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AVRC finds a home in Northampton

JACKSON – The Advanced Vehicle Research Center of North Carolina (AVRC) has a home.

Following a lengthy public hearing here Monday morning, the Northampton County Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of a tract consistently of approximately 625 acres located behind the current Lowe’s Distribution Center. The land is situated off N.C. 46 two miles west of the town of Garysburg.

Three citizens from the county spoke during the public hearing after which County Manager Wayne Jenkins and Economic Development Director Gary Brown gave detailed answers to the questions raised by the public.

“The proposed economic development project includes the acquisition by the county of real property consisting of the 625 acres previously discussed and the subsequent conveyance by capital lease, to be structured and approved separately, of the real property to the Advanced Vehicle Research Center of North Carolina, Inc., a North Carolina 501c3 corporation,” Brown said.

Brown further stated the funding of the project would not exceed a little more than $2.1 million which would be derived from a loan from Southern Bank. The bank was selected from four bidders on the project at the last meeting of the County Commissioners in November.

Commission Chairwoman Virginia D. Spruill asked for public comments and then read from a list of those who had filed to speak.

County citizen Willard Futrell appeared before the board with a laundry list of questions about the facility. He said it appeared the county was ready to proceed with the funding of the project and he felt there wasn’t enough knowledge by the citizenry to commit the funds.

He asked questions, which included the valuation of the property, and questions about the feasibility of the project.

Brown said a certified appraiser had valued the tract and the value was $2,400 per acre with no improvements.

Also speaking was Joel Tudor who asked about noise and access to the area. Jenkins said there was a plan to create an access road once easements were obtained.

Several questions were raised about the fact that Jenkins and Brown serve on the Board of Directors for the AVRC. County Attorney Charles Vaughan was also said to be a member of the board, but Jenkins said that was not true.

Jenkins said he was not on the board personally, but filled the seat reserved for the Northampton County Manager. Likewise, Brown served in the role because he was the Economic Development Director. Also on the board is a member of the Northeast Partnership, Vann Rogerson.

Brown said the board of directors had a stringent policy preventing conflict of interest and that he and Jenkins both worked under similar guidelines in their county jobs.

The Board will expand after the initial phase is complete, Brown said, but added there was no concrete timetable.

After the meeting, Brown told reporters there was no pay for the AVRC board of directors at this time.

Following lengthy public comments, Commissioner James Boone said he wanted to make sure no one was profiting from the board of directors and there was no conflict of interest.

“I want the project to be a success,” Boone said. “I want us to be on safe ground legally and otherwise. I support the project.”

Commissioner Robert V. Carter made the motion to approve the financing and purchase of the property with Commissioner James Hester offering a second. It passed without objection.