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LETTERS / Howard Street Improvement Plan

Dear Editor,

I wanted to extend my thanks to you [the Honorable Andy Ball] and the Town Council for hosting the community input meeting regarding the current Howard Street plan. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend, due to an out-of-town engagement scheduled prior to the meeting announcement. Since I will be unable to attend, I wanted to provide ECRS’ feedback in writing.

ECRS is an International software company with 115 employees, the majority of whom reside in and around Boone. Fifty-five of those employees are based out of our national headquarters, located at 277 Howard Street. Pedestrian safety on Howard Street has always been a key concern for us at ECRS. In fact, ECRS has a 12-year history of consistently pushing safety concerns, and instigating safety actions, from the town government. More specifically, ECRS has advocated the additions of speed bumps, keeping potholes filled, and keeping the white lines on the roads painted. Over the years, we’ve also requested that sidewalks be added, but to no avail. After many years of not having sidewalks, ECRS elected to self-install our own street sidewalk, at our own expense. We did this to provide a safe walking place for our employees and pedestrians alike.

In regards to our cooperation with the Town of Boone, ECRS considers itself to be a good Corporate Citizen. Our mission and vision statement clearly state that we want to be part of the solution that our communities face; not part of the problem. We have always lived by this motto and have always been open to working with the Town, in a spirit of cooperation, for the good of our community. Unfortunately, my experience has been that this project has failed due to a lack of communication, coordination, and follow through between the Town Government and property owners, and not because of any resistance from property owners of the core issues.

With regard to the most recent plan, which ECRS had no input in forming, we are opposed to Howard Street becoming a one-way thoroughfare, as this will negatively impact business, cause delays with employees’ commutes, and increase safety risks. We are unable to determine the benefits or aesthetic improvements for Boone or pedestrian safety. The current safety issue is due to a lack of pedestrian sidewalks, and creating congested bottlenecks will only increase these safety risks. Furthermore, ECRS remains very concerned by the sagging power lines and dangerously located power poles, some of which are hit by cars on a regular basis, causing ongoing vehicle damage and putting citizens in harms way.

Aesthetically speaking, there will be no improvements until the power lines are buried and the abandoned buildings are properly addressed. Regarding drainage and sewage, these are all woefully outdated and grossly inadequate to meet the needs of a growing and vibrant community. I believe that the Town of Boone, ECRS, Howard Street Property Owners and ASU must work together to address these problems for the long-term good of our community. I also believe it is the responsibility of the Town Government to coordinate and lead this cooperative engagement. In this regard, ECRS remains ready to play a role in the redevelopment of Howard Street.

Pete Catoe, President – ECRS