system) (bank financing for up to $1,200,000 at 3.833%, 10 year term also approved)
- Benchmark Planning selected to assist with comprehensive plan 10-year update (required to be completed by 2024; this firm assisted with 2014 comprehensive plan and several planning projects since then) ($88,200). Community input on the comprehensive plan update has been solicited and a draft plan has been publicly circulated for comments
- Fourth and final issuance of Town general obligation bonds (originally approved by voters in 2014) approved – principal amount $1,695,000; 15 year term; interest rate 3.29%. Funds are for: $650,000 Transportation & Sidewalks, $420,000 Parks, $590,000 Water & $35,000 Sewer
- Iron Mountain Construction Company selected for the Main Street water and sewer and sidewalk project ($4.36 million cost covered by grants from state government and a portion of Town’s GO bonds; paving cost of additional $1.13 million expected to be covered by DOT)
- Town Council voted 3-2 against the Main Street underground utilities project (the projected single bid cost of $6.5 million, excluding financing costs, and the complexities of an alternative proposed phased approach with its additional uncertainties regarding cost and completion appear to have been the primary concerns of the majority, along with the impact that pursuing this project would have on availability of funding resources for other priority capital needs)
- VPC Builders selected for the Memorial Park bathroom expansion and renovation project (cost of $1.121 million); remainder of Park project was put on hold for rebid and potential restructuring. There is still money available to help with the cost of the remainder of the Park project from the state grant of $500,000. (Note: there was a single bid of $2.984 million received early in 2023 for the entire project which was determined by Town Council to be too high to proceed. Subsequent rebidding and revision of the remainder of the Park project has resulted in some reduction in the total. VPC Builders was the low bidder in the rebidding. Town Council has postponed a decision until after they can discuss the project at their 2024 winter retreat
- Blowing Rock Academy (child development center for children of town employees ages 6 weeks to 5 years; to be open 7:30 to 5:30 daily and operated by town employees; building to be used is already owned by Town, but underutilized; projected annual operating loss of $70-80,000 per year after payment by employees for care at 50% of the going rate); special use permit and FY 2023 budget amendment of $95,170 approved (to cover $60,000 renovation and other startup expenses); another $42,800 was added later in FY 2023; another $34,585 was allocated in FY 2024
- Blowing Rock History Walk (Laurel Lane; Broyhill Park) opened June 1, 2023; funding by Blowing Rock Historical Society and the Village Foundation
- Special use permit approved to allow Farmers’ Market to be moved from Park Avenue to Sunset Drive in the parking lot of the Blowing Rock Antiques Center (formerly the Blowing Rock Pharmacy)
- County-wide property revaluation in 2022 increased Blowing Rock’s tax base by 35.4%; the state-required revenue neutral adjustment of the property tax rate then reduced Blowing Rock’s rate from 43 cents per $100 of property value to 37 cents per $100
- Fiscal Year 2024 budget (representing a 7.14% increase over the FY 2023 budget) was approved; includes tax rate of 39 cents per $100 of value; a 5.4% increase above the revenue neutral rate from the revaluation of 37 cents. Primary drivers of the increase were described as: salary increases including both 5% COLA and an up to 4% merit system (new) increases, the final issuance of $1.695 million of GO Bond Debt, 3 new fire/EMT positions, 2 new Blowing Rock Academy positions, as well as additional equipment and real property purchase debt service
- Special use permit approved to allow John Winkler to demolish the Moody Building on Sunset Drive and replace it with an 18-room hotel and associated parking
- Departure of Town Manager Shane Fox who accepted a position as County Manager of Alexander County; Planning Director Kevin Rothrock appointed to serve as Interim Town Manager
- Departure of Town Finance Director Nicole Norman who accepted a position with Appalachian State University; initially replaced by Interim Finance Director Misty Watson; then by Tasha Brown as Town Finance Director
- Green Hill communication building replacement and appearance improvements to the water tank are underway; there have been also been general references to replacement and/or height extension of the emergency communications tower at the site, but details have not been presented
- Town parking ordinance changes were approved that would permit a future Town Council decision to implement paid parking downtown; however, the only changes currently taking effect have to do with the level of fines and other consequences that can be imposed for parking violations
- Blowing Rock Lodge’s petition for voluntary satellite annexation was approved (property on Route 321 near Old Route 321)
- The responsibilities of the Blowing Rock Appearance and Advisory Commission have been expanded to include recreation/public land components. The Commission has also been expanded from five to seven members and its name changed to the Public Land, Appearance and Recreation Board.
- The Town expects to receive a “clean” audit report on its financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2023; however, in the course of the audit a “Financial Performance Indicator of Concern” was identified that the Town must report on to the Local Government Commission. The concern has to do with a prior period adjustment and an exceeded budget line item in the water and sewer fund (the overall budget for the area in which the line item appears was not exceeded and the concern does not affect the auditors’ ability to provide a clean audit report)
- In the November 2023 municipal election, Mayor Charlie Sellers was re-elected, Council member-incumbent David Harwood was re-elected and new member Cat Perry was elected to the seat previously held by Council member Albert Yount who has served for 16 years. Others who ran were Hunt Broyhill and Jamie Dixey.
- Town Council’s 2024 winter retreat has been scheduled for January 31 to February 2 at the American Legion Building
Thank you Janie!
###From all of us at BRCA we wish you a safe and Happy New Year!
Executive Committee & VP