By Kevin Cooley

Mayor of Lake Lure, NC

Just when I began losing faith that the assisted living facility would ever be built at the proposed site located along Buffalo Creek Road just outside of the Rumbling Bald Resort’s property… it appears that this important project is moving ahead after a 2 year hiatus. Seemingly “out of the blue” two signs of life occurred simultaneously. A well drilling rig showed up on the property and began drilling a well that would presumably supply the required amount of water into the Carolina Water Services supply system that will eventually serve this 60 +/- bed facility. Reportedly, Carolina Water Services is requiring the facility developer to replace the amount of water that it will consume from their water supply system. According to the engineering firm working on the project, the well successfully produced the volume of water required. Water samples from the well were reportedly sent to a certified laboratory for testing to determine the well water quality and what, if any, treatment may be required before it is added to Carolina Water’s system. At the same time this activity is ongoing, the facility developers have been seeking bond financing for the project and appeared before the Rutherford County Commission for support. The Town of Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber of Commerce are working closely together to bring this much-needed, long-overdue senior care facility to our community. Hopefully, persistence will prevail and eventually yield a successful outcome.

Russ Pitts, a former Lake Lure commissioner, long-term dedicated and community-active citizen and Pangea Internet Board Director, invited the mayors of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village, the HNG Chamber of Commerce, Lake Lure’s Interim Town Manager, and senior managers from Rumbling Bald Resort to work together as a steering committee to help stimulate and guide a critical initiative to improve local cell phone reception and expand high-speed / high volume, wireless internet service to all areas of the Gorge. This group held its inaugural meeting in mid-September and identified multiple pathways to accomplish its overall mission including:

  • Taking over Pangea’s public wi-fi network that serves the commercial corridor along Memorial Highway from the Lake Lure Beach to Bat Cave. This “demonstration” network that was installed and operated by Pangea has now reached the end of its demonstration period and needs to be taken over by some entity or it will be shut down. It was agreed that the HNG Chamber of Commerce might be the perfect organization to do this, since it serves all communities in the Gorge. It was further agreed that this network needs to be significantly “beefed up” to provide better service if/as a successor organization takes it over.
  • Locating appropriate sites for cell phone and wireless internet transceiver equipment towers that can reach all areas of the Gorge. It was agreed that the Town of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village governments should take the lead on this effort since these towers need to be community-compatible and approved by these jurisdictions.
  • Investigating the potential for creating a private, wireless internet service to serve properties within Rumbling Bald Resort. It was agreed RBR may offer critical components for establishing such a private service network and RBR management appears to be interested in pursuing this potential option further if it can benefit RBR property owners and businesses and can be cost-effectively developed and provided.

‘More good things to come soon from this initiative.

Nobody likes an “ugly” vacant commercial strip center building, especially one located along the southern gateway to our downtown. Renovation of our very own ugly strip center should be coming soon after a (very) lengthy delay in the planning and design phase. Previously prepared renovation plans have been redone by a new architect-engineering team to create a more cost-effective and affordable building renovation design. As I write this column in mid-October, the Town’s project steering committee is now reviewing these plans and will meet soon to compare notes and determine what, if any, changes are needed to the design plans. Construction bidding is expected to occur before year-end and renovations should occur soon thereafter. Our goal is to have the ABC store moved into approximately ½ of the building and fully operational before the 2019 tourist season begins.

A delegation of Lake Lure representatives including Interim Town Manager, Shannon Baldwin, Utility Advisory Board members Richard Glassen and Wayne Hyatt, two engineers from Brown Consulting, and me traveled to Highlands, NC on October 3rd to meet with Highlands Public Works Director, discuss their low-pressure sewage collection system and tour their wastewater treatment plant. Highlands is a seasonal resort community that is very similar to ours in terms of demographics, topography and seasonal occupancy/activity. As such, their low-pressure sewage collection system and wastewater treatment plat function in an environment that mimics ours and their experience with this technology and equipment is invaluable to us as we move forward to design our replacement system and treatment plant. We learned much from this initial visit and meeting and we’ve created a great relationship here that should continue to serve us well as we go forward. Of all the things we learned… the most important take-away was that “this system has functioned very well in this environment”.

Although there’s so much more happening in our little town that I could report, I think this is quite enough for this issue. Please know that you’re always welcome to “contact the Mayor” and stop bye Town Hall to say “hi” and ask “what’s going on”. I’m generally in my office at Town Hall on weekdays from about 9am to 5pm. However, it’s probably not a bad idea to call and check to be sure I’m there before coming bye to see me.