Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, talks with reporters in Raleigh on Wednesday following the announcement of top leadership changes at the NC Department of Health and Human Services. Kirk Ross/Carolina Public Press

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RALEIGH — A faster track for Henderson County’s new early early college at Blue Ridge Community College, repayment of sorts for Yancey County’s headaches over U.S. 19 construction and new penalties for hunting in the rights of way of Buncombe County are among this year’s class of local bills for the state’s western region.

Filing deadlines for local bills not related to the budget expired last week and legislators rushed to finish up ahead of this week’s focus on the House spending plan. Last Thursday, 67 bills, local and otherwise, were filed in the House and 49 in the Senate.

Among the WNC local bills is a proposal from Sen. Ralph Hise, R-McDowell, to help Yancey County and the Town of Burnsville recover costs some of the damage done by extensive delays in the Burnsville section of the U.S. 19 East widening project.

Hise said in an interview Monday with Carolina Public Press that the delays, caused in part by a tandem waterline replacement project, have led to extensive backups and now is expected to be delayed into yet another fall tourism season.

“It is absolutely devastating,” Hise said Monday.

The roughly eight mile project started in 2011 and was supposed to be completed in the summer of 2015. Starting at the end of the month, the contractor, Young and McQueen, will draw a daily fine of $2,500 until the project is completed.

Hise said the bill would use some of the damages being paid by the contractor back to help the community recover.

Senate Bill 839 directs the state Department of Transportation to send half of the damages collected on the project to the Yancey County/Burnsville Chamber of Commerce. The money, which would be paid each month out of the Highway Trust Fund, could only be used for promoting travel and tourism in Yancey County.

“This has really hurt a lot of businesses,” Hise said. “It doesn’t make sense for [the fines] to go back to the state.”

Henderson Bills Move

Monday night the House approved two Henderson County bills sponsored by Reps. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, and Chris Whitmire, R-Transylvania. House Bill 956, Henderson County/ Community College Projects, would speed up approval and construction of a building on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College to house Henderson County’s early college program. McGrady said the bill would reduce the construction schedule by six to nine months.

Also passed was HB957, legislation updating language in the Henderson Town Charter adopted in 1971. The official title of members of the town council would become “council members” rather than “councilmen.”

The bills now move on to the Senate.

Other WNC local bills include:

  • HB1109 NC Crime Lab Funding — Co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Turner, the bill adds recurring funds for DNA and toxicology testing and vendor contracts for the startup of the Western Regional Crime Laboratory under construction in Ednyville. Turner said in a recent interview that the funds are to ensure that there is adequate funding in place and not any gaps in supplies and equipment.
  • SB795 Clay County Courthouse — The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Davis, would exempt repair and renovation work from state contracting rules to speed up conversion of the old courthouse in Hayesville to a multi-purpose facility. It is scheduled to be heard today in the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee.
  • HB1125, Prohibit Buncombe County Hunting from Right of Way — The bill, introduced by Turner, would make it a Class 3 misdemeanor to hunt with a firearm or deadly weapon from the right of way or across a public road. The bill was referred this week to the Committee on Wildlife Resources.

Kirk Ross

Based in the Triangle, Kirk Ross is the capital bureau chief for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at kross@carolinapublicpress.org.

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