FY21-22 Town Budget Drivers

FY21-22 Budget Drivers

June 5, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners

Our challenge is to present the facts for a complex budget in simple terms to inform the homeowners before the Town Council votes to approve the new budget at the Budget Public Hearing on June 8th.

We believe that our role is to educate the homeowners, so they can have a framework to understand the decisions of the Town Council.

The centerpiece of this budget is the Town’s goal to compensate and retain the employees who provide our services in an environment where the County, Boone and University are all moving to raise minimum pay to reach a living wage of at least $15 per hour.

The Town Manager and Finance Director have prepared a comprehensive 129 page budget document that can be viewed on the Town of Blowing Rock website at –
https://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/10499/637572045334330000

We will focus on the General Fund Budget that is principally funded 60% by property taxes and 13% by net sales taxes and not the Water & Sewer Fund that is run like a business enterprise funded by user fees.

A discussion of this budget is complicated by comparing the FY20-21 “COVID” budget to FY21-22 “normal” budget. Fortunately, actual net sales taxes and occupancy taxes far exceed the conservative estimates used for the FY20-21 COVID budget, thereby avoiding dipping into reserves to balance the budget for last fiscal year. Our property tax base of $1.142 billion provided a stable revenue source during the volatile COVID period. See Page 30.

The easiest way to understand the budget and how it impacts property taxes for homeowners is to talk in terms of the property tax rate in “Cents” per $100 of valuation. The propose budget is based the math that 1 Cent equals $120 thousand of revenue for the General Fund. The property tax rate for last year was 39 Cents and the proposed property tax rate for this year is 43 Cents or a 10% increase of 4 Cents. For example, a home valued at $500,000 would pay property taxes of $1,950 in 2020 and $2,150 in 2021. See Page 16.

For FY21-22, Caldwell County revalued all real property that represents about 9% of our $1.175 billion tax base or $107 million The budget does not include a roll back for the 5.8% increase in property values in Caldwell County. See Pages 5 and 30.

The proposed property tax increase is $593 thousand of which $480 thousand is due to a 4 Cents increase in tax rate and the remainder is due to growth in tax base and Caldwell County revaluation.

Watauga County will revalue all real property in Blowing Rock for next fiscal year. The increase is expected to be fairly substantial and the Town will present a roll-back property tax rate for the next year’s budget for comparison.

The Key Drivers for expenditure increases in the General Fund Budget follow:

Compensation – 5.4 Cents
321 Landmark Landscaping Contract – 1.1 Cents
Debt Service of $3.5 million GO Bond – 2.5 Cents
Debt Service for DOT Land on 321 – .4 Cents
Total – 9.5 Cents

The increases are offset by other revenue increases of 5.5 Cents due to a 3.6 Cents increase in net sales taxes, 1 Cent increase in TDA occupancy taxes and .8 Cents from other revenue sources.

A description of Key Drivers follows:

The compensation package for all employees is about 70% base pay and 30% for benefits – 10% for insurance and 20% for retirement. The key goal in this budget is to raise the minimum base pay for 3 levels of employees and adjust the pay ranges for the remaining 12 levels of employees. The average base pay for the 59 General Fund employees will increase from $44.2 thousand to $53.1 thousand. The increase for General Fund employees is $650 thousand per year.

The Town committed to take over a Landmark level landscaping from the DOT after completion of Highway 321 which will start this fiscal year. The goal is to extend the special landscaping look that we enjoy in downtown, so 321 is not just an ugly by-pass. The Town Manager evaluated a contract solution versus permanent staff. The scope is significant with thousands of trees and shrubs and miles of medians and banks. The contract solution allows the Town to avoid adding permanent employees and purchasing a significant about of equipment. A recurring allocation of funds from the TDA Occupancy Taxes will offset 50% of the cost, thereby sharing the total cost of $264 thousand.

