Elkin commissioners took steps to continue major projects to address the town’s need for a back-up water line for the drinking water reservoir and to extend the trail to Stone Mountain farther north at their February meeting held Monday. The town’s annual audit report also was given, updating the board on the financial standing of the municipality.
For some time, the town board has been working on securing funding to complete improvements and an extension of a raw water line from the Yadkin River to the town reservoir, which pulls its main source of water from Big Elkin Creek. WK Dickson is the engineering firm coordinating the project for the town.
Ryan Hagar of WK Dickson and Robert Fuller, public works director for Elkin, outlined the improvement project and presented two options for low bids for the commissioners to consider.
Hagar explained the project will be broken into three parts — an upgrade of the existing raw water pump station and outlet structure; the extension of about 3,700 linear feet of 12-inch Yadkin River emergency raw water line from the water treatment plant to the reservoir; and stream bank restoration at exposed and threatened areas of the existing 24-inch raw water supply line the town will continue to use.
Bids were requested in two forms from companies interested in handling the project. The first bidding process was for just the upgrades of the existing pump station and any stream restoration, with a second bid requested for doing all three parts of the project.
The low bid for the process excluding the raw water line extension came from Jimmy R. Lynch & Sons in Pilot Mountain for $887,767, with $716,000 for the pump station work and $171,767 for the stream restoration.
The low bid for all three parts was from Gilbert Engineering Company out of Statesville for $1,497,928, with $685,530 for the pump station, $645,258 for the raw water line extension and $167,140 for the stream rehabilitation.
Fuller and Town Manager John Holcomb recommended the board accept the low bid for the three-part process, since all of the work needed addressing. The commissioners, minus Commissioner Terry Kennedy who was excused in his absence due to illness, voted unanimously to approve the recommended bid for the project contingent on approval from the funding agency, the Division of Water Infrastructure.
Hagar said he would prepare the information and send it to the funding agency for its final approval. If all is approved, the agency had already provided its intention to fund the project a year ago, then the bid will be formally rewarded.
The timeline for the project estimated the construction contract to be executed in May and the completion of the project in December of this year.
Commissioner Skip Whitman did question whether the town could handle the debt on the project. Holcomb told him that the town board hasn’t raised water rates in five years, which Commissioner Cicely McCulloch said was in part to address the need to increase rates so the town could qualify for funding for this project.
Holcomb said the board will hear and discuss more on possible financial needs, such as whether another rate increase is needed, to address the loan for the project during its annual retreat Feb. 23.
In addition to the water line project, Adam McComb, recreation and parks director for the town, asked for the board’s support for Mayor Sam Bishop’s signature on a letter supporting a grant application to the North Carolina Recreational Trails Program.
The grant application is to request funding of $100,000 for the next creek crossing needed on the trail from Elkin to Stone Mountain State Park, which is part of the state’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail. McComb explained that the grant does require a 25-percent match, but added that the Elkin Valley Trails Association has agreed to provide those matching funds.
If the grant is approved, the town would fund the upfront cost of the project, and then it would be reimbursed through the Recreational Trails Program Grant, McComb said. The project wouldn’t begin until the 2019 fiscal year, if funding is awarded.
“How far we have come,” said Whitman. “We have a grant request here and the EVTA puts up $25,000. I remember Bill Blackley standing right there asking us for $100,000 to get started. That organization has just been phenomenal.”
The crossing, which is over a gully where a train trestle was constructed in the early 1900s, will be the last needed to get the trail to the end of the town limits.
The commissioners unanimously approved the letter of support being signed by Bishop for the grant application.
Also, during the town meeting, Brian Lee of Martin Starnes & Associates presented the fiscal year 2017 audit report to the board.
Lee noted that revenues increased in 2017, to $5,675,729, while expenditures decreased to $5,563,616 from the previous year’s, which were just more than $5.6 million. Also, the town’s fund balance, or rainy-day fund, decreased by just $155,887 in 2017 due to a transfer of that amount to the airport capital fund for a project.
The town’s fund balance increased by $168,243 in 2017, to $2,309,161 in unrestricted funds, Lee said. This puts Elkin at a fund balance of 40 percent of its general fund.
While the state requires government entities to maintain eight percent of their operating fund in fund balance, or enought to cover three months of operating expenses, the average for a town of equal size to Elkin in North Carolina is 68 percent, Holcomb told the board.
In other town business:
• The board approved waiver of the alcohol ordinance for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on West Main Street from Wells Fargo to Church Street on March 17, which will include chicken stew from Royall’s and a free Celtic concert at 5 p.m. at the Reeves Theater followed by a ticketed concert later in the evening. The celebration is being hosted by Explore Elkin.
• Dan Butner, executive director of the Foothills Arts Council, gave a short update on his organization, and informed the commissioner that on Feb. 19 the arts council board will be meeting to likely vote to move forward with developing a portion of the Chatham Manufacturing property on the east side of downtown into a new center for the arts council.
• The board also received the final agenda for its retreat set for Feb. 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Feb. 24 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at The Liberty. Discussions and presentations will include capital projects improvement plan with department head presentations; an update from the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority; financial overview; town strategic plan; downtown business overview; town website development; CMC project development including RV park project discussion; gaps in sidewalks; code enforcement projects; revitalization zone for Chatham property; and board discussion of prioritizing ideas for the upcoming year.
• Mayor Bishop read a proclamation recognizing Boy Scout Month and the contributions the scouts in the Elkin area give to the community, including this past weekend’s Scouting for Food drive. All Eagle Scouts in attendance helped lead the Pledge of Allegiance opening the meeting.