Huntersville officials say the top issues discussed at the town board’s annual retreat Feb. 14-15 will likely be transportation and how to allocate $30 million in bond referendum money.Town manager Greg Ferguson said the yearly retreat, which is open to the public, is a chance for board members and town staff to identify priorities and review past progress.“It’s their opportunity to brainstorm and lay out goals for the next 12 months,” he said. “It gives staff direction on what priorities to place in the budget process in the spring.” Ferguson said retreat usually happens during the first part of the calendar year and is also a chance to follow up on previously identified areas and projects of concern. Ferguson said possible uses for revenues from a $30 million bond issue that voters approved in November will likely be the largest part of this year’s retreat. “I think the biggest discussion will be the projects that we’ll proceed forward on … and laying out a work plan for the next five to seven years to accomplish those projects,” he said. “The department heads all participate, and it’s valuable for them to hear board discussion and to hear that first-hand.”Revenues from the bond issue will be spent in three areas: $17.85 million in street bonds, $7.15 million for public improvements and $5 million for parks and recreation. Board member and Mayor Pro Tem Sarah McAulay said she expects the possibility of a town recreation center and location options to come up, as well as the possibility of at least one new fire station.All Huntersville board members said transportation issues like widening Interstate 77 will be a discussion priority, though the specific projects vary. Board member Jeff Neely said transportation issues involve more than just getting around town. “Everything that takes place in Huntersville as it relates to growth, new construction – whether commercial or residential – revolves around transportation,” he said.Board member Ron Julian said improving the intersection of Gilead Road and U.S. 21, and the best way to do so, will undoubtedly be a time-consuming subject. “I’m hearing from residents that’s one of the worst areas for traffic congestion and accidents,” he said.Board member Melinda Bales said proceeding with those improvements will be one of her priorities, because “that’s one of the main arteries through the town and needs to get people from Point A to Point B in a timely fashion.”Board member Danny Phillips said U.S. 21 is a problem area he believes would be a good use for bond money, but said there could be more cost-effective alternatives to several other traffic improvement projects. “My biggest thing is trying to set the tone to curb some of the spending out of the budget and try to save people some tax dollars, that’d be my number one priority,” Phillips said. “With the road situation, there are some places where we could do some turn lanes and easy things like that, that would improve travel time and quality of life without a lot of money.”Other topics that board members say they’d like to discuss include the possibility of creating a magistrate position; new uses for the old police department and cultural center; designating additional industrial and commercial zoning; staffing needs in several town departments and a salary study, particularly for elected officials. McAulay said it’s important to remember that priorities set at retreat aren’t “set in stone and (have) to be done right then,” she said. Ferguson said retreat discussion items that require a board vote will likely come up at the Feb. 18 board meeting or shortly after. Board member Ron Julian said the board aims to keep retreat costs low by holding the retreat at a Huntersville venue every year, rather than taking overnight trips to other areas.Ferguson didn’t know how much the retreat would cost but said they usually cost a few hundred dollars to cover venue cost and provide meals each day.
Friday, Jan. 25, 2013
Traffic, bond money are likely topics at retreat
Annual town board gathering set for Feb. 14-15
Learn more: The Town of Huntersville Board retreat is open to the public and will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 14 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at Historic Rural Hill, 4431 Neck Road, Huntersville. Major topics anticipated to be covered include 2012 Approved Bonds Planning, transportation “Top 10” small projects list update, long-term transportation planning for major projects and last year’s top five board goals will be reviewed and updated if needed. For questions and more details, contact Huntersville Town Hall: 704-875-6541.