City turns tap on water deal

By Tom Joyce -

Mount Airy has become the go-to place for neighboring communities seeking a new water source, and city officials — sitting on a huge surplus of H2O — seem only too happy to oblige.

The latest customer in line for Mount Airy water is the town of Pilot Mountain. A memorandum of understanding was approved unanimously by the city Board of Commissioners at its meeting Thursday night, which will allow it to flow to that community to the southeast.

“I think it’s nice to help your neighbors,” Community Shirley Brinkley said in the wake of that action.

The project will involve the installation of a 12-inch water line from Mount Airy to Pilot Mountain. Plans call for the line to extend from the end of an existing city line in the Holly Springs Church Road area to the town’s water system near Tom’s Creek. A master meter is to be set in the vicinity of Simmons Grove Church Road.

In addition to serving the town, water service also is expected to be available to sites fronting the water line route.

Mount Airy officials have been working not only with Pilot Mountain but the Surry County government on the project estimated to cost about $3.9 million, for which all three will play a funding role.

Pilot Mountain is getting financing help from the state government in the form of a 50-percent grant/50-percent loan. The cost of the loan will be shared equally between the county and two municipalities. This will amount to $97,500, or $32,500 each, over 20 years, totaling about $650,000 apiece for the three participants.

Surry County is expected to give its approval at a meeting next Monday night.

Mount Airy has been doing much in recent years to market its water surplus. It resulted from the city making substantial investments in water-treatment facilities over the years, only to see major users such as textile manufacturers leave town.

The municipality now has a capacity of 8.5 million gallons a day, but an average daily usage of only about 2 million gallons.

When the new line is put into service, Pilot Mountain will close its water plant and obtain all needed supplies from the city.

Pilot Mountain has agreed to buy a minimum of 100,000 gallons per day and a maximum of 1 million gallons, with more than 200,000 gallons of daily consumption estimated. This will result in $200,000-plus being paid annually by the town to Mount Airy.

It is to pay $2.84 per 1,000 gallons, a figure that is 85 percent of the maximum in-city rate. This is the same rate charged to two existing water customers, the town of Dobson and Carroll County, Virginia. Future rate increases will equal the percentage for in-city users.

Pilot Mountain and Mount Airy will be responsible for the water line on each side of the meter.

City Public Works Director Jeff Boyles says the maintenance of the line and the production of 200,000 gallons-plus per day will not tax Mount Airy’s resources.

Exactly when the line will be installed is a question mark.

“It’s not immediate,” City Engineer Mitch Williams said.

There are indications from Pilot Mountain that this could occur in about a year.

City officials react

“The contract with Pilot, I think, is taking it over the top,” Commissioner Jim Armbrister said of the significance of the deal.

Armbrister said he looks forward to serving that community, and wants Pilot Mountain officials to be able to say years from now “that they made the right decision.”

Town officials have indicated that the water acquisition from Mount Airy will decrease their costs significantly compared to refurbishing Pilot Mountain’s existing water-treatment facility.

Commissioner Steve Yokeley, citing the previous agreements to sell water to Dobson and Carroll County, said the pact with Pilot Mountain is further evidence of how localities in the region can work together on common issues.

“I’m very glad that you adopted the MOU with Pilot,” City Manager Barbara Jones told the commissioners regarding the memorandum of understanding. “I think it’s great.”

By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.