The Town issued a third General Obligation Bond of $3.5 million in FY20-21 which increases debt service by $305 thousand per year.
The Town purchased a DOT property at the corner of North Main Street and Highway 321 for $442 thousand adding $48 thousand of debt service per year.

We hope that this analysis will help you understand the Town’s General Fund Budget and the key drivers that are impacting the proposed FY21-22 budget.

As we look to future budgets and the timing of the Sustainable Tourism Study scheduled for this summer, we need to begin a discussion of additional sources of funding to cover the increasing costs of managing tourism impacts on the Town. The allocation formula for the TDA occupancy tax was adopted almost 20 years ago in 2003 when the primary goal was to attract tourists compared to the current challenge of managing tourists. Demands on the General Fund Budget is not matching up with business and tourism sources of funding. Examples of increasing costs include operating and infrastructure costs like new bathrooms, park improvements, land acquisition for parking, bathroom attendants, and additional trash management, parking enforcement, additional police, 321 landscaping and three new crosswalks.

You can send comments or questions to the Town Council in advance, attend the Town Council meeting or speak at the Public Hearing scheduled for 6 pm on June 8th.

Regards,

Tim Gupton
President

Memorial Day Event – Saturday – American Legion at 11 AM

May 25, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

Dr. Anthony (Tony) Zeiss will be the guest speaker at the American Legion’s annual Memorial Day Program in Blowing Rock’s Memorial Park on Saturday May 29, 2021, at 11:00 A.M. The community is invited to attend.

Dr. Zeiss, one of the nation’s most outstanding educators, was the President of Charlotte’s Central Piedmont Community College for 23 years until his retirement in 2016.

During his tenure Dr. Zeiss built CPCC from one campus to six campuses serving 70,000 students per year. Under his leadership CPCC became the nation’s most outstanding educational institution for workplace development. This focus on workplace development enabled Charlotte to attract many international and national firms to locate facilities in the area. This was a major boost to Charlotte and North Carolina’s outstanding economic growth during Dr. Zeiss’ Presidency. Dr. Zeiss’ advice is often sought by national leaders on educational issues.

After retirement from CPCC Dr. Zeiss became the first Executive Director of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. He successfully led the opening of that outstanding attraction. Returning to North Carolina Dr. Zeiss became the first Executive Director of a special training program for corporate Chief Executive Officers sponsored by Charlotte’s Coca Cola Consolidated.

Along the way Dr. Zeiss has written 20 books on education, leadership, and motivation. He is recognized as one of North Carolina’s most outstanding speakers having addressed numerous groups and organizations. He has led a major effort to recognize notable individuals and events in North Carolina history. He has served on numerous boards of corporations and organizations.

He and his wife Beth have retired but they remain very active in leadership of various organizations. They enjoy spending most of their time now at their Blowing Rock area home.

Blowing Rock Civic Association is pleased to sponsor the event to honor those who have served our country.

Public Hearing for Memorial Park Improvement Plan

March 13, 2021

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

The Town of Blowing Rock will convene a special Town Council Meeting and Public Hearing to discuss plans and funding for major improvements to Memorial Park.

Hilari H. Hubner, Town Clerk, posted the following notice that requires a public notice for the item to be discussed.

Please see below a summary of the Memorial Park Project and how to actively participate in the meeting.

The Town of Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners will conduct a Special Meeting for the purpose of
discussing the Memorial Park PARTF Project, and to solicit public input on the project. The Special
Meeting will be scheduled for 5:00 pm on Monday, March 22, 2021, and will be conducted electronically, utilizing Zoom, due to the current North Carolina Executive order limiting indoor gatherings, and to conduct proper social distancing.

Memorial Park PARTF Project

The Blowing Rock Park and Recreation Advisory Committee has submitted to the Blowing Rock
Council a project proposal to provide Memorial Park with the following upgrades and additions:
An additional restroom facility
Renovation of existing restrooms
ADA accessible walkway from Wallingford Lane to Memorial Park
Renovation of existing tennis courts
Add new pickleball courts
Relocation and renovation of the existing volleyball court
Addition of a new picnic area adjacent to the new playground
Additional playground feature
Addition of shuffleboard/cornhole.

