County resolution honors fallen deputy
by Kellen Short
Watauga County commissioners are working to name a bridge in honor of Deputy William Mast Jr. and are planning other ways to honor the fallen deputy on the anniversary of his death.
The board voted unanimously Tuesday to hold a public hearing Aug. 20 on the proposal to name the U.S. 421 bridge over the South Fork of the New River in his honor.
Chairman Nathan Miller said he had spoken with Mast's widow,
Paige Mast, who was in favor of the action. Mast's father was in the audience
Tuesday and agreed it would be a great honor.
"The biggest bridge that I can think of is 421 over the New River as you're entering Boone," Miller said. "Probably half our traffic comes through there."
A resolution proposing the naming also will be sent to the Boone Town Council for approval due to the location of the bridge.
Assuming there is no local opposition, the Board of Commissioners will then adopt the resolution and forward it to the DOT along with background information on the nominee.
The board also approved a resolution Tuesday in memory of Mast. It asks that all flags in the county be flown at half-staff on July 26, the anniversary of his death, and that residents and businesses observe a moment of remembrance at 10 a.m. July 26.
The board encourages residents to celebrate the one-minute remembrance by ceasing work and other activity as well as ringing bells, blowing whistles or sounding sirens.
Business park planning continues
The county will hold another public hearing Aug. 20 to receive input on a proposal to purchase 199 acres off N.C. 194 North in Boone for a business park.
McGill Associates, an Asheville engineering firm, is currently conducting due diligence work at the site. Economic Development Commission Director Joe Furman said he had received a preliminary document and "it looks good."
He said the commissioners would be invited to a joint meeting with the EDC on Aug. 8 to see a presentation and ask questions about the information.
Boone water planning
Commissioners also considered a June 17 letter from Boone Town Manager Greg Young asking whether the county was interested in expanding water service in Boone and the surrounding areas and possibly sharing the costs.
Several said they wanted to know more about Boone's plans before agreeing to provide any funding.
"I think we ought to keep the dialog open to find out what they want, what they're proposing," Miller said.
Greenway underpass project
The board voted 3-2 on a $17,000 contract with McGill
Associates to provide engineering services for the U.S. 421 greenway underpass
project. The plan is to extend the greenway along the South Fork of the New
River beneath the bridge near Industrial Park Drive.
The firm was previously selected for design services for the project, and staff suggested refraining from the competitive bid process because of the company's familiarity with the project. The DOT is expected to reimburse the county for the charges.
Commissioners Miller, Billy Kennedy and John Welch voted for the contract, while Commissioners David Blust and Perry Yates voted against. Blust and Yates said they were concerned about having to pay for maintenance on the trail, which will be in the floodway.
After the engineering work is done, the project will be opened for bids. Furman said funding requirements mean that construction can't happen for at least a year.
The board also:
-- Tabled proposed bylaw changes to the Watauga County
Tourism Development Authority. Among the changes are term limits for board
members, clerical corrections and a lengthening of time required to call a
TDA Director Wright Tilley said the board also considered a requirement that board members be Watauga County residents, but the proposal didn't pass after a split vote. Several commissioners indicated they liked the idea of having only Watauga residents on the board and asked for the TDA board to reconsider and bring back the bylaw changes later.
-- Voted unanimously to allow Boone Area Cyclists to add a pump track to the Rocky Knob Park, which will serve all riders, including children. The track is part of the original plans for the park and will take a professional trail company approximately three days to construct. Commissioners questioned the potential liability and maintenance costs before approving the plan.
-- Heard from Jim Palermo, a Boone resident now serving on
the N.C. Board of Transportation on behalf of District 11. Palermo pledged to
be an advocate for the region and committed to help provide infrastructure
needed for economic development.
-- Approved six service contracts for the Watauga Communications Center.
-- Approved mutual aid agreements for the Watauga County Rescue Squad and Watauga County Sheriff's Office.
-- Agreed to provide annual funding to the Watauga Humane Society in a lump sum rather than quarterly as outlined in the contract.
-- Received from Yates a framed picture from the American Legion featuring the words "In God We Trust" to be posted in the commissioners' building.