CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Gaston and Mecklenburg County Boards of Commissioners came together on Wednesday, meeting to discuss shared goals and priorities.
It was the first time in memory the two boards met together in joint session. The two boards separately approved resolutions of agreement ahead of Wednesday’s joint meeting, that included supporting legislation that grants counties greater flexibility and opposing legislation which creates unfunded mandates.
More specifically – the all-Democrat board in Mecklenburg and the all-Republican board in Gaston discussed transportation and water rights issues that affect residents in both counties.
“This is a historic meeting,” Gaston County Chairman Tracy Philbeck (R-Dallas Township) said. “What we can show the community, regardless of politics, we can work together at a local level to get things done for the citizens we represent.”
Projects such as the widening of Interstate 85 between the two counties, the widening of the Catawba River Bridge and the proposed Lynx Silver Line expansion project were all part of a presentation from staff members.
Members of both boards emphasized that while counties don’t handle road projects, improving connectivity across the region needs a multi-faceted approach.
“It’s critically important that our counties and our boards see each other as partners,” said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller (D-At Large). “We’ve got to have transportation options that are more than just roads.”
Gaston County Commissioner Bob Hovis (R-Crowders Mountain Township) said there were creative options for financing projects that the boards could consider down the road.
“These needs are real, they’re tangible, and there’s things we can do to address those,” he said. “I believe we can set a model for the state.”
Both boards also heard a presentation concerning the Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission, which was disbanded in 2014. There is shared interest about reviving the commission, as both Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties draw a significant amount of its drinking water from the lake.
Philbeck committed to sitting down with Mecklenburg County Vice-Chair Elaine Powell (D-District 1) to work out the language for a proposed bill to bring to the legislature to revive the commission.
The goal, Philbeck said, is to have that proposed legislation ready for approval by each board as early as next month.
Gaston County Manager Dr. Kim Eagle said there was momentum coming out of the meeting to get real work done on issues that affect residents in both counties.
Philbeck said the hope is to have the two boards meet again in the fall to discuss progress and further projections for collaboration.
The Mecklenburg and Gaston County Boards of Commissioners pose for a photo following a joint meeting on Wednesday, March 10 at the Harris Conference Center on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.