Mayor on Duty: Special Town Board meeting tonight

Tonight the Highlands Town Board is having a special meeting at the Highlands Recreation Center.  In case folks may be confused by the location, it’s the building in front of the swimming pool.

Two issues are on the agenda. At 5 p.m. the board will review the DOT paving plans for Main Street, including 4th Street going out to Buck Creek Road on US 64, and going to Clear Creek on NC 107. The repaving project will cost just under five million dollars. The Main Street section, starting at 1st Street and going to 4th, will begin early in April and be completed by Memorial Day. The other sections will continue into June.

The public works committee of the board has a plan to improve the center parking on Main Street by installing curbing and some planting areas for bushes and a few more trees. The loss of parking for this project would be minimal, about three spaces. Now is the time to decide whether to move forward with this plan before DOT starts paving. The plan would require DOT approval and town funding.

At tonight’s meeting there will be preliminary plans and mapping in order to assess the scope of the project. I also anticipate the board even making a site visit to Main Street during the meeting. The time devoted to this item could range anywhere between one to two hours.

At 7 p.m. the board will review the current resolution that I presented at the September town board meeting concerning the acquisition of the Highlands Cashiers Hospital. The resolution was tabled until tonight so representatives from the hospital and foundation could come to address the items in the resolution. At the meeting time will be allocated for Mission folks to address their concerns followed by Q & A and discussion.

As I stated at the last board meeting, everyone, including the hospital folks and the town board, are all concerned about long-term healthcare access for this community. There are no “good and bad guys” in regard to this issue. Community leaders seek the common goal of insuring healthcare access.

I met with hospital and foundation representatives last Friday. While I still don’t embrace all of their positions, and am skeptical about some outcomes, I appreciate the hard work and due diligence that they have devoted to this process. They have had to face difficult challenges.  When it comes to modern healthcare there are no simple issues. I really appreciate volunteer leaders who have been willing to deal with the pressure of making these hard decisions.

As the resolution states, I and the board are not against the sale of the hospital. It is very likely the Attorney General Josh Stein will approve the sale. My concern centers around insuring services continue during the five and ten year commitment. And, finally, if HCA were to sell the hospital campus that community organizations would have the first option to obtain the facility and continue to provide healthcare access to the community.

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