2016: A Year Of Decisions

 


The new year is upon us and it will be a time of decisions, not only for voters but also for elected officials. For voters, the greatest interest will be in the presidential race, followed by the gubernatorial and senatorial races.

But there also will be decisions made regarding major infrastructure projects. At the state level, voters will decide on a $2 billion bond referendum in March. Proponents of the bond, entitled Connect NC, launched their advocacy campaign this week. The bond includes money for education, safety, recreation, water and sewer infrastructure. Approximately $980 million would go to the UNC system with another $350 million designated for the state’s community colleges.

Infrastructure issues are not relegated to just the state. Decisions regarding infrastructure also need to be made locally. The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners has been looking at several alternatives regarding the county courthouse. A decision as to whether or not a new courthouse should be constructed or the current one renovated should be made this year.

But that decision should not be made in a vacuum.

The local school board has received a study indicating that infrastructure needs in the county’s schools are approximately $118 million. Even if those numbers are inflated and some of the work can be delayed for several more years, it’s clear that millions of dollars need to be spent on capital improvements to our schools.

Just as a decision on the courthouse has been delayed for years, so have decisions on upgrading our schools. With each delay, however, the price increases. Now that construction work has increased and interest rates have begun to rise, the costs for such buildings is bound to increase.

One local infrastructure issue that seems to have been placed on the backburner is water. Recent rains and our abundance of water should not deceive us into believing that we will always have an abundance of this most needed natural resource. The state already has shown its proclitivity to take control of local water systems, and there is no indication that trend will be reversed. In fact, with the state population having just surpassed 10 million people, it’s more likely that booming areas such as metropolitan Charlotte, the Research Triangle and the Triad area will look elsewhere, quite possibly to these mountains, to meet their water needs.

In November of 2014 a water conference to discuss laws, regulations, needs, availability, etc. was held at Brevard College. Since that time, however, there appears to have been little movement on an overall plan for water and wastewater systems within the county. Discussions need to be held and decisions need to be made as to whether or not there will be a county water authority or our two local municipalities will operate separately and county property owners will be left to their own devices.

Infrastructure decisions are not nearly as exciting or fascinating as voting for candidates, but they have a tremendous impact on our lives. Residents should learn as much as we can about infrastructure needs, costs and means of payment so that we and our elected officials make the decisions that are in our best interests.

 
 

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