Troutman Council approves resolution asking county commissioners to keep fairgrounds in town
BY DEBBIE PAGE
At its Monday afternoon pre-agenda meeting, Troutman Town Council members, led by Mayor Pro Tem Paul Henkel during Mayor Teross Young’s absence, passed a resolution in support of leaving the Iredell County Fairgrounds within Troutman’s corporate limits.
In the resolution, the town stated that the fairgrounds, located at 630 Main Street for the past 83 years, was home to the county’s agricultural fair and many events held by the town and local organizations.
Recognizing “the benefit of such a property and event space” in its corporate limits and the revenue and visitors that it brings, the resolution stated the town had a “vested interest in the future” of the property.
The council expressed its desire to see the fairgrounds become a “multipurpose venue and focal point of a heavily-traveled commercial corridor,” pledging consideration of both monetary and non-monetary support to make that vision a reality.
Council members took an unusual Monday vote on the resolution rather than waiting for the regular Thursday meeting after council member Paul Bryant suggested Town Manager Justin Longino, Young, and available council members appear at the Iredell County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday night to personally deliver the resolution and reinforce their unified support of it, to which members agreed.
Town Clerk Kim Davis notified the public on Tuesday that a quorum of the council may be present at the commissioners’ meeting.
The action came about after several Troutman and county officials met last month to discuss the future of the fairground. Commissioner Jeff McNeely, County Manager Beth Jones, Register of Deeds Ron Wyatt, Troutman Parks and Recreation Coordinator Emily Watson, Henkel, council member Sally Williams and Town Manager Justin Longino were among the attendees.
The county has considered acquiring land adjacent to other county facilities on Bristol Road just outside Statesville to build a new fairground facility. However, Troutman officials advocated for the fairground to stay where it is.
At the meeting, McNeely suggested the Troutman Council pass a resolution to advise the county of its desires and support.
HIGHWAY 21/115 DISCUSSION
Williams asked that the council take some kind of action to request that the N.C. Department of Transportation find other options to present to the town for the widening and improvements of Highway 21 running the the heart of Troutman.
The option presented to public officials and the public in meetings on May 2 would eliminate much of the popular Richardson Greenway and the historic Depot area, which met with community criticism and concern.
She suggested council come up with a resolution to present to NCDOT that would request another alternative that would lessen the impact on these areas. Henkel agreed, saying that council needs to express its wishes quickly before plans are set.
Council member Judy Jablonski noted that three options were initially on the table, but only this option was presented at the May meeting. “Why keep them (the other options) hidden?”
Henkel said he was told by several DOT officials that this was the only option other than a “no build.”
“I understand they heard a mouthful about it from the residents and citizens who followed us in the later meeting and that people were not very happy,” he said.
Longino said the NCDOT would have the public comments compiled by the end of June and will come back to meet with officials again in the next few months. “They will present all the feedback and all the research that they’ve done based on that feedback to us,” he said.
Town Planner George Berger said NCDOT will provide all public comments and their responses to each to the town, after which the town can respond back to DOT. He noted that after all the negative feedback, the department may choose to present the other two options once under consideration.
“Depending on the level of comment and what those comments say that really gives DOT the marching orders to get something back to us,” Berger said.
Longino explained that alternative one was the Kimley-Horn study that the town did and alternative two was the Barium Lane to Interstate 77 plan, which was the original scope of the project until funding cut the area to a smaller area in the main town area.
Public Works Director Adam Lippard said he was told in a previous meeting with DOT that the Kimley-Horn draft, with an improved Eastway Drive becoming the northbound lanes and Highway 21 as the southbound lanes, “would never happen” because of pedestrian crossing safety concerns.
Henkel added that the federal part of the project funding would be withheld with that version of the project because of these safety concerns.
The May 2 option seems to be the only one under consideration, said Henkel, along with whatever modifications NCDOT may make after considering public and officials’ comments.
Bryant said the council should consider a letter expressing its concerns because “we are being asked to give up too much.”
However, Berger suggested, because of divergent opinions of how to change the project that the council wait to see public comments and NCDOT responses and changes before crafting its letter to better focus its comments on the agency’s current project direction.
“We’ll definitely have another bite at the apple,” assured Berger. “This would be the most prudent and effective approach.”
“We just need to make sure we are proactive and we are on top of it and we respond to it as soon as the information is available,” said Bryant.
Jablonski also suggested the next public meeting on the Highway 21 project be held at CATS to better accommodate attendees.
► Council members unanimously approved the closure of Ashmore Circle in Falls Cove for an property owners association event on June 30 from 4 to 10 p.m., with a possible rain date of July 13.
► Williams asked that council begin exploring the possibility of increasing ABC Store profit funds for ESC Park from its current 12.5 percent allocation to 25 percent so that the park fund can grow more quickly and the town can accelerate the complete buildout of the planned amenities.
Council members voted to remove 12.5 percent from H.E.L.P. Ministries in April of 2016 after complaints about the group’s religious affiliation, leaving the town with a 62.5 percent cut rather than the originally planned 50 percent.
Other entities benefitting from the ABC profit distributions, expected to begin after the quarter ending June 30, include the J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library and the four Iredell-Statesville system schools located in the town limits.
► The council publicly thanked the Iredell County Fraternal Order of Police for its recent generous donation to ESC Park.