County to gain 400-acre plot

Kevin Patterson

Guy McCook

WAGRAM — By the end of the summer, Scotland County commissioners plan to add another card to its deck in the complicated game of industrial recruitment.

The board announced last week that Cascades, the tissue company that purchased the Westpoint Stevens plant last year, has committed to the donation of 400 acres of land between Airbase Road and the Lumber River to the county.

That land also includes a water and wastewater treatment plant that can handle 7 million gallons per day.

The property, according to board of commissioners chairman Guy McCook, has vast potential as an industrial site. In an environment where locations that can donate property to potential industries are more likely to land manufacturers — and the jobs they bring with them — the acquisition can only be a benefit.

“The city also has their fiber line right there at the property, there’s gas nearby, it just has a lot of the pieces that industries look for in a property and we think it’s going to be a real asset to the community,” he said. “We have sites available, but we don’t have anything this size, and we don’t have anything with the water and sewer capacity that are available at this site.”

Excluding the land occupied by the water treatment facilities, the donation will comprise 50 acres on the south end and 200 on the north. The donation will be formally completed once Cascades, which is currently using a fraction of the water treatment capacity for fire suppression and utilities, can be connected to a county water source and the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport sewer system.

According to County Manager Kevin Patterson, the county is on a waiting list with Duke Energy to evaluate the property as an industrial site this year.

“The immediate need is to have someone actually develop a site plan for it and probably come in and develop at least one if not two construction pads,” Patterson said. “Basically you have to get rid of all the vegetation, pull it back to clean dirt so if somebody wants to come in and build on it, if its inside that pad they don’t have to do anything other than start with the foundation.”

In the meantime, the water treatment plant will be partially dismantled in an effort to prolong the life of its components, until such time as an industry moves in — at which point it would be reconfigured to provide only as much water as is actually demanded.

“If we’re able to land a company in that area that needs water and sewer, we would be able to stand that facility back up and also modify it to whatever they need,” Patterson said. “Seven million gallons of wastewater a day is a very large demand, so in its current configuration, if you have somebody who needs less than 3 million gallons a day, the pricing structure’s not going to be self-supporting.”

McCook pointed out that the property’s water treatment capability could easily have served the needs of the new FCC plant on U.S. 401, for which the city of Laurinburg expanded its infrastructure to the tune of $10 million.

As is, the untapped infrastructure on the Wagram site is a rare find, and officials expect that it will open the county to another league of industrial prospects.

“It’s just like being in the real estate business: you’ve got to have inventory in place and then you can market that inventory and hopefully attract people,” he said. “Having that inventory gives us the opportunity to have access to clients that are looking for suitable sites and then it gives us the opportunity, once we have our foot in the door with them, to see if we can find them something in our community.”

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.

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