Ahoskie’s ‘win-win’ scenario

Published 10:35 am Tuesday, January 19, 2010

“The Long and Winding Road” was a ballad written by Paul McCartney as he sat behind a piano in Scotland.

Perhaps the most beloved member of The Beatles was thinking of Ahoskie while he penned that song, one that will go down in history as the last number one hit by the “Fab Four” prior to their much publicized break-up.

How does that song fit Ahoskie….well it’s been a long road, one full of twists and turns, for town officials as they have traveled along a route to expand and improve its wastewater treatment plant.

Listed among my numerous duties here at the News-Herald is the monthly coverage of the Ahoskie Town Council. I’m currently in my 11th year of covering that elected board. Over that period of time there have been numerous plans discussed concerning wastewater plant expansion. I’ve lost track of how much the town has spent in the development of such plans.

Two proposals, however, do stick out in my mind.

The first was the GenPower deal in 2001…one where Ahoskie would host a regional wastewater plant, treating sewage from several different sources and then pipe that water for industrial reuse purposes at the proposed electric co-generation station planned to be built near Millennium.

That particular project was full of its own sets of twists and turns…finally going belly-up in 2004.

The second plan surfaced later in 2004, one where Ahoskie officials discussed an option to purchase a huge amount of land in an effort to expand its treatment plant’s sprayfield operation.

That plan sticks out in my mind for two reasons. The first was self-serving as according to the maps I saw in regards to the town purchasing 1,500 acres to expand the sprayfields, a lot of that land was located across Jernigan Airport Road from my home. I had flashes of declining property values dancing through my mind as well as the thought of living out my years looking at a wastewater facility from my front yard.

The second reason why I was happy to see that plan tossed in the trash was that Ahoskie would have wasted $30 million with nothing to show in return. Even with that land purchase and expanding their sprayfields, Ahoskie wasn’t promised any additional capacity to its wastewater plant. Without added capacity, the town doesn’t stand a chance to grow.

I’ve given this history lesson to say this…to those who are complaining about the recent spike in the town’s water and sewer rates – and, yes, those new rates are connected to the near 18 million dollars the town will invest in the new wastewater plant currently under construction (one without more sprayfields) – you’ve got two choices. One, you may do what my wife and I did nearly 17 years ago and move to the countryside outside of town. Two, you can jump on the Ahoskie bandwagon and help town officials bring in much-needed new business and industry, which as of this time next year will be possible with added wastewater capacity.

The latter option brings with it not only new jobs, but increases the property tax base as well. An increased tax base opens the door to possibly lowering the town’s tax rate….and we all win in that scenario.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.