by Sam Hieb
At last night’s meeting Randolph County commissioners approved a land swap deal that would give the county “one contiguous piece of land” it can market for other purposes just in case—we all know this will never happen—-an automobile manufacturer never comes.
The agreement is for the county to exchange six parcels totaling 98.4 acres for 12 parcels totaling 79.3 acres currently owned by the N.C. Railroad. Tax values for the county properties amount to $335,709 while the N.C. Railroad tracts add up to $388,282.
The reconfiguration of land, according to County Manager Hal Johnson, will “improve the marketability of the whole site … and increase the marketability of each property owner” in case the megasite does not attract a heavy industry during the six-year term of the agreement. There is a termination option with a 60-day notice in the event either side wants to back out. They have also agreed to split the costs necessitated by the swap.
The question is where the money comes from for site prep. apparently there are two answers—the county manager said a grant had been applied for to cover those costs, while commission Vice Chair Darrell Frye assured everyone that revenues from cell towers on the site will adequately cover the costs.
And there’s another interesting side note—whether or not the projected wages that an automobile manufacturing plant would pay need to be clearly specified in the resolution. Apparently it does, although there are differences of opinion over what those projected wages would be:
Alan Ferguson, who has long been a spokesperson for those against the megasite, said it has been five years since the land has been proposed for development. “There are still things going on that are misleading,” he said. “The facts that underlie the resolution need to be right.”
With that said, he disputed the wage figures, quoting the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics as estimating such wages are more in the $19 per hour range.
…Commissioner Maxton McDowell said, “I’m not sure we need the paragraph on income,” referring to the estimated average wage. At that point, county staff attorney Aimee Scotton explained the statement. She said a provision of state statute requires that property held for economic development “requires you to state the probable average wage of the industry being sought.” She said she used the information she was given on the matter, but that “you can make it Alan’s number instead. The sole purpose is to satisfy the statute.”
I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing that Randolph commissioners are preparing for the possibility that an auto manufacturing plant might never materialize……