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Inmates may make G-P site more, marketable

Columbus County commissioners are expected tonight to authorize Economic Developer Gary Lanier to use contract and inmate labor to clean up the county-owned former Georgia-Pacific site between Whiteville and Chadbourn to “enhance its market appeal.”

That’s the big item on the agenda for a meeting that gets underway at 6:30 p.m. at the Courthouse Annex at 112 W. Smith St. in Whiteville.

Not on the agenda is consideration by the commissioners of bids from four entities, including Columbus Regional Healthcare, interested in taking over the home health agency now operated by the county health department. County Manager Bill Clark said Friday that consideration of those bids probably will not come up until the board’s March 20 meeting. Columbus Regional has proposed leasing the home health agency from the county for ten years for $1 a year, while three other bidders want to purchase the agency outright, one of them offering $3.5 million to do so.

As a result of lying idle for a number of years, the old Georgia Pacific site, which commissioners purchased several months ago, is in need of a significant clean-up effort and several minor repairs to make the site more marketable, and the county Economic Development board is recommending to commissioners that the effort be undertaken and that a former Georgia Pacific employee be hired as a contractor to oversee the effort using inmate labor to assist in the cleanup.

Under the proposal to be considered by the commissioners, former GP employee Doug Edmund will be paid $25 an hour for 40 hours a week to maintain and repair fire suppression systems at the site, do emergency repairs as they arise, mow all grassed areas, treat areas with herbicides and pesticides (for which Edmund is licensed) and engage in extensive site clean-up activities including debris removal, elimination of vegetative growth from expansion joints, removal of various wood debris and relocation and consolidation of salvageable items, such as welders, from areas designated for initial scrap removal and supervise a prison inmate labor crew in cleaning up the area.

Inmat costs will be $1 a day per inmate with an anticipated crew of four inmates, for a total of $4 a day or $16 a week. It is estimated that the clean-up effort will last until around June 30.

In other business, commissioners are expected to approve membership and the 2017 annual report of the local Emergency Planning Committee, authorize Chairman James Prevatte to apply for reimbursement from the N.C. Department of Transportation to reimburse the county transit system for Medicaid-billed transportation costs, and hear departmental updates from Cooperative Extension Director Dr. Dalton Dockery and Economic Development Director Dr. Gary Lanier.

The board also is expected to approve a budget amendment for $404,593 in architect fees, equipment and contingencies that have been expended on the historic courthouse renovation project.

Commissioners also are expected to present a plaque honoring the services of Linwood Cartrette, who retired in December after more than 30 years of service as coroner.

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