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Cornelius News

Is mayor out of step with Cornelius?


Dec. 7By Dave Yochum. UPDATED. If you’ve never been to a Cornelius Town Board meeting, tonight is the one to attend. It’s not because five commissioners and the mayor will be sworn into two-year terms, or that NC Rep. John Bradford and Judge Charlotte Brown Williams will do the swearing in.

It’s because Commissioner Dave Gilroy says he will propose a resolution criticizing Mayor Chuck Travis for his stand on the I-77 toll lane issue.

In a town government where comity and decorum are prized, this is a big step for the board. But how the vote will go is anybody’s guess; at least one commissioner is opposed to Gilroy’s resolution which comes close to censuring the mayor.

Three votes constitutes a majority on the five-member board. The mayor only votes to break a tie. (AT THE MEETING MONDAY NIGHT, the board agreed to table Gilroy’s resolution until the next meeting. Travis said he agreed with the resolution.)

Un-easy street

A draft of the resolution says the board finds “Mayor Travis’ recent actions and statements on the I-77 managed lanes issue to be in opposition to the views of this town board and the community we represent and, further, find that his statements and actions are his personal views and not those of the Town of Cornelius or this town board.”

It’s conceivable that Gilroy will not propose the resolution, although at 3 pm he confirmed that he would. The rules of order also require a second for a vote by the full board. The board officially changes tonight, when Dr. Mike Miltich, an anti-toll candidate, takes his seat on the board, replacing Bruce Trimbur, who is known for his cordial approach.

Back in May, the Town Board unanimously voted to ask the NCDOT to delay signing the $650-milion, 50-year contract with Cintra, a unit of a Spanish conglomerate. A month later, the same board voted unanimously to ask the NCDOT to cancel the contract.

Mayor Travis never seemed to be on board with anti-toll sentiments which have swept North Mecklenburg, nor did he respond to the I-77 Business Plan candidate survey on the toll lanes, much to the consternation of key business leaders like John Hettwer, a former chairman of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

But Travis has come out against a subtle but critical feature of the I-77 toll plan, saying today that the ban on trucks in the express lanes is a “fatal flaw in the design of the current project.”
Travis stopped short of calling for the NCDOT to cancel the contract.

“The inability to have truck traffic, both service and long haul, in the managed lanes due to inadequate asphalt thickness will be disastrous,” Travis said in letter to NC Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson.

The letter, which was distributed to TV and print outlets this morning, used the term “managed lanes” because toll prices can be adjusted up or down based on congestion. The worse the congestion, the higher the toll.

Travis said forbidding truck traffic in the toll lanes is “especially concerning given the recent completion of the Norfolk Southern Charlotte Regional Intermodal facility since the north-south corridor of I-77 will become even more critical for truck traffic.”

In Dallas, Tex., trucks are allowed to use the managed lanes since they are “typically traveling through the corridor and are willing to pay a toll for reliable travel times,” Travis said.

“If trucks have the ability to use the managed lanes on I-77, this will increase the capacity of general purpose lanes for our local use. Since we all support the ongoing effort for our region to develop into a global economic business hub, this has to be fixed,” Travis said in the letter.

He and Mayor John Woods of Davidson recently paid their own way to travel toll lanes and meet with business leaders and elected officials in Dallas. They issued a report via Cornelius Town Clerk Lori Harrell, rankling some commissioners.

Considerable dismay

The visit, even at the mayors’ own expense, brought considerable dismay to some members of the Cornelius Town Board. There is sentiment among a majority of board members that the mayor is out on his own, disconnected from ordinary citizens and the business community on the toll lane issue.

Commissioners engaged in intense personal discussions over the weekend and this morning about Gilroy’s resolution.

The online FreeDictionary says censure is an “expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism; an official rebuke, as by a legislature of one of its members.”

At least one commissioner is expected to oppose the resolution.

Kurt Naas, a Cornelius resident who launched the WidenI-77 anti-toll group, also criticized the mayor’s trip to Texas and the report from Travis and Woods.

“Taking a ride on the massive LBJ Expressway and then reporting managed lanes work is like taking a ride on a super-jumbo and reporting jet engines will work on a Cessna,” Naas said.