To the Editor:
After reading a recent article in The Sylva Herald, I feel it is time to further explain my position on R-5000. My questions have never been about whether Southwestern Community College needs another campus entrance/exit; rather, does the exit need to be of such magnitude.
Mr. George Stanley of SCC was right, I was wrong in saying this started out as a $6 million project. R-5000 started with the DOT in March 2007 as a $4 million project and has blossomed to an $11.5 million price tag in four years.
Mr. Stanley is correct in stating that SCC owns property on the west side of N.C. 107, but Mr. Stanley failed to mention that there is property that is needed on the east side of N.C. 107, Evans Road and Bonnie Lane, that has not been purchased by the DOT.
Mr. Stanley is also correct that approximately 2,900 cars a day will use this road, but the 400 cars per day figure I used was what traffic coming from the south that would utilize the multimillion dollar overpass.
Mr. Stanley is correct that part of DOT funding comes from the 38-cent gas tax, but that is but a small portion of their funding.
Mr. Stanley is correct in stating that there is no guarantee that this may not stay in Jackson County if not spent on R-5000. Joel Setzer, the division engineer with the DOT, and Conrad Burrell, the DOT board member for this division, would be a large part of that decision-making process as to if another Jackson County project was “critical” enough.
Mr. Stanley is incorrect in his statement that no Division 14 projects were delayed. In an e-mail dated April 21, 2009, that Setzer sent to Van Argabright (State Transportation Improvement Plan Manager) and copied to Burrell (vice chairman of the NCDOT Finance Committee and chairman of the Board of SCC), he wrote that, “There are 39 projects with schedules being delayed. Of the 39, we see 7 projects that the original schedule should be maintained.”
Of those, two projects were directly related to SCC, R-4748 (Macon Campus) and R-5000 (Jackson Campus). On April 27, Setzer sent another e-mail stating, “These two projects are being evaluated for schedule due to funding shortages. These are high priorities for Division 14. Division 14 is evaluating options for keeping these Projects on schedule and delaying others.” Those two projects were R-4745 ( Macon Campus) and R-5000 (Jackson Campus).
After having the safety issue raised so many times as one of the justifications for the R-5000 project, I checked with Emergency Management and learned that there are only two reasons for total evacuation of campus. One would be a chemical spill and the other would be a major fire. Most other situations such as a “sniper attack” would trigger a campus lockdown.
There has been $935,000 already spent on engineering and $11.5 million budgeted for construction to date. There is also $200,000 budgeted for right-of-way acquisition, which will not go far in buying anything fronting N.C. 107.
No matter where the money comes from, it’s still our money, the property purchased by SCC was our money, the building of any road will be done with our money. Let’s use our money a little more wisely.
Is it too late to scale back this project and instead build just another entrance for SCC? I don’t think so.
Chairman, Jackson County Board of Commissioners