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Woodlawn utility project gets go-ahead

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Both the Carroll supervisors and the Public Service Authority members made several pivotal project decisions in a special joint meeting Sept. 24.

In quick succession, the county officials:

• gave the go-ahead to build the long-delayed Woodlawn sewer project, which includes service to Exit 19

• approved a self-help water project on Happy Hollow Road

• approved a micro-enterprise loan program administrated by People Inc.

• decided to apply for funding for several infrastructure projects including Fancy Gap water, Lambsburg water and sewer and a water supply line from the regional water project, for which Carroll has partnered with Wythe County and Wytheville.

The county officials held a public hearing on the microenterprise loan program, planned as a partnership between Carroll, Grayson, Galax and People Inc.

No one spoke at the hearing, but Debbie Wagner of People Inc. explained that the initiative would be funded with a $200,000 community development block grant matched by another $120,000 from People Inc.’s financial services.

The goal is to help provide funds to help start-up businesses and existing firms expand and create jobs by making 15 loans, or five loans in each locality, she said.

The supervisors approved applying for the state grants on a motion by David Hutchins and a second by Wes Hurst.

Both the supervisors and the PSA, which share the same members, held a public hearing on applying for funding from federal agency Rural Development, including a water project in Fancy Gap that business owners there have been lobbying for as a way to promote economic growth.

Steve Gregson, the sole citizen who spoke, told the county officials that the prospect of water continues to be important for the Fancy Gap community. “We’re hoping this will be the light at the end of the tunnel and it won’t be a freight train,” he said.

He thanked the county officials and hoped that they would approve the funding request.

Hurst offered a motion for both governing bodies to do just that. It was approved unanimously by both supervisors and PSA members after a second from Tom Littrell.

No one spoke at the public hearing for the Happy Hollow water project, where the residents want water service because of the poor quantity and quality of water that comes from their wells.

Both the PSA and the supervisors approved motions to sign the agreement with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

The state will supply funding for the effort, the county will provide training for the residents of the road, equipment and an equipment operator. Residents of Happy Hollow will supply labor.

County officials then heard from engineer Kevin Heath that, after bid openings on the Woodlawn sewer project, it was apparent the project came in under budget.

Heath advised that the low bidder out of six contractors was Landform Construction of Mount Airy, N.C., at about $3.95 million for the work to install the lines as well as boring under U.S. 58 to the Carrollwood Road area and closing the wastewater plant at the Southwest Virginia Training Center.

The construction firm has 12 months to complete the project overall, but the work to provide service to Exit 19 has priority — it should be done within six months, Heath said.

The bore to Carrollwood Road will position the county to serve that area in the future, Heath said. That was included to see what the cost would be, and he found that the numbers were good.

“It’s called good future planning, isn’t it guys?” said Manus McMillian.

At that, the PSA adjourned, leaving the supervisors to approve some resolutions and hold a closed session.

County Administrator Gary Larrowe characterized the decisions to construct the Woodlawn sewer project and seek funding for other projects as “a huge economic development move.”

Before the meeting drew to a close, the supervisors:

• approved a resolution to seek a restructuring of the Twin County Airport Commission from seven members — including the towns in Carroll and Grayson — to six representatives from the localities that provide the majority of the funding, the two counties and the city of Galax.

• negotiated a license agreement with Weststar Investments for a “Welcome to Carroll County” sign near Interstate 77 at Exit 14.