To view the proposed project please see the link below or view a copy of the project in person at Town Hall on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday’s from 8am to 5pm. http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/partf

We want your input!

Please utilize the following options to provide your feedback to the
project:
Email the Town Clerk at clerk@townofblowingrocknc.gov if you wish to speak via Zoom a link to the meeting will be sent to you the day of the meeting.
Email the Town Clerk at clerk@townofblowingrocknc.gov if you would like to provide written comment to be read at the meeting and entered into the official record of the meeting.
Written comments – please utilize the Town Hall drop box or drop off in person at Town Hall, written comments to be read at the meeting.
If you do not wish to speak via Zoom or provide a written email or written comments to be read during the meeting, you may also call the Town Hall and speak with the Town Clerk to provide comments by calling 828-295-5200

Deadline – Please email, submit or call prior to 1pm on Monday March 22, 2021 to participate.

Those in the public that do not wish to speak may view the meeting live through the Town’s YouTube
Channel, no active participation during the meeting will be allowed. Access the meeting via this link: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/residents/meetings

Special Meeting of Town Council – EMS – February 22nd 6 PM

IMPORTANT PUBLIC NOTICE – February 22nd at 6PM

The Town of Blowing Rock Town Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, February 22, 2021 beginning at 6:00 p.m. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the Blowing Rock Ambulance Service. Council will hear a special presentation from Craig Sullivan with Watauga Medics.

The meeting will take place at Town Hall, 1036 Main Street Blowing Rock, NC. No public will be able to attend due to NC Executive Orders and public comments will be allowed during this time.

The public may access this meeting by video by accessing the Town’s YouTube Channel, no active participation during the meeting will be allowed other than those scheduled to participant via the agenda.

Access the meeting via this link:
http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/meetings

Hilari H. Hubner
Town Clerk

Lift the Quarantine Order – Follow the Governor’s Plan

May 9, 2020

Dear Blowing Rock Homeowners,

Please read the letter below requesting that the Town Council schedule a meeting to vote on lifting the Quarantine Order concurrent with the Governor’s plan and timeline to lift the Stay at Home Order at the beginning of Phase 2 which may be May 22nd.

We requested the Town Clerk read the second letter at the beginning of the May 12th meeting.

We believe that County and Town should follow the Governor’s data-driven plan and timeline to re-open the state. The Town has independent authority to lift the Quarantine Order on homeowners and should do so for the reasons stated in the letters below.

The Council chose not to address the topic at the upcoming meeting on May 12th, so we sent the second letter to request that the Council schedule a special meeting to debate and vote on lifting the order before May 22nd.

You can watch the upcoming remote meeting on May 12th at 6 pm by accessing the meeting via this link: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/meetings

If you wish to share your views with the Mayor and Town Council, you can email them and the Town Manager at the following addresses:

Mayor Charlie Sellers – csellers@tobr.us
Mayor Pro-Tem Sue Sweeting – ssweeting@tobr.us
Councilman Albert Yount – ayount@tobr.us
Councilman Doug Matheson – dmatheson@tobr.us
Councilman David Harwood – dharwood@tobr.us
Councilwoman Virginia Powell – vpowell@tobr.us
Town Manager Shane Fox – sfox@tobr.us

Please ask the Town Clerk to Read this Letter dated May 9th at the May 12th Meeting

May 9, 2020

Dear Mayor Sellers, Mayor Pro-Tem Sweeting, Council Members Hardwood, Matheson, Powell & Yount and Town Manager Fox,

On May 8th, we requested the Town Council include an agenda item for your meeting on May 12th to address additional County Quarantine and Short-Term Rental Orders that impact the local citizens and lodging owners, but the topic was not included in the agenda. A copy of that request is below.

