Town board votes against Fry Street closure
The Bryson City Town Board of Aldermen finally made a decision about abandoning the right-of-way for Fry Street.
“We were asked to consider, and we have considered,” said Mayor Tom Sutton. “So I would like to do something about it.”
More than a year ago, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and the Swain County Tourism and Development Authority proposed to town board they give up the right-of-way for vehicles on Fry Street to create a more pedestrian-friendly area with a possibility of opening a park.
Plans for the park were preceded by safety concerns over the large amount of pedestrian traffic on the street related to the railroad depot. The TDA proposed a plan to fund a park on Fry Street that would play host to the many public festivals.
At the board meeting on Monday, April 4, the resolution died when no one offered a second motion.
After back and forth banter from town public works director Tom Shook and board member Jim Gribble about the deed of the area, town board member Heidi Ramsey-Woodard made a move towards a vote.
“I would like to make a motion,” said Ramsey-Woodard. “The only problem I see is funding, so I propose we formally close it, but maintain the right-of-way.”
In this stance, the town would close the street and abolish all rights for now until a further decision can be made regarding the street.
“Can you agree to close a street temporarily?” Shook responded. “I guess you can cause we do fairly regularly.”
He continued, “I don’t know if it moves us farther on the issue, but we can temporarily close Fry Street without passing judgment under this abandonment statue.”
Ramsey-Woodard came back to re-itinerate her point, stating that closing the street to vehicular traffic temporarily could give the board more time for funding to improve the conditions.
Town board member Janine Crisp responded back saying that Ramsey-Woodard’s motion is different than the decision the board needs to make.
In turn, Ramsey Woodard began the motion to close the abandon the right of way for Fry Street.
When the mayor asked for a second motion, no board member uttered a single word, and the resolution died.
The decision ended the long debated topic between board members, local businesses and Bryson City residents about the road.
During public comment, a couple members of the general public spoke on the public safety of children and tourists walking around.
They said leaving the street open is a “safety hazard,” and an “accident waiting to happen.”
“If it’s going to be a street, we should be actively discouraging citizens from sitting there,” said one member of the public.
Another member of the general public asked what could, if anything, prevent someone from bringing up the resolution again in a year or two from now.
Mayor Sutton said, “Nothing.”
In other news, the town board unanimously agreed to buy the Franklin Grove Sewer Project for ten bucks.
With the purchase, the town would receive all the sewer facilities like the pumping station, sewer lines, sewer equipment, and all the warranties covering the plant within the Franklin Grove community.
For new business, the town board unanimously accepted HMC Paving’s bid to resurface Bryson Avenue, Bryson Street, and Ramseur Street with two-inch asphalt.
The board would use money from the annual powell bill funds and the one-cent property tax for street resurfacing and the street reserve funds.
Lastly, the board approved the Downtown Merchants Association’s request for Saturday trash pickups on holiday weekends after coming to a conclusion for the payment of the workers.
The board members noted that the funds to pay the workers for overtime are within the current budget and that according to the University of North Carolina School of Government, the mixed compensation is deemed legal.
Some holidays included are Memorial Weekend on March 28, July 2 for Freedom Festival, November 26 for Thanksgiving, among other days.