Maverick Farms gets commissioner support
by Kellen Moore
Maverick Farms is continuing to find community support in its quest for alternatives to a bridge replacement project that would destroy a portion of the nonprofit farm's planting area.
On Tuesday, Watauga County commissioners voted unanimously for a resolution asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to "consider any and all options and alternatives to limit the impact on Maverick Farms."
The farm, which began operations in 1972 under a different name, has vigorously opposed the plans to replace four bridges along Justus Road, a narrow gravel road located between Valle Crucis and Foscoe. Since the plans became public, co-owner Hillary Wilson and others have led an email campaign and petition effort that has gained 1,500 signatures.
The DOT intends to replace some of the bridges with culverts beneath gravel and others with traditional bridges with paved surfaces, according to District Engineer Ivan Dishman. All will be two lanes wide, while the road will remain its current width, he said.
Dishman said last month that the DOT planned to begin construction this summer.
In February, Wilson appeared before the commissioners asking
In their resolution Tuesday, the board asked the department to consider alternatives for three of the bridges. But they continued to support the replacement and improvement of a bridge at the intersection of Justus Road and Clark's Creek Road.
That narrow bridge has proven too snug for fire trucks and school buses to turn left onto Justus Road, and requests from residents led the commissioners to approve a resolution supporting that change in summer 2011.
Chairman Nathan Miller said he had spoken recently to Dishman, who said the DOT was attempting to find other plans to present to Maverick Farms.
Wilson said in an email Tuesday that DOT officials had visited the farm Feb. 25 and said they were backing off a previous timeline on the bridge project. Wilson said the farm has proposed several alternatives, including offering right-of-way for an alternate road along a ridge top that wouldn't affect farm fields, she said.
"We're not backing down," she said in the email.
Flood assistance available
Commissioners also received information Tuesday about the USDA's Emergency Watershed Protection program, which may provide funding to help repair personal property damage from the Jan. 30 flooding.
If provided, the money could be used to "repair and patch up things that are imminent threats to life, health and well-being," said Brian Chatham, soil conservation technician.
That might include fixes such as damage from landslides, stream bank repairs or removal of debris-clogged streams but may not be used on needs such as driveway or structural repairs, he said.
If the request for assistance is approved, the EWP will pay up to 75 percent of the construction costs, while the remaining 25 percent will be borne by the individual landowner, Chatham said.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, commissioners:
-- Accepted a $105,483 bid from Capital Ford for the purchase of two sedans and two SUVs for the Watauga County Sheriff's Office. The bids replace an earlier accepted bid that fell through.
-- Agreed to the sale of a sheriff's office K-9, "Rex," to his handler, Aaron Billings. The German shepherd has suffered back problems recently and will be retired at 9 years old.
-- Allowed the High Country Classics Car Club to use the Human Services Center parking lot for an event June 15. The club will pay $200 for use of the restroom facilities and lot.
-- Appointed Pat Coley as a delegate and Ed Rosenberg as an alternate to the N.C. Senior Tar Heel Legislature.
-- Approved a required resolution adopting the High Country Regional Mitigation Plan, which was approved at an earlier meeting.
-- Received an update on tax collections and approved a list of refunds, as well as approved two minor budget amendments.
-- Approved out-of-state travel for recycling coordinator
Lisa Doty to attend the Carolina Recycling Association annual conference in
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
-- Appointed Tony Gray and Sonya Garland to the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority. Rob Holton, David Barker, Victoria Smith, Marcia Greene, Linda Walker, Lisa Martin and Lenny Cottom also had expressed interest in serving.
-- Met in closed session to discuss attorney/client matters and economic development. No action was taken after closed session.