North Wilkesboro plans for building an intake on the Yadkin River haven’t changed, despite requesting but not getting endorsements from the Wilkes County commissioners or the Wilkesboro Town Council.
Town Manager Wilson Hooper stated that the game plan is still the same during a town board work session Thursday night. North Wilkesboro Mayor Robert Johnson and Commissioner Bert Hall reiterated this in interviews Monday.
Hooper told the board during the work session that when he asked the Wilkes County commissioners on Nov. 19 to approve a resolution supporting designation of a new protected watershed needed to build the intake on the Yadkin, the presentation “didn’t go as I’d hoped. And so, we’ve got a little work to do before they get on board.”
The county commissioners asked if North Wilkesboro officials had considered buying water from Wilkesboro and other questions and took no action in response to Hooper’s request. They indicated the request wouldn’t be brought up until early 2020.
The Wilkesboro Town Council also took no action on Nov. 4 after Hooper asked them to approve the same resolution. Instead, Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland listed things the Wilkesboro council needed from North Wilkesboro before it could approve the resolution.
Hooper earlier said the support from the governing bodies was needed to secure state funding that earlier was conditionally approved for the new intake.
Hall said in an interview Monday that he and the other North Wilkesboro board members he spoke to support Hooper’s continued pursuit of the new water intake on the Yadkin. “I’d like to see us do our own intake. I don’t want to be buying water from Wilkesboro because I don’t think they can furnish enough for both towns.”
Hall continued, “It’d be prudent to have both (water) plants operating. The one we have now (on the Reddies) is adequate now, but in the future, it won’t be. I think we should pursue (the new intake), and I don’t see any other alternatives at this time.”
Johnson echoed Hall’s comments Monday and added, “It’s not in the best interests for us to purchase all of our water from Wilkesboro. I don’t think they could furnish us and still supply their big elephant (Tyson Foods Inc.), too.”
Johnson said if the town continued feeling resistance from Wilkesboro and the county in support of establishing a WS-IV watershed for North Wilkesboro’s proposed water intake on the Yadkin, “We can take our intake right down the Reddies and into the Yadkin. It’ll cost a little more money, but in the long run we’ll be better off anyway.”
North Wilkesboro supplies a large amount of water to citizens outside its town limits through rural water associations, Johnson noted. “I’m willing and my board is willing to work this out, but it’s time the county woke up and looked at it from that perspective.”
In the work session, Hooper said the county board “essentially, at the request of a concerned citizen, wants us to investigate either building the intake farther up river (near the Wilkes Family YMCA), closer to Wilkesboro’s intake, or sharing Wilkesboro’s current intake (by buying water from Wilkesboro).” He was referring to local businessman Cam Finley, who spoke during the county commissioners meeting on Nov. 19.
Hooper said the county’s concern with North Wilkesboro building an intake on the site proposed near the Yadkin River Greenway bridge over the Yadkin was that land use restrictions with the designated WS-IV watershed needed for this would inhibit development and depress property values that area. It includes about 500 acres in North Wilkesboro’s jurisdiction, almost 2,500 acres in Wilkesboro’s jurisdiction and over 10,000 acres outside the towns under county’s government’s authority.
“So, we’ll have to put our heads together with (engineering firm) Kimley-Horn to see what we can do to perhaps gather the information they’ll need to get on board,” said Hooper. “My hunch is that the suggested alternative (intake site farther upstream behind the Wilkes Family YMCÅ) would cost about the same, maybe more, and we’d risk losing state funding if we started all over.”
Hooper said the town was considering using part of the secured state funding to upgrade the town’s water treatment plant with an Actiflo clarification system no matter what happens with the water intake. “That way, if the worst happens, we’ll at least get something out of this.”
He said Kimley-Horn will still submit the required engineering report to the state by Dec. 2, even with support for the needed watershed uncertain. “Clearly, I’d like to have everyone on board, and to have checked these boxes, but just because we’ve still got some work to do, that doesn’t mean we’re out of the game,” said Hooper.
Using a football analogy, Hooper added, “We had a negative yardage play, but we’re still in the ballgame.”
Hooper clarified that he wasn’t asking Wilkesboro and the county to update their watershed ordinances by Dec. 2. “What we’re looking for, from them, is a commitment to update their ordinances within 270 days of the (watershed) reclassification.”
The reclassification process itself might take six to nine months, he noted, so that gives the governing bodies about 18 months to update their ordinances.
On Nov. 14, the North Wilkesboro Planning Board passed a resolution supporting the extension of the watershed but did not take action to update the zoning ordinance. Hooper said the planning board wanted to familiarize themselves with the particulars of the ordinance and would discuss it again during their next monthly meeting in December.
Michael Parsons, planning board member and commissioner-elect, confirmed Hooper’s assertion, adding from the audience, “Our motion was to recommend that the commissioners begin the process of updating the water ordinances to better coincide with what Wilkesboro is requesting.”