City considers severing industrial park partnership

Published 1:42 pm Saturday, February 27, 2016

DAILY NEWS PROJECT BLUE GOOSE: ProNamics Industries and Oak Ridge Metal Works were part of a deal three years ago that resulted in the two entities setting up shop at the Washington-Beaufort County Industrial Park. The paint scheme on this building gave the project its name.

PROJECT BLUE GOOSE: ProNamics Industries and Oak Ridge Metal Works were part of a deal three years ago that resulted in the two entities setting up shop at the Washington-Beaufort County Industrial Park. The paint scheme on this building gave the project its name.

Giving up its 45-percent ownership of the Washington-Beaufort County Industrial Park could prove to be a financial boon for Washington.

The city is exploring dissolving its partnership with Beaufort County regarding ownership of the industrial park, a move that could be worth about $630,000 to the city. Currently, the county owns 55 percent of the industrial park, with the city owning 45 percent of the complex between U.S. Highway 264 and Leggett Road in northwestern Beaufort County.

The issue was discussed during the City Council’s Feb. 22 meeting.

“I think we need to close the file on the industrial park in conjuncture with the county. I asked the city attorney to bring that information forward, and he’s got that information. I think we just need to let the council be aware of what we’ve got in the Washington-Beaufort County Industrial Park,” City Manager Bobby Roberson said at that meeting.

Other city officials have similar views.

“I think the thing to do is get out of that business. If the county’s going to run the industrial park, let the county run it and give us our 600 grand back,” Councilman Doug Mercer said.

Later, Mercer said, “It would very be nice to have that 600 grand for this year’s budget.” Mayor Mac Hodges concurs. “I think we need to start the discussion with the county about them being 100-percent owners of the industrial park.”

When it comes to the city possibly dissolving its industrial-park partnership with the county, County Manager Brian Alligood is in the dark.

“I don’t know anything about it — haven’t heard anything to that effect,” Alligood said Friday. “It’s news to me.”

Alligood wonders why the city would give up its interest in the industrial park.

“They own, essentially, it’s my understanding, 45 percent. … So, if they dissolved that, they would walk away from 45 percent of their equity in that. Is that what they are saying?” Alligood said.

“Nobody’s reached out to us on that,” he said. “I haven’t even thought about that. I don’t know what the considerations in regard to that would be. There are a lot of things,” Alligood said.

Contacted Friday morning, Gary Brinn, vice chairman of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, said he was unaware of the matter. “I have not heard that. … I have not heard any conversation on that,” he said, adding that he would look into the matter.

In 2001, the county and city jointly agreed to buy 124 acres for an industrial park at a cost of $1,132,120, with the county paying 55 percent of that amount and the city paying the remaining 45 percent. “Without an industrial park, every time an industry walks in, you have to find a piece of property,” said Tom Thompson, then the county’s chief economic developer.

Under the agreement between the city and county, the city was required to make 32 quarterly payments of about $20,000 (average) to the county from March 1, 2002, to Dec. 1, 2010. “That was for the city’s portion of the debt that was incurred by the county to purchase that property,” said City Attorney Franz Holscher at the Feb. 22 meeting.

Holscher told the council that if the city made all the industrial park-related payments it was required to make over the years, those payments would come to $630,671.84. He also said he does not know what other contributions the city may have made related to the industrial park. Holscher said the city also might be entitled to its share of net proceeds related to sales of at least three lots at the industrial park, which is inside the city limits.

Holscher said it appears, based on documentation the city has and that the county provided to the city, there was never any reconciliation for those payments for those three lots. Holscher said the city could be entitled to about $30,000 from the county, but the exact amount could vary because he’s not sure of other factors that might influence the city’s share of any net proceeds to which it might have a claim.

Holscher said he shared the information regarding those transactions with two previous city managers. Brian Alligood, the current county manager and former Washington manager, is aware of that information, Holscher said.

In October of last year, the city agreed to assist with a project at the industrial park.

Expanding a 34.5kV power line into the industrial park would help improve electrical service there and help an industry there expand, the City Council was told then. Extending that 34.5kV line would open the door for Flanders Solutions to expand its facility by 12,000 square feet and add new jobs, Alligood told the council.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike