Editor’s Note: This week we’re looking back on some of the bigger stories from our area this year. In this article, we look back on the news of Dobson.
DOBSON — Town Commissioner Bob Comer’s resignation was big news in 2015, but his wife stole the spotlight early in 2016.
After serving for more than two years on the Dobson Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Bob Comer resigned his post in December of 2015, leaving a vacancy on the town board. Comer retired as a captain from the Navy in 1980 and had been a town manager in Dobson and had served as the president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
The 81-year-old cited health concerns related to Alzheimer’s disease as his reason for leaving office.
Town commissioners didn’t look far for the commissioner’s replacement. On Jan. 28 the board unanimously appointed Bob Comer’s wife, Vonda Comer, 81, to fill her husband’s unexpired term.
Comer and two other town commissioners — Todd Dockery and Robin Testerman — ran unopposed in November’s general election.
Headway on water plant
Dobson has long needed upgrades to its water treatment plant. The plant has been operating under an exception to policy from the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. It lacks a sludge handling system.
Additionally, at the same meeting Bob Comer resigned, Town Manager Josh Smith announced the second of two water pumps at the plant had failed. The town had water in reserve, but also had to rent a pump throughout 2016 – at a cost of about $4,000 per month.
According to Smith, discussions regarding water plant upgrades began as early as 2013. However, an engineering firm failed to meet deadlines, setting the project back significantly.
A new engineering firm was hired, and in December the town board voted to award a contract to the tune of about $331,000. Smith said the pump replacements should begin early in 2017.
The remainder of the water plant project will likely go to bid in the summer of 2017, said Smith. He hopes the $3.7 million overhaul will be complete by early 2018.
A parks department
Dobson’s new Dobson Square Park made headlines in 2015 and was a hit in the community in 2016.
The town and other entities host hundreds of events at the park, and quickly it became evident to town officials the town needed a full-time employee to oversee operations at the park.
Additionally, a landscaping company opted not to continue contracting with the town.
At a retreat in March, town commissioners gave their consent to hire a park employee. The employee was hired at a rate of about $12 per hour, and Smith noted the money to cover the employee’s salary and benefits — an overall expenditure of about $50,000 — was included in the 2015-16 fiscal year’s budget.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.