Sewer line ‘at a stalemate’

By Andy Winemiller -

DOBSON — A sewer line set to bring sewer services to a large Surry County employer is being held up on two ends.

In 2013 work began to bring sewer services to Weyerhaeuser, a company which makes OSB board located near Elkin. However, the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority has yet to agree to accept the wastewater from the company, and the county is running into a few problems in garnering easements for the project.

County Attorney Ed Woltz told the Surry County Board of Commissioners recently that only two easements are necessary to run sewer lines to the company. The remainder of the lines can be placed in public right of ways.

Garnering the easements is Surry County’s only active role in the project, according to Woltz. However, both property owners are toeing the line in their negotiations with the county.

“They have three terms,” said Woltz in explaining the conditions under which one property owner would sign an easement. “They want Weyerhaeuser to keep up the river bank on the property. They are asking for $5,000, and they want their driveway paved.”

Woltz said when he first received the demand he had thought the property owners simply wanted their driveway paved where the line passed through the property. That wasn’t the case, however. They wanted the entire driveway paved and even specified which contractor they would like to complete the work.

“I think that’s probably a no-go,” said Commissioner Van Tucker later in the meeting. “Use your negotiation skills, Ed (Woltz).”

Woltz also outlined the other easement issue. Vulcan Materials Company leases the other property in question, and the company’s attorney wants Surry County to be liable for any damages which result from the negligence of its employees.

Woltz indicated that was probably a “no-go” too, but there could be another fix at that location.

“We can use the right of way there instead,” explained Woltz. “But we can find documents for the right of way only for the highway.”

Woltz indicated he would continue to both negotiate and explore the possibility of bypassing the Vulcan property by way of the public right of way.

The attorney also said the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority would hold the power of eminent domain should negotiations come to a halt.

However, Commissioner Larry Phillips indicated there could be another hold-up with the project regarding the waste produced at the company.

County Manager Chris Knopf stated it was his understanding the sewer authority had yet to agree to accept the waste, which contains chemicals and must be pre-treated. Weyerhaeuser has installed a system to treat the waste at a cost of nearly $1 million.

Knopf said he believed negotiations between the authority and Weyerhaeuser could be at a stalemate.

Though Knopf stated the county’s only monetary interest — other than garnering the easements — in the project is a pledged $80,000 in matching grant funds, the company is also a valued employer in Surry County’s economy.

“They (Weyerhaeuser) are the kind of employer you bend over backwards to keep,” said Phillips. “When I see a good company being jerked around that angers me.”

Woltz described Weyerhaeuser, with its large investment already complete, as “hanging out there” until all issues are resolved.

“We are in negotiations with the company,” said Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority Executive Director Nicole Johnston.

Johnston said her organization is actively negotiating with Weyerhaeuser in regards to how the industrial waste is treated, noting it had to meet the criteria outlined in a local ordinance prior to being accepted by the authority.

She added she hopes to soon have another meeting with the company’s representatives to hash out the details of pre-treatment.

That stated, Johnston said once the two easements are in place, the project will be ready to go to bid.

By Andy Winemiller

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.