Property sale OK’d by council

Published 1:17 am Tuesday, September 18, 2007

By Staff
Committee of 100 will get building, land for $1 million
Contributing Editor
Washington’s City Council voted 4-1 Monday to sell most of the former Hamilton Beach property — including the building that now houses Impressions Marketing Group — to the Beaufort County Committee of 100 for $1 million.
The council’s vote authorizes Mayor Judy Meier Jennette to sign the documents required to conclude the sale. The committee has plans to either lease or eventually sell the property to Impressions.
Councilman Ed Gibson cast the lone vote against the sale. Although he called what the Committee of 100 plans to do with the property a good deal, he said he has a problem with the sale price.
Gibson said the city taking less than $1.5 million for the property is an “affront to city taxpayers.”
Other council members said selling the property to the Committee of 100 is in the best interest of the city, particularly when it comes to economic development. Councilman Archie Jennings said the city’s taxpayers will receive more than $1 million in benefits because of the sale. A settlement with Hamilton Beach over conditions of the property will result in the city receiving revenue, Jennings said Monday.
At a meeting last month to talk about the sale of the building, Jennings said without the sale of the property to the committee, there is no guarantee that Impressions will remain at the property. Selling the property to the committee will allow the committee to repair the property so Impressions can expand its operations, thereby creating new jobs in the city and county, he said.
With the Committee of 100 repairing the building and able to lend money to Impressions to help it expand, the committee can better utilize that property to keep jobs in the county, Jennings said at the August meeting. The city, by law, is not allowed to lend money to a business. The councilman said the committee, a nonprofit organization that works closely with the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission to bring economic development projects to the county, is better able to “make the most of what essentially is a relic.”
Last month, Mayor Pro Tempore Darwin Woolard and Councilman Mickey Gahagan said they believed selling the property to the committee so it can lease it, possibly with an option to buy, to Impressions would result in saving 160 jobs at the plant and adding 120 new jobs there. At that time, Woolard said the council has to “look out” for its residents by doing what it can to keep jobs in the community and bring in new jobs, too.
Making it difficult or impossible for Impressions to expand could result in the manufacturer moving elsewhere. Impressions has plans to move some of its other operations at other locations to its Washington location, city officials said.
Of the 37 acres that make up the former Hamilton Beach site, about 8 acres will be kept by the city. About 5 acres at the southeast corner of the site, two 60-foot-wide rights-of-way and about 3 acres — known as the “water tower” site — will be retained by the city.
For additional coverage of Monday’s meeting, see future editions.