We are focusing this follow-up request and communication on the Quarantine Order that affects our homeowners. Others can address the short-term rental restrictions affecting lodging owners.

In their May 5th meeting, the County cited support by the Town of Blowing Rock to extend the Quarantine Order an additional 2 weeks after the Governor lifts the Stay at Home Order. The citizens of Blowing Rock have not had the benefit of hearing your views in a public forum or communication.

We believe that the Town should follow the Governor’s data-driven plan and timeline and not add additional restrictions that are at a minimum very confusing to the public and citizens.

Homeowners returning their homes in Blowing Rock are a lower risk group who are traveling from one Stay at Home location to another. We should use this window to allow for an orderly return before the short-term rental tourists return and respectfully welcome our homeowners as citizens, not as higher risk tourists.

The Town should focus on managing the risks of the higher risk group of day tourists who have already returned, not the homeowners. Surrounding counties and towns are following the Governor’s plan and timeline, so we can expect additional day tourists from surrounding areas. The Town obviously need to provide bathrooms and supervise appropriate social distancing.

You have the authority to set restrictions for Blowing Rock that do not follow the County.

Therefore, we request that you schedule a meeting as soon as possible to vote on lifting the Quarantine Order when the Governor lifts state-wide Stay at Home Order. If you choose to wait on the County to re-evaluate the Quarantine Order at their May 19th meeting, then we suggest that you schedule a meeting now to be sure there is an appropriate window of time to vote if the Governor decides to commence Phase 2 on May 22nd.

Respectfully,

Tim C. Gupton

Tim C. Gupton
President
Blowing Rock Civic Association
235 Meadow Lane
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
919-418-8555

Winter Retreat – Town Council Priorities for 2020

THE MESSAGE IS LONG BUT IMPORTANT

Dear Friends of Blowing Rock,

OVERVIEW
I attended the 3 day Winter Retreat in early January to gain a first-hand understanding of the Town Council priorities and determine if the Town’s priorities line up with our Top 10 Priorities.

Our Town Manager, Shane Fox, facilitated a well-organized meeting. Preparation by Mr. Fox and the Department Heads was evident. The discussion was wide ranging giving us an insight into the views of the Council and educating the Council on many issues which should be helpful in the future. One of the most helpful discussions was a clear explanation of funding sources. The staff thanked the Council for the opportunity to hear their discussion first hand. Having the retreat in Blowing Rock allowed for this benefit and will pay big dividends.

The public was not allowed to speak, so it was good that we delivered out Top 10 communication to the Council and Town Manager in December. I was able to discuss topics with the Council and staff at breaks.

No votes were allowed, but the Council was able to give the Town Manager and staff direction.

You should read two Watauga Democrat articles by Thomas Sherrill who attended all three days. Links to the articles are provided below. Also, Mayor Sellers reported on the retreat in his recent email update.

TOP 10 PRIORITIES – TOWN & CIVIC ASSOCIATION
The Council identified the Top 10 priorities for 2020. Two priorities highlighted below represent four of our top priorities that we believe are critical to achieve in 2020. Council did discuss nine of our Top 10 priorities.

The Top 10 priorities set by the Council with budget and source of funding follows:

1. Water pressure reducing valves and vaults to protect water lines from excessive water pressure phased in over at least 3 years – $1.2M – W&S Debt, Fees and Rates
2. Playground equipment in Memorial Park – $600K – Fund balance, FY20 Budget and TDA
3. Landscape plan for gateway entrances at Sunset Drive, South and North Main Street – $195K – Reallocate TDA reserve
4. Sidewalks on North Main – $1M – Bond money available for $600K
5. Land Use Code amendments to comply with state mandate and address specific codes for green space, downtown building design standards, 28 day loophole for short term rentals, eliminate CUP and creditable parking – Internal staff time and legal services – FY20 and FY21 Budget s
6. Legion Hall/Broyhill lake project that includes ADA accessibility, landscaping, amphitheater, and other enhancement s – $750K to $1M – Private f funding by Village Foundation and grants
7. Pedestrian crosswalk signage and lighting at Sunset/Main and Main /221 – $25K to $250K depending on choice of equipment – FY20 Budget
8. AMI Automatic water meters for all water users phased by neighborhoods – $725,000 – W&S fees to fund new debt service and recurring operating fees
9. Parking Management Plan to include management and physical solutions like shuttle service, private public partnership, additional parking facilities, paid parking, way finding and enforcement of parking ordinances – $100K – FY21 Budget
10. Broyhill Lake Dam and bridge repairs and/or enhancement to control water flow and protect structure – To be determined

