LAURINBURG – Scotland County Board of Commissioners ended a dispute over two long-delayed fire substations by deciding to build both buildings at the same time.
The board agreed on Monday to build each station at its original size and cost with a 5-to-1 vote with Commissioner Guy McCook opposed to the action.
County officials had considered building the substation on the south end of town before starting a second project on the north end, but that plan was meet by opposition from some county firefighters and residents. It is hoped the substations will provide extra fire protection and improve fire insurance rates.
“The building designs will be same for both but will be bid as separate projects and will probably be built at same time,” said County Manager Kevin Patterson.
The south substation will be on Purcell Road and the north substation will be off Marston Road. Each fire substations will be about 40 by 45 feet.
Some county firefighters in attendance were satisfied with the outcome of the vote.
“I’m glad they went with the Fire Commission’s recommendation on the size,” said Eric Stubbs of the Gibson Fire Department. “The line of communication got a lot better than it was. We have a good line of communication that we didn’t have before.”
Part of the initial contention was the location of the south station. County firefighters believed that the Laurinburg Fire Department would benefit from the substation being built there. They also secured a piece of property on Leisure Road that was closer to Scotch Meadows, one of the neighborhoods whose fire rating would decrease as a result of the new substation.
“They put the substation in the south end in the wrong place,” Ray Crabtree of the Gibson Fire Department said Monday night. “[O]ur county tax money is going into the city.”
In other business, the board approved a request to apply for a $1.35 million grant for CSX rail upgrades for the new $44 million Mountaire plant slated for the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport. The money would come to the county as a North Carolina Department of Commerce Economic Development Community Development Block Grant.
The county already has $1.6 million in grants as its portion of the rail project’s $9.2 million price tag.
Resident Charles Parker asked who owned the rail currently and who would own it when the project was finished.
County Economic Development Mark Ward said that no county tax dollars had gone toward the project and that the rail and industrial site were owned by the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission.
“They own the rail from Highway 74 business where it connects with CSX all the way onto Laurinburg-Maxton Airport,” Ward said. “They will continue to own it. The city of Laurinburg and the town of Maxton have been advised of the project.”
According to Ward, the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Commission asked him to manage the process of applying for the funds.
Parker then asked if CSX would be charged to use the rail since CSX charges its customers fees.
“I’m trying to find out now if the taxpayer is going to foot something that we’re not going to get any dividends when large businesses come in and use things for free,” Parker said.
Ward said that question would have to be answered by the Laurinburg-Maxton Commission, but added that a maintenance agreement would be signed by the rail’s users.
Resident Mary Evans wanted to know if Mountaire planned any future expansion, including more than the announced 65 jobs.
Grant writer Emily Miller said that 65 was the minimum number of jobs that the company had to commit to creating in order to be able to apply for the grant.
But one of grant’s requirements is that the company hire a minimum of 60 percent of its workforce from among candidates whose wages were previously below median income for Scotland County.
Also during the public comment portion, Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Block requested that the county commissioners reconsider funding the school board’s plan to consolidate schools. Block argued that consolidating schools would cost the county as many jobs as the new Mountaire feed mill will bring in.
The board took no action.
The commissioners also observed a moment of silence to honor the late Wilson McCall, a long-time educator and husband of board Chair Carol McCall. He passed away on March 7.
Also on Monday, the board approved:
— A sheriff’s office request to move funds to re-class two job positions and a title change for another and to convert three individual storage rooms into one to create more space.
A request to surplus two animal control boxes and a 1997 Dodge Ram 3500 used by public buildings department.
A request by the Health Department’s to use $71,405 from that department’s Fund Balance from the previous year’s Medicaid settlement funds
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169