Brakes put on Blue Heron Trail project
BERMUDA RUN – While the town moved forward with the adoption of the $1.6 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21, Mayor Rick Cross revealed that the brakes have been applied to the Blue Heron Trail project.
“Plans for the Blue Heron Trail at this point are on hold as a result of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s budget challenges,” Cross said of the trail designed to be a connection to greenways in the area.
The main section of the trail, which is in the planning stages, will run parallel with US 158. Eighty percent of the projected construction cost is to be paid through federal highway funds.
“We will work with NCDOT to resume this project as funds are available,” Cross said. “In the meantime, we will search for other possible funding opportunities.”
Also in last Tuesday night’s meeting, Cross said that the pedestrian bridge over I-40 and the pedestrian tunnel under I-40 remain on track with construction.
Town Manager Lee Rollins said that the bridge is supposed to be installed by the end of the year, but as far as the specific timing, “that’s where the DOT comes in.”
In the same time frame, Rollins said that the tunnel from Kinderton Village won’t be completely finished but DOT’s part will be.
“What we’re waiting on is leveraged DOT monies and the 80-20,” Rollins said of 20 percent local match. “We can’t fund $2 million.”
Local projects are typically tied to state or federal funding, and the N.C. Department of Transportation is experiencing an unprecedented shortfall, in part because of the loss of gas tax revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cross announced that Jason Robertson, the town’s first community policing officer, has been promoted in the Davie County Sheriff’s Department and that Officer Zach Williams is now transitioning into the position.
“I’ve seen them around town riding together and introducing Officer Williams,” Cross said. “Our Community Officer Program continues to pay dividends.”
The meeting was held at the WinMock at Kinderton, instead of town hall, with a public hearing required regarding the budget and the council looking to have extra space because of social distancing requirements.
Prior to the meeting, the council and staff had a Zoom meeting with the Davie County Foundation, which was seeking feedback for its new five-year strategic plan.
Rollins said that having the meeting at WinMock helped accomplish two things.
“We wanted to make sure we had enough room for the public hearing and made accommodations to do that by meeting at WinMock,” Rollins said. “And this also helped WinMock as once the government goes to Phase III, they were able to test how this went to see how they can do conferences with social distancing. WinMock still can’t have events like this on the private side, but local governments can.”
No one spoke during the public hearing prior to the vote on the budget. The General Fund, which is the basic operating fund for town services, is balanced for fiscal year 2020-21 at $1,691,300 – compared to $1,840,300 in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget that runs through June 30. The Gate Operations Fund is balanced at $566,017, and the Utilities Fund is balanced at $530,850.
The Gate Operations Fund is assessed only to parcels of property that are behind the gated portions of the town. Property owner gate fees had a 10 percent increase this year – after maintaining an annual fee of $420 for over 10 years – primarily to cover a changeover in gate attendant personnel to find quality service.
Councilwoman Heather Coleman said she appreciated how Rollins explained the increase and why it was necessary.
“It’s been 10 years, and basically you get what you pay for,” Coleman said. “We need quality personnel.”
Also in the meeting, Town Clerk Cindy Poe, who recently received her N.C. Association of Municipal Clerks designation, was recognized and received a watch for 10 years of service with the town.