Elkin board looks to future

By Wendy Byerly Wood - wbyerly-wood@elkintribune.com

Elkin town leaders already are looking toward their plans in the new year as they work to formulate an agenda of items to discuss at the annual retreat for the board of commissioners.

During the Nov. 13 meeting of the commissioners, minus Mayor Sam Bishop and Commissioner Terry Kennedy, who both had been excused, Town Manager John Holcomb went over topics the commissioners would like to see on the retreat agenda for Feb. 23 and 24, 2018.

One presentation and discussion will revolved around a strategic plan for the town being developed by Crystal Morphis and the staff at Creative Economic Development Consulting.

Commissioner Skip Whitman also said he’d like to hear discussion on a “renewed interest in a three-partnered YMCA,” which he said a member of the Y board out of Winston-Salem had approached him with.

Another topic of conversation may include the possibility of an RV park, which was brought up by Commissioner Cicely McCulloch.

Explore Elkin updates also will be presented.

McCulloch asked Holcomb if he planned to have town advisory boards give updates, and he said he’s been trying to work those into the monthly meetings, but a couple may be on the retreat agenda.

A big portion of the agenda will include the annual update on the capital improvement plan, which will lead the commissioners into the yearly budget process. Commissioner Tommy Wheeler asked Holcomb if there is a way to have the department heads prioritize their capital projects by importance.

“I’m only interested in their top three, because I doubt we can afford beyond that,” Whitman said.

Whitman said he wants to hear updates on the town’s plans to sell water in Wilkes County as well. Holcomb told him Ronda Mayor Victor Varela is working to get more information on that topic.

The commissioners are to continue giving ideas for agenda topics to Holcomb as final plans for the retreat are prepared.

New fire chief sought

For the last several months, Elkin Fire Department has been operating under the leadership of an interim chief, Don Mitchell, who was previously assistant chief. But Holcomb informed the board last week that Mitchell believes it’s time to start seeking a permanent replacement.

“As we went through a change in direction of Elkin Fire Department, I asked Don Mitchell to take the role of interim fire chief. He thinks he’s getting to the end of that process, and we need to start looking for a full-time chief,” Holcomb said. “We will begin that process pretty soon.”

Mitchell told Holcomb he will stay in the interim role “as long as it takes to be sure we get the right person in place,” the town manager said.

He said the advertisement for that position will begin soon.

In the past, the town has included in the advertisement a mileage requirement for the chief candidates, said Commissioner Jeff Eidson. “I think that eliminated some strong candidates. I don’t think they were far from the line we drew last time, but they didn’t apply because they were a tenth of a mile from the line.”

Commissioner Tommy Wheeler, the retired fire chief, agreed with Eidson that there were a couple of “strong candidates, but they lived in Mount Airy and that’s too far.”

The board agreed that a limit in mileage outside of town should be considered ,but that it shouldn’t be in the advertisement of the position.

In other public safety issues, Holcomb reported that a bridge between the Arlington Fire Station in Jonesville and the Yadkin River is scheduled to be removed and replaced, with a long detour planned that could disrupt response times for the two departments when assisting one another on fire calls.

Holcomb said the two towns are concerned “about safety during the six to nine months that bridge may be out of operation.”

The town manager said the suggestion was made for the two towns to prepare and adopt a joint resolution proposing the state Department of Transportation find another solution so that it isn’t a public safety issue, such as a temporary culvert or bridge at the location.

“We consider it a very serious public safety issue,” he said.

The board was favorable to entertaining a joint resolution.

Other town business handled

The board also conducted the following business during the meeting:

• Unanimously approved the consent agenda, including permission to waive the alcohol ordinance for Elkin Municipal Park on May 19, 2018, for the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival and in the fall of 2018 for the Big Elkin Brewfest; permitting the closure of Main Street for the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival on Sept. 22, 2018; a correction to the Bike and Pedestrian Grant Resolution from the October meeting; and setting a public hearing on Dec. 11 for a rezoning request for 111 Van Eaton St. from R-20 Residential to B-2 Highway Business.

• Approved unanimously amendments to the town’s employee wellness program, with one of those being it will no longer be a requirement to participate in the program to have the town pay insurance premiums in full.

• Approved a new Community Development Block Grant Loan Assumption Agreement with IPI Properties, the new owners of Chatham Woods, the former Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital location which are now senior apartments, in the amount of $122,819.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

By Wendy Byerly Wood