County Manager Kevin King told commissioners that Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Bryson City, asked for a top five list of capital priorities so that if a funding opportunity presents itself in Raleigh he’d have something to submit right away.
“I’m always looking for funding for counties in my district,” Clampitt said. “Through this budget process, it’s good to have a project shopping list to chase down funding from the state or federal government. Anytime I can recognize or push for something we need infrastructure-wise I’ll do it.”
With a small tax base and a property tax rate that hasn’t been increased since 2013, the county has a long laundry list of needs. Swain commissioners ended up submitting a list of 12 projects that need to be completed soon for the county or the school system.
“I’m pleasantly surprised he asked us to bring him five projects within reasonable cost — a million or less — hopefully he can get some money to benefit our people,” said Commissioner Roger Parsons.
First on the list is a sewer line expansion project to the Jackson County line, which would enable more people to tap onto the service and increase revenue for the county’s water and sewer enterprise fund.
Another request, though not as critical, would be funding to invest in the county’s new outdoor event site at Inspiration Park and build a permanent covered arena instead of using a portable stage. The property was purchased last year using occupancy tax revenue that can be spent on tourism-related expenses. For the first time the county will now have a place to host fairs, carnivals and other special events — like the solar eclipse coming up Aug. 21.
The county’s public pool at the recreation park is also in need of an upgrade. King said the county was able to make some repairs to it this year to keep the pool in operation for a couple more years, but additional funding could be used to upgrade the pool and perhaps even turn it into a year-round attraction. Right now the outdoor pool is open for only two months of the year.
The county would also like to construct an emergency management base facility in the western part of the county to improve emergency response times.
School capital projects include creating a new bus access road at the high school, renovations at the middle school, adding more parking at the high school, a new bus garage and a 10-classroom addition at the high school, which is much more than $1 million, but much needed.