Timber harvest idea growing in its appeal

By John Peters

November 7, 2013

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners will again take on the idea of harvesting timber at Westwood Industrial Park.

Earlier this year the idea surfaced, and the board opted to proceed, with N.C. Forest Service representatives putting together a proposal on how harvesting might be done, how a consultant might be found to oversee the project, and other details.

Today, the board will revisit the issue.

In June, when the idea was last publicly discussed, a figure of $400,000 was put out as the possible city revenue — and at least one commissioner wanted to use that to cut the city tax rate by 4 cents. The idea was also floated to reseed the land, with the idea of another harvest years down the road.

Now Commissioner Jon Cawley has put forward the idea of constructing a shell building on the land where the trees now grow, and using the proceeds from the timber harvest to help pay for that construction.

We like the idea of using the money for a specific, dedicated purpose. Using it to cut taxes sounds nice, but that’s a one-time windfall, and keeping the tax rate lower might not be so easy. Utilizing the cash for needed one-time projects, such as upgrades to the city water and sewer system, or to build a shell building, seem to be wiser choices.

The shell building has particular appeal, but we would not want to see the city spend the money on such a project just to say it has a shell building. But if the lack of such a structure, and land for such construction, is a legitimate impediment to recruiting industry to the city, then finding a site for such a facility, and financing its construction, should be a major goal of the commissioners.

And it sounds like harvesting the timber, using the money from that harvest to put a shell building on the site would be a long-term investment that could ultimately mean a great deal more to the city than the one-time windfall from selling the timber.