EDITOR’S NOTE: Wilkesboro Councilman Russell F. Ferree wrote the following as an open letter to North Wilkesboro Commissioner Andrew Palmer in response to Palmer’s guest column, “Be bold with change for a better future in Wilkes” (Jan. 17 issue).
Andrew, your article in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, deserves a big hoorah! You have the right attitude. Instead of adding refrains, however, your article deserves responses from me and all others who have ideas to share about how to create jobs in Wilkes County. The following is an idea that I have.
Other than timber, water is our county’s greatest natural resource. Since W. Kerr Scott Reservoir opened, Wilkes County has had a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Winston-Salem allowing Wilkes to withdraw up to 19 million gallons of water per day (before conservation measures) from that reservoir for our use. For 60 years, we have watched that water roll downstream without harnessing it.
Wilkesboro is now planning an expansion of its water plant to produce 12 million gallons of finished water per day. At a Town of Wilkesboro public meeting, an engineer told us this expansion could be done in such a way as to make it easier later to expand to production of 16 million gallons of finished water per day. The bottom line is that in a few years, Wilkesboro will be able to furnish water to every tap on public water systems in this county and still have enough left to furnish water to another big user the size of Tyson.
Andrew, you are right. We need to summon the faith necessary to think big, and this is the way I think we can do it.
The County of Wilkes should look for 500 acres or more for an agriculture/industrial site in eastern Wilkes on the south side of the Yadkin River (Dellaplane area or further east) and run an industrial water line to that site. Then, we should advertise to all the big water users in the world that we have a perfect site for industrial use off a U.S. highway built to interstate standards, near an interstate highway and half the distance between Maine and Miami.
More to the point, Wilkesboro can produce as much finished water as needed at the lowest rate industrial site hunters can find anywhere. We can pick and choose which water users would qualify for our requirements because we have this precious resource - cheap water. We should determine which interested water users would bring the most jobs, and also which of those industries could bring the most spin-off industry jobs (an example is InterFlex, a spin-off of Tyson Foods).
This idea is 10 to 15 years from fruition, but a thousand good jobs and hundreds more spinoff jobs can be created if we harness our water resources and use them wisely. A big water user somewhere in this world will want to establish itself somewhere on the east coast of our United States. It may as well be here.
Andrew, this is my idea and I hope others will join in our conversation with their ideas. I applaud you, Andrew, because you are not afraid to think outside the box and you love Wilkes County.
We should always remember that we are not three towns separated from the county. We are not three towns separated by a river. We are one community united by a river that runs through all of us.
RUSSELL F. FERREE,