Commissioners OK $2.4 million airport loan

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, May 4, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Rowan County commissioners have signed off on a $2.4 million loan proposal that would fund a second 15,000-square-foot hangar at the county’s airport.

For months, commissioners have discussed the loan and accompanying hangar, but need to receive approval from the Local Government Commission — a state regulatory agency — before starting on construction. Monday’s vote will move the proposal to the LGC.

Engineering firm Talbert, Bright and Ellington, which has offices in Charlotte, was previously chosen to oversee construction of the hangar.

Commissioners have seen relatively limited opposition to their proposal to pay for the hangar by incurring debt. Finance Director and Assistant County Manager Leslie Heidrick said tax revenue from airplanes located in the hangar would be used to repay debt. Until leases are signed, the county will use money transferred from its general fund for debt payments, Heidrick said.

During Monday’s meeting, one person spoke during a public hearing for the loan. Rowan resident Terry Burnham said she would prefer commissioners spend money on schools and “get out of real estate development.”

“Spend the tax dollars turning Rowan County from an average school system to a number-one-in-the-state school system,” she said.

After Monday’s public hearing ended, county commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said he would be willing to talk to Burnham after the meeting to explain the county’s plans for the airport. He said a number of airports across the country are using a similar model to Rowan County.

At the airport, Rowan County typically builds hangars to its specifications and then leases them to private entities. Rowan County also retains ownership of on-site hangars.

Edds stressed that there’s a waiting list of airplanes that want to lease space at the airport.

County Commissioner Craig Pierce said the $2.4 million loan wouldn’t result in a property tax increase.

In other news from Monday’s commissioners’ meeting:

• Commissioners voted to start an upset bid process for a piece of property in Speedway Business Park.

EGV Associates LLC and Amrep Inc, both based in California, have offered Rowan County $105,000 for a tract of land that measures 10.68 acres. It’s slightly less than the tax value of the land, which is $114,838. With an upset bid process, other companies would have an opportunity to beat the California offer. The upset bid process, however, doesn’t actually start until the company delivers a deposit for the property.

Amrep employs more than 140 people. It makes “refuse hauling equipment.” EGV Associates doesn’t appear to have a website, but has an identical address to Amrep, according to the California Secretary of State’s records.

During Monday’s meeting Economic Development Director Robert Van Geons said the Speedway Business Park property would be Amrep’s first East Coast property. Van Geons said Amrep does business with a local manufacturer in Rowan County.

• Commissioners declared three county-owned buildings surplus property and scheduled an auction for June 23.

The properties include a former Department of Social Services Building at 1236 W. Innes St., a former mental health and Department of Social Services building at 165 Mahaley Ave., and a house at 418 South Carolina Ave. in Spencer.

Auctions for the three properties would start at noon on June 23 and be individually spaced out by one hour.

• Commissioners approved a resolution that declares May 21 “George Washington’s 225 Visit Tribute Day.” The resolution is related to an event being organized by Rowan Museum on the same day.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.