Archive for March, 2018

3/29/2018 – Aiken Controls announces expansion plans in Lenoir

Posted on: March 29th, 2018 by admin


March 29, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


An advanced technology developer in Lenoir is planning to expand its footprint and operations.


Aiken Controls, which designs manufacturing control panels, scanners and sensors, plans to double its main office in downtown Lenoir, owner Chris Aiken said.


The company moved in to its current 15,000-square-foot building on West Avenue in 2016 after extensive renovations. Now, an addition of a similar size is in store on an adjacent vacant lot.


“What we’re trying to do it expand and have a place to do set-up and testing,” Aiken said.


In the new building, there would be space for a permanent testing area — essentially a showroom for the technology Aiken Controls produces. Right now, if Aiken wants to show a potential customer how a piece of equipment works, other equipment has to be moved around to make room for the demonstration.


“We’re growing out of our space,” Aiken said.


The exact plans for the building haven’t started yet because Aiken is considering including an upper floor of residential apartments.


“We’re excited about the possibility, and the city is excited about the possibility, so we’re working with them right now,” he said.


Aiken expects the addition to be done in about two years, but in the meantime the company continues expanding its business.


Over the past year, Aiken Controls has been adding products. A 3-D sensor that identifies the contents of a box and confirms all the pieces are inside that are supposed to be there, which was tested last year by Ikea, now is in regular use by five companies.


In Oregon, Aiken is designing a system to cut massive pieces of wood to make prefabricated wall panels for houses. The machine will cut 12-by-65-foot pieces of plywood up to 2 feet thick, then cut door and window holes, and all the pieces then fit together.


“It’s basically like giant Lincoln Logs,” Aiken said.


Aiken is in the process of bringing on two additional employees, too, which he’s been hoping to do since moving in to the current office space in 2016.


3/28/2018 – Abington Road bridge re-opens after repairs

Posted on: March 28th, 2018 by admin


March 28, 2018


By Kara Fohner
(Lenoir) News-Topic


After being closed for a week, a two-lane bridge on Abington Road reopened Tuesday after being repaired, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said.


The bridge, which extends over Greasy Creek west of West Lenoir Baptist Church, was closed March 20 after a routine inspection found bends in the support beams, which weakened the overall integrity of the bridge, a press release said.


Crews installed new wooden supports at the center of the beams, which will extend the life of the bridge at least three to five years. Because of the repairs, NCDOT was also able to raise the weight limit on the bridge to 24 tons for passenger vehicles and 32 tons for trucks, said David Uchiyama, a communications officer with the NCDOT. Previously, the limit was 15 tons for passenger vehicles and 20 tons for trucks, Uchiyama said.


“Because it’s such a small bridge, we had the materials. We had the people. It’s just a matter of going in and getting it done,” he said. “We know how many folks use this road and that it’s important to the people who live there and drive through it, and we wanted to get it fixed us quickly as possible. We did so in a week, and in the end, it’s a better bridge than it was two weeks ago.”


The bridge was built in 1972 and has wooden support columns, steel beams, a steel floor and an asphalt top. It remains on a list to be replaced in the next two years.



03/23/2018 – Connelly Springs Road/Castle Bridge will not close; replacement bridge to be built

Posted on: March 23rd, 2018 by admin


March 23, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Castle Bridge will not close for extensive repairs, and instead, an entirely new bridge will be built next to the existing one, the N.C. Department of Transportation announced.


That fulfills the wishes of local officials, who said NCDOT’s original plan for an extended closure of the bridge between Caldwell and Burke counties would cost jobs and businesses.


But it also more than triples the cost, from $5 million to over $15 million, said David Uchiyama, a communications officer for NCDOT’s Division 11.


After the NCDOT announced in January that the bridge, which carries Connelly Springs Road over the Catawba River, needed extensive repairs to replace its steel beams and concrete top. That would close the bridge for about a year and a half.


But the public outcry prompted local officials in both counties to pressure NCDOT for alternatives.


Now, the bridge will get minor repairs to its corroding steel beams. That work could be done with one lane at a time closed, and it close entirely close the bridge for a few days at most, an NCDOT press release said.


At a meeting between NCDOT and local officials last week, Division 13 Maintenance Engineer Mark Gibbs expressed concerned that the minor repairs might not extend Castle Bridge’s life long enough to complete construction of a new bridge.


But Uchiyama said that officials were not concerned about that possibility.


The minor repairs will cost $1 to $2 million and make the bridge last three to five more years, Uchiyama said. That’s enough time to plan, fund, study and get right of way for a new bridge, a bridge that will cost between $15 and $20 million.


The minor repairs are expected to begin in the fall still, but an exact date won’t be known until the summer.

3/20/2018 – Abington Road bridge closed indefinitely

Posted on: March 20th, 2018 by admin


March 20, 2018


North Carolina Department of Transportation officials have closed a bridge in Lenoir along Abington Road near West Lenoir Baptist Church indefinitely after discovering issues with the beams during a bi-annual inspection, department spokesman Andrew Glasco said.

Drivers will need to use Beecher Anderson Road to connect to Abington Road, Glasco said.

He added that the hope is to re-open the bridge to car traffic within two weeks. The bridge is on a list to be re-placed within the next year. Glasco said the schedule likely will be moved up.

