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Halt of pipeline project draws mixed reactions

Marvin Winstead is quite a happy man right now.

That is because Winstead on Sunday afternoon quickly found out Dominion Energy and Duke Energy jointly announced the intention to call off the approximately $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, citing increasing costs and ongoing battles in the judicial system.

Winstead on Monday told the Telegram of having been against the pipeline since day one.

And Winstead told of having to spend so much time fighting the project he entrusted, via a lease, the operations of his farm in central Nash County to a neighbor.

In speaking of day one, Winstead was referring to having received a letter in May 2014 notifying him of a proposal to cross his approximately 70-acre farm as part of a future route to pipe natural gas some 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina via Virginia.

And Winstead noted as late as last week, announcements were being sent out by the two utility giants saying they would be moving forward with the project, this given a 7-2 ruling on June 15 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling allowed part of the pipeline to be constructed under part of the scenic Appalachian Trail.

“And then, of course, yesterday (Sunday), the abrupt about face in announcing that the pipeline was canceled was the best news I’ve had in six years,” Winstead said.

“My farm is safe, but everybody else benefits from this decision, too,” Winstead said. “The companies are finally doing the right thing.”

Winstead is a member of the non-profit regional Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and he also is a leader of what is called Nash Stop the Pipeline.

Winstead expressed appreciation to the league, along with other fellow activists and groups.

Winstead told of being contacted on Sunday by a person with the league, Therese Vick, about the news of the cancellation of the project.

Winstead told of asking Vick in response, “Are you sure about what you’re saying?”

“I wanted to double check,” Winstead said. “I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they had made the announcement.”

Additionally, Winstead noted one might notice the announcement was made on a holiday weekend when the attention of many was going to be focused on other things.

Winstead, who himself has legal action pending as part of his opposition to the project, told the Telegram he believes the pipeline was unnecessary.

“It was not going to increase natural gas supplies to the area,” Winstead said. “It was just going to be a different source of supply.”

And Winstead made clear he believes renewable sources of energy, such as solar power, wind power and battery systems, have made much progress in meeting the needs of the power grid and at less cost than in the past.

“So the companies need to really get on board with the renewables and work toward all of us having clean, renewable energy as our source of energy,” Winstead said.

Winstead also was quick to respond when the Telegram asked him about the subject of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project in context of the economy and jobs.

Winstead said “talking points” from proponents of the project included that the pipeline was going to make up for what was lost as a result of the closures of textile mills and the decline of the tobacco industry.

“They never substantiated those claims,” Winstead said. “They never proved them statistically. They never had any research studies that proved that.”

As for what is next for Winstead, he told the Telegram he is going to be able to tend to his farm again.

“I will be making plans next year,” Winstead said. “I’ll be in the tractor seat and not my neighbor.”

Not everyone had the same reaction as Winstead about what happened on Sunday, however.

Earlier on Monday, Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson told the Telegram of being disappointed of there not being the additional infrastructure requirement many companies need.

Tolson said he understands Dominion and Duke having faced a prolonged legal battle to overcome the objections of the environmental community, which he said drove up the costs of the project.

Tolson also said apparently Dominion and Duke were concerned about further legal battles ahead.

“And so, at some point, economic sanity prevailed and they said, ‘Look, being good stockholder companies, we’ve got to be sensitive about our shareholders. And so we’re going to pull back. We’re going to drop this project at this point,’” Tolson said.

Tolson also said of what happened on Sunday, “We’re disappointed about that because I think it is a significant issue for all of rural North Carolina, especially eastern North Carolina, to not have access to a sort of unlimited supply of natural gas.”

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris on Monday told the Telegram his organization is both disappointed and saddened.

Farris, while making clear his organization is sensitive to the environmental needs in the Twin Counties, said he believes there are going to be other opportunities for the area in terms of energy beyond the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“I don’t think we’ve ever felt like we would live or die with the pipeline,” Farris said. “It certainly seemed like it was going to be or play a major role in economic development.

“But, like in life, a lot of things don’t work out quite like we would like them to — and maybe it’s for a reason,” Farris said.

