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Burke County Commissioners

County to buy land for trash site

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After backing out of purchasing land last year for a new convenience site on U.S. 70, county commissioners are trying again but with a different location.

After a closed session meeting Jan. 19, the Burke County Board of Commissioners voted to authorize County Manager Bryan Steen to execute a purchase agreement for 4.7 acres in Connelly Springs for $120,000, plus up to $6,000 for geotechnical services testing. County officials say the price is around $1,800 less than the tax value of the property.

County land records show the property at 2965 U.S. 70 includes 4.09 acres, valued at $82,128, and 0.61 acre, valued at $39,692. Both properties are owned by Icard Commercial Industrial Park LLC. The property is in Connelly Springs on U.S. 70 between Sun Shine Car Wash and Domino’s Pizza, according to land records.

In April, county commissioners backed out of a proposed purchase of 17.25 acres for $148,350 in Icard for a convenience site. County officials said at the time that a subsurface exploration and a geotechnical evaluation concluded the soil was not suitable for its purpose.

Also after the closed session Jan. 19, commissioners authorized Steen to execute a purchase agreement for 2.5 acres for $22,300, which is the tax value of the land. County land records show the property is on NC 126 and is owned by Wayne W. Martin. Steen said the property is landlocked because it sits inside county park property at Lake James.

Commissioners also approved appropriating up to $138,000 from fund balance for land purchases.

Property sale

But commissioners didn’t just agree to purchase land during the meeting.

The board voted to sell some property at 115 Wamsutta Mill Road in Morganton for more than $1.72 million. The building houses Ekornes furniture, which plans to expand its operation at the facility. The county will sell the property to a partner who would then construct the expansion and lease it back to the company, said Alan Wood, president and CEO of Burke Development Inc. The expansion is expected to add 80 new jobs, he said.

The property, which encompasses a building of a little more than 100,000 square feet and 20 acres, is valued at more than $2.38 million, according to county land records.

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Commissioners held a public hearing on and approved a building reuse grant application for Project Glides.

Wood said the $500,000 grant from the state Department of Commerce would require a 5% local match, which would be $25,000 split equally between the county and city of Morganton.

Commissioners also approved a local grant for the company equivalent to 50% of the taxes paid on the new taxable investment of an estimated $10 million for five years. The county’s portion would be $34,750 a year for the five years.

Statue controversy

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Caroline Avery made an argument to the board for them to remove the Confederate soldier statue that sits on the Old Burke County Courthouse Square.

She said in 1907, it was announced that Burke County would raise $3,000 for a Confederate monument. She said six years later, the county had not raised any of the money and county commissioners had not committed any money to the project. It was then that the state legislature passed a bill that required the county to put up $1,000 for the project.

The community couldn’t raise any of the money, and the rest was paid for by a Georgia businessman and the Daughters of the Confederacy. She argued the statue was never supported by the people of Burke County.

“The monument was not who we are then and it’s not who we are now,” Avery said.

She asked why the community would leave a statue that was built by outsiders. She mentioned the current renovation of the square and said it’s a good time for the community to find a place for the statue.

Also during the meeting, Clerk to the Board Kay Draughn read comments from Robert Pitts about what he said is excessive roadside debris on Huffman Road Bridge to the county landfill turnoff. He asked commissioners to have it cleaned up and work with the state Department of Transportation to keep it clean.

Commissioners typically don’t respond to the public comments during the meeting.

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