Acquire Wagram Facilities, Consultant Recommends
An engineering consultant has recommended that "some public government entity" acquire the water and wastewater systems formerly serving the WestPoint Stevens textile plant on the Lumber River in rural Scotland County.
Angie Mettlen, project manager for W.K. Dickson & Co. of Charlotte, stopped short of naming which entity that should be. The contract did not call for that type of evaluation.
The study was commissioned by Scotland and Robeson counties and by the municipalities of Aberdeen, Laurinburg, Maxton, Pinebluff, Pinehurst, Red Springs, Southern Pines, along with the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport, the Lumber River Council of Governments and Campbell Soup Company.
Supporters of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce sponsored participation on behalf of Moore County after the Board of Commissioners declined to provide the funding. The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center provided a matching grant to cover the $78,000 total cost of the study.
"Wagram is still on the table," said Nick Picerno, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners. "Until we have all the pieces on the table, we aren't making a decision."
Wagram is the town closest to the privately owned utility plants.
Picerno said the preliminary report was presented at a recent meeting of the Moore County Summit, but no formal presentation has been made to the Moore County commissioners.
"Right now we are not in a water crisis, and we have avoided a serious drought this summer," Picerno said. "We (the county) have more capacity than we've ever had, but we're not ignoring our long-term needs."
Picerno said county officials are reviewing "every single option the county has" and will not make final decisions until they have details on all those options. Among them is use of the former textile utilities in Scotland County.
Interest in the WestPoint Stevens utilities was awakened a few years ago when the village of Pinehurst made a bid to purchase both plants. The village is presently served by Moore County Public Utilities but has long yearned to own and operate its own utilities.
The village offer did not come to fruition because the Scotland County Board of Commissioners did not approve the sale. State law requires approval by the local governing body before utilities can be sold to outside entities.
Moore County and municipal leaders have since participated in efforts to use the privately owned utilities as part of a regional water system. State Rep. Jamie Boles spearheaded the drive to raise funds for county participation in the regional study after the commissioners declined to allocate funds to pay the county's share of the cost.
Also of local interest is the Gulistan presence in both Moore and Scotland counties. Gulistan has its headquarters in Aberdeen. With about 340 employees, it is the largest industrial employer in Moore County. Gulistan also employs 50 workers at a carpet dyeing operation near Wagram and relies on the nearby water and sewer plants.
Mettlen told the Scotland commissioners that a real need for water exists in Moore County but "Scotland County and Laurinburg are in good shape for the next 40 years."
The engineering consultant said she recommends purchase of the facilities by a public government entity because local governments are in a better position to acquire grants than are private companies.
Mettlen mentioned as an alternative the pumping of raw water directly to the Southern Pines reservoir. Southern Pines draws water from Drowning Creek, a tributary of the Lumber River, on which the WPS facilities are located. She said about 23 miles of 24-inch pipeline would be required to transfer water to the Southern Pines site.
"The existing WPS facility can remain in operation to satisfy the industrial demands of the Gulistan Company with virtually no changes needed for the foreseeable future," Mettlen said.
Unlike the water situation, there is little immediate need for the sewage treatment facilities, she said. This could change, however, if the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission were to attract a really large new industrial plant.
The most recent water sources report by Moore County Public Utilities, presented at a special Aug. 18 meeting, showed that the county has the capability of supplying 2 million gallons a day more than the county's current maximum demand. That total must increase by another 2 million gallons daily by 2030.
Moore County is also considering water purchases from the town of Robbins and several neighboring counties.
The county presently buys water from Harnett County, Southern Pines and Aberdeen to supplement service from a system of wells. Harnett County supplies water under contract to the East Moore Water System, which is managed by the county.
The county system serves Pinehurst, Seven Lakes, Vass and several smaller communities.
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