Economic impact of sewer project promising

DOBSON — Supporters of the NC 89 sewer project packed the Surry County Board of Commissioners meeting room Monday night. Many were elated to see the project get the final nod from commissioners, with one project supporter saying “we finally got our project.”

The project will deliver sanitary sewer services along NC 89 to the I-77 and I-74 interchanges, an area where most of the project’s supporters have businesses. With sewer service on its way to the area, many business owners are looking forward to starting their plans for growth.

Talks of running water and sewer lines to the area began as early as 1999, according to project supporters and county staff. Since then, Surry County has weathered an economic down-turn and the loss of a number of large manufacturing companies.

Surry County Board of Commissioners Chairman R.F. “Buck” Golding has stated on a number of occasions that the issue of finances was his reason to oppose the project. Golding was joined in his dissent by Commissioner Eddie Harris. Commissioners Paul Johnson and Jimmy Miller were staunch supporters of the project, and Commissioner Larry Phillips consistently cast a third “yes” vote for the project.

Phillips became the point man for the project after the county received bids for the project from eight different companies, the lowest of which was local Smith-Roe LLC at about $4.9 million. After the bids were presented to commissioners, Phillips asked for the opportunity to conduct an impact study associated with the project.

Eventually, through working with property owners in the area and county staff, Phillips was able to propose a way to fund the project. Since the board’s final 3-2 vote to move forward with the project, Phillips has stated that his vote is a reflection of his biggest campaign promise — economic development.

With sewer lines coming to the area property owner Tommy Brintle is preparing to go ahead with a number of projects. Brintle has stated that his truck stop on NC 89 relies on a 20,000 gallon aeration system to treat water prior to dumping it into Stewart’s Creek. In the plan to fund the sewer project, Brintle has pledged more than $103,000.

Brintle said that his business’ reliance on the system put him in a position in which expansion was not an option. One of Brintle’s plans is the addition of a McDonalds fast food resturaunt. Based on figures that Phillips calls low estimates, that McDonalds will net about $1.2 million in annual sales, resulting in $21,600 in sales tax revenue annually.

Brintle’s plans don’t stop at a McDonalds. The property owner also has plans to build a KFC or Taco Bell that would create a similar amount of revenue, according to Phillips. Brintle has also mentioned the building of an urgent care clinic on his property, though that proposed establishment isn’t figured into Phillips report.

There are additional plans for a Dollar General, a travel plaza expansion and an expansion of Beary Country gift shop. A possible expansion of the Circle K on NC 89 could result in more than $43,000 in annual sales tax revenue.

By Phillips’ own admission the figures in the impact study that led to the commissioner’s “yes” vote are conservative in nature. His figures add up the sales tax revenues that could result from 11 possible business ventures in the area and factor only 25 percent of those possible revenues into the equation of paying for the project.

If all 11 projects were to come to fruition, based on Phillips’ numbers, the county could see an annual benefit of nearly $400,000 in increased sales tax revenues.

Phillips called Interstate 77 the county’s “greatest asset” in economic development. Phillips said having water and sewer services, which he says are necessities in attracting new businesses, in the area will help the county’s marketing strategy.

“Down the road, I think a future board will look at this (the sewer project) and say thanks,” commented Phillips. Phillips went on to describe economic development as a partnership between private and public sectors. “They have skin in the game too,” said Phillips in regard to the affected property owners who offered combined monetary pledges of more than $250,000.

With the board’s vote to move the project forward on Monday, property owners who made pledges toward the sewer project’s completion have until June 22 to either pay their pledge in whole or sign promissory notes that would allow the county to collect annual payments toward a pledge over the course of the next ten years.

With Phillips’ motion contingent on the pledges, if all eight property owners have not completed the necessary paperwork or paid in full by June 22 the action of the board will become void, and Smith-Roe’s bid will expire. If that order of events happens, the project would have to be rebid.

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