The managers of Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro and the county highlighted some of the top goals and projects on their agendas for the coming year in interviews this week.
North Wilkesboro Town Manager Wilson Hooper said discussing plans for the coming year is more challenging than in the past because of the pandemic. “In many ways, we’re still in crisis mode focused on the here and now rather than down the road,” he said.
“I can’t predict what the recovery will look like, but I think we’ll be working to contribute to it however we can,” he added.
Hooper said North Wilkesboro officials anticipate completing the construction of a water tower off Liberty Grove-River Road in 2021 “and move the football on some of the other capital projects we’ve been working on.”
The new water tower, funded with grants and a low interest loan, will increase water pressure to the door and window manufacturing facilities of Jeld-Wen on Liberty Grove-River Road. This will allow the company to install water sprinklers and complete an expansion with new jobs.
He added, “I think we’ll be on the lookout for smaller projects that can be done quickly within existing resources that improve the quality of life for residents and the attractiveness of the town for everyone. For example, in the coming weeks you’ll be hearing about some bike infrastructure we’re going to install around town.”
Hooper said North Wilkesboro officials will likely look at ways to jumpstart housing development in the town in 2021. A housing study in 2020 identified a shortage of rental and for-sale housing at various price levels in Wilkes. Hooper recently said town officials want input from developers on how town land use regulations could be adjusted to help encourage housing development.
“I think we’ll be reviewing some of our behind-the-scenes practices to try and make ourselves more efficient.”
Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland said he expects progress on the second phase of the revitalization of downtown Wilkesboro in 2021.
Noland said this includes completing the design work and determining costs, but the only actual construction expected is on the town-owned “rock building” on North Bridge Street. He said this will include building public restrooms there.
Town officials have discussed building an observation area for the public on the second floor of the building, which actually now is the shell of the building following its partial demolition.
Noland said he expects completion of the design for installing sidewalk “bulb-outs’ on the south side of Main Street, similar to on the north side, in 2021. This is part of a continuing objective of making downtown more pedestrian friendly. One purpose of the bulb-outs is to create “squeeze points” that slow traffic.
Noland said he expects discussions with utility companies about moving overhead utility lines underground.
Replacing deteriorated sidewalks and building new sidewalks elsewhere also are among Wilkesboro goals in 2021.
Also in the year ahead, said Noland, the town and N.c. Department of Transportation should complete their respective portions of the installation of new drainage culvert to address a sink hole problem near the intersection of U.S. 421 West and Winkler Mill Road.
Repairs to the portion of Woodfield Way washed out by Cub Creek after recent heavy rain is another significant town project for 2021. Noland said 75% reimbursement from the state will come as a result of a disaster declaration. He said county funding will also be sought.
County Manager John Yates said facilitating the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines looms large on the agenda for county government in 2021. Challenges with this have arisen due to demand by far exceeding supply so far this year.
Yates said the related goal of keeping county government services strong in 2021, despite the pandemic, also ranks high.
He said another new Wilkes Emergency Medical Services base, this one on the East Wilkes Middle School property near Ronda, is on schedule for completion in 2021. These additional bases are being built to improve Wilkes EMS response time.
The bottom floor of a Wilkes Department of Social Services building on Curtis Bridge Road will be renovated to facilitate social distancing for DSS adult protective services.
Yates said county officials are optimistic about the Golden LEAF Foundation awarding a $1.5 million grant for constructing a building on N.C. 268 East in North Wilkesboro that would serve as a business incubator. It would be built on land belonging to the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. Space on the building would be available to new companies.