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County commits to new I-74 industrial park

ASHEBORO— Plans to develop a 160-acre industrial park at Interstate 74 and Wall Brothers Road in Sophia took a big step forward at the Sept. 6 meeting of the Randolph County Board of Commissioners. 


The commissioners voted unanimously to purchase 30 acres of the proposed park to qualify for eligibility for utility grants to offset the infrastructure costs of sewer extension to the site. The board also authorized contracting with the NC Department of Transportation for improvements to upgrade Wall Brothers Road to industrial standards.


The per-acre cost of the property is $35,000, for a total of $1,050,000 for the 30 acres. Financing for the acquisition will come from money previously set aside in the Economic Development Fund.


The commissioners authorized a grant application for up to $1 million from the NC Industrial Development Fund to extend sewer lines to the site. The Randolph County Economic Development Corporation is working with a private developer, the county, the City of Randleman and the City of Asheboro for infrastructure to support the proposed industrial park. Water lines will be extended by Randleman while Asheboro will provide Randleman more sewer capacity by extending its sewer line up US 311.


Resolutions on the project passed by the commissioners included the land purchase, a contract with the NCDOT for preliminary engineering and permits for improvements to Wall Brothers Road, the grant application for extension of sewer service, and pursuit of additional grants to supplement the cost of sewer service. The total cost of extending sewer lines is estimated at $6,862,800, which will be funded by a transfer of $5,862,800 from the Coronavirus Recovery Fund and the $1 million state grant.


Crystal Gettys of the EDC told the commissioners that the Toyota Battery Plant being constructed west of Liberty has prompted a number of inquiries from companies wanting to locate near that facility. She said the county currently has few industrial sites available and it’s important to develop large-acreage properties.


During a public hearing on the project, Lynn Small told the commissioners that he wants whatever company that locates at the I-74 park to pay fire and property taxes. He also asked that tractor-trailers be banned from using Walker Mill Road, which he described as a residential neighborhood.


Darrell Frye, commission chair, told Small that payment of fire taxes is required. In the case of Toyota, he said, that company pays property taxes but a portion is refunded by the county for a period of several years, as agreed upon as part of the incentive package for Toyota. After that time period, Toyota would be paying its full share of taxes. 


In other business, the commissioners:


- Received an update on designs for the Farm, Food, and Family Education Center by Kristin Hess of HH Architecture.


Hess showed schematic designs for the main building, the training and event center, and smaller structures to be built on 44 acres of the 104-acre site on East Dixie Drive in Asheboro. She said the main building will be at the entrance facing Dixie Drive and would consist of offices, training rooms and a demonstration kitchen. The event center will have meeting space for big events and a large arena for display of animals. Other buildings will include equipment sheds, workshops and storage areas.


Hess said the projected cost of the Farm, Food, and Family Education Center is $29.3 million. Funds already secured total $28.3 million, including $18.4 million from the state, $5 million from the county’s capital reserve fund, $900,000 from the NC Department of Commerce Rural Transformation Grant and $4 million in US Department of Agriculture low-interest loans.


•Appropriated money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for an Emergency Services communication tower and renovations to the Public Health clinic.


According to Will Massie, finance officer, local governments can claim up to $10 million of their ARPA allocations as revenue loss, which can be used for any legally permitted government purpose. The county has already committed $500,000 of the $10 million for public safety merit pay and $500,000 for two ambulances. That leaves $8,900,000 of the revenue loss funds.


The commissioners voted to appropriate $1.5 million for the Emergency Services tower and $2 million for the Public Health renovations, leaving $5.4 million to be determined.


The communications tower will be erected near Providence Grove High School in an area with poor and non-existing coverage for the VIPER radio system, affecting emergency operations in Climax, Level Cross, Randleman and Franklinville.


•Approved the establishment of a Workforce Initiative Fund for the Eastern Triad Workforce Initiative, composed of Randolph, Guilford, Alamance and Rockingham counties.


Randolph County’s appropriation from the state for this year is $750,000, to be used for short-term training for Toyota employees, startup of career/workforce academies in high schools, marketing and recruitment efforts, and to support adult apprentices.


The funds will be distributed to Randolph Community College ($289,371), the regional partnership ($214,040), Randolph County Schools ($172,000) and Asheboro City Schools ($74,589).


•Passed a resolution supporting Operation Green Light, with the county being declared a Green Light for Veterans County from Oct. 1 through Veterans Day on Nov. 11.


Chad Gurley, Veterans Services director, said the purpose of Operation Green Light is to provide awareness of the plight of veterans after serving their country. He said many become homeless, abuse substances and are victims of PTSD. Some even commit suicide.


During Operation Green Light, county buildings will shine green lights to show their support of veterans. Private citizens are also asked to display green lights from their homes.


•Established the Seagrove-Ulah Waste Water Treatment Plant Capital Project Fund.


The commissioners had previously authorized engineering work to design upgrades to the Seagrove-Ulah WWTP. The county received $2.5 million from a state grant for water and sewer projects.


•Adopted a fire inspection fee schedule for the Fire Marshal Office.


Erik Beard, fire marshal, said his office has provided inspections free of charge since its inception in the early 1990s. But with the ever-increasing demands for services, the decision was made to request that fees be charged. He gave a list of similar charges from surrounding counties.


•Approved the abolishment of capped service districts and formation of districts without the 15-cent fire tax rate cap.


The districts included East Side, Level Cross, Randleman-Sophia and Tabernacle. Public hearings were held for each district.


According to Aimee Scotton, associate county attorney, the current capped tax rate “has rendered or will soon render the district obsolete for providing the necessary protection to citizens in the area.”


As Frye said, creating the new districts without the tax rate cap does not mean their tax rates are going up. A fire department cannot raise its tax rate without approval of the commissioners.