‘Beauty’ partners

Published 10:26 am Monday, August 1, 2016

WINTON – A partnership is pending between the Hertford County Board of Commissioners and the Murfreesboro Town Council regarding a landscaping project along the US 158/258 bypass.

At their July 18 meeting, the Commissioners heard a presentation from Patricia Mansfield, Division One Roadside Environmental Engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, as she displayed maps of the roadside beautification project at five locations near Murfreesboro.

Mansfield had mapped out the project to include landscaping at five intersections along the bypass – Business 158, NC 11, College Road, Powell Road, and the junction of 158/258.

She said the plantings would be in a triangle area just off the right-of-way of those intersections. The plantings can include small shrubs, trees (crape myrtle and oak), daylilies, knock-out roses, and lantana (perennial flowering plants with flower clusters mixed of red, orange, yellow, or blue and white florets).

“We have to partner with a municipality or county government; we cannot make thus happen through a beautification group,” said Mansfield. “The agreement is binding; DOT will spend the funds for development of the plan, the plantings to be installed, and a period of maintenance for up to three years at no cost to the town or the county.”

However, future maintenance of the plantings and grounds falls upon the town or county. The projected annual maintenance cost after the first three years is $45,000 – which includes watering, mulching, pruning, fertilizing, weeding, mowing, pest control and replacing dead or damaged plants.

“DOT will not participate in any financial assistance after that first three years. However, my department is at your disposal to offer advice in how to maintain those areas,” Mansfield said.

The question regarding the future maintenance is which governmental entity – the Town of Murfreesboro, the County of Hertford, or both – will accept that responsibility, as well as offer the needed funding.

The Town of Murfreesboro initially asked Manfield’s department to make a presentation to them several months ago.

“They are interested, but we do not have a signed agreement with them as of yet,” Mansfield said.

“The (Murfreesboro) Town Council had requested that the (Murfreesboro) Beautification Committee come to the county to see if the county would help at all with the maintenance three years down the road due to the fact that these (five) areas are in the county and not in Murfreesboro,” noted Geri P. Bradshaw, chairwoman of the Murfreesboro Beautification Committee.

“Are you asking us to partner with the Town of Murfreesboro or are you asking we take on this project ourselves,” inquired Ronald Gatling, chairman of the county’s Board of Commissioners.

“Originally I came to you asking that the county partner with the Town of Murfreesboro,” Bradshaw replied.

Three members of the Murfreesboro Town Council attended last week’s commissioner’s meeting – Craig Dennis, John Porter and Hal Thomas.

“We didn’t know at first if we would be able to do something like this project since it’s not on Murfreesboro’s property,” noted Councilman Dennis.

“Is it not within Murfreesboro’s one-mile extraterritorial district,” asked Gatling.

“Yes, but we’re still interested in you (the county) working with us on this project,” Dennis said.

“We need to know, we need to understand, in this agreement who is responsible for what,” Gatling stressed. “If the Town of Murfreesboro is the beneficiary of all this beautification, they need to have a buy-in in this project. We’ll be willing to partner – we want this area of our county to look great – but the town needs to step up and say what it’s going to do.

“Tell us what your role is in this project, and don’t expect us to take this bat and swing at this ball by ourselves,” Gatling added.

The Commission Chairman suggested that the county and town leaders sit down and “hash this out.” He added that since one of the areas under study is at the Chowan College Road intersection, perhaps it would be beneficial to have university officials to join the discussion.

“We would like to sit down with the commissioners and discuss a partnership on how we can work together on this project,” Dennis said.

“There is funding available now and in all likelihood there will be funding available for some time,” Mansfield said, adding that her department typically receives $250,000 annually for beautification projects.

She estimated that the Murfreesboro/Hertford County project would cost $75,000 and that price includes the initial three years of maintenance. All of the work, she said, is contracted.

“We would certainly solicit anyone in your local area, a licensed landscaper contractor, to do this work,” Mansfield noted. “After the initial three years, your maintenance costs will greatly depend on what types of plants need to be cared for and how much property is used. Keep in mind that if these plantings are on a larger area, the costs will be higher because of grass cutting.”

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams said any plans put together on this project need to include a study of underground utilities and if they needed to be moved.

“Relocation of any utilities would fall on us or the town, and moving those are pricy,” Williams said. “I know we have (county) water lines along the 158 bypass.”

In closing, Bradshaw reminded the commissioners that these beautification projects are available for any town in Hertford County.

“We want our town, and all of Hertford County, to look beautiful,” she said.

Williams was asked by the commissioners to set up a date to meet with the Murfreesboro Town Council to further address the possible formation of a financial partnership on the project.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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