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Posted Monday, September 24, 2012
Pittsboro, NC - The S. T. Wooten Corporation plant on Sugar Lake Road in eastern Chatham County was installed around 1974 on a lease to Lee Paving Company. There were highway projects which justified this plant, including the US Highway 64 bridges crossing Jordan Lake circa 1980. At that time, there were no houses or developments on Sugar Lake Road and Sugar Lake itself was still a stone quarry operated by American Stone.
The first development on the road was The Orchard, about 80 acres to the west of the plant begun in 1985. Redbud, the next development to the west of the Orchard, was begun a few years later. I did some land clearing for The Orchard in early 1985 and was a partner in the company for both developments.
Place these dates with the protests of the occupants of the houses near the paving plant. The priority of who has rights to privacy and tranquility becomes secondary to the knowledge that the plant existed as a neighboring, ongoing operation before the residents bought and built. In other words, a resident bought a house knowing that the plant was there and was forewarned.
In the 1970's, there were a few paving companies in North Carolina, Barnhill, Barrus and Mangum. They did most of the highway paving projects for the NCDOT. In time, S. T. Wooten Corporation excelled in the paving asphalt and concrete production for NC highways. The company has nine hundred employees in its system statewide and pays over $ 100,000 in sales tax from its in Chatham County operations. There are three plants in the Chatham location. They are in the center of a western Triangle area serving Lee, Chatham, western Wake, Durham, Orange counties.
The NCDOT specifies when the asphalt and concrete must be delivered in contracts, so operation at night is not optional for Wooten. It is mandatory and occurs typically between April and November each year. These events are rare and seasonal, but not under company control.
Weekend activity is restricted to maintenance and repairs, when there are delivery contracts, not every weekend. Lighting of the site is a safety precaution. Several STW plants have experienced theft, causing large losses and repairs.
The asphalt and concrete products are delivered to highways, schools, hospitals, county buildings, towns, police stations, BB&T and Exxon(15-501 and US 64 in Chatham) and other major road and building projects. During project periods, the few employees are increased by truckers and paving crews and the economy grows. Thus, economic impact is far greater than that of a small asphalt plant.
The S. T. Wooten company keeps a low good will profile, at the behest of its owners. It does not publicize its charitable acts. Following Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the company supported employees and communities whose homes and lives were destroyed by the storm. Similar acts of kindness are given without publicity in all communities where its plants are located.
S. T. Wooten is a good corporate neighbor and a necessary part of North Carolina infrastructure development. It complies with local, state and federal regulations. When it purchased the Sugar Lake location in 2000, the NCDOT was still doing abatement of pollution caused by Lee Paving asphalt waste management. At the time, there were no state regulations governing those wastes.
S.T. Wooten has no legal responsibility for this problem and grants NCDOT continued access to the property for testing.
At present, Water Quality Section of NCDENR monitors testing wells for water pollution on the site. The company complied with Chatham’s Appearance Commission requests for landscaping and site design during its application process for the new concrete plant on the property next to the asphalt plant. Note: the natural buffer of native trees and plants meets or exceeds the landscaping requirements of the Appearance Commission on all sides of the operation. The application is for a concrete plant, not another asphalt plant. Pollution from it would be dust, not toxic material. Ingredients are rock, sand, water and a small amount of concrete. Further, corporate policy for problem resolution is proactive.
Next time one drives on US Highway 64 east or west from Pittsboro or north or south on US 15-501 Highway, be mindful that S. T. Wooten and its predecessors made those roads under contract with the NCDOT for your comfort and safety.
If you bought a home on Sugar Lake Road or one of its offshoots, be thankful that they are paved and safe. However, you did know about this plant before you moved there.
This article is written by Tom Glendinning - 43 year resident of Chatham, 48 year resident of North Carolina, 40 year businessman, an economic pundit and general curmudgeon.
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