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County to extend time for purchase of G-P site

Columbus County commissioners were expected in a rare 7 a.m. session today to extend for another 90 days a June 30 deadline the county had given the owners of Project Black to purchase the former Georgia-Pacific industrial site between Whiteville and Chadbourn.

The decision to meet today came after a 55-minute closed session Monday night for economic development matters and the board recessed its meeting Monday to reconvene this morning. They confirmed Monday night that they would act today on the request to extend the purchase deadline.

After the same closed session Monday, commissioners also voted to hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on July 3 on the proposed issuance by the Columbus County Industrial Facilities and Pollution Control Financing Authority of up to $52 million in taxexempt solid waste disposal revenue bonds on behalf of Project Black.

The bond money would be used to finance “the acquisition, improvement, construction and installation of a solid waste disposal facility at the former Georgia-Pacific site.”

Project Black is still officially unidentified by the Columbus County Economic Development office, but an official with the company reached Wednesday said the former Georgia-Pacific site will take in railroad ties and light poles and manufacture a green energy product.

The company’s solid waste disposal revenue bonds require that 65 percent of the end product be produced with railroad ties and light poles, which can no longer be disposed of in regular landfills.

Wood chips will also be used in the manufacturing process. Railroad ties and light poles will be shipped in from across the Southeast and reduced by heat to create the green energy product. The process will take place in a closed system, the official said, so there will be no emissions.

S&A Railroad ties has already announced that it will locate a facility in Columbus County in anticipation of Project Black, and RJ Corman Railroad is also an integral part of the project.

Much of the product would be shipped by rail to regional ports, then transported by ship overseas.

If issued, the bonds would not constitute a debt of the county, the state, or any other political subdivision.

The company has been interested in locating here for some time and says it will create 140 new local jobs.

Columbus County purchased the site in question from Georgia-Pacific for $1.8 million to prevent a scrapping of the property by G-P, something that would have greatly reduced its value as a potential industrial site.

The county had given Project Black until June 30 to come up with the funds to purchase the property before offering it to other potential buyers that county economic developer Gary Lanier said had expressed an interest in purchasing it.

Project Black said it needs the additional 90 days to secure funding for the purchase, funding thought to be virtually guaranteed if the bond issue to be presented at the July 3 hearing is approved. That is why commissioners were expected to approve the extension this morning.

Today’s unusual early morning meeting was set because most commissioners already had been scheduled to gather at 8 a.m. to depart the county office complex for a tour of the Tabor Correctional Institution.

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