3/18/2018 – Connelly Springs Road/Castle Bridge project may not require full closure

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by admin


March 18, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Castle Bridge may not have to close for repairs after all, N.C. Department of Transportation officials say.


New options from NCDOT for the bridge, which carries Connelly Springs Road over the Catawba River, open the possibility of closing only one lane at a time during construction — which officials previously said was not possible — or leaving the bridge open and building an entirely new bridge alongside it.


The original plan, announced in January, was to close the bridge to all traffic for 14 months to replace the top deck and deteriorating steel beams. After public outcry and pressure from local officials and state legislators, the NCDOT reduced the projected closure time to eight months.


But at a meeting at Rutherford College Town Hall, Division 13 Maintenance Engineer Mark Gibbs laid out three more options for officials to consider: The bridge could be closed for six to eight months; one lane at a time could be closed for 18 months; or the bridge could get minor repairs while a new bridge is planned.


State and local officials from Caldwell and Burke counties at the meeting unequivocally backed making minor repairs to the bridge and building a brand new bridge.


The minor repairs would cost about $1 million to $2 million. The cost of a new bridge would be about $20 million.


The minor repairs would close the bridge for about a week at the most, Gibbs said, and make the bridge last about five more years, just enough time to study, plan and find funding for a new two-lane bridge, though it could be tight and the plan is still tentative.


“We have to confirm that the repairs would be able to keep the bridge safe and accommodate all traffic,” Gibbs said. “If the new bridge got delayed, we could end up right back where we are right now.”


Making full repairs to Castle Bridge would extend its life another 50 years, but an entirely new bridge could last 100 years.


A new bridge could be a standalone project or linked to the widening of Connelly Spring Road to four lanes, from Dry Ponds Road north to Lenoir, which is slated to begin in the 2024-25 fiscal year, Gibbs said.


Gibbs said the option that looked most promising to him was to do the full repairs to Castle Bridge while keeping one lane open. It would cost $10 million to $12 million. Because this would extend the bridge’s life for 50 years, Gibbs said, this would give ample time for a new bridge to be built in the future.


Officials attending the meeting resoundingly rejected the least expensive option, fully closing Castle Bridge for six to eight months, which would cost about $6 million. Officials rattled off the numerous problems the closure would bring to both counties, including businesses losing customers and employees being unable to get to work.


“What I’m hearing from you, if nothing else,” Gibbs said, “is that you don’t want the bridge fully closed.”


The project contract is supposed to reopen for new bids in April, though the changes discussed could push back that date. The project is still expected to start in the fall, around October, Gibbs said.


3/18/2018 – Caldwell one of the few counties to report no change to jobless rate

Posted on: March 18th, 2018 by admin


March 18, 2018


By Guy Lucas
(Lenoir) News-Topic


No news, in this case, may be good news.


For the third consecutive month, Caldwell County’s unemployment rate in January was 4.5 percent, the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported.


But since the local unemployment rate increased in 93 of the state’s 100 counties from December to January – including Burke County, where the rate went from 4.2 to 4.3 percent – and it normally increases in Caldwell County too because of seasonal factors, holding steady is a positive sign, said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. Catawba County’s rate held steady at 4.1 percent.


“Typically we see an increase in unemployment rates in January … but ours held steady. That is ground gained,” she said. “We begin 2018 with the largest number of people employed in 10 years.”


The total number of Caldwell residents reporting that they had jobs was just under 35,000.


Caldwell County is tied with five other counties for the 33rd lowest unemployment rate in the state, reflecting the county’s steady improvement in comparison to other counties since having one of the state’s highest unemployment rates in 2010.


That improvement is reflected in comparisons of the local unemployment rate from year to year. Murray pointed out that for January only one third of North Carolina’s counties improved since January 2017 by more than 1 percentage point, and one of those was Caldwell, where unemployment in January 2017 was 5.6 percent.


“And because we see continued strength and growth among our industries, 2018 will be a still stronger year for employment in Caldwell business and industry,” she said.


3/5/2018 – NCDOT to re-bid Connelly Springs Road/Castle Bridge project aimed at cutting down closure time to 8 months

Posted on: March 5th, 2018 by admin


March 5, 2018


Transportation Update – March 2018


The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s planned repair project along Connelly Springs Road at Castle Bridge will hopefully have a new eight-month completion schedule.


The NCDOT will re-bid the project and have included incentives to further reduce bridge closure time. In addition, the scheduled start time for the project has been pushed back to the fall and is projected to be completed in almost half the original timeframe.


According to the NCDOT, $6 million in repairs are needed for the bridge that links Connelly Springs Road in Caldwell County with Malcolm Boulevard in Burke County.


At a recent meeting with state and local officials in Cajah’s Mountain, NCDOT representatives said they would study alternatives to the original 14-to-18-month timeline for the project.


Due to deterioration of the deck joints and beams, repairs were deemed necessary.


Built in 1961, Castle Bridge carries approximately 9,600 vehicles per day.


The NCDOT has already reduced the weight limit for commercial trucks utilizing the bridge from 40 tons to 19 tons.


A replacement bridge is not necessary at this time. An underwater inspection of the foundation and columns, along with sonar imaging, found those parts to be in sound condition and able to remain in place.


For information regarding the project, contact NCDOT Division 13 Bridge Program Manager Chris Medlin at or at 828-298-1128.

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