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Commissioners OK $1.8M incentives package for Calif. co. that sterilizes medical equipment to build Burlington facility

Burlington city council to vote on its own $1.4 million package Tues. night

Alamance County’s commissioners have agreed to pay out nearly $1.8 million over five years to persuade a California-based specialist in sterilization to set up a $71 million facility in Burlington.

The commissioners ultimately were deemed to have voted 4-1 in favor of this incentives package in order to ensure that the firm SteriTek follows through on its plans to build a 150,000-square-foot facility on 85 acres off of Anthony Road – outside of Burlington’s current municipal limits. (The parliamentary twists and turns of the voting on the proposal is explained below.)

Under the company’s agreement with Alamance County, SteriTek would be required to add $71million in taxable value to the facility’s proposed site and hire at least 50 new employees, whose expected average salary of $55,600 would exceed the county’s average wage. The county, in return, would pay the company $1,775,000 over five years once the company has met its end of the deal.

According to SteriTek president Larry Nichols, who was present at the commissioners’ meeting, this new facility will be his company’s first expansion since its foundation.

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SteriTek president Larry Nichols

“There hasn’t been a new facility built since we went into business 6½ years ago,” Nichols told the commissioners. “Everybody is at capacity; we’ve had to turn clients away.”

A specialist in the sterilization of medical equipment, SteriTek uses an electron beam in its sterilization process, which Nichols insisted is much safer than rival methods, such as the use of gamma radiation.

Nichols added that the company would use about 10 of the 85 acres that it plans to acquire for its own needs. The rest of the land would be converted into a business park for the company’s clients.

[Story continues below layout of potential future Life Sciences Park, to be anchored by SteriTek.]

“It is competitive out there,” the company’s CEO added. “We are looking at a few other states to figure out where we want to go. This seems to be the best place.”

The commissioners went on to hear feedback about SteriTek’s plans from a half dozen area residents. Most of the speakers raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on traffic – a factor that Burlington’s city staff are eventually supposed to address. A few speakers also spoke out against the general concept of tax-payer-funded incentives.

“I am concerned not about myself paying taxes but our future generations,” resident Sam Moser said to this point. “I’m wondering what it’s going to be like…if the corporations keep coming into Alamance County and not paying their fair share of taxes.”

The prevailing perspective among the commissioners was summed up by commissioner Craig Turner, who made the motion in favor of the company’s requested incentives.

“I don’t like incentives,” Turner told his fellow commissioners. “But I do like $71 million worth of investment, and I do like the creation of a long-overdue commerce park in Burlington…especially one that is focused on life sciences…I just hate to play chicken with $71 million in infrastructure.”


Parliamentary procedure tangle and revised interpretation by county attorney

Commissioner Pam Thompson seconded Turner’s motion, while commissioner Bill Lashley voted against the incentives package.

Also supporting the motion was John Paisley Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners who took part in Monday’s meeting remotely.

Initially, county attorney Rik Stevens, opined that Paisley wasn’t entitled to vote because his remote participation didn’t occur during a state of emergency.

Commissioner Bill Lashely was the only commissioner who was unreservedly opposed to SteriTek’s request for incentives. Like some of that evening’s public speakers, Lashley objected to the principle behind corporate incentives. He also raised some concerns about the need for a traffic analysis of the company’s project.

“I wouldn’t want to jump into this without having done a traffic impact analysis,” he said. “I think we should wait until this traffic impact analysis is done.”

Steve Carter, the vice chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, who presided in the board chambers had initially withheld his vote until he received some reassurance that Burlington will conduct a traffic impact analysis, leading to the board’s 3-to-1 vote.

After the vote, Carter then tried to get a “satisfactory” traffic analysis added into the county’s contract with SteriTek, only to get his proposal shot down by the county attorney as inappropriate since the commissioners had already passed the incentives request.

Carter’s parliamentary finagling created a minor hardship for his fellow commissioners. Stevens told the commissioners that it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to simply “revote” on Turner’s motion. He added, however, that the commissioners could vote on a similar motion that was somehow amended from Turner’s original. Turner eventually salvaged the situation by striking $1,000 from the incentives amount in his original motion. Then the motion failed on a 2-2 vote.

After some subsequent consideration, and a break in the commissioners’ agenda almost an hour later, Stevens revised his advice and told the commissioners that he had concluded that Paisley did, in fact, have a right to vote and determined that his vote should have counted in the first place, affirming a 4-1 vote for the original incentives package and making moot the revised amount, motion, and vote where the commissioners had a 2-2 deadlock.

In addition to the county’s newly-approved incentives package, the state has apparently offered $3,044,500 in added inducements – much of it in sales tax discounts.

Burlington, meanwhile, is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Tuesday about an incentives package consisting of $700,000 in upfront road improvement and $710,000 in grants for the company’s Burlington initiative.

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