Newton Grove board: no action required on solar farm, application withdrawn

By Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

March 11, 2014

An application for a solar farm on Bells Branch Road that has brought much concern from Newton Grove residents was withdrawn Monday night, leaving the town’s Board of Commissioners with nothing to consider regarding the issue.

They were expected to take up the Planning Board’s decision last week to deny the request for the solar farm.

“At this time, there is no action required for case 1402 for the application for a proposed solar farm on Bells Branch Road,” said Faye Lewis, Rural Planning Organization Planner for Newton Grove.

“Mr. Paul Fluery, representing Sustainable Energy Solutions, is withdrawing the application at this time,” she acknowledged during the town’s regular meeting Monday night.

The application for the solar farm on Bells Branch Road, also known as CU 1402, has brought up concerns among residents about the potential for declining property values, among other things. Residents on Bells Branch Road, where the solar farm was to be located, have been very vocal about their opposition to such a farm locating in their area.

The town did, however, approve amendments to an already OK’d solar farm Monday night, this one on Grove Street, with board member Gary Mac Herring making the motion to approve and Teresa Wilson providing the necessary second. There was no opposition to that farm.

New commissioner

is sworn in

At the beginning of the meeting, Laura Wheeler was sworn in as the newest member of the town board, filling the seat vacated by new Mayor Barbara Burch and taking on the responsibilities as water commissioner.She will complete Burch’s term, slated to end in 2015.

Wheeler said in her letter of intent that she had been a resident of Newton Grove for the first 18 years of her life. Wheeler has adult education experience, along with management experience.

She said that prior to the meeting she has looked at the water system for the town and she listed some of the upcoming repairs the town is going to have to start budgeting for, such as replacing the tank liner as well as painting the water tower.

The water meter for the mobile home park was also replaced, consolidating existing meters to one. The town will be billing the owner of the property, who lives in Faison, at the commercial rate.

“I sent them a letter telling them how many gallons were used last year and what their bill will look like,” said town clerk Amanda Turner. When questioned by Burch, Turner also confirmed that notice has been sent to the owner via certified mail.

Due to the aging of some of the town’s property, bids and estimates were delved into in regards to maintenance of the town and figuring out the town’s phone system. The town still has concerns about the phone lines working properly, which is likely due to the age of the existing lines.

“We have had issues with our phones,” detailed Turner. “They were making all kinds of crazy noises and cutting out all the time.” It was previously mentioned that when people would call into the town it would not connect them either.

“They got them fixed temporarily but we really need to have a new phone system,” stressed Turner. Currently the town has two lines coming into the building, one for the town hall and one for the Police Department. The estimate that they have would replace the lines, and give them a new one dedicated for a fax line, as well as replace the phones themselves.

“Right now the Police Department runs about $90 a month for the phone bill,” explained Turner. “And with Star it would be $35.”

The board also looked at their mowing contract, tearing down the CUPEP building, and mulching locations around the town including the circle, town building, and library.

A spring cleanup for the town is also being worked out. The board discussed the option of having curbside collection versus having a dumpster available for residents. After a brief discussion the dumpster was considered the best option, and the dates of the cleanup will be potentially set for sometime after Memorial Day.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at