Highlands Town Board finalizes outstanding issues

At the March Town Board meeting, some issues looming for months were finalized and new issues were introduced.

The board finally put to rest lease agreements with the HAM amateur radio club and Charisma Radio Corp., known to most as WHLC radio, whose lease has been in limbo for 1 ½ years.

The 10-year leases clarify specifications for leasing space on the town’s Big Bear Pen tower and outlines responsibilities for both the Lessor (the town) and the Lessees (HAM radio and WHLC).

Though both leases were approved, there is a 30-day waiting period during which time the public must be notified of the leases. After 30 days, the leases can be signed by all parties and then go into effect.

HAM radio will pay $750 per month with a 3% increase per year. WHLC will pay $650 a month with a 2% increase per year.

The vote was unanimous for the HAM radio lease, but it was 4-1 for the WHLC lease with Commissioner Marc Hehn dissenting.

Highlands Greenway

New signage to be installed along the Highlands Plateau Greenway.

Sonya Carpenter with the Highlands Greenway, requested permission to erect new way-finding signage on posts throughout town.

Trail directions will be placed on 5-inch square, 4-ft. high posts in five greenway areas throughout town – Big Bear Pen, Mill Creek, the Biological Station, Sunset Rock, Satulah Mountain and downtown starting at KH Founders Park – which will direct walkers to paved, gravel or foot trails across the plateau.

Though Commissioner John Dotson has expressed concern about sign clutter in Highlands throughout the years, the board unanimously approved the project which will be no cost to the town. In the end, 34 posts will be erected.

NC 106 sidewalk

Though property owners along the east side of NC 106 have all talked positively about the sidewalk project, and in fact want it to happen, Shelby Place property owners want to know exactly how the walkway will sit on the property, and how the varied geography of the area will be handled.

Consequently, the board approved $5,500 to survey the portion of the proposed NC 106 sidewalk that would be located on the Shelby Place Homeowners’ property. The homeowners are requesting information regarding the specific location of the walkway prior to making a final decision. The survey is likely the final step in the town securing an easement and building the sidewalk with the help of anonymous donors and grants.

ABC Store

The new location for the ABC Store in Highlands at the old fire department building.

Final approval was given to the ABC Board to begin the conversion of the old fire station to a new ABC Store facility.

Over the years, the ABC Board has saved enough money to make the conversion and begin operations at the new location. Steve Mehder on the ABC Board said since the board no longer has to save money for the future, once the store is expanded, the town will likely receive about $400,000 a year from ABC proceeds.

Highlands Fire & Rescue

New HFR station will soon have fulltime firefighters on duty.

The board gave Fire Chief Ryan Gearhart the go-ahead to begin staffing the fire department with full-time personnel. Gearhart is looking to hire six full-time people. The staffing can be accomplished without raising the fire tax.

Center for Life Enrichment

The Center for Life Enrichment, like the Literacy Council, is still recovering from the December weather bomb that caused pipes to freeze and break and ultimately damage the facilities.

With the season about to start, CLE got the go ahead to temporarily move to the Playhouse until their space in the Peggy Crosby Center is repaired.

CLE will be responsible for utilities and must carry insurance.

Other News

The Literacy & Learning Center has moved temporarily to the Highlands United Methodist Church while repairs are being made to their facility on NC 28 south.

Once the Mountain Theatre Company vacates the Playhouse by the end of May or the beginning of June, it will take up residence in the Performing Arts Center.

By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper

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