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China Grove talks long, short-term projects in planning session

CHINA GROVE — The town board discussed a mass of issues facing China Grove during its Monday planning session and changed its regular meeting time for the third time in four months.

The Monday meeting was scheduled to address both long and short-term goals for the Town of China Grove. Topics discussed at greatest length included the purchase of road improvements, new truck for the fire department and renovations at China Grove’s Community Center. Near the end of the meeting, the board also finalized a time for its regular meetings, held during the first week of each month.

Rather than a firmly planned meeting, Monday’s meeting was an open discussion, allowing board members to bring up any and all potential topics.

Street discussion

The meeting started off with discussion on sidewalk extensions on Patterson Street, potentially running all the way to South Rowan High School. Mayor Pro Tem Lee Withers said residents near Patterson Street are requesting sidewalks along the road.

“They are begging for sidewalks,” Withers said. “You’d be surprised at how many kids walk up and down that road. There’s a huge amount of kids that walk past the house all the time.”

Withers was responding to comments by other council members that, if built, sidewalks would not be used frequently.

Town Manager Ken Deal mentioned sidewalks along Patterson Street would be an asset if China Grove turned a property it owns adjacent to Grants Creek into a park.

Mayor Don Bringle also said the sidewalks could be a good idea.

Discussion on streets and infrastructure continued when the board discussed resurfacing municipal-owned streets and an I-85 expansion. Funding projects, which was a question during sidewalk discussion, also came up during talk on street resurfacing.

“All this stuff is great, if you can get someone to pay for it,” joked board member Mike Upright.

When talking about street resurfacing, Deal said the town has delayed addressing the issue in the past.

“We’re going to have to face the music one day,” he said. “We’ve got 29 miles of roads and we own a lot of it. I even talked to (Department of Transportation Division 9 Engineer) Pat Ivey about taking it back.”

Briefly, the board discussed an I-85 widening project to eight total lanes, which could start during the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Withers said the widening could lead to China Grove’s current interstate interchange, which only allows south-bound traffic to exit and north-bound traffic to get on the interstate, could become a full exit.

New fire truck

Deal said a tanker truck, owned by the China Grove Fire Department, is currently inadequate. In talking with Interim China Grove Fire Chief Mike Zimmerman, Deal said he learned the truck becomes overweight after it’s loaded up with firefighters, equipment and water.

“As a tanker, it’s just not working out,” he said. “I’m sure at the budget presentation they’re going to ask for a new engine.”

Withers proposed that the town could take out a loan for the purchase of a new fire engine. Last year, the town set aside $50,000 in a contingency fund. He said China Grove could designate an identical amount annually to pay off the loan.

Bringle said by the time the new truck was manufactured, the 2015-2016 fiscal year could be nearly over and the town’s contingency fund would be $100,000, helping with initial financial costs.

A new fire engine would cost $400,000 to $500,000, Deal said.

China Grove Community Building

Though funding was an unanswered question during Monday’s meeting, Deal mentioned renovating the China Grove Community Center — at the intersection of Stevens Street and South Myrtle Avenue — as a project the town would need to address.

“The community building is on the needy list,” Deal said.

Grant funding was one option mentioned as a solution.

The town board quickly moved on to discussing tennis courts which are located on the same piece of property as the community center. Multiple board members mentioned the courts as needing repairing or replacing.

“We can’t just put a lock on the gate and shut it,” Withers said. “If we’ve got to just grass it, then that’s fine, but that’s going to cost money, too.”

One idea that came up as a solution was a disc golf course. Bringle said a disc golf course wouldn’t cost an excessive amount of money, and, from what he’s seen, could be a fairly popular option.

“Even with five holes, four holes, or eight, whatever, it would create some additional recreation at a very low cost,” Bringle said.

Meeting times

As Monday’s meeting came to a close, Withers asked the board to consider the potential of making a final decision on its regular meeting time. The board had changed its meeting time twice in the previous three months. One reason cited was to try and find the best time for China Grove residents to attend.

Previously, the board met on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. During Monday’s planning session, the board voted to change its regular meetings back to the original Tuesday time.

“When we all ran for the board it was Tuesday at 7 p.m.,” Withers said. “I think if we’re going to change it, we need everybody here.”

During previous votes, one or more council members were absent, including Withers. With the entire town board in attendance, the vote to change back to the original time was unanimous.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.



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