09/10/13 — Commissioners, Mount Olive meet, discuss highways, library

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Commissioners, Mount Olive meet, discuss highways, library

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on September 10, 2013 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- As part of the Wayne County commissioners' aim to meet with the leaders of all of the county's seven municipalities, the commissioners met with the Mount Olive Town Board on Monday night to discuss the town's financial shape and upcoming county projects that would affect the southern part of the county.

"Our town is in the best financial shape it's been in. We've come a very long way," Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. said. "This is the first time I remember, and I've been in politics a very long time, we got money in the bank."

McDonald compared the town's earlier situation to what the county is doing now in regard to budget cuts.

"We had to make some tough decisions like you gentlemen had to make in the last few months, and those decisions were made. We got flak over it, but when you walk down the street now, where you had your friends who would complain about the bad shape of this town, now they say, 'You're doing a good job,'" he said.

"Decisions sometimes are not what the people want to hear, but it's what's necessary to make things work if you don't want to fork out a lot more money. You can't have it both ways."

The goal of the meeting, however, was for county commissioners to introduce themselves to the Town Board members and vice versa. That way, they said, county projects that affect the town can get more input from town officials.

"If we partner with each other, it's going to make things so much better for this county and especially Mount Olive," McDonald said.

For example, the town is looking to upgrade a sewer lift station at the Mount Olive industrial park in response to a $4.5 million expansion by the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. The upgrade would cost the town roughly $250,000, which would be paid from a combination of loans and grants from USDA Rural Development.

The upgrade to the lift station would expand the force main to be able to handle a million gallons a day.

Town Manager Charles Brown asked for any possible contacts from the county that could create a better chance to receive any grants from USDA.

"We want you to tell us how we can help you," Commissioner Chairman Steve Keen said. "Once we get all together, these municipalities, then we'll understand as a commissioner, and then we can network and make things happen."

The two primary projects that the group discussed were the construction of a new Steele Memorial Library and the potential upgrade of U.S. 117 into I-795.

"That's one of the problems that we've had with growth in eastern North Carolina -- we don't have interstates. And we need to look at transportation now from a regional aspect," Commissioner Joe Daughtery said.

That project is currently being studied by the state Department of Transportation -- one of the first steps toward making that goal a reality.

Daughtery also mentioned potentially getting a congressional shield for the project. Basically, Congress would pass a rider on a bill that would force DOT to finish the project within the next few decades.

"If I-795 becomes a reality, Mount Olive is going to benefit greatly," McDonald said.

"Just imagine all that traffic from up north and going all the way down to Myrtle Beach," Daughtery said.

The upgrade would also affect potential industries in the area by creating a faster connector between I-40 and I-95, the officials agreed.

The two boards also discussed the new location of the Steele Memorial Library. Further inspection of the old Belk building on Main Street -- the future site of the library -- found further asbestos problems in the floor and walls. That cleanup will add an extra $40,000 to the cost of the project, County Manager Lee Smith said.

"It's just one of the those pickups we've got to deal with," he said.

The library's final plans for demolition and design are expected to be finished in the next 30 days. The county will then hold public meetings to review the plans. Potential changes from public input would be made at that time.

Once public input is taken into consideration, the final cost for the project will be announced by the design/build team of Smith Engineering & Design of Goldsboro/Jackson Builders of Goldsboro, and construction will begin.

"By late 2014, you should be walking in the front door," Smith said.

"This is more than just a library. It's a regional learning center," Keen said.