BOONE — The Boone Town Council on Aug. 15 unanimously authorized the town manager to apply for approximately $9 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Loan funds for the Howard Street improvement project.
Boone Town Manager John Ward told the council that designs for the improvements — which include the burying of utility lines, water and sewer upgrades, storm drainage, paving, bike lanes, crosswalks, on-street parking, mid-block crossings, streetlights, landscaping and other streetscape enhancements — are 100 percent complete.
Ward previously said the design was 90 percent complete last December, but project leaders had to wait on cost estimates from the various utilities that would be relocating overhead lines underground. Total cost estimates were at one time as high as $12 million, but Ward said that lower than anticipated estimates from the utilities resulted in the $9 million estimate.
“I’m so excited,” said Boone Town Council Member Loretta Clawson, “because I’ve been here so many years and I’ve seen so many plans up on a shelf.”
“I absolutely think we should go forward,” said Town Council Member Sam Furgiuele, adding that the project has a long history. “You’ve brought it together,” he said to Ward. “The sooner the better.”
The Boone Tourism Development Authority board was previously described as being receptive to a proposal to set aside a portion of occupancy tax revenues each year for debt service on the Howard Street loan, if approved. But Ward said Aug. 20 that the TDA has not yet taken action on a funding commitment.
Ward said the town has also applied for a $300,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant for the project.
Several years ago, town leaders began planning for a one-way street so that the improvements could be constructed within existing town right-of-way. The plans include converting Howard Street to a one-way street westbound from Appalachian Street to Depot Street. Howard Street is already one-way westbound from Depot Street to Water Street.
After voting earlier in the Aug. 15 regular council meeting to rename a section of Hunting Hills Lane — from State Farm Road to the South Fork New River bridge — to Martin Luther King Jr. Street, the council unanimously approved another street renaming.
Furgiuele proposed that South Water Street — the block from Rivers Street to King Street — be renamed Burrell Street in honor of a slave who acted as a scout and guide to Daniel Boone.
He invited Mary Moretz, a former Watauga County commissioner, a member of the Daniel Boone Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a history buff, to present information about Burrell.
Moretz said that according to her research, Burrell was a slave of Benjamin Howard, who claimed the entire Boone valley as the western part of his property. Burrell, who is said to have lived from 1745 to 1845, reportedly was the first to lead Daniel Boone across the Blue Ridge Mountains up to Boone to hunt on the land of Howard, who was a neighbor and friend of Boone’s.
“I petition the Boone Town Council in the name of historic justice to recognize this iconic pioneer by naming a street for him, placing a historic marker recognizing him as a pioneer, guide, herder, prophet and beloved settler of our area and commissioning a statue of him to stand beside the erroneously named Boone cabin marker (which was actually the Howard cabin), where he spent so many days guarding the livestock of his master and hosting hunters such as Daniel Boone,” Moretz said.
Furgiuele said there is only one property facing South Water Street at this time, and that “the co-owners of the property consent and welcome this renaming.”
Ward said that the two street name changes are expected to be completed in October.
Also at the Aug. 15 meeting, the council passed a resolution drafted by Furgiuele that stated that the “Town Council of the town of Boone, North Carolina, proclaims itself a welcoming community to people of all backgrounds, national origins, races, ethnicities and cultures, and it denounces and rejects white nationalism and politics based on hate and hateful rhetoric.”
In Furguiele’s agenda materials, he stated that he prepared the resolution “in light of several disturbing trends in the political dialogue in the United States, an increase in hate groups and hate crimes in the United States, and what appears to be a growing white nationalist movement in the United States.”
“I believe that it is incumbent upon those of us who disagree with these trends and sentiments to stand up and be heard,” Furgiuele wrote. “Further, as a political rally in Greenville, North Carolina, has received widespread attention, I think it is especially important that we differentiate Boone and the climate of tolerance and welcoming which exists here from the views expressed there so that others do not assume from our silence that all North Carolinians agree with such views.”
Summer break came to a close and Watauga County Schools students, faculty and staff returned to their classrooms for the 2019-20 school year on Aug. 19.
According to WCS Superintendent Scott Elliott, the school system is starting the year with a projected enrollment of 4,812 students across its institutions. He added that enrollment numbers take a few weeks to finalize, but the projected number would be the highest enrollment for WCS in the last 15 years.
Elliott visited each of the nine schools throughout the first day and said “there was a positive energy everywhere.”
