Scotland County OKs $10 million solar project

By: By Beth Lawrence -

LAURINBURG – Laurinburg could soon be home to a new solar farm owned by McLean Homestead LLC.

The Scotland County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Monday night on a request to construct the solar panels on Fieldcrest Road, just off U.S. 74 business.

The panels will cover around 30 to 35 acres and will be surrounded by a buffer of vegetation for aesthetic purposes, according to Brian Bendar, president of Birdseye Renewable Energy.

To address concerns of Billy Jo Phillips, a homeowner near the project, the buffer near her property will be larger than normal. The farm will also be set further off the highway to address recent complaints about solar arrays in the county.

“We set a higher bar to make this blend in with neighboring property,” Bendar told the board.

The site will cost around $10 million to build and employ nearly 100 people at the peak of construction; however the finished product will not require on-site employees, Bendar said.

Bender says that locals would “most likely” be employed by the construction company that wins the project bid.

“Scotland County has plenty of seasoned solar construction project workers,” Bendar said. “We have done four or five builds in the area already. I’m sure the final contractor would find an opportunity to use local labor.”

The county will not have any money tied up in the project, according to County Manager Kevin Patterson.

Construction of the solar farm could begin in summer of 2018 Bendar said. The company is currently renegotiating with Duke Energy over legislative and technical details.

The board voted with 5 to 4 to approve the permit with Commissioner Clarence McPhatter opposed.

In other business, the commissioners approved a provisional memorandum of understanding for a fire substation being built on the south end of Laurinburg.

The memorandum sets forth conditions for the agreement between Scotland County and the city of Laurinburg. The agreement says that the county will build the facility on the Purcell Road site, and the city, which owns the land, will operate the station. If the city chooses not to operate the station in the future, the county will be allowed to lease the land and bring in a third party to operate the substation. The county is also free to use the facility for another purpose if there were enough changes to cause that end of the county to not need a fire station.

Because the county will own the site for the other proposed substation in the northern part of the county, no agreement is needed. The property is being donated to the county by Z.V. Pate, and the county is begin the process to secure the land next week, according Patterson.

The board voted to move forward in talks with the city on the memorandum.

Work on the two facilities is expected to begin in a few months.

“We have signed and sent the contract off to the architect and we will begin construction by this summer,” Patterson said.

Also on Monday, the board voted to approve a new logo for Scotland County Parks & Recreation. The logo is a large-red- and blue SC lettering decorated with baseball and football laces and a swimmer over the words parks and recreation. A pine tree replaces the letter A in parks and a soccer player stands in for the letter I in recreation.

“We’re just trying to develop our own identity as a department,” said Bryan Graham, county director of parks and recreation. “I think it will be a good fit for us.”

In other business, the board approved the addition of a new lab test at the Health Department. The department can now run an Aerobic Bacterial Culture at a cost of $62.25.

In a related matter, a bad-debt write off for the Health Department was also approved. The write-off covers debt incurred from charity, unpaid bills and fees charged under Title 10 fund restrictions that pertain to underage clients coming in for family planning and STD testing.

The board voted to allow the Emergency Management to receive an additional $17,959 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Emergency Management Performance grant. The county receives an initial grant each year and can complete tasks to earn further grant monies each year, according to EMS Director Roylin Hammond.

The board also approved an increase in daycare allotment in the amount of $658,011 for Department of Social Services. The funds are part of money already allocated to DSS which were not put into the first budget and do not come from the county. The budget adjustment had to be made because Scotland County DSS was told by the state not to budget funds for the full year because the application process for daycare subsidies would be put on the NCFAST system this year.

NCFAST is a system created three years ago to allow DSS branches across the state to process applications for services, according to Director April Snead. Childcare services was supposed to have come online with NCFAST this year Snead said, but NCFAST is behind schedule.

The board agreed to receive $13,006 from the state library to reimburse Scotland County Memorial Library for costs incurred to put the NC Cardinal lending program in place.

Brian Bendar, president of Birds Eye Renewable Energy addresses the board of commissioners at a public to request a permit to use land on Fieldcrest Road as a solar farm. Bendar, president of Birds Eye Renewable Energy addresses the board of commissioners at a public to request a permit to use land on Fieldcrest Road as a solar farm.

By Beth Lawrence

Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169

Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169