DOBSON — “The Stars and Bars” took center stage at Monday’s Surry County Board of Commissioners meeting when a local resident saw his request to fly a flag at the historic courthouse in Dobson amended by commissioners.
Joe Davis, the spokesman for a group named Southern Cross, told commissioners that a pro-Confederacy rally had been planned and approved by the town of Dobson to take place on Saturday. However, Davis explained that only days ago he learned that he needed permission from county commissioners to fly a Confederate flag at the historic courthouse.
Davis asked commissioners to approve the flying of a flag, but Commissioner Eddie Harris expressed concerns regarding which flag would fly on Saturday.
“Is this going to be the Stars and Bars, the First National Flag (of the Confederate States of America) or what?,” asked Harris. “It would be unfair to the Sons of Confederate Veterans to fly any flag other than the First National Flag.”
Harris went on to explain that the Sons of Confederate Veterans has been the sole group which has been granted permission to fly a flag and only on Confederate Memorial Day and the anniversary of the end of the Civil War.
Davis told commissioners his group hadn’t decided exactly which flag they would fly, but added that he could acquiesce to the board’s request as to which flag is raised on Saturday.
Harris explained that he was concerned about future uses of the flagpole. “If we approve this we are setting a precedent for somebody we may not agree with to use this flag pole,” said Harris.
In the end, the board voted in favor of allowing the group to fly a flag, restricting the group to the use of the First National Flag.
Additionally, Davis stated that his group would assemble on the sidewalk around the courthouse, rather than the courthouse lawn itself. “We were told we had to have a $1 million liability insurance policy to use the property, and I’m not rich,” explained Davis.
The rally is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. with a march that starts at Surry Community College.
• Later in the meeting, Harris became a lone dissenting voice in a proposal for a general-use rezoning from residential to highway business on Klondike Road in Elkin. Harris’ concern was a common one for the commissioner — billboards.
“My question is wouldn’t this allow for a billboard to be placed on the property,” Harris asked Planning Director Kim Bates.
The short answer from Bates was “yes.” However, Bates also explained that given the size of the 0.293-acre parcel it would be unlikely and nearly impossible to place a billboard on the property.
“All billboards must be 30 feet from any property line,” explained Bates. “In order to put a billboard on this parcel, the existing house would have to be torn down and the billboard would not be visible from the highway (U.S. 21).”
Property owner Kimberly Watkins told commissioners she had no intentions to put a billboard on the property, but she did not allude as to what her plans for the property were.
By way of a 3-1 vote, with Harris dissenting and Commissioner Larry Phillips absent due to medical reasons, commissioners approved the rezoning effort. Harris said he would have favored a conditional rezoning proposal over the general rezoning proposal that was passed.
• Commissioners also approved a $100,000 request from the town of Dobson for funding toward an upcoming overhaul of its water treatment plant. The total cost of the project will be $3.7 million, according to Town Manager Josh Smith.
Smith explained that he needed a commitment from the county prior to applying for grants and financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development fund. Smith also explained that Dobson provides water to a number of Surry County residents that live outside of the town limits.
Commissioners agreed to commit to providing $100,000 toward the project, which Smith said he hopes will go to bid in December. However, commissioners left the door open for the manner in which the county will fund the commitment, opting to take the money from a future fiscal year’s budget or pay in four annual installments of $25,000.
Board Chairman R.F. “Buck” Golding called the town “a good partner to work with” and thanked the town for agreeing to provide water to the Interstates Water and Sewer District.
Andy, a staff writer at The News, can be reached at (336) 415-4698.