September 24, 2020
Dear Watauga Democrat Editor,
Today I read the article, VOTE 2020, about the five candidates running for three open seats on the Watauga County Commission.
I would encourage everyone to read the candidate responses to eight questions. See the link for the article below if you subscribe to the Watauga Democrat.
My comments are written from the perspective of advocating for the homeowners and taxpayers in Blowing Rock who contribute over $4 Million in property taxes to the County’s budget and who have serious issues like EMS services that are the responsibility of the County Commission. You can read our Advocacy Plan at www.brcivic.org .
The candidates are:
1) District 1 – New candidates Carrington Pertalion (D) & Todd Castle (R)
2) District 2 – John Welsh (D) – Incumbent unopposed
3) District 5 – Charlie Wallin (D) Incumbent & Bart Keller (R)
One of the overall observations from reading this article about the candidates and the election is that the County has a responsibility to all taxpayers in the County and the issues are not about just Boone. Candidates are elected by county-wide vote but represent districts. The focus of the questions on Boone by the journalist highlights one of our fundamental representation challenges in the County since Boone voters essentially elect the County Commission.
Funding Priorities – Funding should be tied to Priorities. Public health and safety and education are the accepted top 2 priorities. All other priorities of the County Commissioners follow and should not detract from their primary responsibilities to funding the top 2 priorities.
EMS Ambulance Service – Fortunately for the taxpayers outside of Boone, John Welsh, Charlie Wallin and Todd Castle mentioned support for expanding ambulance transport services throughout the County. Due to the County’s current policy, ambulance service outside of Boone is substantially underserved. There are no stations or full-time crews to serve the taxpayers in the northern or southern parts of the County. Boone’s average emergency response time is 6 minutes compared to 10 to 25 minutes for areas outside of Boone. The current policy does not include a geographic performance benchmark to insure adequate coverage as recommended in the national standard 90/9 to cover 90% of citizens within 9 minutes. If you have a life threatening event like a stroke or heart attack, you rely on first responders to stabilize the patient and wait for the transport ambulance to show up. Public safety and health should be the number one priority of all elected officials.
Promote Small Business – The concept of helping small businesses should include recruiting families to live in the County and work remotely. Our broadband service is essential for this to be successful and for all children throughout the County to have access for education. Young families now more than ever can choose a “Hometown” quality of life if we have quality schools and broadband.
Cooperation with All Towns – One question challenged the candidates to develop a better relationship with Boone. In addition to Boone, both John Welch mentioned the need to work with all towns and Charlie Wallin specifically mentioned the need to work with Blowing Rock, Seven Devils and Beech Mountain.
Boone Parking Garage – Funding for ambulance service and education needs far exceed parking improvements in Boone. If the County were to partner with Boone to build a parking deck, why shouldn’t the County do so in Blowing Rock to solve parking problems caused by overwhelming numbers of day-tourists? This is not a County problem to fund or solve. Perhaps the university and related rental developers should be the primary partner for solving parking problems created in downtown Boone.
COVID Protections – We agree with Carrington Pertalion that the County should follow the Governor’s Plan. We opposed the County’s 14 day quarantine because it was not in sync with the Governor’s Plan and it focused on penalizing homeowners who were not the high-risk population that needed to be managed. The County finally decided to follow the Governor’s Plan.
Blowing Rock Civic Association