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Archive for February, 2009

For years Elkin-based Yadkin Valley Bank was one of the town’s best success stories, steadily growing to eclipse the $1 billion mark in assets a few years back and become a regional presence thanks in large part to acquisitions with several smaller banks.

But that was then, and the here and now is not pretty for just about any bank. So when Yadkin Valley’s board of directors recommended using around half of its $36 million from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to aquire Charlotte-based American Community Bancshares, board member Dan Park, one of Yadkin Valley’s founders, publicly voiced his opposition.

Park’s warnings were first reported in the Feb. 18 Messenger, with a Feb. 22 follow-up detailing a delayed merger vote and more widespread opposition that’s now out in the open. Proponants of the deal tout the presence Yadkin Valley would gain in the crucial Charlotte metropolitin area, while those opposed point to American Community’s recent fiscal troubles along with Yadkin Valley’s own reduced profits. Next month we’ll find out where the shareholders side.

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old-houseIn Mount Airy, a surprising number would answer yes, given the volume and magnitude of the arguments during the past two years on whether to restore the 1920s-era home or bulldoze it to clear parking space for Reeves Community Center (seen in the background of this photo). The final public chapter, detailed in the Feb. 20 Messenger, had all the drama one would expect given the disproportionate amount of attention this issue has garnered at  city council meetings. Those opposed to selling the home for renovation broke out all the rhetorical stops, calling the action “one of the stupidist things government has ever done,” “A big mistake” and an “elimination of there every being expansion at Reeves for our children and our senior citizens.”

The vitrol was so strong that Brenda Cooke, who two weeks earlier was estatic about buying the house for $37,500 and spending as much as $150,000 to renovate it, got up moments before the vote and declared that she didn’t feel welcome on the street and had second thoughts about moving in. The council voted 3-2 to accept her offer anyway, and opponants followed that up by welcoming her to the street and offering to help her move. And thus closes (for now, just wait for the wrath if that home isn’t restored as promised) a prolonged saga of recreation vs preservation that took up more council meeting time these past two years than any other subject. May it stay closed and may Cooke find a real welcome and sense of community in her new home.

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We’re entering round two of Waste Industries’ attempt to lease the county’s landfill operations. After being soundly rejected by commissioners in 2003, the company is taking their case directly to the public this time via a petition and outreach campaign focused on economic development, as outlined in the Feb. 8 edition of The Messenger.

Taking the county’s waste collection and disposal services private isn’t a new concept. Waste Industries has a sizable presence across the southeast as does its competitor Waste Management. But there’s an element of local control lost when the county no longer can hire/fire its own employees, set rates or decide the scope of services. Is that control worth the millions county government would receive by leasing the landfill? How many residents say yes will likely determine whether a formal offer is made to a now firmly resistant board of commissioners.

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Imagine if you will that your child’s high school classmate is suspected for drug dealing, or perhaps bringing a weapon to school. There’s a police officer assigned to keep students safe, so should this officer proceed with an investigation without alerting the student under suspicion? Or should the officer be required to notify that student’s parents and sit down with the whole family for questioning?

Now imagine the student in question is your son or daughter?

The range of viewpoints on this sensitive subject is what has the Mount Airy Police Department and the Mount Airy city school system at odds with how to instruct the high school student resource officer both entities help pay for. The police department wants its SRO to handle investigations the way they would in any other circumstance, gathering information in secret if that’s the most effective way to build a case. The school system, on the other hand, has a policy protecting students from such searches without their parents being notified first. Both sides are now trying to put together a resolution they each can live with, as detailed in the Feb. 6 edition of The Messenger. What the final policy includes could say a lot on how broad a parental role schools are expected to play.

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As President Obama’s stimulus package winds its way through Congress, Surry County government has put together its own plan of ready-to-go projects seeking some stimulus funding, as described in the Feb. 1 Messenger. The plan is now complete and being sent out to state and federal representatives. A quick summery of the contents, with price tags.

Surry Community College: North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology, $5 million; physical education building addition, $600,000; student service building addition, $1 million.

Surry County Schools: New central district elementary school, $12 million; east district middle school, $15 million, east district elementary school renovation, $2.5 million; purchase of warehouse office facility for use as a technology and training center, $500,000.

Elkin City Schools: Phase II of Elkin High School renovations, $7.3 million; Phase III of Elkin High School renovations, $3.8 million; up-fitting technology infrastructure, $200,000; replace energy management systems, $789,000; renovation/addition to Elkin High gym, $10 million.

Mount Airy City Schools: Mount Airy High renovations, $2.5 million; Fascia replacement at Mount Airy High gym, $100,000;cCafeteria Renovations, $525,000; HVAC controls, $225,000; roof replacement at Tharrington Primary School, $200,000.

City of Mount Airy: Interstate 77 NC/VA Welcome Centers sewer extension, $6 million; Piedmont Triad West Industrial Park water and sewer extensions, $1 million; Interstate district water and sewer extension $9.6 million; new aerial fire truck, $800,000; North Main fire station relocation, $1.2 million.

Town of Dobson: Dobson/Mount Airy water systems interconnection, $1.4 million; water/wastewater equipment and additional employees, $400,000; Construction of public works facility, $1.5 million; sidewalk repairs and equipment, $700,000; public safety capital equipment, $250,000.

Town of Elkin: Fire hydrant upgrades, $74,000; raw water main upgrade, $450,000; Memorial Park pump station, $285,000; Corporate Park gravity sewer, $350,000; pump station, force main and plant decommissioning for Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority, $538,000.

Town of Pilot Mountain: Water connection with city of King, $3.4 million; water connection to city of Mount Airy, $2.5 million; downtown utilities relocation, $1.3 million; sewer main replacement $684,000.

Surry County Government: Greater interstates water and sewer district, $10.7 million; water supply for central district elementary school, $1.7 million; Fibrowatt water and sewer line extension, $1.8 million; public safety capital equipment, $1 million; local non-profit capital grant initiatives, $2 million.

Some of these projects are big thinking — connecting all our excess water so it can be sold to Winston-Salem and Greensboro, who need it — while others seem like more mundane capital purchases and upgrades that have been taking place for decades. As of now, there’s some funding in the stimulus bill for infrastructure and school construction. But all that could change. And if the county’s Congressional representative has her way, the plan will be far less funding for this kind of stuff and far more in the way of tax cuts.

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