DOBSON — The town of Dobson met many ambitious goals in the past year, with some others in the works.
On Wednesday, the Dobson Board of Commissioners discussed goals the town pursued throughout the course of the past year at the board’s annual planning retreat at Putters Patio and Grill.
Beautification was a goal the town board had set for the 2016-17 fiscal year, with the eyes of board members focused on the area surrounding the former courthouse building. As Town Manager Josh Smith reviewed the goals set at last year’s retreat, he noted headway had been made on the downtown beautification project.
According to Smith, a project to add decorative islands and light poles along the roads surrounding the former courthouse building is underway. An engineer has drawn plans outlining the town’s next facelift, and Duke Energy has given a preliminary approval for the plans.
The presentation Smith offered notes the town’s next steps are to decide on a light pole style, identify funding sources for the project and eventually send the project to the bid.
Smith told commissioners they would also have to decide whether to lease or buy the light poles which would be placed around the courtyard on Atkins Street, Kapp Street and Crutchfield Street. The cost to lease decorative poles from Duke Energy is likely to be between $30 and $45 per month for each pole, and the purchase price for a pole could exceed $8,000. Twenty-one to 22 poles will be needed to complete the project.
Commissioners also took a step toward completing the project on Wednesday. They unanimously approved an encroachment agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation. The agreement is necessary since the town will encroach upon the D.O.T. right of way to build the decorative islands.
Smith said it was too early to know how much the project would cost the town, noting he wouldn’t be able to place a dollar figure on the project until it is sent to bid.
At the town board’s planning retreat in 2016, members of the board told town staff they wanted to see more recreation opportunities offered by the town.
Since opening Dobson Square Park in 2015, town commissioners have placed an emphasis on providing recreation opportunities to residents, and Smith said the town has pulled through in carrying out the vision of the board.
Smith noted the town offered two community events in 2010. However, in 2017 town staff arranged 15 events. Dobson will host a summer concert in June. Other new events offered by the town include events to welcome the summer months, gospel singing events and an Easter egg hunt.
The town of Dobson geographically lies between two chambers of commerce. The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce serves Mount Airy and the surrounding area, and the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce serves businesses in Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin Counties.
The Yadkin Valley Chamber has an office in Elkin, and it once had another office in Dobson. When the chamber closed its Dobson office, many of the town’s businesses felt they lacked a voice in the community, according to Smith.
At last year’s retreat, the town board sought to remedy the situation, creating a goal of organizing a downtown business association.
Smith told the board that the organization has already met twice. At the first meeting, local business leaders discussed the role of the newly formed group, and at the second meeting the group focused on the resources available to existing businesses.
Dobson’s water and sewer infrastructure was constructed in the early ’50s, according to Public Works Director Michael Frazier, and the town board set improvements to that aging infrastructure as a goal for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Smith said the town has pushed forward with the replacement of aging water meters and fire hydrants. However, it also made significant progress on a much larger project.
Work will soon begin to replace the pumps at the town’s water treatment plant, which is part of a bigger project to overhaul the entire plant.
The pumps, which will cost the town about $330,000, are of particular significance, however, because the town has been using a rental pump since December 2015, when the second of two aging pumps at the plant failed. Since then, the town has been renting a pump to the tune of about $4,000 a month.
Smith also noted the town repaired several roads and sidewalks and made headway toward a larger goal regarding the town’s streets. In February, the town approved a contract with an engineering firm which will assess each portion of each roadway in Dobson.
The study will help town officials identify priorities as they plan a large street resurfacing project.
A digital sign project hit snags in November when the Surry County Board of Commissioners shot down a proposed agreement to place the sign, which would have been used to announce community events, on the lawn of the former courthouse building.
Commissioner Eddie Harris led the opposition to the project, sharing concerns that the digital sign would detract from the historic nature of the building.
The sign had been meant to take the places of banners which are placed on the courthouse lawn to announce events.
While the courthouse location may have been preferred, town officials have found another place to put the digital sign. Smith said the project is chugging along, with plans of placing the sign on Atkins Street in front of the Surry Telephone Membership Corporation’s building.
Smith said the town got quotes for what will now be a two-sided sign, and the sign will cost about $29,000. The Dobson Tourism Development Authority had offered to pay for the sign, and it will consider the new price for the two-sided sign at its meeting in April.
The town completed a goal set by Mayor Ricky Draughn at the 2016 retreat. The mayor had asked town staff to look into a means of accepting credit card payments for services such as water and sewer.
Smith said town staff reviewed a number of options to provide such services before deciding to enlist Paymentus to process all credit card payments.
Dobson water and sewer customers can now use Visa, Mastercard and Discover to pay their bills, and the town also uses the service to process payments for picnic shelter rentals and at town-sponsored events.
The town went live with the service in January, and Smith noted all costs associated with the service are passed along to the customers.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.