Storm debris cleanup: Storm debris cleanup has been under way across the city since early in the month. I appreciate the patience of everyone whose block has not yet been reached. The pace of collection should increase now, with the addition of a private contractor’s crews to the collection efforts. The city council approved the contract on Monday, contingent on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approving designation of Forsyth County as part of a storm disaster area. On Wednesday, FEMA approval was announced.
Under the contract, the city will pay up to just under $2 million for the debris collection. All of that amount will be reimbursable from FEMA (75%) and the state of North Carolina (25%). The first sweep of collection throughout the city should now be completed before the end of April, with a follow-up sweep to be completed within the four weeks after that. Had the city continued to rely on in-house crews alone, the work would have taken an estimated 20 more weeks, delayed bulky item pickup, and been entirely covered out of local tax funds.
Support for troops: The war in Iraq has dominated the thoughts of many this month, especially those with family or friends serving in our armed forces. On March 24, five days after President Bush ordered the start of military action in Iraq, the Winston-Salem City Council approved a resolution supporting the men and women of our armed forces, and the families of those who are wounded, captured, or killed in action. I made the motion and voted for this resolution.
The original form of that resolution was proposed by a member of the City Council who is also an active candidate for Congress. His original proposal would also have endorsed the political decision to go to war in the first place. I and a majority of the Council agreed instead that this was no time for a symbolic political debate over a presidential policy decision already made.
Those of us who continue to have concerns over the wisdom of the president’s political decision understand that the time will come later for sober examination of how to deal with the lasting consequences of that decision. At this time, we should all be united in our hopes and prayers for a swift conclusion to this conflict, the safety of the men and women in our armed forces, their safe return to their families, and the least possible loss of life and destruction in this war.
Bolton Park issue: I am in the process of seeking input on a proposed development which would impact Bolton Park. The owners of some land located just south of the park, adjacent to Hanes Mall Boulevard and I-40, wish to sell it for development with a large office building. Under their proposal, the land would be rezoned from residential to commercial, and the sole access to the site would come via a new driveway which would connect to an existing intersection on Hanes Mall Boulevard. They are seeking a right-of-way across the southwest corner of Bolton Park for the construction of this proposed new driveway.
I am in general strongly opposed to proposals for taking city park land for other purposes. However, I am trying to examine this item on its individual merits as well, and would welcome any comments. I have heard both positive and negative opinions from constituents on the proposal thus far. I can arrange to lead a walking inspection of that part of the park which would be directly impacted by the proposal. If there is sufficient interest, I will meet interested folks at the lower end of the Bolton Park parking area near the tennis courts, this Saturday April 5, at 2:30 p.m. Anyone interested should contact me directly, and I will confirm the visit by this Friday to all those who’ve expressed an interest. Those who want to come will need to wear walking shoes and be prepared for rough terrain.
Clean air update: The “stakeholders committee” of local government, business, and other citizen representatives working on local ozone pollution reduction plans began meeting on March 3. The committee’s next meeting is tomorrow, March 31, and it will continue meeting at least monthly through June. Tomorrow’s meeting will include a first review of potential strategies for reducing ozone air pollution through local action. We have to prepare by June 16 a list of possible actions, for state and EPA review. After that, we will have until January 31, 2004, to help the Triad region prepare an action plan from among those possible alternatives. I’m one of Winston-Salem’s representatives on this committee.
Community Roots Day: Hundreds of volunteers from all over the city, including the Southwest Ward, participated in the Community Roots Day tree-planting in the Kennedy School neighborhood yesterday (March 29). Weather was outstanding, and the planted trees looked great. (I had a chance to help at my natural level of agricultural sophistication—using a shovel.) This was our chance to repay volunteers from elsewhere in Winston-Salem for their help in the tree planting in our area along Stratford Road last year. Thanks to everyone who participated!
Reminders: Your chance to comment on a draft plan for “traffic calming” will come in a public hearing at the City Council’s Public Works Committee meeting on Tuesday, April 15, at 5:30 p.m. on the 5th Floor of City Hall South. The city will hold bulky item pickup this year. You should receive a flyer in advance of the time it will come to your neighborhood. For advance word of when your area is scheduled, call 727-2638 or check the map and schedule at www.cityofws.org/sanitation. Don’t forget that the time for initial registration of burglar and firm alarm systems is ticking down. (Deadline is April 1.) For full info, call 773-7886 or check the Police Department’s website at www.wspd.org.