Officials say Wilkes County is moving on a water improvement plan that can change the paradigm of East Wilkes by pumping water into rural areas that need it.
Spearheading the project is the Town of Ronda. Meanwhile, the Town of Elkin is gearing up to help Wilkes complete the water project.
The project is called Highway 268 East (Phase I), the first leg of what officials hope will be a sufficiently-sized water line that will eventually stretch the Elkin-Ronda interconnect to Roaring River under the Blue Ridge Water Association.
Phase I of the plan will run from the interconnect with Elkin in West End to Ronda. Phase II, called Highway 268 West, will run from Ronda to Roaring River.
According to Keith Elmore, chairman of the Wilkes County Board of Commissioners, collaborating on the project are Wilkes County, High Country Council of Governments, The Rural Center (RC), the Appalachian Regional Council (ARC), North Carolina Department, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, engineering firm S&ME, the Town of Elkin, and the Town of Ronda.
The total cost of Phase I is projected to be approximately $800,000 to $867,000.
“It’s a great project. I would like to give credit to Mayor Victor Varela for helping to make this happen and getting everyone to the table. The county is working with Ronda and will be the conduit of funds. Eventually, it will just make sense to get water to Roaring River. You need water in order to bring business. It’s a tremendous opportunity for Wilkes County.”
The Ronda mayor said that Wilkes County has been supportive of the water project and has been willing to apply for these grants on Ronda’s behalf.
“So far, Wilkes County has secured grants from RC and ARC in the amount of $300,000 each. Either Wilkes or Ronda will apply for an additional $67,000 from ARC to ensure we can complete Phase I,” said Ronda Mayor Victor Varela.
Mayor Varela said he could not succeed without the support of Wilkes County, and he said that people like Commissioner Elmore and Wilkes County Manager John Yates have been instrumental.
“Their continued support is necessary. The county agreed to pay a $1,700 application processing fee to an environmental engineering firm (S&ME) to prepare an application to NCDENR’s Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund (UST). The UST application is for $200,000, which will remedy some soil and water contamination problems from old gas tanks that were located at Southeastern Cars and Parts. The UST funds will allow us to free up some of the money from RC and ARC in order to increase the line size from an 8-inch line to a 12-inch line. This will allow us to adequately supply manufacturers in Roaring River and allow for future economic development,” said Mayor Varela.
Once the UST funds are guaranteed, Varela and other Wilkes officials say the Town of Elkin will upfront the $200,000 needed to complete the project. The UST funds are “reimbursable funds,” which means they will disperse funds upon the completion of Phase I, according to Mayor Varela.
Elkin officials said that while the $200,000 is supported, final details of the reimbursement of monies are not finalized.
Regardless of the reimbursement, the Town of Elkin did provide a public statement of support.
“The Town of Elkin is thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with the Wilkes County, the Town of Ronda, and Blue Ridge Water Association to provide water to residencies and businesses who currently need this service,” said Elkin town Manager Lloyd Payne. “The Town of Elkin has a history and prides itself on working with other neighboring communities in collaborative efforts whereby a win-win can be achieved. In this project, property owners along the Hwy 268 corridor between Elkin and Ronda will have the ability to connect to a reliable municipal water source. We are hopeful to secure funding for the 2nd phase of the project which will take water from the Town of Ronda to Roaring River and tie in to existing Blue Ridge Water Association lines. The Town of Elkin looks forward to being an active participant in these projects and are excited about working with others to enhance the quality of life for our region.”
According to Varela, beneficiaries of this project will be the residents and businesses along and near Highway 268, the Town of Ronda, the Blue Ridge Water Association, SE Cars and Parts because of the remedy to the contamination, current and future commercial operations in the area, Wilkes County because of the added services and potential for increased tax revenues from new businesses, and Elkin from selling their surplus water capacity.
“It’s a win all the way around,” said Varela.
The necessity of the project arises from the fact that Blue Ridge cannot supply more water for expansion in the Roaring River area. The cost of running additional lines from either Wilkesboro or through Blue Ridge is cost prohibitive, said Varela.
“This project is the most feasible and economically sensible way to achieve the goal,” he said.
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.