As this town continues to grow, it also takes on new looks on several fronts.
Town leaders paid a great deal of attention to Knightdale’s booming new park in 2015, but also remembered an older park and the downtown area the two parks sandwich in their planning for the future.
Knightdale High School is a much different place than it was this time last year, and, as of November, so is town hall.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the town’s 2015 happenings.
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A new vibe at KHS: Plans rolled out in January called for a major overhaul at Knightdale High School, starting with a new name – Knightdale High School of Collaborative Design.
Principal Dr. James Argent and East Wake Area Superintendent Dr. Ed McFarland proposed the redesign focused on personalized learning to better prepare students to jump into the workforce or college by surrounding them with real-life learning methods in the classroom.
The school now has five institutes – a leadership institute for freshmen and four branches for upperclassmen: innovation, creative design, government and global inquiry, entrepreneurship institutes.
Teachers required to reapply: Students weren’t the only ones to experience changes. All 100 licensed teachers at the school were required to reapply for their positions under the redesign.
The school system declined to say how many teachers chose not to reapply or were not rehired, but there were 64 open positions including 47 teaching positions listed on the WCPSS website as of late March.
Movement at the park: Town staff and a contracted design firm in February presented plans for the next wave of development to come for Knightdale Station Park and the downtown area it borders.
Planning Director Chris Hills said the idea is to create a mixed-use gathering place along First Avenue near the planned Knightdale Station neighborhood, including more on-street parking, modern amenities and an “old downtown feel.”
By July, town leaders were discussing adding to the master plan for the 70-acre park – mostly calling for more parking, more playgrounds and a larger dog park.
The Bronze Knight: Otis Agnew was named 2014 Bronze Knight Citizen of the Year during the Knightdale Chamber of Commerce’s annual Knight of Awards banquet in February.
Agnew, a Wendell resident and Forestville Road Elementary teacher assistant, was nominated and chosen because of his work with the school safety patrol’s bicycle rodeo. He took his cause to another one, the East Wake Relay for Life, several months later and was working to start a college scholarship program for students who have participated in the school’s safety patrol.
“This is an individual who cares about his community enough to get others involved, start a ball rolling and seeing it through to the end,” said awards committee member Donna Binkauskas.
Remembering the other park: In August, the town council approved spending $9,600 to update the master plan at Harper Park alongside the chosen revisions to the master plan at Knightdale Station Park.
“It kind of makes sense to do them in a comprehensive fashion since the two parks are five-minute walk apart,” town spokesman Brian Bowman said. “(Harper Park) is an excellently-maintained facility, we’re just exploring opportunities to improve it further to the best of our ability.”
The updated master plans for both parks were expected to take up to six months to complete. Town leaders hoped revamping Harper Park would prevent Knightdale Station from becoming too busy, violating its intended rural character.
Mingo on the move: Engineers in September discussed with council members possible solutions for keeping a Mingo Creek tributary within its rightful banks, and away from homes in the Parkside Commons neighborhood.
Upstream development was blamed for increased sediment in the stream, forcing it to find an easier path downhill toward Mingo Creek.
But the engineers in October reported bigger fish to fry – that Mingo Creek itself was taking on more water and erosion was inviting more sediment, forcing the creek to shift closer to several neighborhoods including Parkside Commons, Planter’s Walk and Timber Ridge.
Town engineer Fred Boone estimated about 2.5 miles of the creek needed to be rehabilitated to address the larger problem. He said the town is in the problem diagnosis stage.
“We wouldn’t have any idea of a cost at this point, but this is millions of dollars worth of work,” Boone said.
Parting ways: Mary Yount resigned in late September from her role as Knightdale Chamber of Commerce executive director, saying it just wasn’t working out.
Yount came to town in August 2013 after six years with the Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce – three years as its director of member relations and three as vice president of operations. She was the unanimous choice to fill the seat vacated by 18-year past chamber leader Jennifer Bryan, who left for another job.
“It’s just time for me and my family to do something different - no hard feelings or anything like that,” Yount said. “I’m looking for other opportunities. I have been blessed with the people I have gotten to know here, but it’s time to see what else is out there.”
Chamber leaders didn’t set an official timeline on the search and hiring process to fill the position.
New leadership at town hall: Town councilman James Roberson ousted former councilman and perennial candidate Charles Bullock to claim the mayor’s seat in the November municipal elections. Roberson replaced Russell Killen, who did not seek re-election.
On the town council front, four candidates ran for two open seats. Dustin Tripp won re-election to his seat and Pete Mangum won the seat Roberson vacated. They faced challenges by Martha Thornton, who ran on a public safety platform, and Dean Heaney, who wanted to increase town transparency and see other things change.