New storage facility opens for business

The Rocky Mount Ample Storage is open for business along Sunset Avenue in the Westridge area of the northwestern part of the city.

Parks Byrd, president of Ample’s parent business, Smithfield-based Lampe Management, told the Telegram on Monday he and his team are elated to be able to provide future customers in the Twin Counties with a full-service storage facility.

Asked whether the telephone has been ringing with calls or whether emails having been coming in from people who want to book a space, Byrd said, “Oh, absolutely, yeah.”

Byrd said he went to the location on Thursday afternoon to deliver a golf cart for on-premises use “and two people drove up ready to rent.”

As for what he foresees regarding the location’s future potential, Byrd said, “I think it will lease up really quickly. We were discussing that last week and again this morning.

“I think we’re very well positioned in town as far as our location in town,” Byrd said. “It does look like Rocky Mount is getting more healthy by the day and by the year.

“So I think it’ll be, hopefully, less than a 12-month fill up,” Byrd said.

Byrd said by full, he means operating with 90 percent of the units in use by customers.

“So I think it’ll go inside of 12 months and if it does, I think will expand relatively quickly,” Byrd said.

The Rocky Mount Ample Storage is going to be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Customers are going to be able to enter the premises from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week with a gate code and 24/7 access can be offered to customers who need to be able to bring in, store and take out items and merchandise at odd hours.

Byrd said the Rocky Mount Ample Storage has a manager, Terry Davis, as well as a full-time employee and a part-time employee.

The Rocky Mount Ample Storage offers climate-controlled storage and drive-up storage and also offers a truck with a 14-foot enclosed bed for free, this for a customer needing to move items from a location into a storage space for the first time.

And the Rocky Mount Ample Storage sells locks and packing and moving supplies.

Overall, Byrd said there is approximately 73,000 square feet of space on the premises, with the total count of units being at 478, with 355 of those 478 being climate controlled.

Byrd said the sizes of the units vary, with the smallest climate controlled unit being 5 feet by 5 feet and the largest climate controlled unit being 15 feet by 30 feet.

Byrd said the smallest non-climate controlled unit is 5 feet by 10 feet and the largest non-climate controlled unit is 15 feet by 30 feet.

Byrd said the premises can be expanded to possibly as large as a total of 125,000 square feet and also said he and his team can add approximately 200 more units quite quickly if needed.

Mayor Sandy Roberson told the Telegram the city has been lacking in climate controlled storage spaces and said he believes Lampe Management did a good job with site selection in Rocky Mount.

“I’m always pro-job, pro-Rocky Mount, pro-business,” Roberson said. “So I’m just delighted that they are in town, they are opening — and want to thank ‘em for investing their capital into our community.”

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris, when told by the Telegram the Rocky Mount Ample Storage was opening for business, said, “That is great.”

“That’s a good looking facility,” Farris said. “We’re delighted to have that.

“I think it’s a sizable investment in the community,” Farris said. “And there’s obviously a need for it. And those things help when they’re under construction with jobs — and afterwards with utilities and taxes, as well as storage.”

Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson told the Telegram, “That’s a great announcement for Rocky Mount.”

“It continues to show that Rocky Mount truly is a city on the rise,” Tolson said. “There are so many wonderful things happening around the Rocky Mount economy right now.

“It’s sometimes hard for the local folks to see it, but when you look at it from the vantage point of us in the economic development community, we continue to see Rocky Mount doing all the right things to get itself positioned to continue to grow,” Tolson said. “And we think that’s going to happen.”

The Ample name is a rearrangement of the letters of the last name of the Lampe family, which has long been in the lumber and building supply business.

Lampe Management is a commercial real estate company established in 1982 and the company went into the storage business and developed quite a long list of locations.

Byrd said there are 47 Ample Storage locations, along with 25 storage locations Lampe Management is operating under the name American Flag.

The Rocky Mount Ample Storage is located at 4025 Sunset and can be reached by phone at 252-429-6805.

COVID-19 cases continue to climb in area

After more than a week of surging numbers, Nash County now has 200 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than Edgecombe County.

