Tomorrow night is the September meeting of the Highlands Town Board. It starts at 7 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the Highlands Conference Center next to the ball field. As always the public comment period is first on the agenda.
Also on the agenda will be consideration of a resolution concerning the sale of the Highlands- Cashiers Hospital to Hospital Corporation of America. While the resolution supports the sale, it raises several concerns. The North Carolina Attorney General is presently reviewing this sales agreement prior to his approval. The resolution by the board would authorize me as the mayor to write a letter to the Attorney General addressing these concerns that center around conditions for reducing services, closing the facility and any buy back options.
It is important that the Attorney General receives public feedback about changes to healthcare access in this region. Concerns or disagreements over the sale need to be addressed now during this review period. Once the sale is approved, there will be no changes in HCA commitments and procedures.
I will make two presentations to the board for their consideration. First, I will lead a discussion on the problem of tractor trailers using the Gorge Road. This continuing problem again resulted in a traffic log jam just last week by a trucker who did not heed the existing signs. This dangerous situation needs to be addressed by DOT. I’m asking board endorsement for me to write a letter requesting our legislative representatives to provide support in solving this problem.
My second presentation will address the bear problem in the downtown area. One problem is the dumpsters on Oak Street. Users fail to secure the dumpsters and bears remove the garbage in search of food. I want the town staff to study the feasibility of replacing the dumpsters and move to an individual bin storage system for each business. Each business would be responsible for securing their trash from the marauding bears.
Finally, I will discuss with the board the proposed NC 106 project. I believe our friends at DOT became carried away with the design for the proposed project. Unfortunately DOT has highway road design standards that apply to all areas of the state, so those standards were superimposed upon the scenic NC 106. In the long run, DOT needs to reconsider these state standards and make them more environmentally appropriate for a given region. A road standard may work on the east coast but be a real problem in the mountains. I am on the Southwestern Regional Planning Commission Transportation Advisory Committee, which meets later this month. I will request any priority points for this project to be redirected to more important projects in Macon County. Since this project already had a low priority rating, the redirection of the points will virtually kill the project. Now that’s not to say some improvements on NC 106 won’t be made in the future, but certainly not anywhere near the scale as the ones proposed for this project.
Hope to see you tonight.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor