Morganton

As the city of Morganton looks to its future, College Street has been a key part of recent discussion and planning.

To that end, at its regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday night in the council chambers of city hall, the Morganton City Council will consider giving its approval for the city to enter into an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation for construction of proposed improvements along College from North Green Street to West Fleming Drive.

According to information from the city, College Street was identified in recently adopted Parks and Recreation and Downtown Master Plans as the street best suited to provide bicycle and pedestrian access through downtown. The city says that by converting College Street to include a multiuse path and sidewalks, it can connect the south and north sides of Morganton.

The city says it has secured an 80-20 percent matching grant in the amount of $2,649,600 from the Federal Highway Administration to fund the project. A match from the city of $662,400 will fulfill the grant requirement for the project, whose total amount will be $3,312,000.

Information from the city also says the proposed improvements would allow the existing Catawba River Greenway system to connect through downtown to Fleming Drive and state properties — N.C. School for the Deaf, N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, and Broughton Hospital — along with Western Piedmont Community College and county-owned properties that comprise the Broughton Reuse District.

If the agreement is approved by the city council, NCDOT will authorize preliminary engineering funds and city staff will begin the design phase of the project, the city says, also noting that design and final construction plans will consider and incorporate current proposed plans for the College Street corridor.

The city estimates a let date of May 2021 and a completion date of December 2022 for the project.

Revolving loan program for restaurant development

The city council also will consider a revolving loan program for restaurant development in downtown Morganton.

According to information from the city, the Main Street Advisory Board has recognized a need for more restaurants in the downtown area, especially with the upcoming opening of the downtown hotel. The board requested that Main Street staff come up with a program aimed at attracting new restaurants.

Main Street suggested funding a revolving loan program that already was in place but had a balance of less than $5,000, the city says, and $130,000 was included in the 2019-20 budget for funding the program for recruiting and opening new restaurants.

The city says the original loan program was funded for $214,255 for both restaurant and retail loans by N.C. Main Street Solutions. With the identified shortage of restaurants, the high costs associated with startups and the low availability of bank loans for startups, however, the city says the revolving loan in this round will be used solely for new restaurants or restaurant expansions.

Priority will be given to those who meet needs identified by the advisory board. These include restaurants that are full-service and open 6-7 days per week (open Sundays for a minimum of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.), breakfast and/or lunch diners, international (Thai, Indian, French, high-end/authentic Mexican and Chinese), one-item focus and small footprint (hot dogs and chips, hamburgers and fries, and Buddha, poke or acai bowls), pubs featuring fish and chips, gastro-pubs, and barbecue.

Loan applications will be reviewed by a committee that is appointed by the city council and initially made up of one person each from the 2017 Master Plan Steering Committee, Main Street Advisory Board, Downtown Development Association, resident of the Central Business District and a person with experience in the financial community. The lead staff member is the Main Street director.

This review board will make recommendations to the city council, which will have the final say. Applications and rules will be similar to those used in the original revolving loan fund and collateral will be required.

Children’s discovery center feasibility study

Another major item of business on Monday night’s meeting agenda is the consideration of a budget amendment for the city’s Main Street Department.

According to information from the city, the $30,000 budget amendment is to appropriate the receipt of a contribution and a state grant to be used for a feasibility study for a children’s discovery center. Attached documents indicate that $15,000 apiece will come from a restricted contribution and the state grant.

Other items of business on the agenda

The other notable items of business on Monday night’s agenda include:

» The consideration of amendments to the code of ordinances designating no parking areas on Fleming Place, Bouchelle Street, East Catawba Street and North Green Street because of expected higher vehicle and foot traffic around the upcoming downtown hotel.

» The consideration of approving an amended memorandum of understanding with the Stroup family as owners and FHN Morganton LLC as developer for development of property on South Sterling Street as it pertains to water line construction on the proposed hotel/steakhouse development.

Additional council considerations, in order of the agenda, include:

» A sewer budget amendment

» A third amendment to the Sprint cell tower license agreement on the Glen Alpine water tank

» Approval of the reclassification of CoMPAS service technician to a lead customer service specialist

» Renewal of the agreement to participate in the 2019-20 Western Piedmont Stormwater Partnership

» A reimbursement resolution and award of contract for the design of the coagulation, flocculation and sedimentation process improvement project

Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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