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The Wilkesboro Town Council on Monday night hired a Charlotte-based engineering firm to create a preliminary report on alternatives for increasing capacity at the town’s Cub Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The terms with HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas call for the firm to complete the report in 180 days and be paid no more than $202,700. This could be reimbursed later if the town is approved for project financing through the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program.

Wilkesboro officials expect to spend over $15 million on upgrading the wastewater treatment plant to meet increased demand from the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken processing complex, said Town Manager Ken Noland.

The upgrades would double the plant’s capacity, said Sam Call, the town’s director of public works.

David Saunders, HDR vice president and Winston-Salem office manager, said the first goal of the study is “to provide immediate relief to the flow exceedances that are occurring at the wastewater plant.” He said at least three wastewater processes will be identified and HDR will help pick one to pursue.

“Needless to say, we need to plan for our future, and I think we’re at a point where we have to do that now out of a sense of urgency,” said Wilkesboro Mayor Mike Inscore.

“And we need it yesterday, so we’re going to plow forward real fast,” said Noland during a Wilkes Economic Development Corp. board meeting Friday.

Noland explained during the EDC meeting that the good news is that the Tyson complex “is running hot, but the bad news is that they are at their capacity and we are at our capacity” for wastewater treatment.

Noland said Wilkesboro officials already communicated the town’s wastewater needs with state officials, who verbally communicated that gallons of wastewater treated at the town plant can be increased as much as town officials want, “but what we’re putting into the (Yadkin) River now is what we’ll be putting in later.”

Noland said this means, for example, that there can be no increase in the biological oxygen demand (BOD) of treated wastewater released into the Yadkin River, regardless of the number of gallons of treated wastewater. BOD is the amount of oxygen required in stream water to break down organic substances like fecal matter, fats, greases and food particles. High BOD levels can deplete oxygen in stream water to the point that it kills aquatic life.

It also means that there can be no increase in total suspended solids and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

Noland said Wilkesboro needs more advanced wastewater treatment plant technology to accomplish the limits on what it releases into the Yadkin. “It’s going to be very difficult to do and also very expensive because when you’re doing this you’re probably dealing with cutting edge technology that costs more.”

He said Wilkesboro officials determined that expanding wastewater treatment capacity is a higher need than improving the town’s water filtration plant, despite extensive time and effort spent in recent years on expanding the amount of water available for human consumption.

“We may slow down the water (filtration) plant project some,” but design plans for water processing improvements at the filtration plant are nearly ready to be send to the state as part of a loan application, said Noland.

Downtown housing

The council approved an amendment to the town zoning code allowing conditional use of condominiums, multi-family dwellings and townhouses in the downtown Central Business District (B1) after no one commented on this during a public hearing Monday night.

The code cites a goal of encouraging “a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented” Central Business District “intended to accommodate a wide range of uses, including retail, office, service and institutional, as well as residential uses on floors above street level.”

Council members agreed when Inscore called the zoning code amendment “a positive step in the right direction.”

Billboards

Also Monday night, the council approved a 90-day moratorium on all new billboard applications to give council members the opportunity to consider modifications to portions of the town’s sign code applying to billboards.

The council also called for a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 5 on amending the town’s sign code to delete a section pertaining to billboards and implement a new section removing billboards from the zoning code.

Asphalt plants

The council approved a 60-day moratorium on issuance of any permits related to asphalt and/or concrete plants to allow council members time to consider and adopt additional regulations related to those facilities.

There are no asphalt plants in Wilkesboro, but a spokesman for West Jefferson-based Tri-County Paving said the company would consider building one in Wilkesboro during a North Wilkesboro Planning Board meeting on its request for rezoning land on Brickyard Road to allow an asphalt plant. The North Wilkesboro commissioners denied the rezoning request.

The council also set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 5 on amending Wilkesboro’s zoning code to make asphalt and/or concrete plants a conditional use in M1 (industrial) zones.

Other matters

Also Monday night, the council:

• approved a one-year lease agreement with Duke Energy letting the company store vehicles and equipment on grounds of the town’s compost center off Winkler Mill Road Extension;

• hired Atlanta, Ga.-based Mauldin & Jenkins to conduct audits for the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years at an annual rate of $25,000. This will be the firm’s first work for Wilkesboro;

• approved the appointment of Abbie Hanchey, co-owner of the Leatherwood Mountains resort on Elk Creek-Darby Road in Ferguson, to a three-year term on the Wilkesboro Tourism Development Authority.

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