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The Daily Tar Heel

Orange County BOCC extends Piedmont Food Processing Center renewal contract for one year

Ungraded Produce
Troy Coll, operations manager of Ungraded Produce, delivers fresh produce from the Raleigh State Farmers Market to Piedmont Food & Agriculture Processing Center, Nov. 29, 2018.

The Orange County Board of County Commissioners discussed a proposed Piedmont Food Processing Center agreement renewal and a property tax revaluation during its Tuesday meeting. 

What’s new?

  • Travis Myren, the deputy county manager, led a presentation on a management services agreement for the Piedmont Food Processing Center. He asked the board to authorize James Watt, the PFPC board of directors chair, to sign a two-year renewal of the agreement.
    • The PFPC currently provides three services: incubation for start-up businesses, acceleration for building product and provision of shared kitchen and coworking space for businesses to use at affordable rates. 
    • PFPC and County obligations will be maintained under the two-year renewal, such as access to the facility and equipment, general facility maintenance and capital improvements.
    • Myren said the PFPC’s major capital improvements within the past 10 years include HVAC units, roofing systems and exterior signage.
    • The PFPC does not have a specific amount set aside for emergency repairs, Myren said. No budget amendment has been made.
    • Multiple commissioners said they were concerned about the coworking spaces becoming non-local and aksed if Orange County clients would receive priority on the waitlist.
    • “I will say that in my opinion, we always give priority to somebody who’s in Orange County,” PFPC manager Sue Ellsworth said.
    • Commissioner Amy Fowler said she was confused about the subsidization of cooperative kitchens for the state by PFPC.
    • “I like the idea in general, and I like that we’re helping all of these various entities, but I’d like to see how we can focus it more on, you know, Orange County residents,” she said.
    • Commissioner Anna Richards also said she was confused about whether businesses at PFPC are considered Orange County businesses.
    • Eric Hallman, the PFPC executive director, presented an update about PFPC’s board, equipment services and revenue.
    • He said the board’s size of five members is an issue and that they need to expand.
    • “I think what we need to do is sit down, and certainly this meeting will help us, and figure out where we want to be in five years and what you want us to be,” Hallman said. “And from that we can pick the skillset and the types of board members we’ll need.”
    • Commissioner Jean Hamilton said she wanted to know more about the breakdown of the cost expenses and equipment values of PFPC. Hallman said since the equipment has mostly depreciated, the replacement value is significant. He also said a large portion of the equipment was bought through grants.
    • “We’d love to expand services as we see a need from our clients,” said Hallman.
    • Commissioner Jamezetta Bedford said she was concerned about accountability and board governance.  Hallman said the PFPC board has met a total of three times within the last two years, but it is expected to meet again later this year.
    • “Some of my concerns were that that’s not good board governance,” Bedford said. “Boards are supposed to be providing, be engaged, be knowledgeable, they’re supposed to govern at the high level.”
    • Hallman said the PFPC does not understand its relationship with Orange County and that there has not been much communication.
    • “We’re looking for your guidance in what you want us to be,” Hallman said.
  • Orange County Tax Administrator Nancy Freeman also gave an update in anticipation of the next property tax revaluation scheduled for Jan. 1, 2025.
    • The Orange County Tax Office planned several revaluation projects for 2025 including apartment cleanup, conservation districts and flood zones review.

What decisions were made?

  • The BOCC voted unanimously to extend the PFPC renewal contract for one year, rather than two years.
    • Commissioner Earl McKee suggested an amendment to continue hearing comments on the renewal at a later work session.

What’s next?

  • The BOCC will meet on Oct. 10 for a work session and joint meeting with fire departments in the Whitted Building in Hillsborough.

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