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Public spec building on agenda for county

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

 

Discussion of moving forward with the construction of a speculative building using public funds will once again be on the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners’ agenda tonight.

The item, a decision on which was tabled earlier this year after a private developer had expressed interest in building the proposed facility, has proved a divisive one at past meetings.

It now appears less than likely that the project will be privately funded, with County Manager George Wood recommending that the county proceed with and finance the $1.8 million proposal.

“We have been unable to come to terms with the company we had been negotiating with for a speculative building,” he wrote in a recent memo to the board. “Given that, I am recommending that you proceed with the construction of a speculative building to be financed by the county.”

Construction of such a building has been a priority item among county officials for some time, with both commissioners and Lincoln Economic Development Association officials having asked Wood to look into the possibility in order to help with industrial recruitment and create more local jobs.

While initial attempts were also made last year to have a private developer construct the facility, little interest was received from companies at the time, and those that did respond to a request for proposals were unwilling to carry the full cost. Wood has said, however, that having a private firm finance the project had always been the preferred course of action.

Nonetheless, he has proposed using a 10-year loan scenario to fund the project, with hopes of filling the building within three years and recouping the costs. This would then result in the interest cost being the net cost to the county, which would equal roughly $109,350.

With several local industries’ tax-incentive grants due to expire, Wood believes those savings to the county could help cover some of the initial costs.

He has additionally cited the success of the Lincoln County Industrial Park, noting that public funds were used more than a decade ago to construct the park, which, now nearly full, has created a $263 million tax base.

Having already held two public hearings on the proposed shell building (during which former commissioners spoke out both for and against the project), all that’s left for the board to do is take a vote on the matter.

Also on tonight’s meeting agenda, commissioners will receive an update on changes to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance regarding real-estate signage.

Commissioners instructed Zoning Administrator Randy Hawkins in April to look into a complaint from Scott Knox, general manager and developer of Verdict Ridge Golf and Country Club and Community, regarding the number of off-premise directional signs allowed by the UDO.

Currently, only three are permitted, but Knox requested that that number be increased to help attract more interest in the subdivision and to encourage builders.

Other items on tonight’s Board of Commission meeting agenda include:

  • Commissioners are expected to vote on the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget. A public hearing, during which no one spoke, was conducted at their June 3 meeting.
  • Commissioners will consider appointing Assistant County Manager Martha Lide as the interim county manager, effective July 1, following Wood’s retirement on June 30.
  • Commissioners will discuss funding for the Child Advocacy Center, which was at risk of closing after facing significant monetary cuts from the state. Both the city of Lincolnton and the Board of Education have previously allotted money to help keep the center up and running.
  • Commissioners will consider two change orders for the sewer project at the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Regional Airport.
  • Commissioners will consider approving the lowering and paving of Galway Lane, dependent upon the financial contribution from Lincoln Charter School, whose Denver campus is located on the roadway.
  • Commissioners will consider a lease agreement with Community Health Partners, which for the past two years has been renting space in the Medical Arts Building at the old hospital on Gamble Drive in Lincolnton. The county has again put off plans for the renovation of the hospital complex into county offices.
  • Commissioners will receive the recommendations of the Planning Board from zoning cases heard at their last meeting.

The meeting, to be preceded by a 5 p.m. retirement reception for Wood in the lobby, begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Citizens Center and is open to the public.

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