DOBSON — Dobson commissioner were recently surprised to learn one of their board members would be stepping down due to health issues, and the town was facing a significant problem with its water system.
Bob Comer, who joined the town board in July 2013, said on Thursday night he has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and will step down effective Jan. 1.
“I haven’t felt a whole lot different,” Comer said, but there have been a few times recently where he felt some confusion from Alzheimer’s-related dementia.
He asked: What if there were an issue dividing the board, and he had to cast the swing vote on an issue he couldn’t really remember? The town should not take that chance on someone who doesn’t have his full faculties.
“I do want to say I truly appreciate you all inviting me to join the board and entrusting me with this job,” he said. “It’s been a great time for me to enjoy. I’ll be sitting back and watching you do other great things for this town. … There are people in Dobson that could do this job as well or better than I could.”
Comer was appointed by the board to fill the remaining term of Commissioner Lana Brendle, who died May 19, 2013.
“I think he will be a great fit with our current board,” Town Manager Josh Smith said at the time.
Comer is a retired Navy captain who became the inaugural executive director of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership in the 1990s. He has been active with the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce and a long-time member of the Surry Community College Board of Trustees.
Several years ago, Comer served as Dobson’s town manager, noted Smith.
Commissioner John Lawson suggested to the board that the town honor Bob at the town’s tree lighting ceremony which was held on Saturday.
The town Public Works Department is scrambling to make temporary arrangements after the water system’s river pumps died this week.
The pumps have been struggling for a while and were scheduled to be replaced in water/sewer plans developed years back, according to the town manager.
The hope was that the pumps could limp along until the scheduled replacement next summer, but they have failed completely, Smith told the commissioners Thursday.
This brings up yet another point of contention that the town staff has had with the company working on the water/sewer plan, he said.
Smith and Michael Frazier, public works director, believe that Anderson and Associates hasn’t been very punctual about completing steps in getting the plan together and implemented.
The pumps should have been replaced last year, but the process has been drawn out, Smith told the board.
What are the options now, the board asked.
Smith said the town staff has been calling around to see if there are pumps that can be rented for now.
The water level in the reservoir already is down about four feet because of how the pumps were struggling before dying, said Frazier. But the city still has a few days of water no matter what.
Dobson could always purchase water from Mount Airy in a pinch, but that would be expensive, Smith pointed out.
The town already was working with the United States Department of Agriculture on underwriting the town’s water plant overhaul. That included seeking state and federal monies to assist in paying for the work.
In most cases, these types of grants include the town making a matching payment. Smith said he wants to check with the USDA and other officials to see if money spent on replacing the pumps now can still be counted toward the town’s share of the overall project.
The town has nearly $2.4 million in the bank, so the money is available, said Smith.
While the 75-page water/sewer document is still in the draft form with the USDA, Smith wanted to move ahead with replacing Anderson and Associates with another consulting firm.
The Lane Group comes recommended by other government bodies, Smith told the board. The commissioners voted to allow the manager to reach out to Lane about a potential contract for design services.
Jeff is the associate editor of The News and can be reached at 415-4692 and on Twitter @SportsDudeJeff.