City OKs money for dam study, new sidewalk

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

October 4, 2013

Although a dam in Virginia that provides flood protection for Mount Airy and Surry County is in no imminent danger of failing, city officials are having to spend $16,700 for a study related to that possibility.

“I guess you would file this under the latest unfunded mandate,” city Public Services Director Jeff Boyles said Thursday afternoon during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners regarding requirements passed down to local governments from state or national agencies.

In this case, it’s the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and its interest in the Lovills Creek Dam in the nearby Cana community of Carroll County, Va., which is involved.

The state agency recently notified Carroll officials that the dam must undergo a study called inundation zone mapping. The purpose of this is creating maps that clearly depict flooded areas downstream from a sudden or total dam failure.

It will cost about $50,000 for the mapping services, which is being shared equally between Mount Airy, Surry County and Carroll County. The city commissioners approved Mount Airy’s share — $16,700 — in a 5-0 vote Thursday afternoon.

Boyles said during a presentation beforehand that the other two localities had passed resolutions stating they would participate in the expense.

In referring to language in the city’s resolution at Thursday’s meeting — that the dam upstream “must undergo a study” — Mayor Deborah Cochran said, “That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?”

While the mandate from the Virginia agency highlights a dire scenario regarding the dam, Boyles said there is nothing for local residents to fear.

“I think the dam is well-constructed and well-maintained,” he said, “and this is a requirement by the state in the event of catastrophic failure, which I could not envision at this time.”

Sidewalk Project

Pedestrians who use West Pine Street soon will enjoy a safer situation due to another unanimous vote Thursday afternoon.

The city board approved a 445-foot sidewalk extension along the south side of West Pine Street from South Street at Mill Creek General Store to the bridge over Lovills Creek.

This will provide a safe access to sites such as the Roses/Lowes Foods shopping center for pedestrians, who now must walk on the edge of the roadway due to the absence of a sidewalk.

Although pedestrian-related improvements there are included in a long-range plan recently approved by Mount Airy officials, the project in question had been recommended earlier by the city Public Safety Committee.

Mount Airy has its own sidewalk-construction crew, with the materials needed expected to cost $6,500 to $9,000.

As part of the improvements, city staff members also will contact the N.C. Department of Transportation about installing curb ramps and pedestrian crossings at the intersection of South and Pine streets. That agency has a stake since Pine and South streets are on the state road system.

The curb ramps, which provide access between a sidewalk and roadway, would aid people in wheelchairs or others with mobility problems.

It is hoped the DOT will construct the pedestrian crossings, with the city building the curb ramps.

Commissioner Shirley Brinkley asked Boyles Thursday afternoon about getting the DOT to handle all the improvements.

“They won’t do sidewalks,” Boyles said of the state department’s unwillingness to fund or participate in such projects. “They will do everything in the roadway, as far as crosswalks.”

The sidewalk work is expected to begin immediately, now that it has received board approval.

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or