Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

If the phone calls coming into The Messenger’s office are any indication, there is considerable outrage from Mount Airy to Washington, D.C. and NYC about N.C. Granite Corp. losing a $5.5 million contract for work on the 9/11 memorial to an Italian firm.
A spokesperson with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Committee says that they have no control over a subcontractor’s decision, which is where N.C. Granite submitted its bid. But the folks over at N.C. Granite say they were blindsided by the rejection, being told of the decision in an email.
Officials there say they will lobby for more media exposure on the decision and have already contacted their congressional representatives. In addition to losing the contract to a foreign firm, N.C. Granite now says it will likely have to lay off 40 workers at a time when jobs are hard to come by.

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If you have any political ambitions, specifically inside the Mount Airy city limits, this is the time to apply to City Hall to fill Mayor Deborah Cochran’s vacant commissioner’s seat.
Last week, after Teresa Lewis reiterated her interest in the seat, the city council voted to take applications until Thursday at 5 p.m. for the board seat. Lewis told the council that she applied for the job when she ran for mayor. Lewis, who garnered 900 votes in her second-place finish to Cochran, says that she has the necessary business and civic experience for the post.
The council agreed to a motion by Commissioner Dean Brown who put forward the week-long timetable for applications. The board has not yet decided on how they will select a commissioner. Candidates could be asked to field questions or they could be named to the seat by a majority vote.
Other potential applicants include Gene Clark and Paul Eich, who finished third and fourth in the mayor’s race.

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The state treasurer is sitting on a pile of cash waiting on North Carolinians, including a bunch from Surry County, to claim it.

By law certain unclaimed accounts and properties are transferred to the state treasurer after a certain period of time, but it’s still available for the rightful owners. Across the state that money and property are worth in excess of $700 million, and more than $1.2 million belongs to Surry County residents and businesses.

The amounts are both large and small, ranging from one of more than $23,000 down to a low of $1.50. The state’s treasurer figures that one in every eight North Carolinians has a claim, and over the past year about $28 million was returned.

Unclaimed property consists of bank accounts, wages, utility deposits, insurance policy proceeds, stocks, bonds, and contents of safe deposit boxes that typically have been abandoned for one to five years. Interest from the funds is used to support scholarship programs at the state’s universities and community colleges.

Usually the holder loses track of the owner because of some mistake in the address, but you’d think some of these entities would be easy to find.

Surry County’s list includes both hospitals, local attorneys and doctors and even a local newspaper and radio station. The Surry County Landfill is owed close to $500.

All told, on Surry’s list are six owed more than $10,000, 17 more than $5,000 and 134 with accounts in excess of $1,000.

There are 6,140 separate accounts on Surry’s list, a copy of which can be seen here.

You can also go online to nccash.com and search out and make claims for abandoned funds from any county in the state.

Take a look. This could be your lucky day.

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Anyone arriving at Thursday’s public hearing on a state prison in Surry County looking for some conflict on the issue, and my strong hunch is that WXII fell into that category, would have left fairly underwhelmed. While the TV news report does make note of some opposition to the concept of a prison, that was exclusively a byproduct of fierce objection to a Fibrowatt power plant near Elkin. Residents came to speak out against the plant, and with the prison public hearing next on the agenda, their comments bled over into general criticism about Surry’s economic direction.

But no one arrived Thursday specifically to voice objections to the prison, and other speakers revealed how the idea has gained favor among pretty much every elected official for Surry. As detailed in the March 6 Messenger, the area’s legislative delegation is now backing the project, and proponents continue to bend ears in Raleigh to give the county a leg up over other’s competing for the $100 million facility.

There was a huge elephant in the room, however, and that’s the great unknown of what sites the county could offer up the state for prison construction. Not just any piece of land will do. It’s got to be big (100-150 acres), near utilities, close to a highway network and not so expensive as to break the taxpayers’ back. Then of course you have the opposition almost certain to arise from those who live nearby.

With hundreds of jobs tied to this project, it continues to gain momentum in terms of support. But where exactly could a prison be placed? And will the search for that site, and the public hearings after one is selected, eventually grind the momentum to a halt?

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To bail or not to bail?

The roll call vote on Monday that killed the most recent version of the $700 billion bailout package is interesting if only for its lack of ridged partisanship. Democrats and Republicans are scattered among the no votes that ultimately undid the bill. Count Surry’s representative Virginia Foxx among those opposed. In a statement you can read in full here, Foxx characterized the bailout as a “massive government intervention” that would “fundamentally change our marketplace, by rewarding financial companies that made bad decisions and placing those who exercised prudence at a serious disadvantage.  And it does all this with the tax dollars of hard-working North Carolinians.”

Fair point, but here’s something for thought. When a local company needs assistance to create jobs we call it “incentives” and often demand that government shill out cash. When national companies need assistance to preserve jobs it’s called a “bailout” and considered an outrage if government steps in. It’s a much greater scale of course, but many of the same concepts of government intervention in the private sector are the same.

Foxx’s opponent, Roy Carter, also has released a statement on the bailout bill you can read here. It expresses misgivings with the legislation, but says that “prompt action needs to take place. The jobs and homes of thousands of North Carolinians are hanging in the balance.”

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Speaking of Mayberry, the Andy Griffith Museum had its big groundbreaking during the weekend, with or without the ground (it was moved inside because of the rain). There were cheers, tears and plenty of uplifting sentiments, some coming from Andy Griffith himself via a letter.

Yet one week earlier, there was a moment of awkward silence that theoretically could have thrown the whole thing apart.

The $650,000 museum is slated to go next to the Andy Griffith Playhouse on land owned by the city. Therefore the city has to sign off on its construction. Since there are no city funds being committed (it’s $300,000 form the state, $150,000 from the county and $100,000 from a foundation) the matter was placed on the consent agenda, which is typically approved without any discussion. But Commissioners requested that it be pulled off for a separate debate. And when Mayor Jack Loftis asked for a motion to approve the project, he was met with silence.

In the end, the council voted unanimously to greenlight the project after Loftis prodded a bit. But first came questions about whether it would generate city costs down the road because of parking and maintenance needs. Groundbreaking or not, this museum still has a lot of steps to go through before actual construction begins, and the council’s hesitancy indicates some of those steps could become hurdles.

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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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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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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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Last fall, Surry voters very narrowly approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase under the premise of generating money for school construction. Many other counties said no.
Now we’re seeing the first big dividends with plans to construct a $12 million elementary school that would get rid of the 20 mobile units at Dobson and Copeland elementary schools. The question coming up is whether that does enough, given that the building will be nearly at capacity at the start. Some of the project costs are outlined below. The construction costs are just an estimate until the project goes out to bid in the winter. At that point, county commissioners will have to decide whether to spend more to make the school bigger, or at least give it the capacity to be expanded. I’ve also attached a site plan below.

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