Over the past few weeks, Guilford County Manager Mike Halford has been meeting and talking with the leaders of the cities and towns in Guilford County – as well as with school system officials and others in local leadership positions.
The purpose was to hear everyone’s plans and wishes for millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief money that the federal government is generously providing the county, the cities, the towns and the schools.
Out of those discussions, Halford has created a summary document that identifies the top priorities of the leaders. While the document doesn’t connect specific desires with individual cities or towns, it does give a good overview of the things that many area leaders would like to see happen.
The following is a list of some bullet points Halford included in his report – which was sent to the county commissioners.
Halford’s report noted that COVID-19-related safety measures like masks, gloves, disinfectants, signage and many other prevention measures created “significant and unanticipated costs for all.” It also noted that previous COVID-19 relief money handed out by the county in 2020 didn’t cover all of those needs.
The summary states that there had been a worrisome “drop in public engagement” due to the pandemic since citizens couldn’t attend government meetings and many services were now provided virtually.
It also noted that small businesses, churches, non-profits and others in the cities and towns had been hit hard financially – particularly revenue streams from tourism and recreation services.
“These impacts increased with the number of services provided and size of entity,” the memo noted.
Halford’s summary document stated that, even though development in the county hasn’t slowed down, a “lack of broad availability of water and sewer is limiting development in some areas of the county.”
Recently, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston kicked off a new initiative to make water and sewer service widely available throughout the county.
Halford’s memo stated that “Safe and reliable water and sewer service is the most important need voiced by nearly every small town,” and it stated that “Multiple individual town projects are in planning or development phases.”
Broadband access wasn’t a primary concern for the cities and towns, according to the memo. However, Halford’s conversations with school system officials and other community partners did indicate that available, affordable, and reliable high-speed internet would be beneficial. The county is putting out a request for proposals to study the needs and costs of enhancing the broadband offerings across Guilford County.
Homelessness and housing availability and affordability were concerns of several entities.
School building conditions and crowding were also noted as concerns, particularly as towns look toward attracting development and begin planning for the potential impacts on public services and facilities. Halford said he learned from his conversations that at least one town had contributed funding directly to its local school to help students get the technology items they needed.
The memo noted other areas of concern, such as a need for infrastructure improvements that included stormwater and drainage, roads that need resurfacing and public buildings that need repairs.