The Smithfield Town Council could decide the fate of the old Smithfield Water Plant as early as September. During the monthly town council meeting on Tuesday night, the council agreed to get estimates on the cost of tearing down the plant. Previous cost estimates have ranged from $70,000 to $160,000.
Councilman Perry Harris said he would like to see the building torn down and the land, which is adjacent to the Neuse River and Greenway, to be kept by the town for future use.
Councilman Travis Scott said he would like to have see the building remain, but after recently walking inside the dilapidated building said it would be cost prohibitive to renovate or refurbish.
Sarah Edwards, Director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation (DSDC) said the building has great potential and said she would like to see the Town allow more time to see if someone would be willing to redevelop the property.
In November 2014, the Town Council approved a request from the DSDC to apply for tax credits for anyone who might develop the facility in the future, but there have not been any takers.
In 1911, the Town of Smithfield issued a $55,000 bond for the construction of the water plant after it was passed by voters. The 1911 bond also included work for water, sewer, and an “electrical light plant” which were considered to be vital for the towns growth.
The water treatment plant at the north end of Front Street was originally completed in 1913. The three story, three bay brick building had segmental arched openings, a corbelled cornice, and several one- and two-story brick additions.
According to state archive records from 1913, “E. R. Patterson recalled what a spectacle the strange men and machines made as they brought these new improvements to his sleepy and dark southern town.”
In September 2010, an arson fire at the vacant water plant caused minor damage. Smithfield Police said at the time a mattress inside the building was likely set on fire by a homeless person. No arrests were ever made.
Officials could decide at their September 1st meeting if they will move forward with demolition plans or look at other possible options.