Jul 242011
 

By George Hendry

Shortly after the November elections for Union County Commissioner one of the three winning candidates Mr. Jerry Simpson closed out his campaign account on November 24, 2010.

The other two winning candidates Mr Todd Johnson and Mr Jonathan Thomas chose to leave their campaign accounts open and they remain open to this day.

In December 2010 after the elections were over, both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Thomas recieved $12,000.00 in their campaign accounts in the form of three $4000.00 checks each. Two were from the principals of Boggs Paving (Mr. David Boggs, $4000 to Mr Thomas and Mr. Drew Boggs, $4000 to Mr Johnson). The remaining four checks were from three principals of two associate firms with Boggs Paving for the Monroe By-Pass bid as follows, Mr. Jim Triplett of Charleston, SC ($4000 to Mr Thomas and $4000 to Mr Johnson), Mr. Doug Anderson of Old Town, FL ($4000 to Mr Thomas) and Mr. Brian Schreiber of White Springs, FL ($4000 to Mr Johnson). The campaign account records indicate all checks were received between Dec 7 and Dec 28 when both Mr Thomas and Mr Johnson were now sitting Union County Commissioners.

Assuming this issue comes to a vote before the Board of County Commissioners we do not know at this time how Mr. Thomas or Mr. Johnson may or may not vote assuming they do not recuse themselves. Since this is money given to a campaign account and not personal there is no technical reason to recuse themselves.

However this is a moral question that must be raised everytime a candidate or elected official receives money from a special interest. Why give the money if not wishing for favorable consideration on current and future issues that may come to the Board of County Commissioners and why accept the money if you don’t intend to try and help this special interest, if at all possible, on issues of their concern.
It will be interesting to watch how this plays out in the coming months.



New Kohls – Under construction on Rea Road.
Note: One of the 5 members of the Planning Board who approved this development (Jan 2011) is a high ranking employee of Boggs Paving.

Mar 082009
 

M
ore than 2300 years ago, the Chinese philosopher Xun Zi said, “The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere.” Union County’s transportation policy has been on such path.

For years, Union County government and municipalities have spoken with many voices, oblivious to the needs of their neighboring communities, suspicious of back-room deals and unwilling to work together for the greater good. As a result of the squabbling, the citizens have paid the price and we can’t afford it anymore.

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Click to enlarge

The long anticipated Monroe Bypass has by and large robbed Union County of other projects as monies trickled in to fund the Bypass, $180 million before it was spirited away, more likely to further fund I-485 leaving Union taxpayers with a toll road instead. Meanwhile, Old Monroe Road improvements wait and Providence Road gets four lanes to Rea Road rather than to Waxhaw, as it should have been.

This past week, the Board of Commissioners formed a new county-wide committee called the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) to satisfy the desire to increase citizen input on road projects, provide a communication conduit among the transportation board members in an effort to foster consensus among all the governments, hopefully to maximize the county’s voice with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and associated organizations.

The TAB will consist of 21 representatives, one chosen by each municipality, most likely to be their MUMPO (Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization) members, five members drawn from unincorporated Union County, a representative from the Union County Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the Union County Public Schools and a member representing parks and greenways.
The County Commissioners who serve as MUMPO and RPO (Rural Transportation Planning Organization) representatives will function as facilitators. Included will be towns without MUMPO representation that in the past has had no voice in road issues.

To assist and guide transportation board in setting priorities and technical issues is the MUMPO Technical Coordination Committee (TCC), which consists of staff planners from the two counties and larger area municipalities.

Pardon the buzzword, but in this case the TAB will for the first time foster a synergy between the various representatives, where Union County will speak with unified voice – we hope.

It’s pretty dry isn’t it, government committees typically are, but as the level of traffic and our needs continues to increase, the importance of a committee like the TAB is magnified. Citizens need to get involved.

Road Czar

The only element missing in my view from the Transportation Advisory Board is the employing of an in-house transportation planner/administrator, a road czar if you will. Someone whose job it will be will have an intimidate knowledge of all the ongoing and future road projects and the professional expertise to assist the municipalities with their thoroughfare plans and to prevent surprises in the future like the Cuthbertson Road bridge closing.

The recent bureaucratic gamesmanship by the County Manager to keep a ‘lid’ on the bridge issue so the effected citizens would remain in the dark is the primary reason I’d also recommend that the ‘road czar’ be independently employed by contributions from the Transportation Advisory Board members. It will be money well spent and a service to taxpayers countywide.

To quote Lewis Carol, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Isn’t it about time Union County stopped and asked people for direction?

Jan 282009
 

bridge-outsmThe specter of being cut-off from easy access to stores and the conveniences of Waxhaw is to most Cuthbertson Road residents an annoyance to be sure, but the truly more worrisome issue of extended response times by fire, police and ambulance services has residents concerned. After the bridge is closed, a detour of more than 5 miles (see map) and many more minutes will be added to every 911 call placed to EMS, Fire and Police.

NCDOT decides to close

Many people were under the impression that NCDOT was going to build the new bridge parallel to the old one and permit through traffic during the construction. A further complication and unverified at the moment, is the estimated time to complete the project is now nine months, 3 months longer than the initial estimate of 180 days.

The recent roadbed construction south of the bridge makes it clear that NC DOT had planned to build the new bridge to the right of the existing bridge, thereby allowing through traffic. It’s likely that State funding issues may have brought about a change in plan. The questions arise as too how much addition cost will be incurred to parallel build. What of the human cost? What of the school transportation costs, emergency vehicle wear & tear.

Service Calls by Agency and Response Area
Cuthbertson911calls_chart.jpg
* call numbers cover the period beginning May 2008
‡ Source – Union County 911 Center

The above chart of 911 calls over the last nine month period gives you a glimpse of the pressure our public safety agencies will be up against. It maybe necessary to route or stage fire equipment and ambulances in different places as the detour will mean the difference between a house burning to the ground or EMS reaching a patient in time. Did you know that Lawson as a senior community?

Time for Action

Union County has been treated like the red-headed step child in North Carolina, especially when comes to road funding. The way Union County politics has fed runaway growth is mostly to blame, it’s done now and like parallel building of three shopping centers in Wesley Chapel or the out of control residential and downtown killing commercial development in Waxhaw, those of us who live in the area have to live those boneheaded mistakes in judgment.

To change the course of this critical issue will take your involvement. Pick up a pen, click a keyboard, dial a phone! Contact the District Representative for NCDOT responsible for Union County.

Disctrict 10 NCDOT
Tony M. Dennis At-Large Member
P. O. Box 279
Albemarle, NC 28001
704-983-1144 (B)
Fax: 704-983-2995
Email: tdennis@semtruss.com

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