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Columbia’s five-year plan moves forward

The Columbia Board of Aldermen decided early this month to form a local committee to assist the NC Rural Center in creating the town’s five-year economic development plan.

The plan is to provide general guidance and direction for town activities during the 2020-2025 time period.

Mayor James Cahoon suggested naming approximately 10 individuals to represent various interests in the town.

The aldermen recommended that the following persons be invited to serve on the committee as representatives of the entities named: Lloyd Armstrong and Hal Fleming, Board of Aldermen; Barbara Spencer and Janet Walker, Planning Board; Karen Clough, Chamber of Commerce; Oliver Holley, Board of Education; Lauren Nelson, Eastern 4-H Center; Major Shively, Sheriff’s Office; James Stehlin, Parks and Recreation; Marlene True, Pocosin Arts; and an as-yet-undetermined representative from Concerned Citizens Group.

The board suggested that Mayor Cahoon chair the committee.

Columbia’s current 10-year planning document, Vision 20/20, was adopted in 2008. This time around, at the suggestion of alderman Bryan Owens, the future time frame will be limited to five years.

Last year, the aldermen held a workshop and discussed needs and projects that may find a place in the forthcoming five-year plan. Some of the subjects discussed were hotel or motel recruitment, zoning ordinance enforcement, business vacancies, overcoming “defeated” attitudes following hurricanes, surface water drainage, park maintenance, replacing Christmas decorations and removing abandoned vehicles.

The NC Rural Center’s mission is to develop, promote and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. The center serves the state’s 80 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources.

The Rural Center within the N.C. Department of Commerce will furnish trained and experienced staff to identify the major issues facing the town and “develop actionable items to address” them.

Because a state agency is to do the work, the town’s cost will be $570 to receive an estimated 110 hours of skilled technical assistance and 300 copies of the final plan.

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