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Whiteville council agrees to buy land for new ABC store

With one member excused from voting and two others not present, the Whiteville city council Tuesday night unanimously gave preliminary approval for the city to purchase property on J.K. Powell Boulevard to build a new ABC store to replace the current one that must relocate because it is in the right-of-way of the N.C. Dept. of Transportation’s widening project about to get underway on Powell Boulevard.

Contingent on satisfactory testing of soil for compaction purposes at the new site and contingent on required approval of the state ABC commission, which is expected, council agreed to pay The News Reporter Inc. $215,000 for a lot at the corner of Oak Street and J.K. Powell Boulevard. The new location is about a mile and a quarter south of the existing ABC store and, like the current ABC location, is on the west side of Powell Boulevard.

Councilman Justin Smith asked to be excused from voting because he is employed by the current owners of the property, while council members Sara Thompson and Tim Collier were not present. Councilmen Jimmy Clarida, Robert Leder and Tim Blackmon voted in favor of the measure. Mayor Terry Mann does not vote except in the case of a tie.

In the same vote, council also approved a budget amendment to take $215,000 from the city’s fund balance, or rainy day savings, to pay for the property. Finance Director Coburn Brown told council that, even after the land purchase, the city’s fund balance still will be a healthy $1.8 million. Funds that will be received from the state for the land where the current ABC store sits will be returned to the fund balance.

The action came after previous permitted closed-door sessions to consider the purchase. Gary Bass, chairman of the city’s ABC board, had recommended the lot as ideal for a new store. How the city will pay for construction of the new ABC building was not discussed, but Mayor Mann said after the meeting that the city will explore costs and financing options at a later time.

In another real estate matter, Mann was asked to join City Manager Darren Currie and City Attorney Carlton Williamson on a panel that was authorized two weeks ago to begin negotiations with Duke Energy Carolinas about the possible sale of eight acres of city property on Flitter Hill Road adjacent to the Noland Recreation Center Complex/Park. The utility wants to relocate its existing substation off Franklin Street because it is in a flood plain and studies by Duke Energy identified the city property as being best in the area suited for a new substation.

Council also unanimously agreed to ask staff to prepare language for a draft ordinance to eliminate maximum two-hour parking limits on Main Street in the downtown area. Kandle Rogers of Ward’s Grill spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting to advocate for such a change. The board is expected to decide at its next meeting whether or not to do away with the parking restrictions.

Stuart Rogers