Gary L. Herman
Alexander County residents will enjoy enhanced recreational opportunities at Bethlehem Park once the improvement project is complete. The Alexander County Board of Commissioners approved West Consultants PLLC as the engineering firm for the project at the November 7th meeting.
Benjie Thomas with West Consultants presented a preliminary drawing of the Bethlehem Park improvement project, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million.
The project includes the replacement of the restrooms/concession building and an adjoining picnic shelter, removal of the current picnic shelter, resurfacing and striping the existing parking lot, resurfacing and converting two existing tennis courts to four or six pickleball courts, resurfacing existing paved paths, replacing light poles and fixtures, a new entrance sign, repairing retaining walls at ball fields, constructing a new 12-foot wide paved drive to access the sewer pump station and handicap-accessible parking lot for the lower ball field, and a new storage shed.
Commissioners approved a project budget ordinance to utilize $750,000 in funds received from the 2022 State Appropriations Act General Funds Grant to help pay for the Bethlehem Park project.
Chairman Ronnie Reese said, “Bethlehem Park has been in need of improvements for some time, and we’re excited to get this project underway. We’re appreciative of the state grant funds that will fund approximately half of this project.”
In other business:
• Dr. Jennifer Hefner, Superintendent of Alexander County Schools, reported that the school system has received the Center for Safer Schools School Safety Grant in the amount of $308,000 for School Resource Officers (SRO) and $52,730 for school safety equipment. Sheriff Chris Bowman and Dr. Hefner presented a request for an SRO at six elementary schools at the board’s October meeting. Dr. Hefner said she will speak with Taylorsville Police Chief Doug Bowman about providing an SRO for Taylorsville Elementary School since that school is in the town’s jurisdiction.
The grant pays $44,000 per SRO for the first year. Sheriff Bowman estimates that each newly hired SRO will require $150,000 in funding the first year, which includes salary, fringe benefits, uniforms, car, and weapons, for a total of $900,000 for six SROs. The cost to the county would be $636,000 for the first year.
“We understand the need for increased security in our schools because the safety of our children is the number one priority. We just need some time to figure out the expenses,” said Chairman Reese.
The topic will be addressed at the December 5th meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners.
• The board approved Acme Preservation Services to prepare a National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Downtown Taylorsville Historic District. The district was recently reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office and National Register Advisory Committee. The nomination costs $25,000, with $12,500 in funding from Alexander County and $12,500 from the Town of Taylorsville.
• Commissioners approved the continuation of a reduction in water tap fees for new Alexander County water customers. Through June 30, 2023, new customers can tap onto the county water system for only $541, for a savings of $1,999. Beginning with the new fiscal year on July 1, 2023, the total tap cost will be $2,540. County Manager Rick French noted that water connections may not be purchased for future use. Those who are interested in tapping onto the Alexander County water system must complete a tap application at the City of Hickory Water Department, located at 76 North Center Street in Hickory (Hickory City Hall). The $541 payment may be made via cash or check. For more information, contact the City of Hickory at (828) 323-7427.
• County Manager French presented a proposed Veteran Services appointment policy. Board members discussed the proposal and want to continue to allow walk-ins but also offer appointments, which may be scheduled by calling 828-632-5411.
• The board approved the 2023 commission meeting schedule. Meetings will be held on the following dates at 6:00 p.m.: January 9, February 6, March 6, April 3 & 17, May 1 & 15, June 5 & 19, July 17, August 7, September 11, October 2, November 6, and December 4.
• The board approved the 2023 county holiday schedule, with holidays observed on the following dates: January 2, January 16, April 7, May 29, July 4, September 4, November 10, November 23-24, and December 25-27.
• In the County Manager’s Report, Mr. French reported that the Army National Guard will be conducting rock climbing and rappelling training on December 3 at Rocky Face Park.
He also presented a sales tax revenues update, with regular sales tax up 6.69 percent and new sales tax (designated for economic development, public education, and community colleges) up 14.87 percent from the same time last year.
Mr. French also encouraged the public to attend the Alexander County Veterans Day Parade on Friday, November 11 at 1:00 p.m. and the 75th Annual Alexander County Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 3 at 3:00 p.m.
He presented a 2023-2024 budget process calendar, which the board approved. The budget will be first discussed at the April 17th meeting, with additional budget work sessions as needed. The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 15, with budget adoption on June 5.
The next meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners is set for Monday, December 5 at 6:00 p.m. at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education (room #103). Regular meetings are recorded and can be viewed on the county’s Government Channel on Spectrum channel 192 or the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Meeting agendas, minutes, videos, and more are available on the county’s website at https://alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.