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HILLSVILLE — Earth Day came a little bit early for Carroll County this year, and with it a $1.9 million check from the federal government to pay for sewer service to Exit 19 and Wildwood Commerce Park.
Ninth District Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Abingdon) and Rural Development's Travis Jackson on Monday presented the check for a low-interest loan to fund the sewer project that will serve the Interstate 77 area, including the under-development commerce park and 34 homes on Airport Road and Training Center Road, Boucher said.
Accepting were Sam Dickson, chairman of the Public Service Authority; and David Hutchins, chairman of the Carroll Board of Supervisors.
The funding will build the entire project, Boucher said. "The new Wildwood Commerce Park is truly transformative for economic development in Carroll County," the congressman said.
The projected 1,400-acre commerce park and the tremendous investment by its developers, Mike Turman and Don Branscome, to grade the land and prepare it for use "opens the door to an unparalleled opportunity for economic growth, the location of new industry and the creation of new jobs in Carroll County.”
But to realize that growth, the extension of public wastewater treatment to that location is absolutely essential, Boucher added. This funding from the federal government can make that happen.
The first step in getting sewer treatment to Exit 19 happened last December, when Boucher joined Carroll County officials and residents to kick off construction on the Woodlawn sewer system, he said. The sewer service to Exit 19 and Wildwood will come from an extension of the Woodlawn system.
Boucher called the partnership between Carroll County and Galax “a truly innovative and forward looking agreement." The city will provide the wastewater treatment service to the county's system from Gladeville to Woodlawn to Exit 19.
"That, by the way, benefits both communities — Galax had an excess of sewer treatment capacity and were very interested in renting that capacity to Carroll County," he said. "And Carroll County was able to avoid the expense of having to build its own new wastewater treatment plant..."
Boucher indicated that more such events would follow in the future.
"I can assure you this will not be the last time that I join you here in Carroll County to announce federal funding for an important infrastructure project."
Travis Jackson agreed with Boucher that Wildwood would become an important piece of economic development for Carroll County. "It's going to be another piece — with other projects in the design phase right now — that will piece together infrastructure programs that will further enhance the ability of this county to attract industry, to attract new residential development and also make it a better place to live for its existing citizens," Jackson said.
He explained how this announcement tied in with the observance of Earth Day, albeit two days early. Earth Day is when many take time to recognize the importance of the environment, and it's an opportunity to reflect on what the earth provides to its people and the stewardship that people have over the earth.
"We do projects like this to make sure that we are aware of the issues that threaten the environment itself," Jackson said. "I'm here today with Congressman Boucher to recognize this as Earth Week, to celebrate this project..."
Jackson praised Carroll County officials for working with the federal representatives to meet the needs of its citizens.
Sam Dickson thanked the federal representatives, as well as those from the state, such as Sen. Roscoe Reynolds (D-Henry County) and Del. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson County), in the audience for their constant efforts on behalf of Carroll.
"It's going to open the door," he said. "It's another piece in a big puzzle..."
He expects good things from the regional water system, as well, which will connect to every public water system in northern Carroll County.
Dickson said that Grayson, Carroll and Galax are working together towards common goals, such as Wildwood, as a regional project.
The Public Service Authority saw a need to start pushing for improvements to the county's infrastructure, Dickson said. "We wanted to move it faster than it was moving."
Now the county officials are getting to the point where they can start to see the results.
"We've still got plenty of projects to do," the PSA chairman said, listing in quick session Exit 1, Fancy Gap, regional water, Honeycutt Dam, Fries Road, Dugspur, Cana, Sylvatus.
"Y'all got enough money to do all that?" he joked in an aside to the federal officials. "So we're not short on projects if they're not short on money."
"Today just is a wow kind of day," Hutchins said in his remarks. It started with a meeting with Boucher's staff, at which the county board chairman learned of some promising Workforce Investment Board grants that Carroll can go after.
He recalled — with help from citizen Mary Coulson in the audience — that Wildwood is the name of an old schoolhouse that once stood near where the interstate exit is.
Hutchins noted that the former county board voted to name the exit after that school.
Carroll County has four interstate exits, which Hutchins called “potential gold mines.”
Exit 14 is pretty well developed and Fancy Gap has promise, but Exit 1 and Exit 19 haven't been touched until now.
"I know our friends Mike and Don have put a lot of money in leveling that [the 1,400-acre tract at Exit 19], but until we can provide probably three different ingredients there it doesn't matter," Hutchins said. "If we don't get sewer; if we don't get water, which we have; and if we don't get broadband — then it doesn't matter about the rest of it."
He can remember seeing lots of vacant tracts in Tennessee with many amenities on site. "We're almost there — we need to work on not only this but the other two exits," Hutchins said.
The group then adjourned to observe Earth Day in another way — by planting a tree on the government center grounds.