Archive for January, 2008

The recent series of wintery mixes (I won’t call it snowfall) has taken our minds off the drought somewhat. And it’s true that the precipitation has helped our area’s water levels. A quick glance at the Drought Management Advisory Council’s monitoring map confirms this. It also shows that the situation remains pretty dire in the central part of the state, including all of North Carolina’s largest cities.

With no deluge in rainfall expected, Gov. Mike Easley has called for a program that effectively penalizes high water users. To add teeth to the “conservation is patriotic” push, the state now tracks weekly water usage for every system to see who’s cutting back and who’s keeping the taps running.

We’re kind of the odd ones out in Surry. Not only is our drought far less severe, our four municipal systems are struggling to break even and are trying to increase water revenues to replace departed industry. There’s a lingering worry among many public officials I talk to that we might be forced to cut back drastically here on consumption so there’s more water left downstream, which would in turn force rates up.

Some funding for water lines (about 100 miles worth of them heading south) sure would come in handy right now.

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A Blogger’s Message

The following is from John Evers, one of our bloggers: On March 6th, I will be giving a presentation at the Mount Airy City Council meeting at 7:00pm. The presentation is regarding the idea of Mount Airy starting a Youth Commission.  I’ll explain more that night, but I strongly feel that this would be fantastic for both – The City of Mount Airy, as well as those youth who would serve on the Youth Commission.  I believe it would be a win-win situation.  The city would hear first-hand what is on the hearts and minds of our young people, and those teens would gain experience and knowledge of local government.  Those youth will also learn from experience how to come up with solutions and how to present these plans to city leaders.  I firmly believe that this would help develop not only leaders of tomorrow, but for today as well. Thanks for your help. 

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I got an update today about the prospects of having The Mountains to Sea Trail come through Surry County. As reported earlier this month, the state is trying to connect the scenic hiking route in the western and eastern parts of the state to make for a continuous 900-mile footpath.

The chances of it coming this way — through Elkin, Dobson and Pilot Mountain — look promising, but only if there’s universal support and a willingness among local officials to do the legwork securing easements and creating the trail.

The gap that needs connecting is between Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain state parks. As someone who likes to frequently drive the county’s backroads just to take in their scenic beauty, it got me thinking what corridors would make the best route(s). Based on current interest in hiking the trail, there could be enough use to impact nearby businesses, so you’d want to briefly pass through some commercial areas.

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Everybody chill

I spent my childhood in cold weather states, so I know I’m a little biased. But there’s a sense of bizarre humor to take with every snow spell, when the rush for bread and milk is exceeded only by the stampede of school and event closings. A number of Surry’s weekend events were canceled or postponed for a “storm” that never arrived, unless you view a few flurries and sub 25 degree temperatures as a threat. Some of the Christian schools in Forysth County that didn’t have MLK Jr. day off are already calling for 2-hour delays — and there’s no precipitation in the forecast. When the most that ever arrives is a couple inches of snow and a thin sheet of ice, one has to wonder if we’re just looking for a reason to take off work or play.

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Something for Nothing

I needed some hot sauce and grabbed a small bottle of Texas Pete at Lowes. Then I noticed that another bottle had a coupon around its neck. If I bought one bottle, the coupon would get me another one free. Great, so I grabbed another. And the deal got even better at checkout. First the register rang up both bottles at 99 cents each. Then the coupon was swiped through and it subtracted 99 cents, and then it subtracted another 99 cents because the store doubles all coupons. So I got both bottles free. Life is really good. I felt like going back and clearing out the Texas Pete shelves, but that would have ruined it for the next person.Oh, and one more food-related tidbit: There was a display with a big sign on it advertising “Half Ham.” My first reaction was, if it’s not ham, what’s the other half?

