City accepts grant, awaits county action

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

October 18, 2013

Mount Airy officials voted unanimously Thursday night to accept an $80,000 state grant to help extend natural gas to Westwood Industrial Park, but noted that similar action by Surry County regarding local matching funds has been tabled.

The gas project affects plans by Andrew Pearson Design, a company in the industrial park, to add a process enabling it to manufacture new products, which also would create eight new jobs. The new operation requires that energy source, which also could help draw other tenants to the park, officials have said.

Thursday night’s action involved an Industrial Development Fund grant recently awarded to Mount Airy by the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Accepting the funding is obligating local officials to provide a 25 percent local match of $20,000, which Mayor Deborah Cochran said “hopefully” will be shared by the city and county governments.

But with Mount Airy voting Thursday to accept the grant, and its funding commitment, Cochran mentioned recent correspondence to City Manager Barbara Jones indicating that Surry is not poised to do likewise.

“They have tabled any action on the grant at this time,” the mayor said, citing the information received by Jones from the county.

Paul Johnson, a member of the Surry Board of Commissioners, explained later Thursday night that this reflects the fact the county is now preoccupied with another major effort. It concerns a joint project by the county and city to extend utility service along N.C. 89 to a cluster of businesses in the Interstate 77/74 district.

“It’s pretty much tied to the interstates water and sewer project,” Johnson said of the county’s delay on the matching funds for the natural gas grant.

“We really haven’t had time to look at other projects with the city, but we’re going to bring it back up when the time comes,” he added of the grant issue. “We haven’t tabled it forever, but we’ve just tabled it to give us more time to do research.”

The county board member said Surry officials at some point want to meet with Mount Airy leaders and “see what all is involved” with the natural gas effort.

Meanwhile, a second grant, also for $80,000, is being sought from the state to further offset the cost of the gas line, which would total about $400,000 and be partially provided by Frontier Natural Gas.

The state grants totaling $160,000 are aimed at plugging a gap of $175,000 to $205,000 remaining after the gas company foots its share of the line expense. It would involve an extension of 8,800 feet.

Other Action

Also Thursday night, the city commissioners:

• Agreed to approve and accept a request to dedicate River Run Drive and a portion of River Walk Road to the city. This relates to the municipality’s approval of plans for River Walk Condominiums about 10 years ago and a road network to serve 40 units there.

So far, three buildings, including six housing units, have been constructed at the site, located off Allred Mill Road near Lovills Creek. Thursday’s vote reflected a practice of accepting onto the city system, for maintenance purposes, streets that are brought up to municipal standards.

• Appointed Jennifer Nester to a three-year term on the city Recycling Advisory Committee, which expires on Oct. 31, 2016. Nester is replacing Dave Petri, whose term will end later this month and who has elected not to seek reappointment.

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or