Council approves 2015 budget
By Jeff Eason
Blowing Rock’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget was unanimously approved by town commissioners Tuesday evening and is notable in the fact that it contains the first property tax hike in eight years.
The new property tax rate is 31-cents per $100 in property value, an increase of three cents from the previous rate.
Town manager Scott Fogleman cited projected capital improvements to the town’s water, sewer and street repaving as primary reasons for the rate hike.
Three separate work sessions were held with Fogleman and members of the Town Council on May 20, 21, and 22 to hammer out details of the new budget.
The property tax rate remains the lowest in Watauga County.
Details of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget are available online at http://www.townofblowingrock.com.
In other town council actions, the commissioners voted unanimously to:
· Approve a request from the Blue Ridge Relay for the use of the Robbins Pool parking lot and restroom facilities from 4:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5 as an “exchange zone” for the running teams. The Blue Ridge Relay is a 208-mile team race that starts in Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia and finishes in Asheville. Teams have a minimum of four runners and a maximum of 12. Previously, the race used the parking lot at Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway but last year switched to the parking lot at First Baptist Church in Blowing Rock due to repair work on the sinkhole at Tanger. The race requested the parking lot at the Robbins Pool because it is along the race’s route, which takes runners off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, into downtown Blowing Rock and south on U.S. Hwy. 221 toward Grandfather Mountain.
· Approve appropriating $16,000 of previously unrecognized fiscal year 2014 sales tax proceeds for the purchase of a new pool heater for the Grover Robbins Swimming Complex. According to Jennifer Brown, director of Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation, her staff has experienced difficulties during the past two years, and again this year, keeping the pool heater operating. The existing pool heater unite has been discontinued and the company that made the heater will not service it.
· Approve a draft ordinance recommended by the Planning Board to modify the regulations for holiday and decorative lighting to allow string lighting in landscaping, trees, bushes and along fences year-round. Previously, business owners could use such lighting only during the holiday season.
· Approve a draft ordinance recommended by the Planning Board to allow limited metal roofing on businesses, on a case-to-case basis, not to exceed 25 percent of the roof surface.
· Approve the use of the parking areas at the American Legion Hall and on the top level of the adjacent parking deck from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, July 18 by the Model T Automotive Club. The council asked planning director Kevin Rothrock to ask the club if they could move the event to a day earlier in the week because of the amount of visitors the town receives on Fridays in July.
· Acknowledge the Blowing Rock Historical Society for its $25,000 donation toward the renovation of the American Legion Hall. It was also noted that the Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission has pledged $5,000 toward the renovation project.
The town council voted unanimously to send a draft ordinance to approve sandwich boards in the downtown area back to the planning board for further clarification.
Kip Turner of Maymead Construction gave the town council an update of the U.S. Hwy. 321 widening project. He stated that the new traffic shift in front of Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue Station #1 will remain in place for the next two months.
Turner will meet with members of the town council, members of the Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission and the NCDOT today to inspect some of the new rock facades on the project, including the newly stained rock wall in front of Food Lion.
The next regularly scheduled public meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council will take place at Town Hall at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8.