Efforts to slow down traffic on North Wilkesboro streets have been successful, and more steps will be taken this year, said Town Manager Wilson Hooper.
Hooper briefed the town commissioners on “traffic-calming” data during the board’s regular meeting held Tuesday on Zoom in the North Wilkesboro Police Department’s training room.
“We feel pretty good about some of the steps we’ve taken,” said Hooper. “The heavy truck ordinance (30-by-30-inch “No Trucks”) signs should be posted in four to six weeks, and there’s more to come, including possibly curve squaring.”
Hooper said narrowing travel lanes on Sixth Street and installing a digital speed sign on Eighth Street “have had some statistically significant effects on speed and volume.”
He added that the likely introduction of speed humps are “pricey but a few will deter traffic from entering the grid” of downtown residential streets.
On Feb. 25, the commissioners approved an amendment to town code prohibiting heavy truck traffic (Class 6 and above, unless permitted) down Finley Avenue and other grid junctions that include Hinshaw, Elizabeth, Franklin and D streets.
Hooper said earlier that heavy trucks are using these streets as cut-throughs and are impinging on residents’ quiet enjoyment of their homes. The trucks have also been observed running stop signs and exceeding posted speed limits, he said.
After an initial period of issuing warnings to violators, fines collected from enforcement of the proposed ordinance would be sent, by law, to Wilkes County public schools. A violation of the ordinance would be considered a misdemeanor and be subject to a $50 fine.
Additional funding to complete the splash pad at Smoot Park received mixed support from the commissioners on April 6.
By a 3-2 margin, the board approved moving $100,000 from the town’s contingency fund into the parks and recreation budget and using an additional $60,000 from the parks and recreation savings to complete the splash pad.
Commissioner Debbie Ferguson made the motion to approve the funding and Bert Hall seconded it. Commissioner Angela Day voted for the funding while Andrew Palmer and Michael Parsons voted against it after voicing concerns over the project budget.
Prior to the vote, Town Manager Wilson Hooper informed the board that it would likely cost around $45,000 to tear down the current infrastructure at the splash pad and fill it in. This includes repaying a $29,503 grant to Lowe’s Companies Inc. if the splash pad is not completed.
“This is moving the money into place and giving us (town staff) the go-ahead” to complete the splash pad with a new contractor, said Hooper. “It’s not the last step, but the next step.”
During closed session on Feb. 2, the commissioners agreed to break ties with the project’s original contractor, North Wilkesboro-based Mastin Aquatic Recreation LLC, for breach of contract.
The town’s legal intentions were included in a March 19 certified letter to owner James “Buster” Mastin, which said the town would finish the project with another contractor and seek reimbursement from Mastin before it can seek a legal judgment against the company.
Mastin started work on the splash pad in the fall of 2017, with completion scheduled by Dec. 1, 2017, under his contract with the town. His commitment to finish was later revised to the fall of 2019.
The town paid Mastin $120,930 for his work on the project through June 7, 2018. In July 2019, its estimated cost was $130,000 due to upgrades required by the county health department. The original estimate was $85,794.
Mastin said some of the delays in the project were partly due to changes the town made in specifications and equipment after the grant from Lowe’s was received in February 2018.
Town staff now estimate it'll cost about $160,000 to complete the splash pad.
Also on April 6, the board:
• swore in new police officers Donald Caudle and Bryan Baity. The oath of office was administered by Mayor Robert Johnson;
• approved the donation of a failed, surplus generator from the town’s wastewater treatment plant to John Triplett of Wilkes Ministries of Hope;
• approved the milling and repaving of portions of 9th and C streets south to the Central Business District loop. The work is expected to cost $132,000 from Powell Bill funding received for the 2020-21 fiscal year; and
• called for a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. on May 4 concerning state-required updates to chapters in town code regarding general provisions, administrative, buildings and zoning ordinances.