Auto tech center in high gear

Phase II of the new Iredell-Statesville Schools Automotive Technical Center is expected to be complete by August, officials with the nationally heralded program said.

The center opened in April with completion of its first phase on the campus of the school system's Career and Technical Education Center off Murdock Road.

The center's design is based partly on the Penske Racing and UTI/NASCAR Tech buildings in Mooresville and the automotive area at Central Piedmont Community College's Huntersville campus. Officials from all three locations helped the center's design and build team, instructor Martin Page said.

The program hopes eventually to add training in motorcycle, marine and small equipment service and repair, he said.

About 100 advanced-training students are scheduled to learn in the center each semester next school year. Students come from Lake Norman, West Iredell, South Iredell, North Iredell and Statesville high schools.

The center's level I classes have nearly 300 students enrolled at their home high schools, Page said.

The auto tech center's first two phases are in the former woodworking building of the defunct Thomasville Furniture plant. A third phase will be in a separate building behind the auto tech center.

Phase I building renovations cost about $500,000, and Phase II will cost about the same, said Kenny Miller, Iredell-Statesville facilities director. Proceeds from the N.C Education Lottery are paying for the work, he said.

The 30,000-square-foot first phase includes a 16-bay main shop area with 10 lifts. Eight of the bays are large enough for two vehicles, giving students a total of 24 vehicle work stalls. The shop's layout resembles that of the most updated repair shop, with computer programming and other "real world" features.

Phase I also has a small in-house parts store so students can learn the parts wholesale and retail business, Page said.

Auto Zone provided shelving, fixtures, training, marketing education and discount programs for the store, which is open only to school system employees and students.

Phase I also has three workrooms. One is a brake, steering and suspension room with brake lathes, presses and other specialty equipment. Another is a combination teardown, wet cleanup and storage room with a roll-up entrance for large components such as engines and transmissions.

The third work room is a dry cleanup room, where components are bead-blasted, sanded or cleaned with other dry methods. The room also houses a welding and metalworking lab until phase II opens, Page said.

Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse gave pallet racks, shelving, display material and automotive products to the center. Numerous local auto dealers, parts stores and other businesses donated equipment, vehicles and components, Page said.

The latest phase will include three more classrooms, two teacher workrooms and a student break area on the mezzanine overlooking the main shop.

Also included will be three 1,600-square-foot specialty workrooms, for welding and metal working, an engine/drivetrain lab and an electrical/electronics/drivability lab.

Comment on draft plan

The Huntersville Planning Board welcomes public input Tuesday on a draft of the downtown focus area part of the town's proposed 2030 Community Plan.

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 101 Huntersville-Concord Road.

The draft was scheduled to be posted by the end of the day Friday at

Rail crossing almost done

Work is nearly complete on the Catawba Avenue/N.C. 115 railroad crossing, Town Manager Anthony Roberts said.

All decorative street lights have been installed, and above-ground utilities should be removed by month's end, Roberts said.

The Railroad Street and Smith Road rail crossings are scheduled to be permanently removed the week of July 5, he said.