09/18/08 — Mount Olive could have new industrial tenant

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Mount Olive could have new industrial tenant

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 18, 2008 1:38 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Town Manager Charles Brown Wednesday sought to temper bad economic news about the closing of Helix Poly and IMPulse, NC's sale of its power traction division with news that a company looking at the town's industrial park has the potential to add 300 new jobs.

Charles Brown and Ernie Taylor

News-Argus/Steve Herring

Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown, right, and Ernie Taylor chat after Brown’s presentation Wednesday at the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce’s Lunch and Learn session.

Speaking at the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce's Lunch and Learn session, Brown mostly struck a positive beat while providing an update on how the town is faring.

"We all know about the situation with Hilex Poly and IMPulse and of course we are concerned about employees at both those organizations and their families," he said.

Brown said the Wayne County Economic Development Alliance is working to put together some career fairs for the employees.

"The bright side is that we have some very serious interest in the industrial park at this time and existing facilities that we have out there," Brown said. "We are not close enough to anything that we can put names out there. We have a lot of interest, one of which would create in the neighborhood of 300 jobs. That would be a huge asset if it would come to fruition. We feel fairly good about the prospects of it happening."

He said the town continues to have a tremendous amount of interest in the area around Wal-Mart on N.C. 55 west of town.

"Again there are no names we can really mention at this point," he said.

Brown said people look at Wal-Mart and attribute the growth going on in Mount Olive to the presence of the store.

"But Wal-Mart has been around too long and done too much not to be farsighted enough not to realize what the potential for Mount Olive is going to be down the road," Brown said.

Brown said Mount Olive has quick access to a four-lane highway that connects Interstate 95 north and south and Interstate 40, a major east-west route.

"We are about 10 minutes from Interstate 40 and 20 from Interstate 95," he said. "Mount Olive is a very attractive place to be for any product that moves by truck. On the drawing board, the Department of Transporta-tion has assigned a project number to four-lane N.C. 55 from Newton Grove to Kinston."

That will give the town two major highways -- N.C. 55 and U.S. 117 -- intersecting.

Brown said the town is updating its land use plan so that as development occurs, "we are steering it in the right direction so we are not growing haphazardly."

Mount Olive College continues to grow and play a vital and active role in the town, he said.

He called the college's long-range master plan "very impressive" with new dorms expected to ready by next fall with six more on drawing board. Also in the plan are academic buildings, a performing arts center and amphitheatre.

Former mayor Ruff Huggins predicted the college would be a university within five years.

"There is a tremendous demand for the kind of education you get at small colleges like Mount Olive," he said.

Brown provided updates on the town's wastewater treatment plant, airport runway extension, downtown sidewalk revitalization and depot projects.

Brown said the town has been working on the wastewater treatment plant since about 2005, but most seriously since last year.

"The town was at the point that we were under a special order of consent (SOC) from the state Division of Water Quality," Brown said. "What that means basically is that you are at capacity for your sewer discharge and you can't bring in anybody else in without permission from the state."

The SOC will be lifted once the plant is certified. The project will double the town's treatment capacity from 1 million to 2 million gallons a day.

"That allows us to bring in more businesses and residential growth should that occur," Brown said.

Brown said the plant is more environmentally responsible since instead of discharging into the Northeast Cape Fear River, the town will use the treated wastewater to irrigate a farm of sycamore trees that can be harvested in about seven years.

"The plant is working far beyond our expectation, producing near drinking-quality water," he said.

As for the sewer collection system, Brown said it is old and that most of the pipes were installed around 1912. Many of the pipes are cracked allowing water to get into the treatment system. That increases the load on the plant.

He said the town is "working hard" to fix the problem.

"We are hoping for word on a grant in mid-October that will allow us to finish rehabilitation work," he said. "If we get what we are expecting we should be able to rehab all of the lines and manholes and pump stations."

It also will allow the town to install a new force main line from west of town on N.C. 55 to the new sewer plant just east of town. Currently all lines funnel into a downtown manhole at the corner of Center and Main streets.

Brown noted that the town implemented a new water/sewer rate schedule in July. He said the reason the town had to make the adjustment was to repay $6 million the town had borrowed to help finance the new wastewater treatment plant.

"It's still very inexpensive for the quality of water we produce," he said. "The water comes from a deep aquifer about 300 feet underground. If a family of four had to buy their water needs off the shelf in bottled water it would cost about $8,400 monthly. We are producing a so much better product and charging so much less for it."

Brown highlighted two aspects of the town budget.

It funds a new position of parks and recreation director, Brown said. The town is in the process of finalizing the job description and preparing to advertise the position.

Justin Preston, son of Tom and Connie Preston of Mount Olive, is a summer intern with the town. A student at UNC-Wilmington, Preston is working to set up a soccer program for the fall with three separate divisions. Mount Olive College is assisting. He also is working on grills for the picnic shelter at Westbrook Park.

The budget also implemented a new personnel study and pay plan.

The town, Brown said, is close to beginning work to extend the airport runway from 3,750 feet to 5,000 feet to accommodate jets. The town hopes to add jet fuel sales at the airport, he said.

"The runway and jet fuel will become more of a necessity as more businesses look to locate in Mount Olive," he said.