County officials unanimously agreed Monday on spending $300,000 to share the cost with the city and state for road improvements that accommodate Vertex Rail Technologies
The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved the funding allocation at a meeting Monday morning, and in response to a related question about the ability of the county’s economic development fund to pay for the work, county manager Chris Coudriet replied, “Most of the money would come from that line item.”
The county’s approval was a condition of the Wilmington City Council’s unanimous decision to also contribute $300,000 to the $1.5 million project, with the N.C. Department of Transportation providing the remaining $900,000.
But before the N.C. Department of Transportation can use its own economic development money for road improvements that officials say would benefit Vertex and public safety, the City Council must agree to dedicate parts of River Road and Raleigh Street to the DOT, explained Mike Kozlosky, executive director of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization in response to another question Tuesday from county commissioner Skip Watkins.
The council will consider the dedication decision at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at City Hall.
In the fall, Vertex announced plans to bring more than 1,300 jobs and invest about $50 million at the former Terex plant at 202 Raleigh Street to manufacture rail cars.
After a question Tuesday from commissioner Rob Zapple about 202 Raleigh St. property owner Wilmington Raleigh LLC, board chairman Jonathan Barfield said Vertex has a 15-year lease for the plant.
Commissioners had asked additional questions about Vertex and the road improvements at a February agenda review, and Kozlosky answered them in responses provided in their agenda packets. The following are a few of those questions, with Kozlosky’s replies:
Commissioner question: Is there a problem with the current method of ingress/egress?
“Vertex plans to open in May (300+ employees) with additional staffing in June (approximately 600 employees) and be fully operational by the end of the year…There is queuing on Raleigh Street during the PM peak. NCDOT plans to construct improvements at the intersection of Raleigh Street/Carolina Beach Road; however, an additional access will improve connectivity and circulation.”
Commissioner question: Are there guarantees should Vertex not establish their business here or leave sooner than expected?
“These improvements will have long-term benefits to circulation and connectivity in this area. Based on the scope of the work, it is unlikely the extension and turn lanes improvements will be ready to complete in advance of Vertex’s opening in May. If for some reason Vertex chose not to locate here, then we could choose not to expend the funds. Additionally, if the extension is made and Vertex were to leave sooner than expected, the road extension and rail improvements would be in place and potentially make the property more attractive to another industrial use.”
Commissioner question: What will happen to the road extension project if the NCDOT does not participate?
“NCDOT is the largest proposed contributor in this effort. We have been in discussions with the department, and they have indicated that this cost-sharing proposal is satisfactory…If NCDOT were not to participate, I do not believe the extension and other associated improvements would be completed.”