Mellichamp says fixing road ‘not a priority’

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Last semester, senior music major Jessie Bee was driving back to the Student Village from campus on Arlington Street, which is the street that connects the Village to the Swanson Center. When she saw headlights ahead, she began to slow down.

“They were going pretty fast and taking up all of the road, so I had to pull off,” said Bee. “[The street] is not the easiest to pull off unless it is someone’s driveway because of the ditches.”

Bee is one of many students living in the Village that travel along Arlington Street and Maine Street to and from classes.

“Those roads are so narrow and full of blind spots. It can be dangerous, especially at night,” said Bee.

Bee said she would like to see the road widened or the ditches filled in. However, President James Mellichamp said that right now, the drive from the Village to main campus is not a priority at this point.

Mellichamp said in the future he sees Piedmont buying some property to build a new, large entrance to the campus that would connect Demorest Mt. Airy Highway to College Drive, the road that runs by the Swanson Center.

“That involves not widening a city street, which we would never own, but buying up some private land and building our own street,” said Mellichamp.

However, he said this is a plan that will not be given much thought for a few years.

“[Arlington and Maine] are city streets, and we have absolutely no control over it,” said Mellichamp.

However, Mayor of Demorest and Professor of Biology at Piedmont Rick Austin said that the city would be willing to sit down with Piedmont’s administration to discuss the condition of the roads.

“It presents a unique issue for us. You know, the city of Demorest did not build the Student Village, and, although we did do a lot of work to accommodate the sewer in conjunction with Piedmont College, the overflow onto Arlington is a direct result of Piedmont’s expansion,” said Austin.

Austin said it would be difficult for the city to fund the project because he must balance the city’s small budget to best benefit all citizens, not just Piedmont students. Piedmont College, because it is a not-for-profit organization, does not pay taxes to the city. So, if the city were to fund the project alone, the tax-paying citizens of Demorest would bear the brunt of the cost, Austin said.

“That is a possibility that we can sit down and have that conversation if Piedmont wants to partner with us and pick up some of the cost,” Austin said. “Obviously, Piedmont and Demorest partner in a lot of different ways because Piedmont is an integral part of Demorest, and we are always open to ways that we can partner.”

Still, Mellichamp said that Piedmont currently has other priorities, such as building the new music conservatory or renovating Neilson Dining Hall into a new education department. He explained that the board of trustees have set these priorities. However, if a donor wanted to give money toward a specific project, the priorities could change.