Council visits Raleigh

Several city council members and some concerned citizens traveled to Raleigh Wednesday for a chance to speak to elected officials about current issues impacting Catawba County.

Representatives from Conover city government and the American Postal Workers Union spoke with the county's representatives to let their voices and opinions about job loss and budgetary concerns be heard.

The trip started as a trip to visit the state capital for Textile Day, but when the event was canceled, Conover's representatives decided to continue the trip.

"We already planned to go down there, so we thought, 'Why miss a golden opportunity?'" said Conover Mayor Pro tem Kyle Hayman.

Hayman was joined by council members Joie Fulbright and Jan Herman, as well as City Manager Donald Duncan Jr.

"It was an honor to represent Conover," Herman said. "We can keep a link to local and state government."

One of the group's concerns is the proposed closure of the Hickory Mail Processing Facility located in Conover. The United States Postal Service announced a possible consolidation of the Hickory facility into Greensboro's processing center, which could mean a loss of the more than 200 jobs in Catawba County.

Postal workers from the Hickory facility and members of the American Postal Workers Union joined Conover's leaders on the trip to Raleigh to protest the facility's closure and protect customer service.

"The decision is still waiting on the postal service," said Doug Woodward, who works at the Hickory processing facility. "If we wait until they get the cards in order, we're in bad shape."

Conover's concerned citizens said they spoke with Sen. Austin Allran, Rep. Mark Hilton and Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who represents Burke and McDowell counties.

Although the decision to consolidate the facility ultimately lies with the USPS, Woodward said response from concerned citizens and elected officials could affect the service's ultimate decision.

"There was a lot of positive feedback from everyone," Hayman said.

Conover City Council adopted a resolution Monday at its regularly scheduled meeting to oppose job loss from the facility closure and ask the USPS to take the area's already high unemployment rate into consideration when determining whether to close the facility.

The city already experienced a negative impact from the facility's previous partial consolidation into the Greensboro facility. The resolution states that "the city of Conover's amount of returned utility bill mailing has increased tenfold, resulting in citizens not receiving billing information in a timely manner. Any job losses and closure of the facility would contribute to additional delivery problems."

The potential postal facility consolidation wasn't the only issue discussed during Conover citizens' visit to Raleigh.

They also discussed Gov. Bev Perdue's budget, which doesn't include funding for Manufacturing Solutions Center. MSC serves companies who want to expand or improve their products and businesses. MSC is set to move into Conover Station in the future.

Other pressing issues brought to Raleigh included the closing of Conover's Interstate 40 Exit 131, as well as a sign ordinance that could allow a billboard every 300 feet.

"Conover and the surrounding area — it's a beautiful place," Fulbright said, adding that allowing billboards every 300 feet will take away from the natural beauty Conover has to offer residents and visitors.

Duncan pointed out that visits to Raleigh aren't uncommon for Conover's elected officials, who attend conferences and speak with the county's elected officials on a regular basis.