Streets will be the order of the day tonight when the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meets at City Hall.
During the 7 p.m. session, the board will consider one measure aimed at improving pedestrian safety at Reeves Community Center — an ongoing concern. Another will address a solution for traffic issues created on Park Drive with the opening of Chick-fil-A last fall nearby.
DOT Help Sought
Mount Airy officials are poised to seek assistance from the N.C. Department of Transportation for safety improvements at Reeves Community Center, where people have been hit by vehicles in recent years.
Concerns exist for those crossing Renfro and Pine streets when going to and from RCC from parking lots.
This has led to recent meetings with Engineer Mike Pettyjohn of DOT District 11 — which includes Surry County — and the identifying of changes to create a safer crossing environment.
The list includes pedestrian signals, radius changes and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) crosswalk improvements. Such enhancements will require surveying, designs and the development of construction documents, which the DOT is equipped to handle.
A city government memorandum states that one part of the plan will involve Mount Airy officials committing to sidewalk improvements and signage for guiding pedestrians in a safe manner from one side of Renfro Street to the other.
The proposed changes are welcomed by community center officials.
“It would certainly address safety for users of the facility as well as the general public,” city Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander said Wednesday. “I think it is great that the DOT is willing to work with us on that.”
The city pledges to assist the DOT with utility issues and public education regarding the safety improvements, according to the memorandum. Mount Airy also would be responsible for obtaining any necessary property easements for the work as well as moving any utility poles affected.
In a related plan, municipal officials say there is “a long-term vision and discussion” about using a portion of city-owned property at Renfro and Cherry streets for future parking.
Park Drive Work
Also tonight, city officials will re-address an issue that arose last fall regarding increased traffic on Park Drive from the new Chick-fil-A restaurant that opened on U.S. 601 in September.
As a result, a narrow section of Park Drive, which runs parallel to Rockford Street behind Chick-fil-A, became more congested with motorists using it as a cut-through to reach the restaurant and avoid the busy U.S. 601.
It initially was proposed that the affected portion of Park Drive be made a one-way street, given the problems with large numbers of oncoming vehicles encountering each other on the narrow roadway.
However, that brought protests from the Park Drive neighborhood that this might only worsen the safety situation. One man who addressed the commissioners during a Nov. 15 meeting said more traffic might be funneled onto Park Drive and drivers wouldn’t be as inclined to slow down because of not worrying about oncoming vehicles.
This was deemed a hazard for residents backing out of driveways.
Officials voted in November to study alternate measures besides a one-way street, which has led to plans now on the table. They include widening a section of the street in addition to installing curbs and guttering.
Chick-fil-A has expressed a willingness to foot the bill for the curbing and guttering while Duke Energy will move a utility pole at no expense, according to City Manager Barbara Jones.
The city faces a cost of about $4,600 or less for the changes, to come from Powell Bill funds — money derived from fuel taxes which is allocated to localities for transportation needs.
Park Drive residents are receptive to the plan, according to the city manager.
Jones added that the solution reached reflected a situation in which “good neighbors partnered for the best resolution.”
Election Change Hearing
In other action, a public hearing will be held on a proposal to eliminate the primary requirement for municipal elections.
It involves shifting to a non-partisan plurality method in which all candidates for an office would square off in the general election.
Presently, a primary is required if three or more candidates file for the same position, a method that is costly and historically has resulted in low voter turnouts.
The change already has been given the nod by the board, but tonight’s public hearing is required since it requires altering the city charter.
Among other matters at tonight’s meeting, the city commissioners will:
• Consider a contract with Martin Starnes & Associates, an out-of-town accounting firm, to conduct a independent audit of the municipality’s finances which is required annually. That firm has been handling the city’s audit for the past couple of years;
• Receive a report from the city tax collector regarding unpaid levies that are liens on real property, and vote to advertise unpaid taxes;
• Recognize The Dairy Center, one of Mount Airy’s older businesses.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.