I have two important updates this week. Both will impact our community in the coming weeks.
The Highlands/Cashiers Community Vaccination Clinic is a great success.
On Sunday about 480 people were vaccinated. The clinic is a model for how volunteers and nonprofit groups can work together to provide a critical service for the community.
Tom Neal, the clinic organizer, and the volunteers were ready to vaccinate even more people yesterday. But, the clinic was closed because no vaccine was available.
There appears to be a severe shortage of vaccine across the nation. While we have the system to put vaccine in arms as soon as it arrives, this supply shortage prevents us from doing so. Macon and Jackson County are dependent on vaccine allocations from the state.
I worry that our counties, as well as all of Western Carolina, may not be getting a full allocation of vaccine. There are some accounts that a higher portion of vaccine is being diverted to larger metropolitan areas.
There may be a misperception that the outlying counties in Western Carolina simply don’t have the systems in place to vaccinate people. Our community clinic has demonstrated that is not necessarily the case.
If you share my concern, please call the governor’s office at 912.814.2000 and let your concern be known, that equitable allotments of vaccine should be sent to the counties and programs of Western Carolina. The governor can also be contacted by clicking HERE.
Despite these vaccine shortages, registration for vaccinations will continue. An appointment list is being maintained, and as vaccine becomes available people on the list will be notified when to come to the clinic for vaccination.
The other big update concerns the paving of Main Street by NCDOT. Our town manager, town engineer and I met with DOT engineers and the paving contractor last Friday afternoon. The group actually walked Main Street to examine paving issues.
The contractor and DOT are developing a schedule for starting the downtown paving that will take approximately two weeks. The projected start date is sometime around the middle of March. A specific timeframe should be coming soon, and we will notify everyone, especially the downtown merchants, as soon as possible.
DOT and the contractor plan to do the paving downtown as fast as possible. They will maintain an around the clock work schedule. At night the contractor will operate a huge milling machine to remove the top 1 1/2 inch of paving.
It will be very noisy and generate a substantial amount of dust. It is a tradeoff. If the milling machine was operating during the day, visitors would be encountering not only noise, but also large clouds of dusts.
The milling machine will shut down in the early morning hours, and paving equipment will come in and resurface the freshly milled section. During the paving, one side of the street will be closed for paving. The other side will remain open for two-way traffic, so the downtown will never be completely closed to traffic.
The contractor believes this plan will reduce in half the time for paving the downtown area.
Once the downtown paving is complete, paving of US 64 to Buck Creek will begin, as well as paving NC 28 to Clear Creek. These two projects will go into the summer months.
We will keep everyone up to date, but plan on disruptions in late March.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor