Thursday, February 26, 2015

A New Tone on the Watauga County Commission (Hurray!)

The Watauga County Commission, in its post-Nathan Miller honeymoon phase, is a decidedly different place. Case in point at the two-day budget workshop that started today:

Right off the bat, the commissioners heard a consulting firm's feasibility report on a new county recreation center, with a whopping bottomline of $25,169,200 (including "soft costs"). The question that County Manager Deron Geoque posed to the sphinx-like Republicans: Do we proceed with more feasibility costs on this project, namely civil engineering (detrmining the water table, for example), surveying, etc.

Everyone was waiting for new Chair Jimmy Hodges to speak, and he finally did. He said he was in favor of a new rec center ("I support this," were his exact words), but he threw a curveball as he began channeling his inner real estate broker. Hodges wants to pursue acquiring new property for the project, namely the original Lowe's property where Appalachian State University now has its warehouse and purchasing department.

Hodges has a vision of a new county recreation center operating in tandem with the new school of nursing and an expanded medical center campus, which is indeed an arresting, in fact invigorating, vision for a county that has been extremely cramped for any progressive vision since, oh, 2010.

God knows how this will play out, but without Nathan Miller sandbagging their thought processes, the other two Republican members of the Commission appear ripe for seduction by a more liberal spirit on the board.

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