Galax helping Vaughan-Bassett with expansion plan

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By April Wright, Reporter

The City of Galax has begun looking at possible funding opportunities to allow Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. to expand its facility at 300 E. Grayson St., City Manager Keith Barker announced during last month's city council meeting, but this would require abandoning a portion of Railroad Avenue and Depot Street, between East Grayson and East Oldtown streets, and relocating utilities.

Vaughan-Bassett representatives said they plan to expand to make the plant more efficient, which would allow the company to maintain existing jobs.

The project is expected to occur 150 feet west of the intersections of Railroad and Grayson Street and Railroad and Oldtown Street.

After a public hearing, council voted to allow the city to apply for a grant, as required, to seek $300,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development. The money would be applied to the estimated $3.5 million project.

The project also would require a relocation of utilities, which is estimated at $617,813.

Although no comments were heard at the public hearing, Danny Cockerham, president of Milo C. Cockerham Inc. — located on Bartlett Street near Railroad Avenue —submitted a letter to council opposing the project. Cockerham also spoke against the project during November's meeting.

“While this project may bring a few additional jobs to the city, it comes with a major change in a street that has served the residents well for many years,” Cockerham wrote.

Cockerham cited that the closing of the streets may negatively impact neighboring property owners, like the oil company, causing depreciated property value, and could bring about new safety concerns, especially to “truck and lengthy tractor-trailer units that use this route,” he wrote.

“Our tractor-trailers are often loaded with flammable petroleum products to the maximum allowed highway weight and use South Railroad Avenue daily.”

Additional “twists and turns” that tractor-trailers must take to may pose a safety risk, he said.

The expansion would be contingent upon receiving appropriate funding.

“We're going to have to submit a grant request before you secure the right-of-way,” Barker told council. “This is kind of running hand-in-hand, and one has to happen before the other. First, we're going to have to get the funding for the total project, and then we'll have to get the appropriate right-of-way.”

Barker said in order to get the ball rolling, the city would need to secure funding first.

Council approved proceeding with the grant application process.