Archive for the ‘Federal government’ Category

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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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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foxxVirginia Foxx, Surry County’s representative in Congress, was thrust into the C-Span spotlight Thursday when she led almost three hours of debate on the U.S. House floor for her bill to cut off the remaining $350 billion in the bailout of the financial sector. The measure passed by a 270-155 vote, making national and even international news along with local coverage in the Jan. 23 Messenger. The bill is mostly symbolic, as the Senate defeated similar legislation last week and therefore ensured the remaining $350 billion goes to the executive branch. But Foxx’s ability to sway Democrats and Republicans to her side shows potential as a bipartisan player in Congress, provided she’s willing to compromise some and swing more to the center, which would boost her influence on Capitol Hill. Click here to watch C-Span’s archived video of Thursday’s debate.

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swearing-in4Today’s Messenger cover story, like just about every newspaper cover story in the nation revolves around the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Looking at the election and the previous campaign through a local lens, two things stand out. The first is that Obama’s Surry County supporters were vocal and passionate, the second is that it was a group distinctly in the minority. Local returns from both the Democratic primary and the general election show that Obama was nowhere near the majority choice among local voters. But whether he got their vote or not, Obama is the president for all of Surry County. Whether policies at the local government level snych up with his national stimulus plan could go a long way in determining whether he’s ever embraced by the majority of county residents.

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Hitting the news just before election day, the widely criticized $700 billion bailout of the financial sector may have given local Congresswomen Virginia Foxx a boost. Her opponent took a nuanced view of the bailout legislation’s pros and cons, while Foxx vehemently shot the bill down. Soon after, she won reelection by a margin above her 2006 reelection even in a year when the Republican Party was very much a toxic brand. The margin was also above what a summer poll of the district indicated.

Now Foxx has followed up that stance by proposing a resolution that effectively cuts the bailout funds to $350 billion. Her comments focus on the lack of planning and oversight regarding use of the funds, which have now been proposed for industries and assets not discussed during the original bailout vote.

The bill is currently sitting in committee. And it’s not alone. More than a half dozen similar bills were filed the same week. They range from requiring Congressional approval for use of additional funds to making sure they help the ailing auto industry to putting more layers of oversight in place, but they all deal with the idea of undoing the authority granted in the original bailout legislation.

With a new economic team coming into office next month, I imagine we’ll see some action clarifying the size and scope of the ever evolving bailout(s). The odds that Foxx’s resolution gets out of committee, especially with others like it in both chambers, could depend on how much the new administration wants to change direction on the plan the Bush administration first proposed.

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Regardless of statewide voting that saw Democrat Kay Hagan win comfortably and Barack Obama win very marginally, Surry County still gave a resounding nod to the GOP. 

Take a look at the breakdown of votes by county and it’s clear that the northwest Piedmont was very much McCain country. Here in Surry, every Republican running for state or federal office did better here when compared to the district or state as a whole.

Democrats have gained pockets of support in the municipalities — which can be seen in the breakdowns of straight ticket voting or the Dole/Hagan race — and the number voting Democrat in the presidential race is up slightly from 2004. But there’s no spinning the fact that Republicans are still strong across the board, even though they aren’t in the majority in terms of voter registration. They even managed to elect one of their own, Sarah Stevens, to a House seat held by a three-term incumbent in Jim Harrell whose district leans Democratic.

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We’re hitting crunch time when it comes to voter registration, with the deadline on Friday. Since the Democratic primary in May, 1,666 new voters have registered in Surry, almost evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and those unaffiliated. Take a look at county registration stats over the past year and it’s evident that the latter group, independents, is experiencing the largest growth. Compared to 2004, that demographic is up almost 25 percent in Surry, perhaps reflecting North Carolina’s recent battleground state status.

With the number of Democratic and Republican registrations almost even in Surry, those independents will go a long way in deciding who the county supports for state and national races.

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