Editor’s note: Out-going town manager, Chris Braund’s response to Lake Lure’s mayor, Bob Keith’s question, serves as a noteworthy Town of Lake Lure progress report these recent years. Mr. Braund’s response to the mayor’s closing question certainly gives food for thought.

  • Creation of the Lake Lure Classical Academy – the local school that was missing from the community for 50 years. The 2007 Comprehensive Plan listed this as one of our top priorities. Through the efforts of many collaborators, and overcoming numerous obstacles, we opened a charter school, struggled with growing pains, built a permanent campus and will graduate the first senior class in June. A lesson in persistence and not taking no for an answer.
  • Buffalo Creek Park – we created a new park amenity out of the wilderness. Over 6,000 people use the trail annually for hiking, running and mountain biking. It’s the anchor leg of the northern section of the Summits Trail, which will eventually circle the entire lake with 20-30 miles of trail and backcountry camp sites that connect several surrounding peaks. 10 years from now, this trail will be a major destination attraction in Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge.
  • Welcome Center renovation – this makeover required a lot of collaboration with partners, persistence and creativity. Everyone associated has emerged stronger: the TDA, the Chamber, the Town and the building—and the visitor experience.
  • The renovation of Washburn Marina – it tripled in size, yet doesn’t feel crowded. It’s now an attractive showpiece. In just a few years, it will be fully paid off and will generate $80K to $100K in revenues annually to the town.
  • Renovation of the dam keeper’s home – to create the Lake Operations offices that are used by lake management, environmental management, team meetings, a police substation and offices for partner organizations (AmeriCorps, Weed Action Coalition).
  • Lake Operations Department and Director – this began before I was Town Manager, but while I was a member and then chairman of the Lake Advisory Board. For years this Board was critical of Town Managers that didn’t understand or appreciate the complexity of lake management. The volunteers on this board did much of the work (which was unsustainable). Over the years of partnering with Dean, we have developed this into one of the most effective and respected lake management teams in the state and nation. Citizen approval of lake patrol and enforcement has improved significantly while written citations are very rare.
  • Our approach to maintaining the dam and hydro plant – Under Donnie’s leadership, we have changed the “wait until it breaks” and “be a hero in an emergency” mindset and have invested several hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements. All it required was listening to Donnie and giving him the freedom and funding to make the improvements necessary to keep him safe and keep the plant productive. In turn, he continues to set records for generation and revenues. There’s years of work ahead, but we’ve shown this is the right way to do it.
  • Underwater sewer pipe wrapping – What do you do when you’re in the depths of a recession and the government is handing out grants for shovel-ready projects…and you don’t have any shovel-ready projects? We innovated and created a project out of a decades-long problem of lake water leaking into the sewer pipes. A $3-million grant (0% interest loan) and 18 months of pipe wrapping later, we eliminated 70% of the water and extended the life of our pipes by at least 20 years.
  • Community Brandingsupporting Shannon and Valerie’s initiative, we assembled a steering committee and partnered with Arnett-Muldrow and Chimney Rock Village on a market study and brand development project. The effort brought our communities together, distilled a fragmented view of who we are into a cohesive brand statement, gave us a beautiful design palette of fonts and colors and a new logo system that incorporates the lake, Chimney Rock, the mountains and the Flowering Bridge. Since the project, the brand has solidified and been incorporated by the towns, local businesses and community organizations.
  • Vacation Rental Program – bringing an end to a contentious and divisive issue in our community by negotiating a settlement to the lawsuits that brought a win to all parties and kept a registration program in place. Since then, vacation rentals have continued to grow while complaints and conflicts have been greatly reduced.
  • Rebirth of the Chamber of Commerce – the old Chamber was focused on local tourism promotion and their primary mission was to operate the visitor welcome center with volunteers. A brief paid relationship with the TDA didn’t end well and the Chamber’s membership was in decline. And, no organization was concentrating on economic development activities. So, we re-purposed the Chamber as an economic development team for recruiting businesses, hosting events and advocating for local business needs with the Town and Village. We recruited new board members and obtained seed funding for incubating the new Chamber, including support from the Town. They hired Tommy Hartzog as Executive Director and the Chamber has been growing ever since and is making significant impacts in the community.
  • Renovation and Lease of the Golf Course – we started with a Town-staffed club that regularly lost between $100,000 and $200,000 a year with a course in poor condition and many complaining customers. We arranged a complex deal for a course renovation with an operating lease, and when the operating team left the golf business, we sought another partner and installed the Minick family. The course is now in as good a shape as it can afford, the Town’s annual investment is predictable and loyal golf customer are happy with the course conditions.
  • Seven consecutive years of budget surpluses (2009 – 2015) Surpluses were generated from team efforts to find additional revenues and to cut costs. Surpluses were used to rebuild fund balances and reserve funds and to pay employee bonuses during a period where salary growth was minimal.

And a few more significant tactical items:

  • GIS Mapping and Asset Management Plan (inventory and valuation) – the water system, sewer system, road system, street lights and no-wake buoys are now each mapped in GIS, giving better data for managing these systems and reducing the risk that knowledge is lost when people leave or retire.
  • Overhaul of the Town Website – bringing improved information, increased government transparency, online ordinances and searchable Town document repository.
  • Recruiting efforts – for medical services (MAHEC) and a bank (TD and then Carolina Trust)…these were all multi-year efforts.
  • Move to the Cloud – conversion of our office technology from local servers to a data center (cloud) that delivers our desktop applications to any device anywhere. Our systems are now more dependable, better supported, less prone to threats and portable.

What would you have liked to have seen accomplished?

  1. New Town Center With a Main Street (businesses, shopping and residences)
  1. New Entrance to the State Park from the Lake Lure Town Center
  1. Summits Trail Completion
  1. Green Line Regional Sewer Interconnect
  1. Merger of the Lake Lure and Fairfield Fire Departments
  1. Curbside Recycling Collection at Every Home
  1. Construction of a New Public Works Facility Near Highway 9
  1. New Heating & Air System in The Community Hall That Doesn’t Drown Out The Council
  1. Restoration and Opening of the Bottomless Pools and Dam Marina
  1. Improvement of Old Sand Branch Road to connect Boys Camp Road with the Resort
  1. Implementation of a Community Values Compact that establishes a standard of interpersonal behavior that our citizens adopt and incorporate into the community culture. Not only would it make Lake Lure a great place to live, the commitment to positive values would serve to attract new residents and businesses.

Material provided by Valerie Hoffman, Brand Manager to the Town of Lake Lure