ROCKINGHAM — The city council has moved forward on two major question marks for Rockingham: What to do with the long-idle Midway Dam and the vacant Food King building on East Washington Street?
The city has entered an agreement with Cascades Tissue Group to remove the dam. By removing it, the city hopes to restore Hitchcock Creek to its “natural flow conditions” for the benefit of wildlife and recreation along the Blue Trail.
“With the removal of the Midway Dam, Hitchcock Creek will be open from Roberdel (Pond) all the way to the Pee Dee River,” said City Manager Monty Crump. “That will remove this impediment for canoes and kayaks and make it a little safer.”
In a letter addressed to Crump, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Cascades Pierre Brochu said, “Cascades has no objection to such city project.”
The creek was previously segmented by another dam, the Steele’s Mill Dam, which was removed in 2009. Crump said this will allow shad and other fish species to go back to their traditional spawning areas, which he said have been blocked for more than 100 years.
“(The Midway Dam) served its purpose over the years but it’s like all dams that were put in in the southeast, they were built to power textile plants or paper plants but when they moved on, the dams were left as remnants,” Crump said.
The agreement states that the city will be responsible for raising the funds to complete the removal. Engineers from The Resource Institute are evaluating the removal process, according to Assistant City Manger John Massey.
The agreement also states that the removal will be completed within two years, but Massey cautioned that this timeline is “a little bit ambitious.”
“Two years is what we’re shooting for,” Massey said. The process to remove the Steele’s Mill Dam took about six years, he added.
The City of Rockingham has agreed to purchase the building that formerly hosted Food King, as well as the adjoining parking lot, for the purpose of “economic redevelopment.” The property cost the city $60,000, according to Crump. He said the city will be renovating the building for any new tenant, adding there is at least one “active prospect” to purchase the building from the city.
“It feels amazing because when you enter downtown that is literally the first piece of real estate, largest focal point of entering downtown and it’s been an eyesore for years,” said Jamie Moss, a real estate broker with RE/MAX who has been heavily involved with the deal. “I’m excited that city has purchased it and hope that it will breathe new life into that block.”
Mayor Steve Morris said that he is hoping to keep the trend of local real estate ownership.
“This is another chance to buy a very very important parcel of land as far as the whole downtown development and you get it at a reasonable price,” he said of the purchase. “Our philosophy all along has been: It’s difficult to ask people to invest in your town if you’re not willing to invest in yourself, and we’ve done it … we’ve invested our money and it will pay good dividends.”
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]