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Report: Elkin should own, run Ronda water system
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An engineering firm recommended that Elkin assume ownership, operation and maintenance of Ronda’s water system after completing a feasibility study on the potential merger.

W.K. Dickson Co. concluded that if this isn’t politically feasible, Elkin should at least operate and maintain the Ronda system under an intergovernmental agreement with Ronda.

Results of the Charlotte-based company’s study are in 68-page report released to Ronda officials in May. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) funded the study with a $50,000 grant to Ronda in February 2020.

The report said DEQ grants of up to $3 million are available for improvements to water systems being combined if one is considered non-viable. Although the Ronda system is on the state’s list of non-viable water systems, ownership of the Ronda water system would have to be relinquished to Elkin to gain this grant.

The report said Elkin should assume ownership of the Ronda water system in phases. The study found that combining the two water systems will result in maintenance efficiencies and economies of scale leading to lower rates.

“The Town of Ronda understands that it must… either make a significant capital investment to construct additional water supply wells with no guarantee that they will be able to produce water in sufficient quantities for the future or formalize a long-term agreement with the Town of Elkin for their water supply needs,” the report stated.

Ronda already buys over half of its water from Elkin through a waterline connection with a booster pump installed along N.C. 268 in Wilkes, near the Elkin town limits, in 2012. The report said Ronda bought an average of 37 million gallons of water per day (MGD) from Elkin in 2019, while producing an average of 34 MGD from its one functional well.

It said Ronda had 365 water customers as of June 2019, including East Wilkes Middle School and East Wilkes High School.

“The majority of the physical infrastructure for a merger is already in place and demonstrates that the Town of Elkin has the ability to serve” the Ronda area, the report stated. Elkin also “provides operational support to the Town of Ronda on an as needed basis.”

The Elkin Water Treatment Plant produces an average 1 MGD, but has capacity to produce up to 3 MGD. The plant draws raw water from a 60 million-gallon reservoir on Big Elkin Creek. The Elkin water distribution system includes four water tanks with 1.9 million-gallons of storage capacity, four pump stations and 67 miles of water lines ranging in size from 2 to 16 inches.

The report said that Ronda’s failure to submit mandatory annual audits of town finances to the N.C. Local Government Commission put the town, including its water system, at risk of being taken over by the state.

As of April, Ronda’s audits for fiscal 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 hadn’t been submitted to the LGC. Ronda officials said this resulted from problems experienced by the company doing the audits.

Ronda Mayor Rheajean Benge said Ronda officials are currently reviewing the report.

Benge and Ronda Commissioner Kevin Reece weren’t on the board when the study began.

Reece said Friday that his impression from reading the report was that W.K. Dickson believed Ronda officials supported a merger of the Elkin and Ronda water systems when it conducted the study.

Reece has suggested potential ways to secure additional well water within Ronda for the town’s water system.

Reece also reached out to Wilkes County government officials and Phil Trew, director of planning for the High Country Council of Governments, for input on the proposed merger of the Ronda and Elkin water systems. He said input from Ronda citizens also is being sought.

Ron Niland, Ronda’s management consultant, said the full Ronda board will discuss the report.

Elkin Town Manager Brent Cornelison said Monday morning that he hadn’t yet seen a copy of the report.

W.K. Dickson concluded that the three main challenges facing Ronda’s water system are:

• difficulty hiring and keeping certified staff to operate and maintain the water system without outside help, which Elkin provides. The report said Ronda’s part-time operator in charge, who gets water samples, adds chemicals and does monthly reports, is nearing retirement. Ronda also has a fulltime maintenance person and a part-time maintenance person who both read, install and remove water meters and repairs water line breaks; and a part-time administrative who handles billing;

• lack of long-term water sources, except for buying water. Only one of Ronda’s three drilled is still operational, but is steadily producing less water. The report said a new well for Ronda would cost about $740,000. It said one of Ronda’s two water storage tanks needs repairs;

• lack of financial viability. The report said, “With a very small customer base, no significant growth and a high percentage of low‐income residents, the Town of Ronda is concerned about the long‐term financial health of its water system.”

