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Erwin BMA conducts business via Zoom, approves $1.9M trail

By Richard Rourk

The coronavirus could not keep the Town of Erwin from conducting necessary business.

The Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen met online through Zoom to discuss several items during its Monday, April 13, meeting.

The BMA heard from Erwin Utilities President and CEO Lee Brown who presented an opportunity for the panel to consider the addition of a proposed plan to build a 10-mile multimodal trail system.

“This will attract workers looking to move to Erwin and will be a tourist spot and will bring in a lot of tax revenue,” Brown said. “The bike trail is estimated to be $1.9 million and I am currently looking for ARC grants to fund this.”

The BMA voted unanimously to approve the multimodal trail system for bikers and to enter into a lease agreement with Erwin Utilities for the Town of Erwin to rent property at the O’Brien Watershed property that is owned by Erwin Utilities to build the mountain bike trail for 30 years at a dollar a year.

The O’Brien Watershed property, which is 116 acres of land, is located behind the Unicoi County Health Department.

Brown also announced that Alderman Gary Chandler has been approved to serve on the Erwin Utilities Board of Directors.

“Our board approved to name Town of Erwin Alderman Gary as a replacement for Town of Erwin Alderman Gary Edwards on the Erwin Utilities Board of Directors,” Brown said.

Edwards retired last month from the BMA and from the Erwin Utilities Board of Directors. The BMA voted unanimously to approve the move following a motion made by Vice Mayor Mark Lafever and a second by Rachelle Hyder-Shurtz.

Mayor Doris Hensley announced that she has a key to the Town of Erwin to deliver to Edwards for his years of service.

“I would like to honor Gary Edwards for his service from 1996 until recently with a key to the city,” Hensley said.

An ordinance to amend the municipal zoning ordinance of the Town of Erwin for purposes to allow for condominiums in Erwin also passed unanimously following a motion to approve made by Lafever and a second by Hyder-Shurtz.

The BMA also voted unanimously to sell off surplus property located off of New Avenue for $500 to Matthew Rice.

“I have researched that land and it appears that the Rice family owns all of the land surrounding that tract; it is landlocked so it would be difficult to sell,” Alderman Michael Baker said.

Baker made a motion to sell the land and the motion was seconded by Lafever.

Moving on, the BMA voted unanimously to accept the sole bid from Virginia Truck Company for the sale of a dump truck to the Town of Erwin for $13,395. The vote to approve the purchase was made by Lafever and seconded by Chandler.

Following the vote to approve the truck purchase, the BMA voted unanimously to have Police Chief Regan Tilson serve as the Town of Erwin emergency management director.

“Chief Tilson has done a tremendous job in handling emergencies and I would like to name him as the town’s emergency management director,” Hensley said.

In closing, Hensley commended the work of the Town of Erwin Street Department and of the town’s citizens.

“I’d like to thank the street department for the outstanding job they have done during the flooding,” Hensley said. “I also want to commend the citizens for following the stay at home order; they are doing an excellent job and it shows.”

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Following the BMA meeting, Lafever was introduced as the chairman of the Erwin Beverage Board, replacing Edwards.

During the beverage board meeting, the board approved a request for businesses that were able to serve alcohol on-premises to offer a temporary off-premise permit.

Baker, who is co-owner of Union Street Taproom, recused himself from the vote and addressed the board.

“The sooner we are able to do this, the sooner we can get our staff back to work,” Baker said.

The off-permit request will have to be approved by the BMA before it will pass. The panel is scheduled to meet on Thursday, April 16, at 4:30 p.m. to vote on the matter.