SOURCE OF BUDGET FUNDING
The General Fund Operations is funded principally be tax revenue and the W&S Fund Operations is funded by fees.

General Fund revenue is sourced 52% from property taxes, 11% from sales taxes and 5% from TDA occupancy taxes. Property taxes provide $4.5 million of revenue of which 92% is from residential property taxes and 8% is from commercial property taxes.

The Council set a Fund Balance Reserve Policy to maintain an Available Fund Balance of at least 50% to fund 6 months of operations. Over the years, the Available Fund Balance has grown annually to exceed the policy by $289K.

As a resort town, Blowing Rock has approximately 1,300 local residents, many of whom also have second homes, who vote in Blowing Rock and up to 6,700 more seasonal residents. A substantial portion of all property taxes are funded by seasonal residential taxpayers and absentee commercial property taxpayers who do not vote in Blowing Rock. The Civic Association is dedicated to giving a voice for all residential property owners who fund the largest portion of revenue for the Town General Fund and W&S Fund Budgets.

IMPACT OF TOURISM
The most important takeaway for me that was not reported by the Watauga Democrat was a clear discussion and recognition that we have reach a critical point where the benefits of tourism are impacting the quality of life for residents and negatively impacting the Town’s operating expenses. Albert Yount concluded the meeting with a comment that we are “Out of Balance”. Virginia Powell expressed a concern that we may have begun to push residents out of downtown and that we need residents to be a part of the village to achieve a balance of “Live/Work/Play”. This is the first time I have heard this concern so clearly expressed in a public meeting by the Council. The successful promotion of Blowing Rock by the TDA and Chamber and the improved US economy has resulting in our Town, being “Loved to Death” like many resort towns around the country.

The Director of Parks & Recreation shared data that was honestly shocking to learn. The Town has a system to track cell phone pings each 24 hour period at Memorial Park including those who drive by on Main Street. The cell phone is tracked only once in 24 hours, includes only those cell phones who have Wifi turned on in their settings and of course does not count the kids or adults who do not have a cell phone or have not turned on their Wifi setting. The visitor numbers are staggering! There were 38,000 pings on November 29, 2019 during the Santa Day and Tree Lighting and 19,800 pings on November 30, 2019 for the Christmas Parade. On average there are 10,000 pings each day per year totaling 3.6 million pings over the year. Obviously, the daily average is exaggerated by the peak days for Art in the Park, parades and special events. There was a surge in tourists in late October and early November that can’t be explained other that good weather and the New York Times article about 36 Hours in Boone and Blowing Rock.

We reported earlier last year that we may have reach a “Tipping Point”. Better communication and coordination between the community, Town and TDA was discussed and made an internal staff priority.

The impact on utilization of the park, the Town’s operating budget and just overwhelming congestion of people and cars has led to a recognition that the solution is not just more parking but a comprehensive Tourism Management Plan that addresses both the physical and management solutions. The solution is multifaceted and must include a lot of small management solutions in addition to any physical solutions like additional parking lots or garages. Perhaps the limits on parking are a tool to manage congestion by essentially causing visitors not to choose Blowing Rock as a destination. The Police Chief shared a parking inventory indicating that there are 607 public spaces (197 on-street) and 246 private spaces that could offer public-private partnerships for additional capacity.

