More than a decade ago, Mount Airy made costly upgrades to its water and sewer system to better serve its large industrial customers.
Most everyone knows the story — the textile firms soon afterward locked their doors, either moving offshore where labor and production costs were cheaper than in the United States, or they simply shut down and went out of business, leaving the city, and the water and sewer customers, struggling to pay for the upgrades. Water and sewer rates became a central issue in the 2007 city elections, and remained a shadow over city actions for a number of years afterward.
That is why it is gratifying to see the recent agreement between Mount Airy and the Carroll County, Virginia, Public Service Authority allowing that county to purchase up to 6 million gallons of water monthly from the city.
It’s not a new pact, but a significant expansion of an agreement drawn up in 2012, under which the Virginia locality has been buying 114,000 gallons of water per month.
The impetus for the expansion is a plan by Carroll County’s PSA to expand public water resources in Cana and along the Interstate 77 exit area of the county. This will allow Carroll County to serve additional private residences, whose owners have requested an expansion of PSA services, as well as set the county up for additional commercial development around the I-77 exit.
It’s not likely Carroll County will need 6 million gallons of water each month — if the Cana portion of the PSA system reaches full capacity, it would still only need about half that amount — but it does allow for the Carroll County PSA to serve residential needs in the county and position the region for economic growth should the opportunity arise.
It’s also good for Mount Airy. It’s a new source of water revenue — the deal could generate as much as $7,000 a month for the city, even with the city’s agreement to sell the water on a wholesale basis to the PSA — and it’s good for the region.
While legal and political boundaries show Carroll County as being a separate locality and in a different state, the reality is Cana is part of the Mount Airy community. Relatives and friends live on both sides of the border, and any commercial development that might result would surely benefit the jobless in Mount Airy as much as folks in Carroll County.
It’s been a long process, but over the past decade Mount Airy officials have done a good job of marketing and selling its water capacity, entering deals with Dobson, Surry County, and now this expanded agreement with Carroll County. Those efforts have helped keep city rates from increasing by bringing in outside sources of revenue, as well as demonstrating Mount Airy is ready and able to provide even more water to potential large use customers, something that sets Mount Airy apart from many localities.