January 2003 Highlights

January has been an active month for city work, but most of the interesting items have involved committee work and progress reports, rather than final actions by the full board. Here are some items which I think you may find of interest:

Business 40 repairs: After a new contractor took over the work last April, it looked as though matters would be wrapped up by the fall. Alas, an experimental new road surface designed to reduce road spray during rain has been a bust. It’s already cracking on the repaired section (between Stratford Road and the Old Vineyard Road overpass). As a result, the contractor (at its own expense) will repave the section as soon as weather permits, probably in April. The good news is that this work will be far less extensive than the original, which involved breaking up and removing the old concrete surface. The other good news, especially to residents along either side of the stretch to be repaved, is that the roadwork is to take place during daylight hours. After the fuss (which I supported) raised last year over late night construction noise, DOT division engineer Pat Ivey says, “Those folks over there have dealt with enough night work.” We agree, Pat, and appreciate it.

Krispy Kreme downtown: There was an exciting downtown redevelopment announcement earlier this month with the new Krispy Kreme headquarters and N.C. School of the Arts facility, to be located off Broad Street between central downtown and the West End. The project will include commercial, educational, and residential elements, and should produce significant economic benefits for the city as a whole. There is a city and county capital investment component, for associated parking facilities. However, the revenue from those facilities will make the public investment part of the project self-financing. Plus, the increased property tax value of the project’s area will be substantial. Finally, I think that we can all be pleased with the assurance that Winston-Salem will remain the capital of “Hot Doughnuts Now.”

Crime rates for 2002: The Winston-Salem Police Department released its preliminary crime statistics for 2002, and the information is encouraging. Despite the nation’s and state’s economic doldrums, total index crimes in Winston-Salem dropped by 8.38% in 2002 from 2001. Substantial drops in property-related crime (robbery, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft) led the decline.

Sewage backups: Several instances of sewage backups into homes during 2002 led me to be concerned that a number of households in our area could be unknowingly at risk for this problem. In particular, homes on low parts of streets are subject to the backups from the street, if they do not have backflow prevention valves installed. While these valves have been required for at-risk homes for decades under state plumbing codes, they have not in fact been installed in all homes which need them. After my consultations with the city Public Works staff, the City/County Utilities office has this month begun to include an insert in water/sewer bills regarding the issue. You may have seen it already. It describes the issue, who is at risk, and how the problem can be prevented. If your home is one of those at risk, please check it out—it could save you thousands of dollars in damages prevented.

Transportation planning: The draft Forsyth Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan (MTIP) has been available for public review and comment this month. It outlines plans for road, bridge, pedestrian and bicycle, and public transit improvement project for 2004-2010. The MTIP is a rolling plan updated every year through the Forsyth Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). (I’m one of the city’s representatives on the TAC.) If you haven’t seen the plan yet, check it out on-line at www.cityofws.org/DOT.  Your comments will be welcome.

Speaking of specific transportation projects, some of you may be wondering about the status of the Stratford Road improvements, including those at the Stratford/Knollwood intersection.  Draft plans were introduced for public comment early last year, with great public attention. The short answer is that they’ve gone back to the drawing board. There was so much public objection to various aspects of the proposals that alternatives are being redrawn, and the new drafts will be released for a new round of public comment later this year.

Those who are following the Burke Mill Road relocation will be pleased to hear that a corridor alternative has been selected, clearing the way for final engineering plans to be developed, followed by land acquisition and construction. This is the relocation that will line up Burke Mill with Atwood Road for a good signalized intersection with South Stratford Road. It should simplify traffic patterns for a great many drivers in our part of the city. Included as a part of the relocation will be elimination of the dangerous four-way stop at Burke Mill and Griffith Road, and the dangerous unsignalized intersection of Burke Mill and South Stratford.

Hazardous material spills response: Two high-profile spills in Winston-Salem last year, the Chatham Road fire (and associated Peters Creek contamination) and the Sara Lee acid spill, demonstrated that local emergency response procedures are inadequate in their provisions for neighborhood notification of the events.  The aldermen’s Public Safety Committee heard my presentation this month on the problem, and agreed to have improved neighborhood notification procedures drawn up. I will be participating in that, and any comments are welcome.

Salem Lake and Winston Lake trails: Following the Atkins School / Winston Lake Park debates’ conclusion last month, public awareness of the opportunities for biking/walking/running at the parks had been raised. Public demand for those healthy outdoor recreation opportunities was already growing. The discussions showed that there remain untapped opportunities for increasing trails at both parks. This month, two of the Board of Aldermen’s committees agreed that city Recreation and Parks staff should prepare plans for possible trail additions in the parks.