Mayor on Duty: Town board to discuss bear problem at meeting tomorrow

The October meeting of the Highlands Town Board is tomorrow night (Oct. 18) at 7 p.m. It will be held at the Highlands Conference Center next to the ball field. Public comment will be the first item on the agenda.

There has been a lot of talk about the bear problem in Highlands this fall. At the last board meeting I did a presentation about moving away from shared dumpsters to an individual bin system, where possible, for downtown merchants, especially behind stores backing Oak Street. Those plans are still under study and in progress.

At Thursday’s meeting a more immediate bear problem will be addressed as an agenda item. The bears have been roaming Main Street at night and turning over street cans in search of food. Commissioner Pierson has been working on solutions to this problem. It can be solved, but like almost every problem, it will cost money.

Commissioner Pierson has researched options for bear resistant yet user friendly street cans. These cans cost over a thousand dollars a unit, but they would deter the bears. The board will have to decide how to proceed in addressing this increasing nuisance.

On Friday, October 26, there will be a Community Coffee with the Mayor at 11 a.m. at the Hudson Library. The topic will be the bear problem in the Town of Highlands. It will be a forum with representatives from the B.E.A.R. Task Force, NC DNR, the Biological Station and the Highlands Police Department participating along with those in attendance.

The bear problem is just as much a people problem. Irresponsible actions by people go hand in hand with the bear behavior. Also, it will cost money to mitigate the problem, and how these costs are shared will be a future issue.

Another major agenda item will be a presentation of revised plan to put tree planters in the central parking area on Main Street. At a September 28 special meeting the board reviewed a plan to place curbs and planters in the area. The board asked the town staff to do a revised plan that eliminates the curbing and does not cause any parking spaces to be lost. The revised plan meets these two requirements.

Let me provide updates on several items.

I sent the resolution passed by the board at the special meeting concerning the sale of Mission and our hospital to HCA to the North Carolina Attorney General. I also included a cover letter and a memorandum by the town attorney. The AG will be making an approval decision of the transaction in the coming months.

Bid requests for building our fiber optic network have been sent out. Bid opening will occur the last week in October. At that time the exact cost of building the network will be known.

I have sent a letter requesting help to Representative Kevin Corbin and Senator Jim Davis concerning the problem of tractor trailer trucks on the Gorge Road. I have also copied NCDOT officials, Chairman Jim Tate of the Macon County Commission and Mayor Bob Scott of Franklin. I also included some “idea” drawings done by town staff that could serve as starting point for a solution.

Hope to see everyone Thursday night.

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