The report said the study included workshops with Ronda and Elkin officials for discussion of “perceptions, problems, concerns and operations regarding the potential merger” of the two water systems.

Potential management systems for a combined Elkin and Ronda system also were discussed.

Scouts retire U.S. flag in ceremony
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Boy Scout Troop 301, sponsored by Wilkesboro United Methodist Church, conducted a flag retirement ceremony Saturday evening at Whippoorwill Academy and Village in Ferguson.

It was held in conjunction with Memorial Day. Chuck Marley, Troop 301 activities director, opened the ceremony with a prayer.

Troop 301 Scoutmaster Jeff Foster spoke about what the flag means to those who served in the military, including himself. Foster said it was an honor to participate in flag retirement ceremony.

“The flag doesn’t belong in the trash can once its service has been completed,” said Foster about worn-out U.S. flags. He said there are proper ways to retire flags.

According to the U.S. Flag Code, burning is the preferred method of retiring a U.S. flag.

Four Scouts in Troop 301 demonstrated a ceremonial retirement of a U.S. flag during the event. Earlier that day, they retired about 15 additional worn-out U.S. flags by burning. Grommets from these other flags were given to veterans at the ceremony Saturday.

Troop 301 Senior Patrol Leader Seth Huffman used scissors to cut the flag being retired in the ceremony into four pieces while it was held by Scouts Seth Marley, Blake Royal and Tyler Royal.

A section with the 50 stars was left intact because it’s considered improper to symbolically divide the nation by cutting this portion of the flag.

Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Huffman read a narrative that described what the different folds of the flag as it is properly folded into a triangular shape, with only the stars showing.

Huffman said the first fold represents life; the second fold, belief in eternal life; the third fold is in honor of veterans who sacrificed on behalf of freedom and peace; the fourth fold, faith in God; the fifth fold is a tribute to the U.S.; the sixth fold represents “where our hearts lie” in allegiance to the U.S.; the seventh fold is a tribute to the American armed forces; the eighth fold is a tribute to Jesus Christ; the ninth fold is a tribute to womanhood; the 10th fold is a tribute to fathers; the 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and Solomon and glorifies God; and the 12th fold represents belief in eternal life and the Holy Trinity.

Huffman said the last fold, when only the stars of the flag can be seen, represents the national motto, “In God we trust.”

Margaret Martine, Whippoorwill owner, played “Taps” on the fiddle for the event. About a dozen people were on hand to watch.

Elkin's Trail Days is Thursday through Sunday
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Elkin’s second annual Trail Days, a series of hikes, paddling trips on the Yadkin River and other outdoor and indoor activities, is Thursday through Sunday

The Yadkin Valley Heritage and Trails Visitor Center on Standard Street in Elkin is headquarters for Trail Days, with full details on the various events. The official kickoff is at the Heritage Center at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Directions to starting points for hikes and additional details on these and other activities during Trail Days are at https://www.nctraildays.com.

The Trail Days schedule includes Garden Creek Moonshine Still Hikes in Stone Mountain State Park starting at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Thursday and the same times Friday.

Bob Hillyer and Joe Mickey from the Yadkin Valley Trails Association will lead these two-mile hikes to liquor still sites along Garden Creek. Meet at Garden Creek Baptist Church along Stone Mountain Road through the park for each Moonshine Still Hike. The hike is labeled “moderate/strenuous.”

Other hikes planned within Stone Mountain feature Stone Mountain Falls and Wolf Rock.

Stephen Harris will lead the Carter Falls Powerhouse Loop hike, less than a mile long, on Thursday. This hike will take in scenic Carter Falls and will include information on its history as a source of power for Elkin years ago. Meet at the Carter Falls Trailhead parking lot along Pleasant Ridge Road.

A four-mile hike from Grassy Creek Vineyard to Carter Falls will be led by Josh Smith starting at 10 a.m. Thursday. Julie Gayheart will lead the same hike starting at 10 a.m. Friday.

A hike on the “Forest Bathing Trail” near Grassy Creek Vineyard and Winery starts at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The Music Trail, with multiple venues featuring live music, starts at 5 p.m. Saturday. A multi-faith worship service is at 8 a.m. Sunday in Elkin Municipal Park.

