County mulls Dobson Plaza naming rights

By Jeff Linville -

DOBSON — A local insurance branch has offered funds toward renovating Dobson Plaza, but the county board has chosen to wait a month before making a decision to accept.

As reported in The News in early January, the county has purchased the former Lowe’s Food/Just Save location directly between the county government building and Atkins Street. Part of the $1.9 million project will be constructing a conference and training area that can be used by some of the agencies housed there.

Some county offices will be moved into the renovated facility, such as the Cooperative Extension Service as well as the local offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation.

“The services provided by these agencies are important resources to the county’s agricultural economy, hence the Farm Bureau board’s interest in becoming a financial partner on the project,” County Manager Chris Knopf stated to the Board of Commissioners this week.

Surry County Farm Bureau is offering $55,000 toward construction costs in exchange for having the new conference area being named in honor of the business, he explained.

Buying naming rights isn’t a new idea in local government, Knopf pointed out. Fisher River Park has sold naming rights on facilities there for 18 years.

“A similar arrangement was recently approved in Yadkin County when they constructed their new agriculture center and conference area,” he added.

Members of the board were nodding in agreement, but Commissioner Larry Johnson said he did have a few questions.

In order to be fair, he asked, have other businesses been asked if they would want to be involved in this? What if someone else would like to have his name or company name at the Plaza? He felt it was important to be fair everyone.

Farm Bureau came to the board, said Commissioner Van Tucker. The county didn’t seek the business out. And nobody else had come forward with an idea like this, so he’s inclined to agree as Farm Bureau is first in line.

Johnson said he would feel better if the board held off until the meeting the first week of March so that other companies wouldn’t feel like they were left out.

The rest of the board agreed and postponed the resolution awarding the naming rights.

250th Anniversary

Looking into the future, Knopf told the board that Surry County was founded in 1770 and in two years would come its 250th anniversary.

Speaking for himself and his staff, he said, “We feel it is important for the board to take a lead role in ensuring that the year 2020 is occupied with events celebrating this milestone.”

He recommended the forming of an anniversary committee, comprised of representatives from various organizations.

“The committee would be tasked with planning events and coordinating the anniversary’s recognition at existing annual events,” he said.

He presented the commissioners with a suggested list of people to contact about the committee. If that person cannot attend meetings himself or herself, then a person could be appointed in that place.

The suggested list included:

• County chairman

• Dobson, Elkin, Pilot and Mount Airy mayors

• Register of deeds

• Surry County Historical Society

• Mount Airy Museum of Regional History

• Tourism Development Authorities from the county and each municipality.

The commissioners concurred with Knopf and agreed that he should reach out to those groups about appointing a representative.

Also, said Chairman Eddie Harris, this November marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The county should have some sort of recognition of that date, too, he believed.

Knopf agreed.

Safety Grants

John Shelton, emergency services director, had three items up for consideration this week.

Two grants were approved as part of the consent agenda.

Knopf explained that the county has a chance to apply for a reimbursement grant of up to $10,000 from the N.C. Department of Emergency Management to conduct the county’s annual hazardous materials exercises. He said this would not require any matching funds from the county.

“As part of ongoing projects within our Local Emergency Planning Committee, Surry County E.M. has an opportunity to apply for and receive up to $10,000 for the LEPC,” Knopf said of the second grant. These funds will go toward a hazardous materials operations plan to be added onto the county’s existing emergency operations plan. This grant also doesn’t require matching funds.

The third part took some explaining from Shelton.

Surry County has been hosting a regional grant project through the central branch of the N.C. Department of Emergency Management. The county has been asked to host another project for Region 5, Shelton said.

This grant involves upgrading 17 message boards for counties in this region, including three earmarked for Surry County.

“This will enhance our existing message boards in that they can be remotely programmed and tracked via on-board modems and GPS devices,” said Knopf.

Any agency in the county can use these signs, said Shelton. Personnel can change the sign message from anywhere in the county by accessing the boards through the internet.

Some counties are approved for two signs, but Surry can get three because of its size and the presence of I-77 and I-74, according to Shelton. Interstate 77 has a lot of accidents, so the three signs could all be used along the roadway, or two could be used there while another covers a different need elsewhere.

Commissioner Larry Phillips asked if the signs could be used by neighboring counties.

Only in a disaster, like when that band of tornadoes came through last year, Shelton answered. Likewise, if something bad happened here, he could call on neighboring counties for similar aid.

Being a regional host has been beneficial to the county in several ways, Shelton said, so he hoped to see that continue.

The board asked about the costs of the signs.

The state agency will provide a reimbursement grant up to $32,052 for the purchase of the three signs. Then, the monthly service fees for the units also will be paid for the first two years.

After that two years is up, if the county finds the signs beneficial, the cost is $390 a year per unit or $1,170 for three, said Shelton.

The board approved the resolution.

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.