City hoping for free money

First Posted: 3/23/2009

Sometimes it pays to be on the poor side, and Mount Airy officials are hoping Surrys designation as a Tier One county will lead to favorable action regarding a list of projects eyed for federal stimulus funding.
North Carolinas Tier One counties are considered to be those most in need and generally are in economically distressed and rural areas of the state. At times, this can lead to extra assistance for infrastructure improvements, and city leaders say this could pay off with the stimulus program.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners authorized on Thursday night the submitting of 11 water and wastewater projects, a wish list local officials hope can be paid for with federal stimulus money. This would in turn boost the construction industry.
There are a couple of them that are very significant for the city in terms of water-quality issues, City Manager Don Brookshire said of the projects targeted.
But the question is if and how the federal stimulus money will be allocated.
They say all of it will be some kind of a grant-loan combination, Brookshire said. Until they come forward with an offer, we wont know.
But even low-interest loans would add to an already significant debt load that Mount Airy has incurred from previous water and sewer projects, including construction of lines in newly annexed communities. In this budget year, about $1.6 million or 30 percent of the revenues designated for the citys water and sewer fund as a whole is being used to pay off previous loans.
However, Brookshire said that with Surrys dubious status as a Tier One county, Its possible they might offer a 100-percent grant. This would allow work to be done without taking on further debt.
Mount Airy would face no penalty for refusing the stimulus money if the funding arrangements are not feasible from its standpoint, according to the city manager.
Local officials were required to take action by March 31 to obtain the stimulus money. They have been told that shovel-ready projects that already have progressed through the design stage are targeted for funding.
The projects include:
A Mountain View Lane water-line extension, at an estimated cost of $292,000;
Sewer service to F.G. Doggett Water-Treatment Plant, $1.40 million;
A Pipers Gap water-line extension, $253,800;
An Old Cadle Ford Road water-line extension, $493,000;
Valve location and unidirectional flushing using ground-penetrating radar, $231,030, which would create high water velocities when flushing water lines, producing more scouring and better cleaning of the system;
Replacing 152 older water meters with newer ones with radio-read capability, $166,892;
Water tank mixing, $491,633;
A Piedmont Triad West Industrial Park sewer extension, $499,375;
Sewer service to North Surry High School, $1.1 million;
Extending sewer lines from North Surry to Interstate 77 welcome centers, $3.83 million;
Rehabilitation of existing sewer lines in various areas, $425,000.
The latter project to rehabilitate sewer lines would address to a small degree an ongoing problem with the aging water-sewer infrastructure in Mount Airy, a portion of which dates to 1900.
Jeff Boyles, the citys public services director, said the $425,000 would allow the city to address various areas where problems have been identified. That money would cover 4,000 feet of line, according to Boyles, who said that Mount Airy has a total of 110 miles of sewer lines.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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