As of Monday, the Nash County Health Department reported a cumulative total of 533 cases of COVID-19. Of that number, 306 people are considered recovered, 201 are isolated at home, 20 are hospitalized and six have died.

The Edgecombe County Health Department reported 333 cumulative positive cases on Monday. Of that number, 280 people are considered recovered and nine have died.

The total number of confirmed cases in the Twin Counties has now reached 766.

The surge in numbers in Nash County comes after the most active week on record so far. From June 27 to July 3, the number of cases in Nash County escalated from under 400 to over 500.

On June 26, 388 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported by the Nash County Health Department. By the following Friday, 509 cases had been reported.

Nash County Health Director Bill Hill said he was disappointed to see the surge in cases.

“I was in high hopes a month ago that we would not have this increase,” Hill said Friday at a meeting of the Nash County COVID Emergency Response Team. “I really thought that the number of cases would be getting better before the inevitable second wave in the fall.”

Hill said the surge in cases is worrisome.

“We had 121 new cases this week alone,” Hill said. “Before this week, the highest number of cases were 69 in one week. That metric has nearly doubled.”

Since Friday, another 28 cases have been reported in Nash County. However, four past cases recently were transferred to other counties.

Part of the surge in cases can be attributed to an outbreak at the Hunter Hill Senior Living Center in Rocky Mount. At least 34 cases of COVID-19 were reported last week at that facility. Since then, another staff member has tested positive for the coronavirus, Hill said at a meeting on Monday.

While the number of cases has risen, the number of hospitalizations has begun to drop, Hill said. From a recent high of 26 Nash County residents hospitalized, 19 were hospitalized on Friday. While most of these COVID-19 patients are older adults, Hill said that one 19-year-old with pre-existing conditions was hospitalized Thursday night.

By Monday, that number had climbed slightly to 20.

The health department also released updated demographic information Monday. Of the 533 cases confirmed in Nash County so far, 217 have been in African-Americans, 165 have been in Hispanics, 127 have been in Caucasians and four have been in Native Americans. The other cases were found in mixed race people or are unknown, Hill said Monday.

The 27804 zip code of Rocky Mount remains the epicenter of Nash County cases with 170 cases reported as of Friday. The 27803 Rocky Mount zip code has the second highest total with 75 cases. The 27807 zip code in the Bailey area is close behind with 71 cases.

Filing period opens for Nash County school board

The filing period to run for the Nash County Board of Education began Monday and will remain open until noon on Aug. 7.

Six seats on the Nash County school board are up for grabs this year. After one day of filing, two people have signed up to run.

The District 1 seat occupied by Doneva Chavis is up for election this year. In a previous interview, Chavis indicated that she does not plan to seek re-election. However, Chavis still has time to alter her plans.

The District 3 seat occupied by board Chairman Franklin Lamm also will be on the ballot this year. Lamm has not yet signed up for re-election in the new filing period.

School board member Bill Sharpe’s District 5 seat is also up for grabs this year. Sharpe has not yet filed for re-election.

The District 7 seat held by Richard Jenkins is also open in the 2020 election cycle. Jenkins had not yet announced his decision to run for re-election.

Evelyn Bulluck has filed to run for re-election to her District 10 seat. Bulluck filed Monday at the Nash County Board of Elections. So far, she faces no challenger. This seat is in a cross-county district as it extends into Edgecombe County.

The District 11 seat that was occupied by the board’s former vice chairwoman Ann Edge is open this year as Edge succumbed to cancer in April. Sharonda Bulluck filed to run for that post Monday. Though this district is also a cross-county seat, Bulluck filed with the Nash County Board of Elections, indicating that she resides in that county.

Anyone interested in running for the Nash County Board of Education must complete and submit a Notice of Candidacy at the Board of Elections office in the county of their residence. A $60 filing fee must accompany the notice.

Elections to the Nash County Board of Education will take place as part of the General Election in November.

The filing period for election to the Nash County Soil and Water Conservation Board ended at noon Monday. Only one person, Robert Curtis Glover Jr., filed for that race. That filing period opened on June 8.