By Larry Turnbow
Watauga County needs a forward-thinking Commission. The folks who control political decisions in this county have a history of making poor choices … choices that waste taxpayer money and leave the majority of our people worse off. Let me give you a couple of examples.
The pool. It was built as an outdoor pool, then covered with a “temporary shelter.” Forty years later, it’s still in that “temporary” shelter (I’ve been told there are icicles hanging inside it in the winter), and the pool has been leaking for years. For a while, the County Commission was saving a little money every year towards building a new facility. But a new majority on the Commission, including Commissioner David Blust, wasted that money “fixing the pool” (twice!) … and it still leaks. Now it needs $1.1-million just to meet health and safety codes, and there’s no money to build a replacement.
Our school buildings. Two of our schools are over 70 years old, and one of them (Valle Crucis) is subject to flooding, but Watauga County has no idea how to replace them. Two other schools are landlocked — which means they were built without enough land to locate a new building there when it is time to rebuild them down the road — because no one thought ahead.
Lawsuits. I cannot think of a bigger waste of money than paying lawyers hundreds of dollars an hour to argue. Watauga County has spent $50,000 defending a state law taking away ETJ protections from homeowners around Boone (the original promise was that it would cost “only” $10,000) even though the state of North Carolina (which has a lot more of our money than the county does) was already defending it, and the only people likely to benefit are a couple of big developers who want to start building on the steep mountainsides around the town. They’ve spent another $120,000 on various asphalt plant hearings, and those hearings were only necessary because the county had not thought ahead in ways that would protect the health and safety of those of us who live here.
Recreation and the schools. A couple of years ago, the Commission threatened to withhold $50,000 in funding from our schools because the school system could not accommodate an extra week of Rec Department summer camp. The Rec Department has to hold its summer day camp in school buildings in the first place, because the County has failed to provide adequate recreation facilities.
We actually have a 10-year-old “Citizen’s Plan for Watauga County” with some great ideas for keeping what we love about Watauga and improving it. But the current majority on the County Commission clearly hasn’t read it, and certainly doesn’t act on it or on any other form of thinking ahead. Money is wasted that should be — or in some cases, actually was being — saved.
I’ve had some tough times in my life, but I learned from my grandfathers to never eat the seed corn.
Larry Turnbow spent summers growing up on his grandfathers’ farms. He’s a candidate for the Watauga County Commission, District 4.