We have tried to make the case to the Council, Chamber and TDA that seasonal residents are an important economic segment of our tourism economy because they are “High Value and Low Impact”. Hopefully the Chambers economic development strategy and the TDA’s promotional plan will take advantage of enhancing and retaining this important segment of our economy. We need both residents and visitors to support a vibrant economy for Blowing Rock.

Additionally, we need to plan and prepare for the opening and opportunities that Middle Fork Greenway will bring to Blowing Rock. Installation of new sidewalks along North Main from Valley Boulevard to Speckle Trout is included in the Top 10 Priorities to meet the new sidewalks that will be built next year to Bass Lake is an important improvement that can be mostly funded by bond funds and perhaps the TDA infrastructure funds. We need to get ready for the new demographic of tourist.

CHANGES TO LAND USE CODE & UPDATE OF 2014 COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
Updating the 2014 Comprehensive Plan beginning in 2020 was the Town Council’s #11 priority that we believe should be started this summer to insure public input on critical decisions about changes to the Land Use Code and Parking Solutions. Our Advocacy Plan includes a recommendation update the Comprehensive Plan and to focus on changing the Downtown Land Use Code to respect the existing setbacks and greenspace on West Main Street to preserve the historic village. Our recommendation is consistent with the recommendations of the 2014 Comprehensive Plan on Page 3.3. If we do not honor these goals, we will have redevelopment like 1150 Main Street mixed use building currently under construction with 15 foot setback and essentially no greenspace. We lost a substantial lawn and trees by approving a building under the current Land Use Code. We believe that the current codes are not consistent with protecting the historical village. West Main Street is the key to our charming downtown and needs to be protected.

The state has mandated an update of the Land Use Code by January 2020 that is essentially conforming terminology. Conditional Use permits will become Special Use permits for example.

Additionally there is consensus that the code need to be updated to clarify sections related to Downtown greenspace, parking rights. We made a case to the Planning Board at a recent meeting which was positively received by the board members and staff. Finally, the Council included a consideration of eliminating Conditional Use Permits (CUP) that are quasi-judicial hearings like Rainey Lodge in favor of Conditional Zoning Permits (CZP) which allow for public input. Our Advocacy Plan includes a recommendation to eliminate CUP to allow for public input, avoid the trial like setting that excludes public input and is in keeping with the trend in North Carolina in large and small municipalities. The staff will arrange for an educational session with representatives of the UNC School of Government who are experts and who have written a number of articles on the topic. We encourage the Council to make this a public venue so that the public can ask questions and become educated on the topic. The counter argument is that developers prefer to invest in planning if they know in advance that compliant projects will be approved. While we understand the logic, the experience with Rainey Lodge was very divisive and did not allow for the Council to discuss the project with the taxpayers.

FUTURE OF PARK COMPLEX
The Council discussed the need for a complete Master Plan based on the recently updated 2018 Parks & Rec Master Plan that addresses improvements and use each section of our downtown park – Memorial Park, American Legion, Broyhill Lake, Davant Field and Robbins Pool. There is $435,000 available for parks from the Bond Issue and $100,000 reserved for playground equipment in the current budget.

Replacement of the playground equipment in Memorial Park at a cost of $600,000 as soon as possible jump the #2 Top Priority without a clear source of funding matched to users. Local young families recently advocated for a major update of the playground equipment which is definitely needed, but the funding sources need to match the users between residents and tourists. Memorial Park is already very crowded with little greenspace emphasizing the need for a long-term master plan that considers the location of each use like tennis courts, pickleball courts, basketball courts, playgrounds and entertainment venues.

Badly needed additional bathrooms and improvements to existing bathrooms was discussed.

The Village Foundation is working on a proposal to improve the area behind the American Legion Building including ADA walkways and an amphitheater. The plan is a take-off of the Virginia Tech Plan. The Council discussed the need to control any scheduling of events and noise control. The staff and Council will be meeting with the Village Foundation over the winter to explore the proposal.

