Size, cost of transload deal changes again

Apr. 22, 2014 @ 11:18 AM

The price and size of the deal for Caldwell County and Lenoir to buy the freight-transfer site known as the transload facility keeps shrinking.

The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of a deal Monday night that includes less than two-thirds of the land that the commissioners approved buying Feb. 3 and the Lenoir City Council approved April 15. The cost is expected to decline too, but by how much is not certain yet because a new assessment is needed, County Attorney David Lackey said.

The transload facility, which the city and county have agreed to operate as Caldwell-Lenoir Rail Transload LLC under the direction of the county manager and city manager, transfers freight between rail cars and trucks that run to industries along a five-mile segment of track that local officials agreed in 2006 to abandon in order to get Google to put a data center in Lenoir. Google said the railroad vibrations might affects its server. The transload operation started in 2007.

The city and county had agreed last year to buy 11 acres, including the site of Robinson Lumber Co. at 2402 Norwood St. SW, for about $900,000, but that deal was derailed by an environmental report detailing levels of arsenic, cadmium and petroleum residues exceeding environmental standards at a number of sites on the property, mainly in a former lumber yard.

Most recently, the city and county approved buying a total of eight acres for $300,000.

Now that is down to about five acres, Lackey said, after the county worked with a buyer he did not name who is purchasing the remaining land. The deal is expected to close this week, he said.

Also Monday night, County Financial Officer Tony Helton said that with three months left in the current fiscal year, the county’s finances are “shaping up to finish much better than I anticipated.”

The county collected $249,000 in property taxes in March, bringing the county’s property tax collections to $270,000 above the county’s target for the fiscal year, he said.

Vehicle tax collections are outperforming projections by $152,000, and payments of delinquent taxes are $390,000 over expected amounts.

“We’ve done very well this year,” Helton said. “I’m not sure what’s pushing it, but hopefully it’s a sign of economic progress.”