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Ahoskie projects reap praise

AHOSKIE – Even in a sluggish economy, the Town of Ahoskie is currently positioning itself for future growth. On Thursday, Ahoskie officials were praised for that vision.

During his visit to Ahoskie, U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield said the town was moving responsibly in the right direction. He was in Ahoskie for scheduled tours and updates on two major projects currently in the construction process – the wastewater treatment plant and the Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex.

“The story behind us climbing out of this economic recession can be written by what Ahoskie is doing,” Rep. Butterfield said. “They’ve met their challenges head on and have carefully planned for the future.”

He continued, “Sure, they’ve spent money to reach this point, but in the long term, they will have enhanced their infrastructure to the point where doors will be open for growth here, both in population and in commerce. They will see these investments become very beneficial down the road. You cannot stop spending, what you must learn is how to spend responsibly, exactly what they’ve done here in Ahoskie.”

Before heading out to the worksites, Rep. Butterfield was given a briefing on the projects, including printed handouts, by Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond at Town Hall.

At the two individual worksites, Stewart White, Director of the town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, and Ahoskie Recreation Director Tina Pritchard gave Rep. Butterfield updates on the work currently being performed in those respective areas.

White’s presentation proclaimed the new plant as a wastewater reuse facility where biological treatment and clarifiers will clean the effluent to the point where it can be reused for industrial purposes and irrigation. The treated water is clean enough that NCDWQ agreed to allow Ahoskie to discharge excess wastewater into the nearby Ahoskie Creek.

Hammond said the plant would allow Ahoskie to more than double its wastewater treatment capacity, taking it to 1.6 million gallons a day. That will open Ahoskie up to economic development and residential growth.

Additionally, town officials are currently following the progress of Hertford County Renewable Energy, an electrical co-generation station planned for near Millennium. The town plans to pipe a portion of its treated wastewater to that plant for industrial reuse purposes.

Pritchard guided Butterfield through the Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex, pointing out not only the ongoing construction of the three ball fields, but what is already in place – the amphitheater and the soccer fields. She said the existing roads in the park are currently used for those seeking exercise by walking. Also on tap for the complex is a multi-purpose field, one that can accommodate Ahoskie’s growing youth football program, splash park (water park for children), dog park (fenced in area where dogs can play and interact off the leash), picnic shelter, and two and one-half miles of walking trails.

She turned the Congressman’s attention to the town’s right of way along the banks of the Ahoskie Creek, a “greenway” that connects to the Recreation Center on West Main Street. Pritchard said that area can be used by town citizens, especially youngsters, to access the park from the Ahoskie Elementary School/Hertford County High School area of town without having to use the busy streets.

Hammond added that the town was currently working with DOT to develop bike trails within the town….bicycle friendly streets that will allow safe travel from many areas of Ahoskie to and from the park.

“I have 88 cities and towns in my district and most of them are struggling to keep a balanced budget,” Butterfield noted. “Ahoskie has been very creative in the way they manage their resources. I’m very impressed with the way they have formed partnerships and have been able to collaborate with federal, state and local government in order to improve the quality of life for their citizens.

“The wastewater facility for Ahoskie was mandated by the state, essentially an unfunded mandate, so the town had to find the resources to make this happen,” he added. “There is good leadership in the town of Ahoskie. They’re making good things happen. This recreation park will be a valuable asset to this community. I’m proud to see that despite the economy and despite the obstacles that local governments face that Ahoskie continues to make progress.”