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.
South Water Street renamed
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.
Council passes ‘welcoming community’ resolution
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.”