It’s hard to believe that it’s already November! It has been my honor to serve as your Chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners for the past year. During that time, the county has made great strides in terms of infrastructure, parks & recreation, economic development, and more. I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on these accomplishments in this column.
The county just completed two water line expansion projects in late 2021, and we’re now in the planning process for a new water project using approximately $7 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The project totals 42,500 linear feet of water lines in 12 project areas that are in need of water service. Engineering and design are nearing completion, and construction is scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2023. Commissioners understand that there are many citizens in need of a quality, reliable water source, and this expansion project will be constructed at no cost to our taxpayers.
The county is also planning to install a 1-million-gallon elevated water tank in the Bethlehem area to help with water pressure issues and to plan for future growth. We’ve received approximately $2 million in grant funds to assist with the project, which is scheduled for construction in the fourth quarter of 2023.
We also received $1,554,000 in state grant funds to complete the Bowman Court sewer project, which consists of a new pump station and 6,500 linear feet of force main. This project, which is also scheduled for construction in late 2023, will provide the necessary infrastructure for a potential housing development.
Perhaps the highlight of the year was the grand opening of the new Alexander County Courthouse Park in May. We had a large crowd for the opening ceremony and the park’s first concert on the Rotary Performance Stage. I would like to thank everyone involved in making this beautiful park a reality. This year, there have been multiple concerts and events at the park, and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from our citizens. The children have absolutely loved the new splash pad. We’re proud to have created such a popular attraction in Alexander County.
While we’re talking about parks, we’re excited about the additions and improvements being done at the Wittenburg Access Area. The county entered into a 40-year lease with Duke Energy, and some great things are happening there that will provide additional recreational opportunities for our citizens and visitors. The parking lot has already been repaved and striped, with additional parking for the boat ramp area. The county has already completed a one-mile nature trail, so we encourage citizens to enjoy a hike there. Duke Energy is currently working on a swim beach, picnic shelter, and restrooms. This is going to be a great addition to our parks system.
Commissioners also approved $1.3 million to update and upgrade Bethlehem Park. Improvements will include new signage; repaving the parking lot; replacing the picnic shelter, concessions building, and restrooms; converting two tennis courts to pickleball courts; adding an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) parking lot; replacing poles and lights; and repairing retaining walls. This park has needed an upgrade for many years, and we’re excited to see this project happen.
The county continues to invest in expanding broadband internet access for our citizens and businesses. We’ve been working with Open Broadband LLC for the past few years, and they continue to make progress in unserved areas of the county. In addition, we entered into an agreement with Yadtel/Zirrus to apply for a GREAT grant (Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology), which was awarded by the state in the amount of $1,049,286. The county is providing $185,168 in ARPA funds for the project, which will provide broadband service to approximately 300 homes. We know that broadband is no longer a want, it’s a necessity and we’re exploring all options to establish partnerships to continue expansion throughout the county.
Alexander County has a rich history, so we’re excited that Alexander County joined 11 counties and 60 cities in North Carolina as a Certified Local Government (CLG) through the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service. This program will provide financial and technical assistance to preserve historic properties in Alexander County. We appreciate the hard work of the county’s Historic Preservation Committee.
The county received a $500,000 “Build Ready Sites” grant from the North Carolina Railroad Company (NCRR), which was one of only six grants awarded statewide, to help pay for the grading of a new site in the Alexander Industrial Park. In addition, the Economic Development Corporation was awarded a $632,412 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation which will be combined with the NCRR grant for a total of $1,132,412 for the project. Grading will be complete by the end of this year, with plans in the works to establish a partnership to construct a new speculative building on the site so we can attract another new industry to the county.
We’re also excited about the NC Hwy. 127 widening project, which will literally pave the way for tremendous growth in the Bethlehem community and ease the traffic problems there. Currently, right-of-way acquisition is scheduled to begin in 2024, with construction starting in 2026. The widening project will go from Cloninger Mill Road in Catawba County to Richey Road in Alexander County, with a four-lane divided highway and a new two-lane bridge. The Alexander County portion will include a sidewalk on the east side and a multi-use path on the west side.
The county received a $650,000 Rural Transformation Grant from the NC Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Division to rehabilitate property located at 16 West Main Avenue in Taylorsville. The county will contribute $100,000 to the project, which is estimated to cost $750,000. The EDC spearheaded the grant application entitled “Alexander – Housing Our Teachers” (Alexander – HOT). The project will renovate and develop the former Chamber of Commerce building into a commercial space on the ground floor, two one-bedroom residential units on the upper floor, and tenant storage areas in the basement. This is another way the county is contributing to downtown revitalization.
I’d also like to remind you about several upcoming events for you, your family, and your friends to enjoy: the 6th Annual Run for the Dogs on November 5 at Rocky Face Park, the Alexander County Veterans Day Parade on November 11, and the 75th Annual Alexander County Christmas Parade on December 3. We’re also planning a special Christmas event prior to the parade on the evening of December 1.
As you can see, Alexander County Commissioners and staff have had a very busy year providing more services for our citizens and planning for the future, all while trying to secure as much grant funding as possible. Again, I appreciate your faith in me as your Chairman this year and look forward to continuing my service on the board. I hope that everyone has a happy Thanksgiving, a very merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year.