LUMBERTON — Robeson County has received a $1 million state grant to help pay for an expansion of the water treatment plant in St. Pauls that serves the Prestage Foods Inc. turkey processing facility.
The grant, which comes from the the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Industrial Development Fund Utility Account, was announced in a March 7 letter to Tom Taylor, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners.
The grant was awarded “to provide improvements to the Robeson County water facility to benefit Prestage Foods,” according to the letter from Susan Fleetwood, executive director of Economic Development for the Commerce Department.
“It is the department’s understanding that this award will help pay for badly needed repairs, allowing the company to stay at its current location,” Fleetwood said.
The water treatment facility located on N.C. 20 across from Prestage Foods is 30 years old and needs repairs to make it good for “another 30 years,” said Myron Neville, interim director of Public Works for the county.
The $4.1 million project will expand the treatment plant so Prestage Foods and the northern part of the county, including St. Pauls and Parkton, will receive better service, Neville said. Plans call for a second plant, similar to the existing facility, to be built so there is a water treatment plant in operation while the existing plant is taken out of service and undergoes upgrading.
Except for the $1 million grant, the project is being funded from the county’s Water Fund, Neville said.
“All of our money comes from fees,” he said. “We are self-supporting and self-sufficient.”
The plant supplies an average of 2 million gallons of treated water a day to Prestage Foods and northern Robeson County communities.
“When both plants are up and running we will be able to double our capacity to 4 million gallons a day as we grow and additional water is needed,” Neville said. “… The two plants will be connected. Water will flow through the same pipe out into the system.”
Dellinger Inc., a Monroe-based construction company, will build the plant, Neville said. Construction of the facility is scheduled to start in mid-April and to last about one year.
Neville said the water treatment plant in St. Pauls is not the only one the county operates that is more than 30 years old. At least two other plants, one in Maxton and one located beside Interstate 95 at the school bus garage, are included in the county’s five-year capital improvements plan and will experience similar upgrades and renovations as the plant in St. Pauls.
“This work will get the plants ready for another 30 years,” he said.
County Commissioner Lance Herndon is chairman of the county’s Public Work Committee and represents St. Pauls.
“This expansion of the water treatment plant will go a long way to keeping Prestage happy and healthy in Robeson County,” Herndon said during Monday’s meeting of the county commissioners.
The turkey-processing plant employs about 300 people.
Bob Shiles can be reaached at 910-416-5165.