Both Mount Airy and Surry County now seem to be on board with a revised and expanded plan to provide sewer service to interstates 74 and 77 and other areas west of the city along N.C. 89.
At a meeting Wednesday afternoon in the Municipal Building that included city and county officials, the Mount Airy contingent expressed support for the latest attempt to extend lines to a cluster of businesses including Brintle’s Truck Stop. In addition, properties located in between will be able to connect to the city wastewater system.
The updated plan presently under consideration by the local governments is the culmination of many crooks and turns that have led to this point.
In August, a consensus was reached by the city and county regarding a Mount Airy assertion that the sewer service needed to be a combined force-main/gravity system. This not only will allow businesses in the so-called Interstates District to be served, but other commercial entities, homes and schools along the N.C. 89-West corridor. A forced-main option alone would preclude this due to the high pressure involved.
And just when it appeared the long-awaited project was headed toward fruition, problems arose with a private engineering firm that designed the system which caused it to be further delayed. The accompanying shakeup with Hobbs Upchurch & Associates prompted the county, the lead agency for the work, to transfer the job to Adams-Heath Engineering Inc. of Galax, Va.
Civil engineer Kevin Heath of that firm attended Wednesday afternoon’s meeting to explain the latest changes that will involve plans for serving additional territory than earlier envisioned. This will provide the potential to reach 61 more sites, including existing structures and an undeveloped area.
“I just thought that made more sense,” said County Manager Chris Knopf, who also was at the meeting along with Commissioner Paul Johnson. In addition to increasing the scope of potential customers, the new plan lays the framework for future sewer extensions in the N.C. 89 corridor.
The project will include a variation of force mains powered by pump stations and gravity flow, using eight- and 12-inch pipes.
However, the expansion will add about $400,000 more to the expense of the sewer extension on top of estimates cited during the summer. It now has a $4.9 million price tag, to be funded with the help of grants from three state and federal sources, and contributions from the city and county.
Mount Airy officials said Wednesday that despite the higher costs, they like where the effort stands at this point.
“Well, in my opinion, it’s what we asked them to do,” Commissioner Jon Cawley, a member of the Water and Sewer Committee of the city board, said of the concept sought from county leaders during the summer. “By doing this now, we can in the future hook to other areas at a minimum cost.”
Embracing just the force-main option, on the other hand, might have caused future citizens to ask about today’s city officials, “What were they thinking?” Cawley said.
Jeff Boyles, Mount Airy’s public services director, pointed out that not all areas between the Interstates District and the city limits will be served as a result, although the plan will “minimize” those gaps. “But this is certainly the best solution,” Boyles said.
“This was what we hoped for.”
“It doesn’t provide service for every community along the way,” City Manager Barbara Jones agreed, but will lay a foundation for future growth.
Timing And Funding
Jones said the city’s official position on the matter will be determined after the updated information and cost figures are reviewed and considered by the full board of commissioners, which likely will be finalized in January.
A schedule outlining the various steps that need to be taken for the project proposes that the city and county approve an official agreement in early February.
If all goes well, advertising for construction bids will occur next spring and the contract awarded on July 1.
Mount Airy has agreed to fund half of the local share of the work, up to $1 million.
Based on the discussion Wednesday afternoon, this cost could be spread over two budget years, which Jones said would be a big help to the city.
In the meantime, the delay arising from the problems with the original engineering firm will allow the localities to seek more grants for the work. Specifically mentioned were Community Development Block Grant funds, which are available for such projects that can stimulate economic growth and create jobs.
“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” the city manager said of applying for those funds.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.