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Watauga County Commissioners Approve Several Project Bids in Meeting

Robert Marsh, Watauga County maintenance director, addresses the commissioners about bids for projects. Photo by Zack Hill.

By Zack Hill

The Watauga County Commissioners met on Tuesday, May 2, to discuss several agenda and business items. In attendance were commissioners Todd Castle, Braxton Eggers and Ray Russell along with vice-chairman Charlie Wallin and chairman Larry Turnbow.

Robert Marsh, Watauga County maintenance director, presented the commissioners with several bids for county projects.

First was a bid for automatic door openers at the Lois B. Harrell Senior Center to help seniors and others with disabilities better access the building. 

Marsh credited Angie Boitnotte, director of Watauga County’s project on aging, with help securing a grant that will cover the entire cost of adding the automatic door openers. Stanley Access Technologies won the job with a bid of $26,325.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Eggers said. “I see people there struggling [to get in and out of the building] and I wonder why.”

The commissioners approved the bid unanimously.

Marsh next presented the commissioners with a bid to fix parts of the roof on the Old Cove Creek School gym. 

“If you view the building from the front it looks okay but in the back it’s flat,” Marsh said.

The flat construction method employed in 2009 has caused that back section to leak and Marsh said the roofing there is beyond its lifetime as well. Marsh recommended the commissioners approve a $37,587 bid from Triad Roofing which is currently working on the roof at the Health and Hunger Coalition.

The bid was approved unanimously.

Marsh presented another bid for replacing the sports lighting system on fields 4 and 5 at the Watauga County Community Recreation Center Sports Complex. Marsh said that the current lighting for those fields was probably installed in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s.

“We’ve spent several years just trying to keep the lighting going,” Marsh said. “It performed well until last winter, but it’s in need of replacement or pretty serious repairs.”

Marsh recommended the commissioners approve a $247,472 bid from Tommy Lawrence Electric.

Marsh highlighted the low cost of the bid recommended for approval. It was initially presented in 2021 but the commissioners at that time rejected it based on the need to direct county funds elsewhere. He noted that Tommy Lawrence Electric was willing to honor their 2021 bid now.

“If you look at his price per field, it’s more in line with the prices you’d see in the late ‘90s,” Marsh said. “I’m very happy to bring you all this bid.”

“I asked several local contractors and they said you wouldn’t get much better of a bid,” Eggers said.

Turnbow agreed, saying, “This is really an outstanding bid and they’ve done outstanding work for us in the past.”

The bid was approved unanimously.

Marsh did inform the board that Tommy Lawrence Electric would need a lead time near 52 week until the start of construction but the commissioners agreed it was still the best bid because of its low cost.

Director of Watauga County Parks and Recreation Eric Smallwood presented a grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Accessibility for Parks of $362,109 to improve access to Howard Knob Park. The money would be used to fund Phase 1 of the project that includes development of an overlook deck, picnic shelter, tranquility garden, accessible paths, signage, site furnishings and parking.

“What’s great about this is all matching funds will come from the TDA (Tourism and Development Authority),” Smallwood said. “No need for county budget, it’s already accounted for.”

The TDA will match $108,300 in funds.

Russell was vocal in his approval, saying, “Great work and I move we accept this.”

The commissioners unanimously approved accepting the N.C. Parks and Recreation and TDA funds.

Watauga County planning and inspections director Jason Walker requested the board schedule a public hearing for citizens to comment on the proposed changes to county sign ordinances. The hearing will be part of the commissioners’ regular meeting on June 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the commissioners’ boardroom in the County Administration Building at 814 W. King Street.

The proposed revisions include reducing the maximum size of billboards, requiring a 15-foot setback from property lines and increasing the triangular area setback along with numerous other revisions that may affect businesses and personal property.

The commissioners will be in special budget work sessions on May 4 and 5 and in a live Zoom ethics training on May 25.