After years of discussion, Mount Airy and Surry County officials finally are ready for some actual work in providing sewer service for the Interstate 74/77 district and other areas west of the city along N.C. 89.
“We’ve been talking about this since I’ve been a commissioner — for four and a half years,” Mount Airy’s Jon Cawley said during a meeting of city and county officials Tuesday morning when project details were updated.
“Let’s get this done,” Cawley remarked.
The main purpose of the project is extending municipal sewer service to a cluster of businesses in the interstates district, to allow them to remain viable as well as expand. The lines to be installed as part of a combined force-main/gravity flow system also will benefit properties in between, including North Surry High and Gentry Middle schools, which need sewer service as well.
Mount Airy and Surry County officials are now assembling final details for the project to allow plans to be submitted to the state, and so needed right-of-way easements and pump station lots can be acquired.
A Virginia engineering firm involved in designing the project is completing more field work and will submit the plans to the N.C. Department and Natural Resources by March 15, with the process of acquiring the easements and lots beginning shortly thereafter.
Surveys To Start
One preliminary step in the process involves notifying affected landowners that surveying work for the project will begin soon, according to County Manager Chris Knopf, who was part of Tuesday’s discussion.
“There will be folks working on their property,” Knopf said, adding that officials want to make sure no “issues” result from this. It is hoped that the landowners can be advised of the dates and times survey personnel actually will be on site.
“We’re on schedule,” Knopf said of the overall project timetable.
Another key step at this point is the negotiation of a formal funding agreement between the city and county for the work.
Mount Airy has committed up to $1 million for its share, with grants from various state and federal sources and contributions from private interests who will benefit from the project totaling between $1.5 and $2 million. That would leave the county government having to allocate about $2.5 million for the remainder of the project’s estimated cost of $4.978 million.
The expense grew from an earlier $4.5 million due to including the two schools on the gravity system along with other properties in the area.
Tuesday’s discussion indicated that a grant of about $1 million awarded by the North Carolina Rural Center could dip to around $960,000, based on Wagon Wheel Restaurant — one of the affected businesses — changing hands, along with getting a new name.
Since the grant sum is based on numbers of jobs to be created by the project, the new restaurant owner has not committed to a certain number of positions as the previous one did, thus potentially reducing the grant award.
“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” said Commissioner Cawley, “and I’m surprised some of these grant monies are still available to us.”
There was discussion Tuesday about trying to obtain additional Community Development Block Grant funding in addition to money already being provided by that source. But a lack of significant economic gains — which a large industry or warehouse in the district, for example, would provide — and the fact lower-income residents aren’t targeted — lessen the chances for this, city Community Development Coordinator Martin Collins said.
Most of the estimated 100 jobs affected, including those to come from new development as a result of the sewer project or existing ones that will be maintained, are part-time retail positions, Collins said.
It is uncertain when Mount Airy’s commissioners might take formal action on their part of the expense.
“I’m not sure,” City Manager Barbara Jones said, explaining that various details still need to be finalized. “The (city engineering) staff is going to have to start getting together the technical pieces of it,” Jones said.
“There’s no fast way to do it,” she continued. “We’re probably looking at a couple of months.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.