It’s been almost a year since Pittsylvania County officials announced a plan to turn Hurt’s former Klopman Mills site into Virginia’s second inland port and now the questions of cost and funding are becoming more clear.
Preliminary engineering and a feasibility study began January, and by this coming April, the Staunton River Regional Industrial Facility Authority should be officially formed from Pittsylvania County, the city of Danville, and the towns of Altavista and Hurt. This RIFA will be similar to the one that allows Danville and Pittsylvania County to pool resources for the creation and upkeep of industrial parks.
“We as a community have to look at and agree on what we want out at the property,” Pittsylvania County Economic Development Director Matt Rowe said. “That’s been a really good discussion, because we have four different localities with four different ideas about how the park should be run.”
Inland ports are goods transportation hubs that are directly connected to the railroad system or interstates and highways, making transportation simple for companies.
Plans for Hurt’s inland port are based on the layout of an inland port in Greer, South Carolina, which would require roughly 50 acres of land for the port, laid directly over the Klopman Mills site. It leaves 750 adjoining acres available for future businesses to build on.
The state’s only other inland port is in Front Royal, located in Northern Virginia, and has attracted the business of distribution centers for such companies as Home Depot, Kohl’s, Rite Aid and Red Bull. In fact, more than 30 different companies surround it.
One of the moving parts of putting together an inland port this size is deciding on the right amount of water and sewer lines for the park to start.
The town of Altavista, Pittsylvania County and the Samet Corp., which owns the former Klopman Mills site, funded a $27,990 study to see how much it would cost to bring industry levels of potable water and sewer to the park.
All of that water would come through the Altavista Water Treatment Plant and the Hurt Booster Station, according to hired consultants Peed and Boltz Civil/ Environmental Engineers.
“They’re in much better shape with water than with sewer,” Assistant Pittsylvania County Administrator Richard Hicks said. “They’ve got in the neighborhood of 400,000 to 500,000 gallons a day in excess capacity that can be used for customers. If we go beyond that point, they’ll have to update their plant.”
The process for updating the plant can take up to three years to get from start to finish, and will be pricy.
To get the first level of water and sewer for the multimodal park alone, it will cost $774,000. The various localities aren’t sure where the funding for it would come from.
“You really don’t know what you need until you get an industry,” Hicks said. “The industry may come in and only need 200,000 gallons a day. If it’s that, you can probably handle it. If you want two million gallons a day, you’re going to need to spend a lot more money.”
That cost would be offset over time through the fees charged to whatever companies come into the park.
“I imagine at some point in time that there’d have to be some sort of joint venture between Altavista, the county and the Samet Corp.,” Hicks said. “I don’t know what that would look like.”
Discussions will continue once county and town staff returns from the holiday break.
“We’re looking at getting the plans and specifications done, so that if industries do show up, we can show that we’re already looking down the road,” Hicks said. “I can see that being done between the three parties.”
With the discussions being had among the localities that will become part of the Staunton River RIFA, “we’ve been able to key in on the areas that we want this property to focus on,” Rowe said.
The industries that the soon-to-be Staunton River RIFA hopes to bring to the former Klopman Mills site are high-value processing and manufacturing, said Rowe.
“The site, even the namesake itself, is really well suited for multiple modes of transportation, and the companies that we’re talking with and have shortlisted the site for projects agree,” Rowe said.
Norfolk-Southern already has railroad tracks in place, and a third-party rail company is also willing to service the site, he explained.
“We think, honestly, that the citizens will be very pleased with the type of development that we’re aiming for on the property,” Rowe said. “We have three active projects at the site right now. One has selected the site, one is looking very likely, and the other has shortlisted it. They’re all pretty substantial projects.”