Conover officials meet with regional leaders

Two mayors are smarter than one. Many mayors working on the same challenges is even better.

That’s what the Conover mayor and mayor pro-tem are saying after meeting with regional municipal leaders Wednesday to identify universal concerns, challenges and goals around the piedmont.

Conover Mayor Lee Moritz, Jr. and Mayor Pro-tem Kyle Hayman helped leaders identify eco-development, infrastructure and sustainability as three “key” issues that will challenge the region in coming years.

It was the second regional mayors meeting, and about 19 mayors and mayor pro-tems attended, Hayman said.

“It’s about trying to get regional leaders to together so that we can talk about the issues common to us and have one voice so that when we go to Raleigh or Washington, we can all speak as one voice,” Hayman said. “If we are speaking as one voice, we are going to be more effective.”

The mayors meeting attracted officials from throughout the Charlotte region, with 12,000 being the average population size for the cities and towns represented, excluding Charlotte, Hayman said.

Despite the fluctuation of city size, Moritz said all the municipalities represented share similar challenges and goals.

“It’s a lot of the same vision we have for our city. With exception of a few, they had the same goals and objectives,” Moritz said.

One of those goals involves creating “walkable communities,” or building sustainable communities with greenways and sidewalks. Constructing greenways costs money, but one thing municipal leaders are discussing is asking the state to consider the expansion of an existing street-aid bill so it can benefit off-road pathways.

The Powell Bill allocates funds to municipalities for the purposes of maintaining, repairing, constructing, reconstructing or widening of local streets. Hayman said one issue the mayors talked about is possibly expanding the bill to provide funds for greenways or sidewalk development as well.

“We need more walkable communities,” Hayman said. “With economic developments, companies want to come in and have their people live here. If people can get to their place of work more easily – either walking or riding a bike – it’s going to make it a more enticing area.”  
In addition to sustainable communities, the group also deemed job creation and transportation as key issues that will present challenges and goals in the future.

At the meeting, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said railway transportation should be something municipalities focus on in the coming years – something Hayman said Conover has already started to do.

“In Conover, we are pushing for passenger rail to North Carolina,” Hayman said, adding that projects like Conover Station should help put more emphasis on the railway system.

Making friends

Moritz said one of the largest benefits to the mayors meeting are relationships spread across the region.

“I’m now on first-name basis with a number of mayors in our region,” Moritz said. “It’s neat to listen to what has worked in certain cities and what hasn’t worked. You don’t have dollars to waste anymore, and when you have to implement something, you have to hit the bull’s-eye each time. I’ve developed friendships with folks that I can call and speak with and discuss things with to benefit Conover and our overall region.”

With the Democratic National Convention headed to Charlotte in 2012, those connections could help Catawba County be more involved in the event scheduled to bring more than $100 million to the Charlotte area.
Moritz said he would love to host officials, even President Barack Obama, during the week-long festivities – something he said he has spoken with Foxx about.

Hayman, too, said the convention will be something to be discussed at the now-quarterly mayors meetings.

“With the president coming to the region and being part of (the convention) for that week, that’s definitely something that’s going to have to be discussed,” Hayman said. “I know (the President) likes to move around. He may come close to Catawba County, and he may come close to Conover.”