“We had one of the smoothest starts to the school year that I can remember,” Elliott said.
The calendar for the public school system can be found by visiting www.wataugaschools.org/domain/886.
RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is investigating recent reports of severe lung disease after vaping, it said Aug. 16. Three patients have been hospitalized in North Carolina since late July, and similar cases have been reported from other states, including Wisconsin, Illinois, California and Minnesota. No deaths have been reported.
Although no infectious causes have been identified in this investigation, symptoms are similar to pneumonia caused by bacterial or viral infections. The severity of the disease has varied among patients, with some requiring treatment in the intensive care unit and assistance to breathe.
The causes of these illnesses are unknown, but all patients reported using e-cigarettes or vaping devices in the weeks before their illness began. NCDHHS is coordinating with North Carolina Poison Control, other partner agencies in North Carolina, other states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate.
“We encourage all North Carolinians to avoid vaping products and e-cigarettes”, said State Health Director and DHHS Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Tilson, M.D. “Although the causes of the recently reported cases are still under investigation, this is a reminder of the potentially severe health consequences of vaping.”
No specific brand name or source has been identified as the cause of illness at this time. Vaping products and e-cigarettes contain harmful substances, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs. The vape products reported include nicotine, marijuana, THC or a combination of these substances.
Symptoms reported from patients include shortness of breath, fever, cough and nausea or vomiting. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact their doctor or seek medical care and report any use of vaping devices within the past three months.
Nicotine found in e-liquids is highly addictive. People can learn more about e-cigarettes and vaping products at www.tobaccopreventionandcontrol.ncdhhs.gov/ecigs. For help quitting, call I-800-QuitNow (1-800-784-8669) or visit www.quitlinenc.com.
BOONE — The new logo for downtown Boone, featuring the catch phrase “Live It Up,” will be unveiled as part of a mural that will be installed on the side of 641 W. King St. facing South Depot Street during the First Friday event at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6.
“We’re always looking for opportunities for guests, locals and visitors to pause in downtown,” said Lane Moody, of the Downtown Boone Development Association. “It’ll be a great place to take pictures.”
The logo is a long time coming, a process that finished up earlier in the year, Moody said. The 16-by-16-foot logo will be painted on eight aluminum pieces and hung from the wall, Moody said.
Installation will take place at the end of August, Moody said.
“We hope the winds stay really calm for a couple of weeks while it remains covered,” Moody said.
First Friday, which will be centered around the “Live It Up” tagline on Sept. 6, is a monthly event that runs from February to December each year, when downtown shops remain open from 6-8:30 p.m. Patrons can enjoy fresh art, lively street performers and complimentary refreshments, as well as live music at downtown restaurants. At the Jones House, First Friday attendees can enjoy yard games, refreshments and more.
In other news, the DBDA will be hosting its annual meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 8:30-10 a.m. at Ransom. Breakfast will be served.
“My goal for the annual meeting is to review our accomplishments in 2018 and 2019,” Moody said. “There will be a Howard Street update, where we stand with parking, new staff, new enforcement and new events.”
The meeting will also have construction updates as well as more information about the DBDA branding efforts.
Some of those upcoming events will be the Jimmy Smith Maranon and Street Party set for Friday, Sept. 27 from 6-9 p.m. and the kid-friendly Boone Boo on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.
“It’s probably one of our largest events,” Moody said of the Boone Boo. “It’s a wonderful time to take in all of downtown. We encourage the community to come out, trick or treat, hang out, do a little shopping and eat. And there will be a lot of candy.”
One major change for downtown is that the town of Boone has brought its parking enforcement staff in house, effective July 1. Previously, the town contracted with McLaurin Parking of Raleigh for parking management, including monitoring of parked vehicles and expired time limits, issuing citations for violations and collection of parking fines.
The Boone Town Council made the decision in May, with council members saying the parking enforcement staff were representing the town.
Moody said the town had contracted with McLaurin for 28 years. The contracted staff were brought in as town employees, Moody said.
“We wanted a little bit more control over the enforcement staff to make sure they were meeting our goals,” Moody said. “We wanted to make sure our enforcement staff can serve as guides for our downtown visitors and be a resource for our locals.”
Moody said there have been some kinks, but commended the community for their patience in the changeover.
The only noticeable change is that the parking staff have town logos on their clothes, Moody said.
For more information on downtown Boone events, visit the DBDA’s website at downtownboonenc.com or call (828) 268-6283.