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We reported in a page 2 article earlier this month that Mount Airy city government is looking to ban all solicitations along streets and highways. The vote on that new ordinance will take place during Thursday’s city council meeting. State law gives municipalities lots of leeway in regulating this type of thing, and the ban proposed by the police department and city manager is a good example of government responding to citizen complaints. In this case, those complaints originated from an out-of-town church group recently soliciting donations at the busy U.S. 52/601 intersection.   I wonder if there’s a less vocal group, however, that sees public solicitation as a worthy endeavor if it’s for a good cause and not along a particularly busy intersection. The proposed ban allows soliciting on sidewalks, but shoulders and median strips are off limits. Interestingly enough, Durham and Fayetteville city governments are also tackling the public solicitation issue this month, although there it’s framed more along the context of panhandlers, not church groups.

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Great turnout and speeches for Tuesday’s economic summit at Olympia Family Restaurant. Boiling down two hours worth of talk from 18 speakers is tricky, but here’s a CliffsNotes version.



Strategies: market the area’s quality of life, create our own brand of products, lobby for more corporate incentives, focus on luring distributors, lure retirees, bring more youth sports tournaments to town, attract conventions, lower local taxes, recruit industries that use water, highlight success stories


Needs: highly trained industrial workers, more water and sewer infrastructure, industrial shell buildings, better support for the Surry Economic Development Partnership, more downtown stores open on weekends, start-up capital for new businesses, a convention center


Roadblocks: no more large manufacturers to attract, difficult for SCC to get funding to expand programs, Virginia and South Carolina give more in corporate incentives, lack of synergy in economic development efforts, minorities are not involved, too many youth moving away, taxes are too high on existing businesses



Of course none of these were universally agreed upon. Some even contradict each other. So now begins the process of sorting through the list and agreeing on what is achievable and what will have the greatest impact.

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The magnitude of interest among the general public in the whole debate over the house on Cherry Street is hard to gauge. But there’s no denying that those who do care are as passionate about this issue of recreation vs preservation as anything the city has recently faced.

The 45-minute long, unofficial public forum before the city council’s vote Thursday had a number of great quotes I couldn’t use because of either space constraints or not being able to verify the names of each speaker before they left the meeting. Here are some of the best (and I’m leaving out the analogy comparing the vote to Judas’ betrayal in the Bible).


First off, those in favor of selling the house to restore the structure:


“It introduces that end of the street. And we all know what the destruction of a street can mean. Look at Franklin Street. It’s all parking.”


“(RCC’s plans) are pie in the sky beyond pluto”


“Can we assume we’re going to spend the $5 million to get through phase one and two (of RCC’s master plan)?”


“If 20 parking places will solve the problem at Reeves Community Center, then we don’t have a parking problem.”



Now those who want to keep the property for RCC’s expansion:


“A drug dealer wouldn’t want to use that house. I think it will take an angel to come in and bring it up so it’s an asset to the neighborhood.”


“If you sell this house, as commissioners you have lost control.”


“I’m a great believer in preserving historic structures, but you have to pick and choose your battles.”


“I can’t imagine us selling out the children. They have no place to go without Reeves.”



And in the ‘can’t we all just get along’ category:

“Try to make both sides happy. You won’t be able to do that, but the verbiage you use will help.”


Yet my favorite quote of the night is this self-evalution from Commissioner Todd Harris. 

“Commissioner Bagnal says he wants to try and please everyone. I guess I’m the yin to his yang.”

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Leap Year Babies!

So, every four years there happens to occur this weird day – Feb. 29. What do people who happen to be born on this day do to celebrate? Do they only age every 4 years? Is a leap year special for you since you get to celebrate on your birthday? Do you do something different on those years? Do you typically celebrate on Feb. 28 or March 1 in a normal year? 

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The Mount Airy City Council is going to take a look at the rates it charges for water usage, rates that it raised about 45 percent last year in the wake of losses from major industrial users.Studying the issue is fine because it will give the council and its constituents a clear look at the alternatives. It’s easy to bitch about the water rates, but it’s hard to decide on a fair alternative. The city can’t simply lower rates and absorb the shortfall.So I’m asking our bloggers, where’s the money going to come from? Higher property taxes? Raising other user fees? And if you say “cutting waste,” be specific about what you would cut and how much that would save.

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