How will you make Boone more sustainable? Municipal candidates answer

Jake Markland, Reporter

Leading up to the Watauga County 2021 municipal general election Nov. 2, The Appalachian sent each candidate the same questions via email, asking what motivated them to run for their positions and how they plan to tackle other issues. Read about their plans to promote sustainability here.

Tim Futrelle (Mayor)

  • Implementing practical incentives to encourage the Boone community to replace low-efficiency water fixtures with high-efficiency. 
  • Implement a tiered rate structure that offers lower rates for those who use water efficiently. 
  • Continue to educate the public about the ways they can contribute to water conservation goals. Offering education programs, like media campaigns, educational events, and home conservation consultations. 
  • I will continue to push forward the town’s current zero-carbon energy initiatives. Implement a program that when it is time to replace existing town equipment, vehicles, appliances, etc; the replacement would meet standards of high energy efficiency. 
  • I will bring utilities and governmental entities to the table to incentivize community members, both business and residential, to implement installation of solar and wind energy, and energy efficient fixtures and appliances. 

Todd Carer (BTC) 

I am fully supportive of the Town of Boone’s recent contract with New River Light and Power to transition municipal operations to 25% renewable energy by 2022. Now, we must go further. As chief development director at Hospitality House, I oversaw the fund procurement for two separate renewable energy solar projects. We installed both a solar thermal and photovoltaic system that significantly reduced the carbon footprint of the facility. To my knowledge, this remains the single largest private solar project in Boone. Now, I understand that environmental sustainability challenges are on a much larger scale for the town, but I am committed to keep pushing forward toward a 100% renewable energy infrastructure. 

Environment sustainability is also tied to traffic. When I am out canvassing whether in local neighborhoods or student housing, the number one complaint is traffic. I will propose and push for adoption of a ‘complete streets’ ordinance to being transitioning current and to ensure that all future roadways and corridors are pedestrian and bike friendly. For those roads not under our direct jurisdiction, I will work with N.C. DOT to begin that process as well.

Dalton George (BTC)

The town has made tremendous advances in our pursuit of sustainability; however, we can always do better. Thus far, Boone is on track to achieve carbon neutrality in municipal operations in 2022, is constructing a new government complex with a specific focus on green infrastructure and has hired a sustainability and special projects manager to lead our local efforts. I have, and will continue to work to prevent our progress from stalling due to complacency. Although we have achieved a lot thus far, we must continue looking into the future and tailor our goals accordingly, especially with our goal of full town-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. The pressing challenges of climate change compels us to expand our efforts and act sooner than later. Boone must be aggressive in its push for green, climate neutral, and sustainable policies while continuing to be a leader in North Carolina. We must revive weather proofing standards, streamline our recycling practices, protect local streams and waterways, and invest in public transportation options to encourage the reduction of single-occupancy vehicle use.

Benjamin Ray (BTC)

Benjamin Ray did not respond to The Appalachian’s questions. 

Virginia Roseman (BTC) 

The town has been doing a good job trying to convert to sustainable energy as quickly as possible.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  For the past two years, just simply changing the lighting systems in Boone has been a slow but productive project. We are 80% converted. This council has budgeted for the 2021-2022 year the funds to complete this conversion project. Starting in January of 2022, all Town of Boone municipality buildings will be on 100% renewable energy.  The energy providers are still in the beginning stages of getting people to sign up for renewable energy. Collectively, as more people sign up and use it, rates will go down for all. The cost of the town using it should therefore go down in the future. I hope that Boone will also be able to find grants to help establish a solar project that residents and building owners can apply for in installing solar panels on their buildings or property. We have to invest in sustainable and renewable energy. Every baby step will be a step in the right direction. Our planet is counting on us. 

Eric Wooldridge (BTC)

Our streams, views, mountains, and air are significant reasons why we all call Boone home. Sustainability isn’t something to do “here and there,” but should be wove into every project we do. 

I think it’s great that we have staff focused on sustainability and special projects. The ROI on this position will be phenomenal over time when you consider Boone’s ability to obtain state and federal grants to improve stormwater, install bioretention systems that filter and slow the discharge of water, conduct streambank enhancements, and expand our greenway system to further provide for alternative transportation. 

The development of Boone’s new public works facility (Bolick Property) should be developed as a model for sustainability that is not only good for the environment, but also results in a net cost savings to Boone taxpayers through the reduction of energy consumption. This can be paid for predominantly through enterprise funds (rather than ad-valorem or sales tax). 

When we rebuild our relationship with the county and change back the sales tax allocation, that will certainly help. This is on the forefront of my radar, and I think through my professional experience, I’m uniquely qualified to help lead in this effort. 

Lastly, incentives should be offered to developers willing to install green infrastructure. One incentive that should be provided immediately is to allow photovoltaic solar or solar hot water installation to not count towards the total cost of improvements for grandfathered or non-conforming uses. Current policy allows business owners in these situations to improve their property only up to a certain extent (% value of overall property) within a 10-year period before having to upfit their entire property to new UDO codes. For this reason, business and property owners are careful when and how they invest and improve their property. We need to ensure that green infrastructure investments do not count toward this threshold. 

Eric Brown (BTC)

Sustainable measures that encourage free trade with local ties to suppliers connect products and services to fight off recessions, depressions, and prevent government intervention.  We can only achieve it when we work together and communicate through asking smart questions and making a path to justifiable ends.

Christy Cook (BTC)

I would support and advocate for non-partisan initiatives that promote sustainability and resiliency within the Town of Boone to include steps such as reducing paper waste, recycling more, reducing energy consumption, promoting ride share and telecommuting, as well as electing environmentally friendly alternatives whenever possible.

Further, we need to plan in a strategic and purposeful way so that while our population grows we have the necessary town services available to meet those demands. But we must simultaneously protect our natural spaces and preserve all the things that make Boone great both personally and professionally.

Becca Nenow (BTC)

I not only am passionate about sustainability, but believe it is simply common sense. I view sustainability as not only an environmental concern, but also a social and economic concern as well. It is necessary to consider the environmental, social and economic sustainability with every decision and policy. While this may be more time-consuming than not considering sustainability, the long term sustainability of any decision is worth the short-term effort.

Edie Tugman (BTC) 

Edie Tugman did not respond to The Appalachian’s questions.