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The Bluefield City Board approved the second and final reading of the transfer of the Elks Building to Bluefield State College Tuesday.

BLUEFIELD — The City of Bluefield is moving forward with a study related to locating a Thoroughbred Bulk Terminal facility here.

On Tuesday, the City Board approved the engineering firm of EL Robinson to conduct a Demand Study in support of the facility.

“A Demand Study will look at regional commerce and have conversations with important firms affecting the facility,” said City Manager Dane Rideout.

Earlier this year, the city unveiled a plan to pursue the terminal, calling it Project Game Changer, and the study is another step taken to proceed.

The terminal is a hub that allows customers to transfer a large array of commodities between rail cars and trucks.

When the project was first introduced, Rideout said with Bluefield’s strategic location, rail capacity and proximity to three major interstates, the pieces fit.

Bluefield is located at the crossroads of Norfolk Southern’s Heartland and Crescent Corridor, he said, with the Heartland Corridor a main container rail route from the Port of Virginia to the Midwest markets, including Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati.

Rideout said the Crescent Corridor is a major rail link between the northeastern and southeastern United States, linking major markets including New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans and Memphis.

The city also has interstate highway access to I-77 and the future I-73/I-74 and is within 25 miles from I-81 and 40 miles from I-64.

This location has the potential to transform the area into a “logistics hub,” he said.

Rideout said studies have shown both truck and rail transportation modes are expected to grow in the future and that represents an opportunity for the Bluefield area to increase the demand for the regional transportation infrastructure in the study region but also facilitate the growth of additional transportation needs and assets.

The Demand Study will “use both secondary data (with some modeling) and develop information about the idiosyncrasies of the proposed facility through these interviews or other information gathering techniques,” he said.

Other information gathered by the study will include:

• An analysis of network connectivity from the facility, both local and long distance.

• An understanding of the cost savings (competitive pricing) of shipping services due to the facility, and their effect on usage.

• A review of the existing volume of commodities, with a forecast (say 20 years) of likely changes to existing commodities in the local service area.

• A review of workforce supply and demand, both for the facility and ancillary services in the region.

• A review of any existing commodity flow studies, to include updates (this would be part of the existing freight volume forecast, but would confirm or modify any results from previous work).

• A review of economic impact modeling of the site (this would be in part completed as part of the workforce analysis, but it would also allow for a second look of any existing work to conform or modify any results it might have come to).

“After this study we will go for a site feasibility study and Preliminary Engineering Report for projected sites,” Rideout said.

City Attorney Colin Colin said the study will cost $55,000.

“We have a $44,000 grant from the USDA so the remaining $11,000, the local match, would come from money previously donated to us by a local foundation,” he said. “Again, this study will not cost the taxpayers anything.”

In other business, city board members:

• Approved the first reading of an ordinance to prohibit open burning except by permit. and providing penalties for violations.

Cline said the current burning ordinance has only one requirement, not to burn rubber, and any outdoor fire must be kept under control, but the ordinance that has not been modified in 43 year and the state Fire Code has changed during that time.

“We want to regulate open burning consistent with the state Fire Code,” he said.

Anyone who wants to have an open fire can come to the Bluefield Fire Department for a permit.

“There is no charge,” he said, but it allows firemen to know where there will be open burning of debris in the city.

“It’s good from a safety and nuisance standpoint,” Cline said.

• Approved the second and final reading of the transfer of the Elks Building to Bluefield State College.

Bluefield bought the building, which has historic and architectural importance, two years ago for future development and put a new roof on it.

Cline said during the first reading that the transfer agreement requires BSC to “finish substantial renovations” of the building within five years with one year to start the work.

“It’s a good move for us,” he said, adding that no other interest has been shown in the building and the agreement includes a “reversionary clause” that would hand the building back to the city if the renovations did not take place.

Keith Olson, BSC’s special assistant to the president, said the building will be used for graduate programs as well as a venue for the college’s performing arts programs.

• Heard from Treasurer Kelly Davis that the $500,000 from Norfolk Southern has been received and transferred to the state Department of Highways for work on the Grant Street Bridge. The money was part of an agreement to transfer ownership of the bridge to the city and to proceed with a $10 million bridge replacement project.

Davis also told the board $571,000 had been received from the state for the month of October in CARES Act pandemic relief funding.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com.

 

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