St. Pauls votes to annex Pepsi site

By: By Bob Shiles -

ST. PAULS — The St. Pauls Board of Commissioners on Thursday approved annexing about 66 acres on N.C. 20 west of St. Pauls on which Pepsi is building a distribution center.

The annexation was voluntary and requested by property owners Pepsi Bottling Ventures LLC, former state Sen. Michael Walters and his wife, Barbara Walters, and Claybourn and Peggy Walters. The Walters family owns 17 acres of the annexed property. The annexation becomes effective Jan. 1.

The unanimous vote in favor of the annexation was taken after a public hearing during which no one came forward to speak.

Pepsi Bottling Ventures announced late in 2016 that it would build a $16.5 million distribution center near St. Pauls. The company said 50 new jobs are being created and 200 jobs that might have been lost to Robeson County if another site for the distribution center had been chosen are being saved.

Pepsi has said the annual average annual salary for people working at the distribution center will be $39,500.

Town Administrator J.R. Steigerwald said the center is expected to be in full operation by mid-January. A job fair for people wanting to work at the center was held in Fairmont and there will be a job fair in St. Pauls soon.

The commissioners also gave Steigerwald the OK to begin the process of changing the zoning from industrial to central business for a building at 108 S. Burlington St., where a video game room is planned

Steigerwald said the property should have been rezoned years ago.

Such gaming businesses are permitted only in a central business zone, he said. He would prefer to have a game room located on one of the town’s side streets, such as Burlington Street, rather than on Broad Street, which runs directly through downtown.

The commissioners showed little interest in making a zoning change that would encourage the establishment of game rooms that would provide opportunities for gambling.

“By law you can’t prohibit game rooms,” he said. “But you can control them through zoning.”

Mayor Gerald J. Weindel said after the meeting that he would prefer not to see gaming machines become established in St. Pauls.

“The legislature has ruled them illegal. Why bring them back.” Weindel said. “That would be a mistake … . It’s an activity that I don’t believe should be exercised in any town.”

In other business, the board:

— Voted in favor of rezoning 122 E. Blue St. from R-10 to Professional. Steigerwald said the zone must be changed to allow for a proposed office building.

— Authorized the town’s police chief to pay officers overtime if deemed necessary and approved by the town administrator.

— Adopted a special skills pay increase for town employees who are bilingual.

— Approved a contract for construction of a new roof on the Town Hall. Weindel said the contract was for about $88,000.

— Approved $10,000 in federal Powell Bill money for repair of town sidewalks.

J.R. Steigerwald Steigerwald

By Bob Shiles

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.