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Clock ticking on truck stop tower removal

SALISBURY — The clock is ticking on a 90-day deadline, but the Centralina Council of Governments still hopes to find a resolution to the removal of a $760,000 air quality project at the former Derrick’s Travel Plaza, short of filing a lawsuit.
“We still remain optimistic about coming together through some sort of mediation or similar-type process that would meet all the interests of various parties involved, including our member communities in the greater Rowan area,” said Jason Wager, sustainability program manager at Centralina.
Centralina landed a $400,000 federal grant in 2004 to help pay for the project, 25 electrification towers at Derrick’s. It was one of the largest air quality projects in Rowan County.
In 2010, Connecticut-based CabAire installed the towers, which were supposed to cut air pollution by encouraging truck drivers to shut down their engines overnight and plug into an electric tower instead. But CabAire removed the towers in November 2012, just two years into a seven-year agreement.
Centralina says CabAire has 90 days to pay back the $400,000 grant, starting from a Dec. 5 letter from the company that confirmed the tower removal. That puts the deadline in early March.
In a letter to CabAire dated Jan. 2, Centralina’s attorney requested repayment of grant funds as a result of the cessation of operations at the Derrick truck stop. 
A lawyer for CabAire responded, posing a number of potential options that were under consideration, including corporate dissolution and bankruptcy, Wager said. 
“Our attorneys are following up on these issues but have offered mediation as an alternate approach to resolving our claims,” he said.
CabAire blamed the project failure on Derrick’s owner Worsley, a subsidiary of Wilmington-based VPS Convenience Store Group.
CabAire said Worsley threatened to sue the company if the towers weren’t removed. Love’s Travel Stops, which bought the property from VPS, required the removal of the anti-idling towers, CabAire’s director of operations wrote to Centralina.
Love’s plans to demolish Derrick’s and build a new 10,000-square-foot truck stop.
“At this point, we still have not heard back from all parties,” Wager said. “We want to make sure that piece is in place of course before we proceed.”
This is one of the only times Centralina has had to pursue repayment of federal funds for a project that went awry.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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