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River lovers will have new access option

The scenic beauty of Surry County is hard to ignore. County Parks and Recreation Director Daniel White has said that the unique location of Surry County and its proximity to four rivers makes the community an ideal place to live and enjoy nature.

A change is in the works that is going to allow greater river access to the residents of the county and tourists alike.

County Manager Chris Knopf told the county board of commissioners that a 23-year lease agreement exists with the Colwell family for river access at Burch Station where the Yadkin and Mitchell rivers meet. The county asked the landowners to convert that lease into a perpetual easement so that future residents and guests can enjoy the rivers and they have agreed to do so.

“I would like to thank Clyde and Pat Colwell, they are the reason that access that is so heavily used is there. They had the foresight to acquire that, and they have been so good to work with. They are very good community-minded citizens,” Commissioner Eddie Harris added.

Secondly, there will be a new river access to the Ararat River courtesy of Luck Stone, the new owners of Ararat Rock, and the efforts of Commissioner Larry Johnson. Funding for this project will come from existing Invest in Surry funds that were previously set aside for river access improvement with the board’s approval.

Having met with Charlie and Richard Luck of Luck Stone, Johnson said collaborating with them had been a breeze. “It would be an honor for me to make a motion that we accept the memo of understanding pertaining to Luck Stone with access being at the corner of Sheep Farm Road and Park Drive,” Johnson moved, and the board accepted his resolution unanimously to create the Luck Stone River Access.

Knopf informed the board the Bill Hall bridge across the Mitchell River on Zephyr Mountain Park Road is scheduled to be replaced. The new bridge will take up more space and the NCDOT offered the county $6,000 to purchase the additional land needed to complete the bridge work.

Commissioner Eddie Harris felt this was a low-ball offer and having had some experience with these negotiations he advised the county to seek $10,000 instead which Knopf notified the board this week was accepted by the state. “A guy told me one time; I told him I was negotiating for the county, and I asked him why did he think the property was worth so much? He said: because I have it and you want it,” he recalled.

“We have had more interest in river access than we have in many, many years,” Commissioner Van Tucker said while acknowledging he has been trying to work on a new river access project too. He said these accesses can be hard to get as landowners may be hesitant to give up their land, so he offered hearty congratulations to his colleagues on their success.

In other board of commissioner’s news:

– The commissioners approved a budget amendment. Additional funds were requested and approved for the Surry County Sheriff’s Office building in the amount of $78,000 to replace a chiller.

– Funds were also requested to be added to the EMS budget for a new Ford E-450 Type III chassis and a remount of the ambulance box onto said chassis. The amount to cover these costs is projected at $116,598 and was approved.

– Jessica Montgomery of Public Works had three items for the board. She informed that the skid-steer her team uses at the recycling shed at the county landfill needs new grapples. The board approved the purchase of the grapple and the delivery fee totaling $4,095.

She also sent through two sets of bid proposals for the board to consider. The first was for roof repair at the county’s Resource Center on State Street in Mount Airy. There are several leaks in the building that are causing damage and Gallaher Management Group Inc. was approved to do the repair work estimated at $172,900. This total includes unexpected repairs to foam closures that were found during inspection in need of needed replacing.

The Judicial Center in Dobson needs weatherproofing and $80,000 was budgeted for the repair. Montgomery recommended Foxhill Construction do the work as well as make repairs to a wall in the front of the building for an estimated total of $68,627.

Both approved bids are estimated to come in under the amounts previously budgeted for these repairs.

– Mark Willis of the office of substance abuse recovery has requested converting a temporary part-time position with the Community Transport Program into a full-time position. He noted the program transported more than 1,200 patients in its first year of operation and the reclassification to full-time is needed to meet demand. Funding for the position would be paid for from Partner’s Health Management fund and opioid settlement monies after current federal funding ends in 2024.

– County tax administrator sent word to the commissioners that in just two months of collecting property taxes the residents of Surry County have already paid approximately 60% of what is due. Commissioner Larry Johnson has previously, and again on this occasion, thanked the taxpayers for their diligence in on-time payment.

– The Office of State Budget and Management sent notification that House Bill 103 passed that contained $75,000 earmarked for the YESurry Entrepreneurial Competition. The competition is held annually among local high school students who design a small business and then compete at their local schools, with the winners at each school moving on to countywide competition. This year’s winner was Grace Phillips of North Surry High for Grace Got Cakes.

– Finally, the board opted to not act on a bill totaling $23,410.70 for 32 transports of COVID-19 patients. The costs for these transports had been assumed by the federal government but the fund for Surry County to pay out from has been depleted. The commissioners had several questions about these charges and asked the item to be removed from the Consent agenda for future consideration.



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