Yesterday day marked the start of a new budget year for the Town of Highlands. The town board approved a scaled back budget at their June meeting.
The Town Manager developed the balanced budget based on projections of less revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If there is an upswing in the economy at midyear, some capital projects that were cut may be reconsidered. Same goes for a cost of living adjustment for town employees. Our employees have truly stepped forward during this state of emergency. I hope we can make a midyear adjustment in their compensation provided revenues increase.
There are several road paving projects that were funded in this budget . The town has been behind in road paving for several years. The board felt these roads projects could not be postponed for another year.
At the top of the list was the second part of Cullasaja Road. Last year the first leg from US 64 to Mirror Lake was done. The rest of the road to the bridge at Mirror Lake will be paved this summer. Also, Hickory, Cowan, Church Street Alley and Pinecrest will be paved.
These road paving projects will start sometime in late August and go through September. Lamar Nix, our Public Works Director, schedules paving when weather conditions are optimum and traffic is light.
For instance, the week of the Fourth of July, or during the late October leaf season, are not good times to be delaying traffic for road paving.
The budget also has funding for sidewalk repairs on Satulah, Pierson Drive and in front of Reeves Hardware. The concrete curb and railing at Reeves are in bad condition. A new wrought iron rail will replace the existing ugly pipe rail. Repairs to the Loafers Bench on Main Street are also funded for this year.
The town will purchase a new garbage truck this year for $172,000. This truck will be a midsize truck and replace an old one that has been rusting out in the back for a number of years. A new woodchipper is being purchased for the electrical department for $85,000. The old chipper has been used on a daily basis for many years, and like the garbage truck it is simply worn out.
The 50-year-old, 2 inch galvanized waterline serving Valentine Lane will be replaced this year for $192,000. The town has been replacing these old, rusty galvanized lines for a number of years.
The Police Department will upgrade their radios to the new Viper system. This system is used by the NC Highway Patrol. The Viper radio system will cost $34,000. It provides much better reception in these mountains, and it allows different first responders seamless communication with one another.
I want to wish I everyone a very happy Fourth of July Weekend. We are suffering together through this COVID-19 emergency. We will endure this scourge and get it under control. We are a free and innovative country that will resurge and thrive.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor