DOT plans call for U.S. 70 bypass to go through land

The Craven County Board of Commissioners raised questions Monday night about who would pay for moving the Hickman Hill recycling site as the N.C. Department of Transportation makes plans for the U.S. 70 bypass.

The convenience center is located off U.S. 70 just west of the city on property owned by the U.S. Forest Service. However, the county has made improvements to the land and has dedicated funds for its use as a solid waste site.

DOT officials notified the county that the bypass is planned for the property, and county staff

has already begun the process of identifying suitable land to relocate the site.

During Monday night’s board meeting, commissioners were briefed on the initial costs involved in relocating the site to land owned by DOT within a few hundred feet of the existing site. To determine whether the proposed site is suitable, a series of engineering and environmental studies must be performed, totaling $8,705, according to a bid received from an engineering firm.

Commissioner George Liner questioned why the county would have to pay all the charges associated with the relocation.

“Here’s my concern: Why is DOT telling us we have to move?” he said. “I understand what’s coming through there, but why are we not being considered as any other business or owner would be? Why are we paying charges to relocate?”

County Manager Jack Veit said the point was valid and would be considered when speaking with DOT officials.

One of the issues surrounding the site is that the county does not own the land but has invested in improving it.

Jim Hicks, who serves as the county’s attorney, added that because Craven County is not the property owner, but rather a tenant, DOT may not be required to pay any relocation costs.

“My concern with this is that we are going to put money into the study to see if the land to move the site to is a viable one, and if it doesn’t meet the standards, we’ve got to go somewhere else,” Liner said. “Who’s going to pay to make it viable and all the costs involved in operating it? I see a half a million dollar cost if this comes about for the county.”

Moving forward with the environmental study seems to be the only viable option for the board, Veit said. However, that doesn’t exempt the county from negotiating with DOT in the future to recoup some of the costs incurred, he added.

Crystal Garrett is a reporter for the Sun Journal.