Last updated: February 04. 2014 5:39PM - 1061 Views
By Anthony Gonzalez agonzalez@civitasmedia.com

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Last week, the Elkin Board of Commissioners held its annual project update meeting with its department heads to gauge the status of existing projects. Commissioners also considered new projects, one which may lead to the building of a second fire station, a revamp of the town website, along with incorporating a cloud-based rapid communications system.

“We had an excellent project update,” said Mayor Lestine Hutchens. “The department heads with ongoing projects presented progress reports and estimated costs. The citizens of Elkin demand a high level of service and it is to that end that we spend our time and effort. As always in the equation is a balancing act between needs, wants and a way to pay for it.”

Second fire station in future?

According to Hutchens, Chief Tommy Wheeler of the Elkin Fire Department discussed the need for a second fire station in the north of town where the majority of the commercial growth has been.

“We had a presentation from the architect for a building on a town lot on the new 268 Bypass next door to the Coffee Shop. The building proposal was not extravagant, but there are requirements for fire stations that don’t exist for other town facilities for safety and storage. The estimated cost was $1.9 million,” said Hutchens.

“It would be a good thing. The town paid for the consultant several years ago about how to improve our fire rating. The study said that in order to maintain our fire rating, we would be best to consider putting in a second fire station on the north side of town,” said Wheeler. “It’s going to depend on the funding. We got a truck and equipment that can move. From an economic development perspective, you have businesses who like moving closer to fire stations. My point of view is safety. Our response would be greater to an emergency situation if we have a station in the north side of town.”

Communications discussion held

Town Manager Lloyd Payne introduced commissioners to Blackboard Connect, an online suite of strategic communications solutions used to send out bulk communication.

“It is a mass communication system like the Elkin City School System uses. It will allow us to very rapidly communicate with citizens via every type of medium (cell phone, home phone, email, Twitter, Facebook, fax, etc.),” said Payne.

One of the features in Blackboard Connect would allow the town of Elkin to “Geo Target” messages to a precise area, thus avoiding information from going out citywide unnecessarily. As an example, should a power pole be down in a residential area in the south side of town, officials can select streets immediately impacted.

“Yes, we can target who gets messages. People can even sign up for what they want messages about and we can create as many groups as we want provided we have a staff member to oversee that group and send out information as needed,” said Payne.

The annual cost for the system is estimated slightly more than $4,000.

Economic Development updated

According to Leslie Schlender, director for the Elkin Economic Development Department, an updated economic development plan should be completed by March. An online survey on economic development received 151 responses. Data is being compiled and processed for a report.

Schlender said he is actively seeking funding for the Heritage and Trails Center project for the Standard Street property. “Discussions with various funding agencies will be set up in this first quarter of 2014 in hopes to reach a substantial goal of the $1.6 million budget so that we may begin construction late this year,” said Schlender.

According to Schlender, the Built Asset assessment program through the N.C. Rural Center has now been reactivated and the report, which is to be supplied to Elkin through this program, highlighting possible redevelopment solutions for the Chatham Mill and other vacant properties in Elkin, should hopefully be received in the next several weeks.

Schlender said the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor and Scenic Byway signage program continues to progress with signs budgeted and contracted for by Wilkes, Surry and Yadkin counties.

“I have now completed the Scenic Byway grant bid documents and they have been sent back to DOT for their approval prior to going out to bid on these signs and kiosks. Once this occurs, Elkin will look at what signs it can budget to support these in our town areas through Main Street or TDA funds,” she said.

Schlender indicated a Request for Proposals was sent out to local and surrounding area website developers for quotes related to revising the elkinnc.org website and the creation within it of a tourism/visitor information based website portal.

Parks and Recreation discussed

Adam McComb, director of Elkin Recreation and Parks Department, updated commissioners on Elkin Valley Trails Association projects withing the municipal park and parks master plan projects.

“Thus far they (EVTA) have been able to enhance the nature trail within the municipal park as well as many other projects too numerous to mention,” said McComb. “Their primary goal is to install a bridge across the Elkin Creek and extend the greenway trail another half mile north. The $91,871.27 bridge has been purchased, through a private and public collaborative funding campaign, and is currently being manufactured in Abingdon, Va. The bridge is expected to ship to Elkin by the end of February. Bridge bids have been received and EVTA is reviewing those bids and plan to let the bid within a week or so. The EVTA is still in need of donations to ensure the bridge goes in by their goal of May 2014.”

The Recreation, Parks & Greenway Master Plan provides capital improvements for the short-term (one to five years), mid-term (six to 10 years) and long-term (10-plus years).

“Town staff are currently going through the master plan and installing the short-term capital improvements into the budget process for board consideration. Some items identified within the short term are: Recreation center improvement & expansion, relocation/renovation of bandstand, athletic field lighting in municipal park, increase benches within parks, outdoor fitness stations along the walking track and mountain bike trails and among others,” said McComb.

“The Recreation and Parks Plan was reviewed and approved at the meeting,” said Hutchens. “This gives a direction for the advisory board and others to see what the five-, 10- and 20-year needs for maintaining and upgrading the park facilities we now have.”

Planning and Zoning addressed

Planing and Zoning Officer George Crater discussed violations of ordinance of codes and demolition properties that were uninhabitable.

Commissioners reviewed steps which have to be taken when a violation occurs.

Questions were posed from several commissioners about unkempt properties and what constituted a violation.

Airport improvements

“We have been extremely fortunate in efforts to fund airport improvements to up-fit and improve the airport facility with NC DOT Aviation grants,” said Hutchens. “New lighting, new storage and fuel tanks, the t-hanger project for aircraft housing, all have been partially funded with grants. With these grants, the town invests $16,333 and the NC DOT Aviation grants $150,000. Also the airport property has been timbered and the proceeds used to paint the main hanger.”

Other issues

In closing, Hutchens said that she believe the problems that cause her most concern regarding Elkin’s future are the hidden ones.

“The pipes in the ground, the improvements that need to be made to our delivery system for clean water, and the streets we drive on,” said Hutchens. “The streets are not hidden, but we don’t all drive down the same streets and see the same problems. Our main thorough, North Bridge, is an NC DOT maintained highway. The Rock Facade is another of my concerns.”

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or follow on Twitter @NewsGonz.

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