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Purchase option extended for solar energy company

JACKSON — The Northampton County Board of Commissioners have agreed to extend the option to purchase land at the Northampton Commerce Park for solar energy company 510nano.

Last week the board agreed to the extension of the option to purchase, but also directed County Attorney Charles Vaughan to request financial statements from the company to verify the project can be completed.

In June, the board approved a general agreement with 510nano for the $210,000 purchase of a 25-acre portion of the Northampton Commerce Park on Lebanon Church Road west of Interstate 95 between Garysburg and Gaston. The county gave the company the option to purchase the property from June 19 to December 31.

The company proposes to invest a minimum of $6 million in development of a 1.4 megawatt solar electric energy generation facility in the first phase of the project, which would create one full-time position and one part-time position.

“The company has requested the six month extension of the option to purchase to allow additional time for project design, engineering and permitting with Dominion North Carolina Power,” said Economic Development Commission Director Gary Brown.

He noted under the original option to purchase, 510nano paid a option fee of five percent of the total purchase price ($10,500). With the extension, an additional $10,500 would be paid to the county.

During discussion, County Manager Wayne Jenkins reminded the board of some issues the extension of the option would create.

He said the project would add some new jobs to the county, but there is no financial benefit to the county and there would be no tax benefit to the county because the North Carolina General Assembly had done away with 80 percent of ad valorem taxes for green project investments.

“We’re just going through a revaluation in our county,” he said.  “Our tax administrator stood before us and told us there is an increase (value) in farmland and this is farmland. So that has not been taken into account with the redraft of this plan.”

Brown agreed there had been no recalculation of the value of the land.

“So based upon your comment County Manager Jenkins, this additional five percent fee, $10,500, with the value of land increasing, are you suggesting that we increase that fee,” asked Commissioner Robert Carter.

Jenkins said he was not and only calling to the board’s attention what the tax administrator had reported to them previously.

“If it’s no benefit to the county, why do we want it,” asked Commissioner Chester Deloatch.

“The benefit to the county, in my opinion, is the fact that it sort of pushes Northampton County out as a leader in developing green energy products and green energies, it could bring some recognition to the county,” responded Jenkins.

After further discussion, Vice Chairman James Hester asked if the company had any money to complete the project.

Brown responded that he didn’t know.

“We don’t have any information, or at least I don’t, regarding the financial situation of this corporation,” said County Attorney Charles Vaughan.

“Can you get a financial statement,” asked Deloatch.

“We can ask for it,” said Vaughan.

“I wish we would because we’re tying up 25 acres of land and some company comes by and says ‘we want to buy 25 acres of land, we’re going to employ 10-15 people’, we don’t have that piece of land,” said Hester.

After further discussion, Vaughan noted that after the agreement to the extension and the option fee is paid the county is locked in for another six months as far as the purchase price and the terms.

“So if you want to have some additional knowledge of the financial status of the corporation, I would suggest you do that before you vote to extend the option,” he said.

Carter said he agreed that the board stay the decision on the extension for 15-30 days in order to look at the financial situation of the company.

Jenkins noted the option would expire at the end of the month.

Hester asked if the board could extend the option to purchase, but also have Vaughan request a financial statement.

Vaughan noted that could be done, but the county would still be agreeing to the extension no matter what the statements showed.

“But only for six months,” said Hester.

Carter said he agreed with Hester.

“This property has been up there for how long doing nothing Mr. Jenkins,” said Carter.

“About five or six years,” Jenkins responded.

“Ok, let’s extend the option for six months and at the same time we will investigate the financial condition (of the company),” said Carter, who then made a motion.

Hester offered a second. The motion passed without objection.