Flotillas on the Yadkin River start at 8 a.m. and at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and a the same times Sunday. There is a Yadkin River cleanup at noon Friday. A “low country boil” is at 6 p.m. Friday.

There is a tree climbing demonstration near Galloway Episcopal Church and a Dutch oven cook-off outside the Heritage Center, both starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The schedule also includes a Downtown Elkin Hike focusing on the history and other information about the downtown area. It starts at 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Both hikes will be led by Laura Gaylord, Elkin’s Main Street manager.

A three-mile “strenuous” hike up and over Wells Knob in northeastern Wilkes, led by Benjy Brown, starts at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Trail Days also includes other hikes, a quilt show at the Heritage Center, a “nature scavenger hunt” at Byrd’s Branch Campground, book signings, an Elkin Valley Trails Association trail work day, yoga for all levels, book fair at the Elkin Library and more.

Trail Days hosts are the Yadkin Valley Trails Association, Town of Elkin and the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Assault charged in case reported as hit and run
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A man was charged with misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and simple assault as a result of an incident that resulted in another man being transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Christopher Willard Crane, 36, of Long Street, North Wilkesboro, was arrested on the sheriff’s office charges late on the night of May 24 after he turned himself in at the Wilkes County Jail, stated a Wilkes Sheriff’s Office arrest report.

Kristopher Eric Whittington, 31, of Millers Creek was identified as the victim in Wilkes Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joshua Bare’s incident report. Major Logan Kerr said he was struck by a vehicle’s rearview mirror and hit three times with a fist.

Kerr described the injuries as blunt trauma to the head and said Whittington was flown by AirCare helicopter to Wake Forest Baptist. He said the injuries were non-life-threatening.

Bare’s report said the incident occurred about 7 p.m. May 24 on Long Street, which is off Boone Trail in the Cricket community. The report said vehicle involved left the scene.

Kerr said a witness, who was Crane’s wife, stated that “she was cut off by the victim in a vehicle earlier that day. She went home and told her husband and he became angry and went out looking for the victim.”

Kerr said the incident in which the assault occurred was initially announced to local law enforcement as a hit and run. Bare’s report said Crane was driving a white Ford Explorer.

Garris: 'No obvious signs of foul play' in 2 deaths
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The Wilkesboro Police Department is investigating the deaths of two residents of an apartment complex near Winkler Mill Road.

Wilkesboro Police Chief Craig Garris said Wilkesboro officers found Rodney Steven Moore, 55 and Belinda Fay Johnson, 67, deceased in Moore’s apartment B at 121 Walden Point Drive on Tuesday. Johnson lived nearby in apartment F.

Garris said officers went there to check on Moore’s well-being and made forcible entry after seeing two unresponsive bodies on the floor. The bodies were found about 10:30 p.m.

Garris said the two people, identified as Moore and Johnson, were deceased. “There were no obvious signs of foul play leading to their deaths,” he said, adding that they were last over the prior weekend.

“Currently, we are awaiting results of an autopsy and conducting a death investigation,” the chief said. Walden Point Drive is a dead-end road off Winkler Mill Road.

Garris said that as part of the investigation and in addition to people officers are speaking with, anyone with information regarding the circumstances of the incident is asked to call the police department at 336-667-7277. He said people can also provide information by calling Wilkes Crime Stoppers at 336-667-8900 and remain anonymous.

Other death caseGarris said Wilkesboro police are also still investigating the death of a man whose body was found in a large dumpster behind his residence on 409 South Cherry Street on May 6. The deceased man was Anthony Garrett Absher, 31.

Wilkesboro officers went to the residence on May 6 after a man reported finding a deceased adult male in what Garris described as a construction dumpster. Garris said the man found the body while checking for the source of a foul odor.

When he released information about the discovery of the body on May 7, Garris declined to comment on whether there was an indication of foul play. On Wednesday, he said nothing has changed regarding this. “We are awaiting the autopsy/toxicology results,” he added.

He said on May 7 that the public’s assistance with information in Absher’s death was also requested.