More questions delay vote on Lenoir Transload

Mar. 20, 2013 @ 08:42 AM

Lenoir officials continue to have questions about the terns of the proposed city-county purchase of the Lenoir Transload facility on U.S. 321-A, and that's due in no small part to an angry citizen.

Linda Haas of Lakeside Terrace Circle came to Tuesday night's Lenoir City Council meeting loaded for bear, and she unloaded both barrels on the council. Simply put, she thinks the purchase would be a collosal waste of money.

Haas said the publicized price of about $1 million to buy the transload facility from Robinson Lumber Company and company president George Robinson seems too high to start with, and she doubts the final cost will be that low. She questioned why the city and county want to buy the entire property rather than just the part relevant to the rail and truck loading business. She questioned how much tax revenue, from property taxes and well as taxes on business equipment, would be lost by the government owning the property. She questioned whether the government would be responsible for maintaining and replacing the equipment of the business. She questioned keeping George Robinson on to run the transload business.

And all of that was after she already had come to city hall on Monday seeking answers -- and didn't get many that satisfied her.

"I don't know why you have a vote coming up tonight when you can't answer these questions," she said.

The council was scheduled Tuesday night to consider amendments to the agreement between the city, county and Robinson Lumber, and to review the purchase contract. The council members voted unanimously to postpone consideration of those items until April 2.

The city and county have leased the transload site since April 2007. In order to allow for Google's selection of Lenoir for a data center, the city and county agreed to suspend more than 5 miles of rail service, which left them searching for a way to replace the rail service for several companies, including Sealed Air, Boone Lumber and New River Building Supply. The transload facility was opened to move shipments between rail cars and trucks that then run to the companies.

Councilman Todd Perdue said Haas raised a number of good questions that deserve more research.

"Quite frankly I think there is more homework to be done on our part," he said.

Mayor pro tem T.J. Rohr said an issue that Haas' questions raised in his mind was whether the purchase of the transload facility was necessary or there were other steps the city and county could take that would be less costly but would still satisfy the needs of Sealed Air or others for transport services. Rohr and City Manager Lane Bailey indicated that several council members have long been unhappy with some terms of the transload arrangment.

"I don't think anyone on this board would tell you the original deal was a good deal," Bailey said. "... We were limited and we were over a barrel, and that's the best deal we could get at the time."