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Ready for Redevelopment

Lincoln County supervisors have taken control of an oldcounty-owned manufacturing building with the hopes of flipping itfrom a state of vacancy to one of usefulness.

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said supervisorsare set to tour the Keystone Seneca building in the old industrialpark in the near future to gain a better perspective of what thebuilding might be used for, and to catalogue remaining assets itsformer occupant claims have been left behind.

Supervisors have been contemplating the building’s potentialuses since canceling Keystone’s lease in late 2008 after thebuilding sat empty since fall 2007. Keystone sent a late leasepayment almost immediately after supervisors pulled the plug, butthe check was promptly returned and the property is back in countyhands.

“The county instructed our attorney to cancel the lease so wecan begin to develop a plan in conjunction with our chamber ofcommerce and [Industrial Development Foundation] to put somebody inthe building,” Bishop said.

Bishop said the company was attempting to sublease the property,an option supervisors would have likely settled with as long assome type of employment was provided through the deal. Keystone’sattempts have been unsuccessful, however, and now the county willtry its hand at re-leasing the site.

“They still want to pay on the building and rent it, for what?”said Lincoln County Board of Supervisors President the Rev. JerryWilson. “They’ve done gutted out everything and there’s nothingthere. They say they still have some material in there they cansell – I’d like to know what.”

Wilson, who worked as a supervisor in the Keystone plant formore than 24 years, said he thinks a similar operation would dowell in the facility.

“There’s still people out there that will come in and use it foranother screen wire plant,” he said. “They weren’t the only stringwire plant in the U.S. Bring in your machines and set ’em up, theycan do good. It made money.”

The county, chamber and IDF will face challenges in trying toplace a modern manufacturer into the Keystone building, said CliffBrumfield, executive vice president of the Brookhaven-LincolnCounty Chamber of Commerce. The building, built in 1956 and used byKeystone for decades to manufacture wire cloth, is ill suited tohandle the needs of modern industry.

“The ceilings are entirely too low, the roof needs repair insome areas and the facility is split up into several added-onbuildings with very close space in between columns,” Brumfieldsaid. “Although the building has been a very important part of ourindustrial history, it is now thoroughly unsuitable for modernmanufacturing.”

The Keystone building still has some potential uses, Brumfieldpointed out, and enjoys great placement in the industrial park.Though its short ceilings and tight spaces make it unsuitable forforklifts and manufacturing, the Keystone building does have plentyof space which could be used for storage and warehousing and islocated adjacent the Canadian National Railway.

“The local IDF and chamber stands willing to work with anyoneinterested in utilizing the building to create jobs and strengthenthe local economy,” Brumfield said. “[By canceling the lease] thecounty is working to protect local citizens’ interest, which shouldmake sense to anyone.”

Brumfield pointed out that the county is in control of anotheraspect of Keystone – since the property is county owned,supervisors are in total control, meaning the building will not endup sold away and become a giant pile of rubble like the formerHomelite Jacobsen plant across the street.