DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Commissioners may be poised to force some residents to hook on to a new sanitary sewer system, after a public comment session drew few responses.
The county board scheduled a public comment session during its meeting Monday evening to allow residents of the Interstates Water and Sewer District and the surrounding area to chime in on two ordinances which would force some property owners to connect to the new sewer system which will soon be completed.
County Attorney Ed Woltz explained one ordinance would force property owners in the Interstates District, which begins at the intersection of Pine Ridge Road and N.C. 89 and stretches west along N.C. 89 to where the road meets Maple Grove Church Road and Round Peak Church Road, to become customers of the system.
A sister ordinance being considered would force property owners who live along N.C. 89 between the Mount Airy city limits and the district to also hook in to the system.
Woltz noted both ordinances would apply to properties on which a structure is built within 200 feet of a gravity sewer line. The property must also receive public water before any sewer connection is made.
Any property owner who didn’t hook on would be assessed an availability fee should the ordinances be passed, added Woltz.
County Manager Chris Knopf estimated about 35 percent of the lines running through the affected area are forced mains. Residents who live adjacent to a forced main would not be forced to hook on to the system, as the process for hooking on to a forced main is generally cost prohibitive for residents.
“Can we approach these areas differently?” asked Commissioner Larry Phillips.“‘Can we require those who are inside the district who lobbied for 15 years for this project to hook up and not require those outside of the district to hook on?”
Woltz told commissioners the two groups of property owners — and the two corresponding ordinances — have to be treated separately. The commissioners could pass the ordinance requiring connection in the district as the governing board of the district, and commissioners could pass the ordinance applying to those outside of the district as the county board.
However, Woltz added a decision regarding mandatory hook up inside the district has — to some extent — already been made.
“The interlocal agreement with Mount Airy anticipates mandatory hookup in the district,” Woltz told the board.
Woltz explained that the pact by which the city agreed to provide sewer services in the district might need to be amended should the county board not force hookup in the district. The agreement leaves open the possibility to force or not to force service in the connecting area.
Knopf told county commissioners landowners who would be required to connect or pay an availability fee under the two ordinances received letters from county staff.
Few spoke from the public, and most who wandered to the podium would be affected only by the ordinance pertaining to properties between the district and the city limits.
“I never asked for this,” said Josh Nixon, a property owner who had boxwood bushes destroyed during the construction process.
Asked whether he had publicly opposed the sewer project when the county board was considering it, Nixon said, “I did not make a public statement, but I am now.”
Upon further discussion, officials discerned Nixon’s property did not fall within the boundaries of the Interstates District. In doing so, board members may have revealed the board’s intent by way of issuing a quiet consensus.
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” said Board Chairman Eddie Harris.
Commissioner Larry Phillips indicated he was leaning toward mandating hookup only in the district itself as well.
Though the county board did not vote on either ordinance on Monday, if Harris’ guidance to Nixon — and a few other residents who spoke — stands true, the county board is set to eventually pass the ordinance pertaining to the Interstates District, but not the one affecting those property owners who live along the line connecting the district to the city’s sewer system.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.