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Commissioners tour bridge construction sites;
sign off on TIMCO deal

Eric Abernethy/The Dispatch
Published: Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 4:22 p.m.

Commissioners' chairman Sam Watford, commissioners Fred McClure and Billy Joe Kepley, county manager Robert Hyatt, assistant county manager Zeb Hanner, county planning and zoning director Guy Cornman and Hanna Cockburn with the Piedmont Triad Council of Governments attended.

The group toured the sites following the commissioners' informational meeting in which they approved contractual amendments made for TIMCO Aerosystems, effectively finalizing the deal between the company and the county.

Construction company Flatiron-Lane welcomed officials, who were visiting the site for the first time since construction began last fall. Walking along a temporary bridge, stationing cranes and huge trucks, project manager Jim Barton was busy explaining as best he could in layman's terms what exactly was going on. The temporary bridge had several extensions off the edge known as “fingers.” Workers on these island fingers were helping construct the pillars that will support the bridge over the river.

Workers will finish with the northbound section first before switching over to the southbound section and bridge. The project is scheduled for completion in May 2013; just over six miles of interstate will be widened, allowing traffic to flow across eight lanes.

This is just something you don't get to see every day,” Watford said. “I'm extremely pleased with the progress and the quality of work with both projects. I've been on several large projects but not a bridge. It seems to be really well-managed.”

At the Wil-Cox Bridge, the outlay for handrails on the bridge wall served as a reminder that the only traffic forthcoming for the bridge that was built in the 1920s is that of pedestrians. Commissioners voted to take ownership of the bridge last year after original project plans by the N.C. Department of Transportation called for the dismantling of the structure.

Kepley, a long-time advocate of preserving the bridge, said it's exciting to see the repairs firsthand. Flatiron-Lane is also heading up the work on the Wil-Cox Bridge, and company employees said Thursday they hope to be finished in the next two to three months.

“It's exciting,” Kepley said. “I was an engineer, but this is way beyond anything I could conceive.”

Walking along the Wil-Cox felt more risky than even the temporary set-up of the I-85 project just a few hundred yards away. A huge wood sign lay flat across the pavement on the bridge, appropriately warning everyone that moving it would be dangerous as its purpose was clear after reading “HOLE” that was tagged on the board in bright orange spray paint. Further up the bridge a giant hole, not covered by a board, demonstrated the type of structural issues workers were addressing. Exposed rebar was being reinforced with new steel before being treated with shotcrete and sealed. Such work is the most common repair work the Wil-Cox is undergoing as part of its face-lift.

As part of the acquisition, the state offered the county $2.5 million, the cost to demolish the bridge, if the county would use it only for foot traffic. The one-time payment would cover the costs of structural repairs and maintenance.

“It appears they are doing a very thorough job,” Kepley said. “I was down looking underneath, too, and it looks like they left no stones unturned.”

Before heading on the tour, commissioners approved economic incentives for TIMCO by a 5-2 vote. Kepley and Todd Yates voted against the contract.

The approval finalizes a deal that took more than six months to reach. Commissioners agreed in principal in September to approve $1 million toward the purchase of the Tyco plant, where TIMCO will operate. The Town of Wallburg has also pledged $500,000 as part of the deal. In return, TIMCO will pay $75,000 annually on its 20-year lease of the facility with the county receiving $50,000 yearly and Wallburg collecting the remaining $25,000.

The amendments don't change the incentives. In what has been described as standard negotiations, the contract went back and forth several times between the county and attorneys with TIMCO. Language issues between the two sides were attributed to drawing out the agreement. County Attorney Chuck Frye addressed some concerns from commissioners as to whether the contract sufficiently protected Davidson County in the event TIMCO does not hold up its end of the deal.

“I'm confident that there is a contract that spells out the obligations of Wallburg, Davidson County and TIMCO,” he said. “This is not a simple document or a simple transaction. In attempting to work through the documents, one has to bring both some patience and diligence because it is a sophisticated arrangement. Having said that, I'm confident that it does provide for the protection of the county.”

However, for Kepley, the process and the deal itself no longer sit well. He explained his reasons for voting against the contract.

“It is exciting during these hard economic times for Davidson County to have the opportunity to recruit a thriving industry like TIMCO to our economic base,” he said. “However, all the assets that TIMCO offers Davidson County requires a give-back. I have concluded that TIMCO has all of their bases covered. My perception of us is that we are wandering around in left field trying to determine where the bases are. To me, the agreement has become vague, complex and complicated.”

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