By Jesse Wood
July 17, 2013. N.C. Department of Transportation Board Member Jim Palermo introduced himself to the Watauga County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday and stated his willingness to work “hard” for the area and help the local economic development agenda.
Palermo, who is a resident of Boone, represents Division 11 that encompasses Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties. He noted that he had already met some of the commissioners and recently spoke with Chair Nathan Miller about doing a “drive-by” of the area to see any issues or concerns firsthand.
Palermo was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory and sworn in to the post in April.
“We have not been without challenges since the day I was sworn in,” Palermo said, referring to the record-breaking rain that the region has received lately.
He added that NCDOT staff has done “fairly well [considering the] recent weather phenomenon.”
Palermo also said that since the first NCDOT board meeting, his fellow members have spent a great deal of time and effort to refigure how money is to be allocated. He noted that as the population is increasing, revenue is declining.
He attributed the decline in revenue partly to the decline of gas consumption, which he said is happening because people are driving less and cars are more efficient.
Commissioner Billy Kennedy jumped into the conversation after Palermo mentioned the loss in tax revenue from efficient cars. Kennedy noted that lighter, efficient cars put less stress on the roads and the gas savings put money in the pockets of consumers.
Palermo replied that his comments were “tongue and cheek.”
Palermo also said that sales tax revenue on cars is declining because cars are priced cheaper than they once were.
“You can get a car for $6,000 [today] … It used to be that the cost of cars were higher and therefore tax revenue from that was greater,” Palermo said.
He also said that the NCDOT board would “fight” – from a road infrastructure standpoint – to assist the economic development agenda of Watauga County.