DOBSON — One could be forgiven if they heard the theme from “The Jeffersons” in their head listening to Dobson Town Manager Josh Smith discuss accomplishments over past year, because for Smith the town is going in one direction: It’s “moving on up.”
“I think things went extremely well last year,” he said enthusiastically. “The most important thing to note is we didn’t remain stagnant. We have followed through with our proactive approach to town management, capital improvements and infrastructure improvements. It’s never good enough for us to be where we are now. We want to continuously improve, both in the way we conduct business and with the services we provide for our residents.”
While Smith said every effort was made to be in front of potential problems, he noted that sometimes unexpected things happen.
“Last year, we were affected by things like numerous pumping station failures on our wastewater system, and we had a very severe issue in our water treatment plant that resulted in the plant being taken offline for a period of five days,” he said, noting an equipment failure inhibited the plant’s ability to properly treat water.
But for Smith, proper planning made the situation a serious inconvenience rather than a catastrophe.
“We ended up having to shut the plant down, but fortunately we have an interlocal agreement in place with Mount Airy that allowed us to take the plant offline while still providing safe water for our residents,” he said.
And the end result will be a better water treatment system, Smith noted.
“It cost us a lot of time and money, but in the end the plant is running much more efficiently than it has for the past several decades,” he said.
The same is true with the pumping station failures.
“As a result of the failures of the pumps, we were able to do some work on our sewer infrastructure,” he said. “By replacing and upgrading equipment, we’re now running much more efficiently.
“I’m proud of our staff, and our board of commissioners for their ability to respond to these kind of unexpected things,” Smith added. “But while there were problems, there were a ton of good things happening as well.”
He pointed to the planned 2.2 acre park that will be located at the corner of West Atkins and South Crutchfield streets.
“It will be the first park in the town of Dobson,” Smith said proudly. “It’s been a long, long process getting ready to put shovels in the ground. The grant application took four or five months itself, but it resulted in a half-million dollars to help build that first park.”
The town has secured a $496,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Trust Fund that will be used to fund half the cost of the $1 million park.
“When you have a town our size, it’s uncommon that they can provide recreational opportunities like a town park that serves everyone,” he said. “But we want to make sure it’s used, and we’re planning cookouts, movie nights and things like that. We want the community to take advantage of it year-round.”
Smith said residents can see construction on the park start this spring, with a late-fall completion date tentatively set.
But there are plenty of goals still to be met, Smith said.
“Last year was a year of projects between the water treatment upgrades and the town park, but our residents will see construction begin and hopefully be completed on the park, and they will see a water plant running more efficiently,” he said.
If Smith has his way, town residents will be more informed in the future.
“They are going to see the town of Dobson more dedicated to public relations,” he said. “We want to reach out to the community and the first way we’re going to do that is through a resident survey. It is a way for us to reach out to town residents and gather information and feedback about what we’re doing well and what we can do better.”
In addition, Smith plans to distribute informational guides to residents about town rates and taxes, and a newsletter that will distributed several times a year.
“We want to inform residents about what’s going on in the town,” he said.
Another program is set to help residents understand their government more thoroughly.
“It’s one of my pet projects,” Smith said of the planned Citizen’s Academy. “A lot of times residents take a little interest in their government, but don’t fully grasp how government works. This academy will provide them with the opportunity to see multiple facets of the town’s government, from ride-alongs with the police to trips to the water plant.”
The six- to 10-week course is expected to begin this summer.
“Once we get the itinerary in place we’ll begin setting dates for it,” Smith said.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.