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Wilkes County, NC Improves Infrastructure, Enhances Residents’ Quality of Life

Trio of projects establishes stronger foundation for livability, economy

By Jessica Walker Boehm on September 9, 2016

Wilkesboro, NC - The Oakwoods Complex
Courtesy of the Town of Wilkesboro

Wilkes County’s strong infrastructure is becoming even better, thanks to improvements that will enhance residents’ quality of life by boosting water availability and quality, making everyday transportation easier, and increasing jobs and the tax base.

W. Kerr Scott Reservoir Raw Water Intake Project

Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro, Wilkes County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working together to create a raw water intake with a pump station on W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.

“The water intake system isn’t just about increasing water availability during drought periods, although that’s important,” says Ken Noland, Wilkesboro town manager. “Our current intake is in the river, and when there’s a heavy rain, the water gets dark and muddy – we have to somehow take that water and turn it into drinking water. It’s time-consuming and expensive to make that water safe for the public to drink, but putting our intake in the lake will make us much more immune to that.”

Noland says the W. Kerr Scott Reservoir intake system will include multiple draw points, each at a different elevation in the lake. For example, if the water was cleaner on the bottom of the lake, that particular area of water could be drawn out and would require far less treatment than the lake’s top and middle portions.

Currently, Wilkesboro has a 10-million-gallon water treatment plant, and North Wilkesboro has a 4.2-million-gallon water treatment plant, but the new water intake system will have the capacity to pump 24 million gallons.

“We are building this intake for not only today’s needs, but also for tomorrow’s anticipated needs,” Noland says. “We wanted to give ourselves the ability to do water treatment plant expansions in the future as they’re warranted, based on industrial growth and other economic activity that may occur.”

Although plans aren’t set in stone, Noland says they’re nearing completion, and construction on the intake system could begin as early as fall 2016. Noland expects the build-out to take 18 months, so the project’s earliest completion date is spring 2018. The total estimated cost is $25 million to $28 million.

NC-268 East Construction

A major Wilkes County thoroughfare, the two-lane state Highway 268 East is a highly-trafficked road that leads to both the Wilkes County Airport and Interstate 77.

Due to the heavy traffic congestion and high accident rate, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is working to widen NC-268 East to four lanes with a divided and raised median from the Airport Road intersection west to the Fairplains Road intersection in North Wilkesboro. The highway will include five lanes and a center turn lane from Fairplains Road west to the Shaver Street intersection in North Wilkesboro.

“Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro and Wilkes County officials support the widening and further development of NC-268 East to make it a safer and more efficient road for the public,” Noland says.

The project will also benefit Samaritan’s Purse, which has a warehouse in North Wilkesboro on NC-268 East. Noland says the road improvements should make the disaster relief organization’s trucking more efficient and cost-effective.

Adaptive Reuse of the Oakwoods Complex

Formerly home to Northwestern Bank, the four-building, 160,000-square-foot Oakwoods Complex in Wilkesboro now includes three county-owned facilities as well as a privately owned business.

One county-owned building houses Wilkes Community College’s new state-of-the-art health sciences complex, while another includes the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office, now conveniently located near the jail and county courthouse. The third county-owned building has the Wilkes County Agricultural Center, which houses all of the county’s agriculture resources, formerly spread across the community, and hosts agricultural events.

“We’re very excited about this project,” Noland says. “We expect further development in the complex, as well as around it. Creating that employment center will attract places like convenience stores and restaurants. When you have that many people in one place, businesses will come to serve them.”

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