Pickleball is a growing sport especially for older adults. Local player have requested that the Town install additional courts and discussions are ongoing to determine possible location and funding.

With the large number of users in Memorial Park, we need to ask if the space will be too crowded to enjoy the park and ask if some of the uses can be moved to other locations in the park complex.

GATEWAY IMPROVEMENTS
Over the last few years, the Chamber and Village Foundation have proposed gateway improvements to Sunset Drive at a cost of approximately $400K. The TDA has set aside $261K for gateway improvements. The Town staff recommended an alternative landscape plan for all three gateways for North Main, Sunset Drive and South Main at a cost of about $195K. This alternative became the #3 priority for the Town Council instructing the staff to finalize design and costs, meet with the Chamber, Village Foundation and TDA to discuss the alternative and ask BRACC to review to proposal.

LANDSCAPING ON VALLEY BOULEVARD
You have seen the extensive landscaping improvements being installed by the DOT. We owe a big thank you to David Goodson who spearheaded inventorying and selecting trees as a volunteer consultant for the Town. Thanks to a substantial investment of time by David, Shane and the staff, the Town has improved the landscaping and has insured that the right trees have been planted and replaced if needed under the contract. There are 624 new trees and 7,000 perennials. The Council discussed the idea of becoming a designated “Tree City”.

NEEDED WATER & SEWER IMPROVEMENTS
Two W&S priorities were selected by the Council for the Top 10. Additionally, the staff explained the need for a substantial investment in water and sewer lines and plant improvements. Replacement of the valves and vaults was selected as the #1 priority given the impact on changing pressures have on the old lines. Automated meter capability was also included in the Top 10 which will free up manpower now used to read meters with funding most likely from an additional water fee to cover cost of equipment and ongoing software. Data was shared to compare our W&S fees to other towns.

The bond funding will not cover the cost of improvements, so substantial funding will be needed in the future to replace both W&S lines. The staff is putting together a long-term plan to prioritize needs, determine phasing and costs.

The W&S revenue model will be reviewed by an independent consultant and updated to provide additional revenue to cover debt service for these improvements. We can expect higher W&S fees in the future to cover these infrastructure costs.

STREET PAVING
Remaining bond funding of $2.1M will not cover all of the needs which range from $3.0M to $3.5M. A schedule of priorities has been prepared and bids are expected for the February Town Council meeting.

GREEN INITIATIVES
A number of green initiatives were discussed including our recycling contract, use of solar energy and electric vehicles for the Town, and local ordinances requiring elimination of plastics.

CLARIFICATION OF QUALIFICATIONS FOR ADVISORY BOARDS
Rules for serving on the various board are not consistent and range from living in Blowing Rock, to being a taxpayer to being a voter. The Town Manager will bring a recommendation to the Council at the February meeting to conform the rules for service. We have also encouraged the Council and staff to utilize video conferencing to expand the population of candidates with expertise to participate.

WATAUGA DEMOCRAT LINKS

https://www.wataugademocrat.com/news/memorial-park-plan-water-rate-change-mulled-at-blowing-rock/article_03cd1ee7-2fcb-5e68-ad18-5d607841e1d8.html

https://www.wataugademocrat.com/news/parking-parade-changes-proposed-for-blowing-rock/article_87c92038-a0e0-5e88-af73-7685fa176931.html

CONCLUSION
For the first time in my role, I believe the community, council and town staff are essentially on the same page in identifying the priorities for the future of Blowing Rock with an appreciation of the need to build community consensus.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Blowing Rock Civic Association, we want to thank the Mayor, Council, Town Manager and staff for conducting a very productive retreat. We are dedicated and hopeful that the Council, staff, residents and business community can work together to protect and improve our quality of life and economy. We are fortunate to have the natural resources, climate, reputation and history to underpin our future.

Respectfully,

Tim Gupton
President
Blowing Rock Civic Association

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