DOBSON — While Thursday evening’s move by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners to agree to invest up to $1 million in the county’s Interstates Sewer Project marks a milestone, shovels won’t be going in the ground just yet.
But county board Chairman R.F. “Buck” Golding, who attended the Mount Airy meeting, said that while even more funding is required, the move by the Mount Airy board marks one major hurdle overcome.
“(The meeting) was very fruitful,” Golding said. “We’ve been negotiating with the city for a long time to get these things ironed out, and that certainly got the ball rolling.”
At issue is what method is used to connect existing businesses in the area to the sewer service. County officials have backed the force-main option because at around $2.4 million, it is cheaper, although Golding said it would mean additional expense for future connections.
City officials want the county to use a combined gravity and force-main system, which would allow for easier connections in the event of future expansion in the area, but comes in at around $4.5 million.
But there are benefits to the more expensive option, Golding said, noting that the county has been backing the force-main plan due to deadlines set by some of the grants that require the project go out for bid by October.
Unlike the force-main option, the gravity system would allow for additional pressure and make it easier — and much cheaper — for any new businesses, homes or schools in the area to connect to the system.
During Thursday’s meeting, Mount Airy officials unanimously passed a resolution to supply the additional funding if the county board goes with the gravity system.
But Golding said that even with the additional money, the county is still short on funds.
“We’re still about a million dollars away on the gravity system, but (Mount Airy) isn’t interested in the force-main,” he said. “It’s a limited service that would only serve the original people in the area. Anyone else who wanted to come on later, well they could do it, but it would have to be re-engineered.
“Once you get (the force-main system) in place, to tap into it you’d have to shut the service down to make the tap. It can be done, it’s possible, but it would be expensive.”
While Golding called Thursday’s move “overcoming a major hurdle,” he said not to expect a vote on the project during Monday’s county commissioners meeting because there are still funding obstacles.
“It will be discussed, but I don’t know there will be a vote,” he said. “We haven’t found the additional $1 million to make funding complete.”
But Golding said he empathizes with the business owners in the area, who have been working toward the project for more than a decade.
He said the county simply wants to make the right move for the future of the area.
“This process, in fact, has been going on for a long time,” he said. “But it had several entanglements with the way grants were structured and how much money was there. The force-main option is the cheaper option, and we’re close to having that kind of funding.”
And while no new businesses for the area are on the horizon, Golding said he wants to make the area as attractive as possible should one appear.
“You put (the force main) system in and you guarantee yourself extra cost in the future for any expansion,” he said.
Golding said that despite frustrations among existing businesses that the project is taking so long, the board wants it to move forward as well.
“There’s never been a time that anyone on our board wanted it to die, but we want this wrapped up as tight as we can get it, with everyone understanding it and being on the same page when it goes out to bid.
“These grants are taxpayer money and I’m going to treat it like that. You mess one up and you’ll never get another.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.