Archive for August, 2008

So the prospect of a Surry Arts Council building just for the Andy Griffith Memorabilia Collection is back from the ashes after falling apart last year. The big difference is that the largest chunk of the funding is not from local taxes, but from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center. The center is no doubt swamped with funding requests for its economic innovation program, and sent a person to Mount Airy recently to follow up on the mounds of paperwork filed by the arts council to evaluate the project’s economic impact. Click here for a link to the one-page summery from the rural center board in approving the request. Essentially, this is the state’s expectations for what a shrine to Andy can pull off.

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Whatever term you want to use (fired, let go, dismissed, relieved of responsibilities), County Manager Macon Sammons is no longer in the top Surry government post. Sammons did issue a statement when we attempted to reach him for comment, but it was emailed too late to make deadline on our Wednesday story. So I’ve pasted it below verbatim. It will be interesting to see if commissioners pick someone from outside the area for a new manager or select someone with local ties.

“I have both enjoyed and greatly appreciated many fine working relationships with local officials, County employees and citizens.  It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve our community and our people. 

Furthermore, I am really proud of the many accomplishments of our County employees over the past 4 1/2 years.”

Candace and I appreciate our many good friends and neighbors.  We have come to love Surry County, and we’ll continue to be involved in charitable, civic and church activities.”  

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As written up in last Friday’s Messenger, the return of the annual Surry County Agricultural Fair is marked with a few changes, namely the inclusion of farm-themed events after a two year absence and an increase in the ticket price. Blog discussions on Mount Airy’s other two big fall events — Mayberry Days and Autumn Leaves — generated plenty of opinions on the quality and value of the festivities. Where does the county fair fit into the mix? As the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs documents here, it’s one of many North Carolina fairs of its type with decades of history. But it’s certainly gone through some changes over the years and it will be interesting to see how the latest version is received locally.

For those curious, the photo at right is from last year’s fair. The inside pig won easily.

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Those of you that take an interest in Friday’s story about how SCC doesn’t qualify for state bonus money this year (and I’d think the many employees who would have gotten a cut of those dollars are at least curious) can find all the full results of the evaluations online here.

For comparisons sake, I’ve scanned last year’s evaluations and attached them below.

It doesn’t appear that the community college’s performance changed much. It’s just that the tougher standards now leave no room for error.

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The planning department map on the right frames in red the center of what has become an emotional rezoning dispute, as evidenced by the public hearing last Thursday. Owners of that parcel want to build a dry cleaners on the site, but first that requires turning the yellow of a residential district to the blue of a business one. Space limitations prevented us from printing all the points made by the 14 speakers in the story that ran Friday. So here’s a few more for both sides, told in the words of the speakers.

Arguments for:

-“Anytime we have a new business, we need to embrace them. We may not like it here, but it’s a necessary evil.”

-“The property sits here undeveloped and it looks bad in the city limits. I’d like to see the city grow anyway it can because I’ve seen us lose so many jobs.”

-“The lifeline of a business community is the small business owner. When a local person wants to reinvest in this community, that is the greatest compliment we can achieve.”

-“If we’re going to have a planning board, we should probably listen to them. The planning board has now approved of this twice.”

-“The traffic on this road is a main artery anyway.”

Arguments against:

-“This will make for more congestion. It will make it harder to pull out of the driveway.”

-“If we want to make this town more like Mayberry, we need to remember that Mayberry didn’t have a business on every corner.”

-“The city of Mount Airy’s vision plan has not been updated, edited or amended in the last 10 years. So to cite such a plan now is extremely conspicuous.”

-“On page 96 of the vision plan it states … ‘conservation and preservation of older neighborhoods is most important.'”

-“It’s just a good residential place that we worked for and want to keep. We have so many empty buildings that could be used.”

-“We’re not trying to keep anybody from making money or growing their business .. but please consider our neighborhood and people who have lived there a long time and their home values. I worry about this starting a progression of more businesses there.”

-“Each and every day, at least 108 times a car is going to stop in the middle of Renfro Street and many will make a left turn.”

-“Look at building apartments, condos or other things. You’ve been entrusted by the voters of Mount Airy to maintain the quality of life here, and I hope you do that.”

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There are two ways to look at the news that Surry County’s tourist spending went up 6.9 percent to $83.3 million in 2007: A. It’s a great indicator of local growth in the tourism sector; B. Surry is just keeping pace with the rest of the state.

For those inclined to take more interest in B (or who just travel a lot and are curious in other counties’ tourist draws) it helps to look at this breakdown by county in order of percentage growth. Some odd things jump out, like how does Nash have the most robust growth while neighboring Edgecombe is ranked near the bottom? Or looking at the data in our region, how does Surry show growth while neighboring Yadkin is flat?

You can also go here to look at historical data. Surry’s data shows a couple of rough tourist years, but pretty steady growth long term. It’s at least a stronger growth pattern than Stokes, and a more consistent growth pattern than Wilkes.

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What to build at SCC


Our Tuesday editorial delves into Surry Community College’s plans to request $12 million in state funds for a 1,000 seat auditorium. The project, which you can read more about here, would be the second phase of the school’s Viticulture and Enology Center.

In this case the question is what project(s) to list as the top priorities since the state is musing a higher education bond referendum. I’ve attached below the options highlighted by Little Diversified Architectural Consulting in that firm’s facilities master plan for the next five years. All these are listed as “immediate” needs, with the top option what has been “bundled” by trustees as the number one priority.

Also attached are enrollment figures, data some school officials are using to illustrate SCC’s overcrowding. If enrollment continues to increase and gets back to previous highs, there will be a classroom crunch, and some trustees have said that places a higher priority on classroom space.

There are no designs as of yet for the proposed auditorium, although a representative from Little last week presented trustees with photos of the Overcash Academic and Performing Arts Center as an example of what the finished product could emulate.

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