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April 23, 2024

Alexander County Govt. provides project updates

PROGRESS ON SWIM BEACH — This aerial view shows construction progress at Wittenburg Access Area in Bethlehem. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Brumley.)

Alexander County Government is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for its citizens through infrastructure development, park improvements, planning and development activities, economic development opportunities, and more, according to a press release.

“Alexander County has a lot of great things that are in the works,” said Marty Pennell, Chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. “We want to keep our citizens up to date on our projects and initiatives so they will better understand the timelines for these valuable improvements. Commissioners and county staff are hard at work to make Alexander County even better.”

“Alexander County has a long-standing history of utilizing State allocations and grant monies to leverage local money to fund projects,” said County Manager Shane Fox. “Our goal is to continue to leverage those opportunities to minimize the reliance on tax dollars.”

Infrastructure

Alexander County officials recognize the need for reliable water service for citizens and businesses, and have prioritized the expansion of the county’s water system. Water lines are being installed to provide service in areas of need and improve the water system’s connectivity. Two water line projects have been completed since 2018, totaling more than 82,000 linear feet of water lines.

Construction should begin later this year on the 2021 ARPA Water Line Extension project, which will construct 42,000+ linear feet of water lines in 12 areas around the county. The project cost will be approximately $7 million, which is being funded by money received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). County staff is currently working with the engineer to finalize plans and put the project out to bid.

The county will also construct an elevated water storage tank to serve the Bethlehem water system. This project is still in the design phase as staff works with the engineer to determine the tank site and design.

In addition, the county was awarded a state grant of $1,554,000 to help construct a sewer pump station and associated force main to connect property on Bowman Court to gravity sewer lines on Chigger Ridge Road. The total cost of the project is approximately $2.1 million. The project is scheduled to be bid in late September.

Broadband internet access is also a critical infrastructure component as access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Alexander County officials have made significant strides in expanding broadband service through a partnership with Open Broadband and Zirrus/Yadtel. Open Broadband recently installed equipment on a tower in Stony Point that is providing internet service to unserved residents in that area. Zirrus will offer fiber-to-the-home internet service to approximately 300 homes in the Hiddenite area at no cost to the county, as the project is being funded by a GREAT grant (Growing Rural Economies through Access to Technology) from the state and ARPA funds. Residents eligible for the service will be contacted soon to determine interest as construction on the Zirrus project will soon begin.

These infrastructure additions not only improve the quality of life for citizens but also create opportunities for economic growth and development.

Park Improvements

Approximately $1.5 million in much-needed improvements are planned at Bethlehem Park, including new concessions and bathrooms, additional picnic space, new ADA-compliant parking and walkway, field lighting improvements, tennis court resurfacing with pickleball and basketball courts, new batting cages, and more. Staff is currently working with the engineer to finalize plans and to get the project ready for bids, hopefully later this fall.

Alexander County is working in partnership with Duke Energy on improvements at the Wittenburg Access Area in Bethlehem. The county completed the one-mile Heron Point Nature Trail in 2022. Duke continues to work on the new swim beach and administration building, which will open in spring 2024. The building will include outdoor showers, a changing area, restrooms, an office, concessions, and two picnic shelters. Additional picnic areas will also be available along a new paved walkway that leads to the fishing pier.

Economic Development

The Alexander County Economic Development Corporation continues its commitment to industrial development and job creation by developing a 16-acre site in the Alexander Industrial Park. The new site was graded thanks to significant grant funding from the Golden LEAF Foundation ($632,412) and the North Carolina Railroad Company ($500,000). A wastewater expansion to serve the new site is being funded by a $422,330 grant from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund and a $226,165 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. The EDC is actively marketing the 16-acre site to attract a new industry to Alexander County.

In addition to the newly developed site, the EDC also facilitated the sale of a 25-acre site on White Plains Road to Paragon Films for the construction of a 70,000-square-foot warehouse facility.
The EDC also secured grant funding for rail construction for Paragon’s expansion, with $222,375 from the NC Community Development Block Grant program and $143,539 from NCDOT’s Rail Industrial Access Program.

With the support of local officials and grant agencies, the industrial park has seen significant growth, contributing to the county’s economy.

Planning & Development

Commissioners and staff held a planning workshop on August 8 to discuss needed improvements related to the planning department in Alexander County. Highlights from the workshop include a discussion of the new comprehensive plan that is under development, land development code, subdivision ordinance, recreational vehicles, drinking establishments, lighting, temporary signs, and more.

The Alexander County Comprehensive Plan Committee has been meeting for the past several months to work on revisions to the current plan. In addition, almost 700 community survey responses were received to help guide the committee to develop a plan to aid in the future development of Alexander County. The county’s planning and development department is writing the comprehensive plan in-house, which saves approximately $120,000 depending on the scope of work. Also, a new local development control (LDC) plan and small area plans are being developed, for a total savings of roughly $450,000 over a 10-year period.

Other Projects

Alexander County officials and staff are actively engaged in various other projects, one of which is the “Alexander Housing Our Teachers” project at 16 West Main Avenue in Taylorsville. The NC Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Division awarded a $650,000 Rural Transformation Grant to the county to rehabilitate the property with the county contributing $100,000 to the project. The former Chamber of Commerce building will be renovated into a commercial space on the ground floor, two one-bedroom residential units on the upper floor, and tenant storage areas in the basement. With a current shortage of housing, the residential units are designed to attract teachers to Alexander County by providing additional options. The architect has finished plans for the building and is working to secure construction bids so work can begin in late fall or early winter.

“Alexander County continually strives to enhance the quality of life for our citizens,” said County Manager Fox. “Through efforts in infrastructure expansion, economic development, parks and recreation, planning and development, and more, county officials and staff are proactively planning for the future of our great county.”

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