On Meadowview Drive.jpg

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis examined a new sidewalk along Meadowview Drive in Wilkesboro Friday. It was partly funded with legislative discretionary money. Left to right are N.C. Sen. Shirley Randleman, Wilkesboro Mayor Mike Inscore, Tillis, N.C. Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland, and N.C. Department of Transportation Division 11 Senior Planning Engineer Dean Ledbetter.

Thom Tillis, the speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives, was in Wilkesboro Friday afternoon to inspect the new sidewalk and road improvement project along Meadowview Drive.

The 1,500-foot sidewalk extends from N.C. 268 West to the area near the John A. Walker Center.

The goal of the project was to construct new sidewalks for pedestrians while also excavating a portion of the bank on the east side of the street to improve sight lines for motorists.

The $280,000 Department of Transportation project was paid for with a total of $110,000 from the State House and Senate Department of Transportation discretionary funds, in-kind labor and materials from the Town of Wilkesboro, and funding from the Department of Transportation.

The total project cost was $278,145.

Tillis, who helped to get the $55,000 from the House DOT discretionary budget, said Friday, “When we make trips around the state, we like to see how the discretionary funding has been spent.

“Ninety percent of the projects financed with the discretionary money are in rural counties.”

The funds are set aside for small projects that would not need to go through the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan. Mrs. Randleman noted that she is now working to get funding for a street to extend Call Street in front of the Wilkes County Courthouse to the Wilkes Community College health sciences building on former Northwestern Bank campus adjacent to the county land.

The $110,000 was used for clearing, grading, drainage and ditch work, erosion control, seeding and mulching, and sidewalk construction.

Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland and Mayor Mike Inscore pointed out to Tillis that thousands of people attending MerleFest in two weeks and either camping or parking at River’s Edge Park would use the sidewalk on their way to and from the festival grounds.

“The town, DOT and the legislators put this project together, and it was easy for us to see the need and to fund the project,” said Tillis.

Mrs. Randleman said that the only person who was missing from the tour was Sen. Don East, the state senator for the 30th District (Wilkes, Stokes and Surry counties), who died Oct. 22, 2012 as the result of complications following back surgery.

Mrs. Randleman was chosen to replace East as the GOP nominee for the 30th Senate seat, and she is in her first term in the senate.

“Don and I worked on this project together when I was in the House, and this was probably the last project he worked on,” Mrs. Randleman said Friday afternoon.

“This was a big safety project, providing sidewalks for all of the pedestrians going to the college campus, especially for MerleFest.”

Dean Ledbetter, the senior planning engineer for the Department of Transportation, saw additional benefits from the project once the planning began.

“We were able to help with the tightness of the curve, and we also improved the sightlines for the drivers by cutting back the bank,” he said.

Noland and Inscore said that they took the concept to Mrs. Randleman in the early planning stages to see if she could help with funding.

The town helped with the installation of 36-inch drainage pipe under the highway for drainage.

These projects take a long time to get approved,” said Mrs. Randleman. “We have to show the fiscal and physical benefits.”

After the inspection, Tillis attended a fundraiser for his campaign for U.S. Senate at a private residence in Wilkesboro.

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