Last week was very busy for me. On Wednesday I was in Raleigh at the NC League of Municipalities Legislative Dinner. On Thursday we had the February Highlands Town Board meeting, followed by the Community Coffee with the Mayor on Friday morning.
At the dinner in Raleigh I had the opportunity to discuss town issues with Senator Jim Davis and Representative Kevin Corbin. The president of the league, Michael Lazara, ended the ceremonies by noting that the large turnout of 365 elected officials was indicative of an overwhelming commitment to public service at both the state and community level. All the folks in attendance work as part-time officials, but put full-time hours into their positions. Several legislators spoke to the audience, including both Democrats and Republicans. Every speaker addressed core of concerns that cross party lines; healthcare, education, infrastructure, and advance economic development to create jobs.
While I sometimes take jabs at our legislators in Raleigh, I appreciate their commitment. Senator Davis and Representative Corbin drive to Raleigh about every Monday morning, stay in a hotel and attend sessions throughout the week and then return home late Thursday or Friday. Frankly, I don’t see how they follow such a rigorous schedule.
The Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of 40 bear resistant street cans at the monthly meeting on Thursday night. It will take about two months to receive the order and place them in permanent moorings in the business district and on town properties. This initiative is the first of several in addressing our growing bear problem.
At the Community Coffee on Friday there was a large turnout to hear how Highlands can become a BearWise community. Cynthia Strain of the B.E.A.R. Task Force presented the major requirements for becoming BearWise. She pointed out we are required to assess the problem, which has already been done. Mitchel Ryan did a comprehensive study as his research project at the Biological Station this past summer. The next steps are to improve the way the entire town secures and disposes of garbage. The purchase of the bear resistant street cans was a first step in this process. Next will be improving our commercial and residential garbage pickup system. Another step in the process will be to pass ordinances concerning disposal of garbage and feeding bears. And finally, the entire town needs to embrace a bear education program. We will be relying on the B.E.A.R. Task Force to partner with the town in this education effort.
As I stated at the coffee, the BearWise program must be a total community effort. I want to thank the Hudson Library for their continuing support and the Mountain Top Rotary Club for hosting the event.
I also appreciate Justin McVey and Ashely Hobbs, biologist for the NC Wild Life for attending, and Mayor Bob Macnair and his folks from Sky Valley for attending and providing information. Sky Valley has the same bear problem and is developing similar protocols.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor