Working together works

Published 10:43 am Thursday, January 18, 2024

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GATESVILLE – Gates County’s Board of Commissioners met here Jan. 10 with three members of the Gatesville Town Council where the two groups addressed projects of mutual interest.

Each of the five commissioners were present – Dr. Althea Riddick (chair), Jonathan Craddock (vice chair), Linda Hofler, Brian Rountree, and Emily Truman. Representing the Town of Gatesville were Elton Winslow (mayor), Kay Barker, and Doug Lilley.

“These two governing boards have been united in seeking external funding for important projects,” explained Riddick as she opened the meeting.

Riddick added that the North Carolina General Assembly, in their biennial budget approved last year, approved $10 million for infrastructure improvement projects that will benefit citizens of Gatesville and those residing in unincorporated areas of the county.

The initial topic of discussion between the two boards was about the demolition of fire-damaged structures within the Town of Gatesville.

“We are working towards a solution with one of those burned out structures. We don’t know what it will cost or who is responsible for paying [for demolition and hauling away the debris],” said County Manager Scott Sauer.

“We would definitely like to see it cleaned up,” stated Mayor Winslow. “We can’t find out who is exactly in charge of that property. We don’t have any condemnation ordinances in town.”

“That can be worked out,” Sauer noted.

Item two regarded fire hydrant replacement. Sauer said the county had set aside funding to replace 15 hydrants countywide and wondered if Gatesville had any that needed “priority” attention.

Winslow said during recent discussion with the chief of the Gatesville Fire Department, it was noted there were a “few in town that are not functioning.”

“The main priority is the one on the corner by the [county] office buildings and that one is on a 12-inch [water] main,” Winslow said. “Without that hydrant, it would hinder fire-fighting efforts downtown.”

The discussion turned to what the county’s public works department could do to assist the Town of Gatesville. Among the items mentioned included cleaning out storm drains.

“We want to be good neighbors with the town,” Sauer stressed. “We want to help out where we can.”

“If we don’t work together, we’re not going to get anything done,” noted Winslow.

The two boards also discussed ways to improve tourism and small business development.

Winslow said he has been thinking of ways to develop a paved bicycle trail from Gatesville to Merchants Millpond State Park.

“I’m hopeful that by doing that we could get cyclists to come to Gatesville, make it a destination stop on a cycling tour,” Winslow said. “We could look at making it a full circle (13 miles) by using Flat Branch and coming back into Gatesville (on NC 37) by the [Bennett’s Creek] bridge.

Winslow added that such a route could also be used for runners, competing in 5K, 10K or half-marathon events.

“Those [events] draw a lot of people,” he added. “That would add tourism dollars to our county and help our small businesses.”

Winslow also stressed the need for wastewater expansion as a way to attract small businesses.

“Tourism is one of the things we’re looking hard at,” said Commissioner Hofler. “It is a way to boost our tax revenue. Right now we are making an assessment of what we have in the county [to attract tourists]. Surprisingly we have a lot of things that we do not publicize, to include the annual rodeo and water ski tournaments. We need to do that.”

In closing, Sauer mentioned the need to improve pedestrian safety at the old courthouse, which houses some county offices.

“I don’t know if we would get a crosswalk approved from the courthouse to the post office, but the commissioners have had discussions about the sidewalk here in front of the old courthouse,” he stated. “We’ve got some hazards there.”

“Mrs. Barker and I have discussed that because we are probably out of compliance with the American Disabilities Act,” noted Hofler. “The angles [of that sidewalk] are too steep for someone in a wheelchair. And there is no sidewalk from the front of the courthouse to the back [entrance] where the elevator is located. It’s difficult to push a wheelchair through that grass.”

Holfer said she believed funding could be sought through the American Disabilities Act to rectify that problem.

“A partnership between the town and the county would be advantageous for both of us [for that project],” Hofler added.

“We’d be glad to work with you,” Winslow said, adding that the town does receive Powell Bill funding annually from the state for street and sidewalk improvements, but the majority of those funds are used for street repairs.

The two boards agreed to meet quarterly in an effort to track the ideas development at last week’s meeting as well as to offer new joint projects.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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