Taking it to the street

Published 7:35 pm Sunday, July 20, 2014

AHOSKIE – For the second time in a year and a half Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center (RCCHC) went before the Ahoskie Town Council, this time at their July 8 meeting, to request the town take over ownership and maintenance of Health Center Drive.

Back in February 2013 the town received its initial takeover request for the now-private street which serves only RCCHC, East Carolina University Dental School Distance Learning Center and their patients.

At that time, Town Manager Tony Hammond and Public Works Director Kirk Rogers expressed concerns that Health Center Drive does not benefit the town and the town would get very little funding from the State if the town took the street over.

In their presentation to Council in 2013 the pair maintained that Health Center Drive is not a through street because it does not extend from Hertford High School Road to Troy Street and thus does not fall into the category of a “public” street.

Hammond and Rogers also said there were streets in the town that fell into this same category as a public street, but they serve several locations, (i.e. homes).  If a business is constructed on an already designated public street the maintenance is assumed. There are no businesses that have private drives that are maintained by the Town of Ahoskie. All drives that do not benefit the public are owned and maintained by the facility that constructed it.

After this was presented to the 2013 Council they voted unanimously not to take over the street, with Councilman Vann abstaining.

Now in 2014 comes a second request, this time in writing from Michelle Clements of The East Group in Greenville, and engineering and architect firm representing RCCHC.

“There’s some new information that’s come in from their engineers,” said Hammond at last week’s Town Council meeting. “That street is not a through street.  It does serve the public in as much as they go in and out of both those facilities out there.  We do have water and sewer lines on their easement property that runs adjacent to the streets.”

Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse, who was not a member of the 2013 council, asked the reasons behind the request being turned down.

“There was no interchange through it,” Hammond explained. “The only people who actually go in are the people who go into those two facilities.”

Hammond further stated that there was some public feedback a year ago that adjacent residents did not want it to be a through street. However, he said there was a possibility since Pembroke Street dead-ends into the RCCHC property and that there was a gravel road next to the back of the facility.

Councilwoman Elaine Myers said, “I think as we look to the future and as we look at the number of people who use these two facilities, they (RCCHC and the Dental School) stand out for Ahoskie; and I really think we need to consider making another access.”

Myers said she was also concerned about the volume of traffic in the area, especially with the property bordering Bearfield Primary School with school bus and other traffic using Hertford County School Road.

“I really think we need to look to making this a connecting street so it has another access,” Myers said.

Councilwoman Linda Blackburn said her concern involved patients who are brought to the facilities, non-drivers; and she also said she liked the idea of the aesthetic appeal of a through street.

Stackhouse said he was not aware that the street did not belong to the town and wondered if it was a question of the cost of maintaining the street.

“If it’s cost, it’s cost for our people,” said Stackhouse. “We need to serve the people and give; so I’m for the street.”

“It’s growing out there,” said Blackburn. “That whole area is growing.”

Vann inquired about the benefits of taking over the street to the two businesses involved and RCCHC Chief Executive Officer Kim Schwartz, who attended the meeting, stood and spoke for both.

“The long-term relationship with the town of Ahoskie was the intent when we first petitioned the Planning Board in 2009 and built it (the road) to NC-DOT specifications,” Schwartz said.

She explained that the cost was offset by Rural Health Funds administered by the county, but re-emphasized that long-term she hoped the street would be collaboration with the two health facilities and the town.

“It benefits in many ways,” she continued. “We would not have to do maintenance.”

She also said according to The East Group engineers there wouldn’t be very much the town would have to do once it would take over the street.

With Vann abstaining once more on the new vote, Blackburn made a motion and Stackhouse seconded that the town take over and maintain Health Center Drive.

The motion passed unanimously.