After expressing reluctance Thursday night to support a sewer project one city official called “a total waste,” Mount Airy’s board of commissioners voted to work with Surry County on an option that will promote more growth.
A group of citizens that included business owners in the Interstate Water and Sewer District attended the meeting to urge the commissioners to favor a project for providing a force-main sewer system to serve that area about six miles outside town.
However, Mount Airy officials instead advocated an alternate plan for a sewer line between the district and Mount Airy which would combine a force-main and gravity sewer system. Unlike the other option, high pressure would not be an issue, thereby allowing county homes and businesses along the N.C. 89-West corridor — including North Surry High and Gentry Middle schools — to hook on without a major expense.
“The only solution is Option 2,” Commissioner Dean Brown said during a lengthy discussion on the issue.
County leaders have backed the force-main proposal because it was cheaper than the other ($2.4 million compared to $4.5 million) and due to time constraints they said are forcing them to have bids for construction ready by October.
But a resolution approved unanimously by Brown and the other four council members Thursday states that the city will supply up to $1 million to make the more-expensive project a reality.
Under the other proposal, the municipality would pay nothing, but receive about $25,000 year for treating the sewage and maintaining the line.
Buck Golding, the chairman of the county commissioners — who attended Thursday’s night city board meeting — welcomed the municipality’s new offer toward the joint project. After being asked by Mayor Deborah Cochran if that plan were “workable,” he replied, “very much so.”
Golding is hopeful that extensions can be obtained to keep the threatened grant funding intact until the city and county explore fully details of the second option. They are expected to hold a special joint meeting to that effect within the next two weeks, according to Thursday’s discussion, in order to facilitate the project.
Businesses Cite Need
Before the apparent settlement was reached, representatives of affected businesses in the Interstate Water and Sewer District told the Mount Airy commissioners how much sewer service is needed there. They said at least 100 jobs are affected, including new development and those at existing businesses with inadequate service.
“A straight flush beats a full house,” J.T. Henson of James River Equipment said of having a force-main line built to accommodate a cluster of businesses in the area where interstates 77 and 74 and N.C. 89 converge. Henson called the need for service “critical.”
Rhonda Collins, owner of Beary Country Inc., said the affected parties had been working since 1999 to bring the effort to fruition.
“We’ve put a lot of money, hard work and time into this project,” Collins said. “We are asking that you (city officials) continue to move forward with the interstates project.”
Thomas Brintle of Brintle Enterprises said the critical need tied to the utility service includes plans for a new garage and restaurant at the Brintle’s Truck Stop site.
While city officials seemed sympathetic to the desire to proceed with the force-main system only, they were insistent that the other option is best for the long run in terms of growth.
“This has not been taken lightly by any of us,” Commissioner Shirley Brinkley said.
Brown said he is concerned for Mount Airy’s long-term future, and the fact the N.C. 89 corridor is one of the few places it can expand. The proposal that includes both a force-main and gravity sewer line will aid that, he said.
“It will pay off in the future,” Brown added of the extra cost.
Jon Cawley, another commissioner, said hundreds of jobs, rather than 100, can be provided in that area “if we do it the right way.”
Commissioner Scott Graham said the more-extensive option “is the only way that makes sense” to him.
“The other way is a total waste of money, in my opinion,” he added.
After the discussion that led to the city commissioners voting 5-0 to work with the county on the second option, a spirit of cooperation seemed evident among the business owners and others regarding the move.
“My only concern is let’s get together and let’s get this done,” Graham told Golding.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.