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Influx of campers houses pipeline workers
Pipeline workers will fuel local economies

Camping trailers are beginning to spring up in McDuffie County.

But they aren't just for regular campers; they are providing homes for pipeline workers with a gigantic mission.

Their mission is to construct a 190-mile natural gas pipeline called Elba Express, which will allow the flow of gas from Elba Island near Savannah to Greenville, N.C.

Once they reach that point, the pipelines will be connected with other interstate pipelines to offer service throughout the Southeast and Eastern U.S.

As of Monday, there were 93 permitted camping trailers in McDuffie County, according to County Planning Director Fred Guerrant.

Those figures are expected to rise to more than 100 by the end of this week.

So what does it mean for McDuffie and surrounding counties? It means money -- lots of it.

"Because they have so many workers, it really does a lot to boost our local economy," Mr. Guerrant said. "These workers will have a significant impact on our economy, and that's a good thing."

Pipeline workers are expected to be in the area for up to eight months and possibly longer, he added.

Motels and hotels are reaping profit from the pipeline workers, as are restaurants and gas stations.

In McDuffie County, the economic boost couldn't have come at a better time as sales tax revenues are down. The same is true for motel/hotel taxes.

One such camper site is off Wrens Highway near May Road and just a short distance from Thomson.

The owner of the property there, Dwayne Boutwell, is leasing the space to dozens of campers.

Mr. Boutwell has installed electrical services and a septic tank, according to Mr. Guerrant. Other property owners have done the same thing or have renovated mobile home parks, such as one off Quail Farm Road. Another camping village is located off Salem Road.

"Some people have called to complain that we're becoming a camping village in McDuffie County, but that's simply not true," Mr. Guerrant said. "We've actually been very strict on campers in the past. And we still are."

For instance, County Health Inspector Tim Mosely is playing a "crucial role" in making sure that camping villages have septic tanks, Mr. Guerrant said.

Recently at a Dearing Town Council meeting, Ellen Stewart and Martha Hinton expressed interest in starting a camper village for pipeline workers. However, since they had no plans in place, council members withheld action.

"They didn't have any plans and they didn't know anything," Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley said. "So, I told them to come back when they had something for us to look at. Right now, it sounds like you want to put up a trailer park and I'm going to say no."

Mayor Kelley said he believes the women want to put it across from the post office.

"That's an issue, because we are concerned about traffic in and out of that highway at that very dangerous curve," Mayor Kelley said. "I'm being told it's good for the economy and I'm not against the little trailer parks.

"I'm a business owner. I'm in favor of everybody making money when they can," Mayor Kelley said. "We are not against what's going on there. But it's got to be done in a way that's safe for the public."

Web posted on Thursday, August 27, 2009

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