Village Water Deal Reaches Impasse
The village of Pinehurst's proposal to buy water and wastewater treatment plants in Scotland County has hit a snag, at least for now.
Village Manager Andy Wilkison said a difference of opinion has arisen between the Scotland County Board of Commissioners and Pinehurst officials on how the deal should move forward.
Wilkison said Scotland County wants the village to conduct a feasibility study before approving the deal, while Pinehurst wants the approval before committing an estimated $100,000 to conduct the study.
Because the plants are located in Scotland County, its Board of Commissioners must approve the purchase.
"We're reluctant to do [the study first] because there's no guarantee that they're going to vote at all, or vote to allow us to acquire [the plants]," Wilkison said Tuesday.
The village announced in July that it intended to purchase water and wastewater treatment plants and 198 acres of land near Wagram for $5.5 million. The facilities served a former WestPoint Pepperell mill located on the Lumber River.
The village originally eyed a closing date in November, but delays continue to hamper the deal. In September, the Scotland County commissioners voted to give the Laurinburg City Council 90 days to conduct its own study of the situation.
Wilkison said the village hasn't had as much communication with Laurinburg as it has with Scotland County and said he didn't know the scope or status of Laurinburg's study.
The Scotland County commissioners met Monday night, but Wilkison said village officials did not attend because the Wagram proposal wasn't listed on the agenda.
Wilkison said that Scotland County Manager Kevin Patterson informed him via e-mail Tuesday morning that no action was taken on the proposal, but that there was discussion about it. The e-mail did not indicate the nature of the comments.
The Pilot attempted to reach Scotland County Chairman J.D. Willis, but the call was not immediately returned Tuesday.
If Scotland County won't approve the deal before a feasibility study is done, and the Pinehurst Village Council refuses to change its position of requiring approval before conducting the study, Wilkison doesn't see how the current impasse can be broken.
"I don't see it really moving forward if that's where Scotland County is and our council doesn't change its position," he said. "Now we've got a new council. It's really a decision for the council to make."
Wilkison said he did not know where new council members Nancy Roy Fiorillo and Doug Lapins stand on that issue, and declined to speculate. As for the actual purchase, Fiorillo supported the deal during her campaign, while Lapins opposed it.
Mayor George Lane said he continues to be troubled by the delays. The village believes that the plants would not only secure Pinehurst's and the county's water needs well into the future, but also would be a way to alleviate some of the region's concerns about water as well. It hopes to build a consortium of municipal partners to use the facilities.
"We've been concerned about it for some time," Lane said Tuesday. "We'd like to see the project go forward, but evidently there are forces within our own county trying to stop it.
"I think it is good for the county and good for North Carolina."
Lane believes if the deal isn't approved, it could create problems for Gulistan Carpet, which operates facilities in Scotland County and Aberdeen. Gulistan's Scotland County facility is served by the treatment plants.
Lane said the seller's representative indicated to the village that if the deal isn't approved soon, the seller would consider disassembling the plants and selling the parts to China.
"There's a large loss of jobs on the horizon if they (Scotland County) don't do something about this," Lane said.
Peter Kruyer, chief financial officer of Gulistan Carpet, told The Pilot Tuesday that he hadn't heard anything from the plants' owner about shutting them down.
Gulistan Carpet is the county's largest industrial employer, according to Moore County Partners in Progess. It has about 300 employees.
WP Properties Wagram LLC owns the plants.
Wilkison said village officials and Scotland County last met last month. Things don't appear to have changed since then.
"They wanted the study done first, we wanted some assurance that our taxpayers' money was being spent on something for a reason," Wilkison said. "There's no guarantee that they would vote or vote to approve."
Contact John Krahnert III at (910) 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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