LUMBERTON — Two hundred and thirty-six days after Hurricane Matthew hit and its floodwaters swamped their offices, employees of The Robesonian will return Thursday to work at its refurbished building on Roberts Avenue.
About 18 inches of water inundated the 36,500-square-foot building when Matthew hit on Oct. 8, destroying essentially everything, including flooring, walls, electronics and furniture, all of which has been replaced. Total damage at the newspaper, which included some vehicles, was just short of $2 million.
The newspaper’s News, Advertising, Circulation, Graphics and Pagination departments have been operating out of a temporary office on Fourth Street in downtown Lumberton, The Bladen Journal and Laurinburg Exchange for the past several months, while administration has been housed in a trailer in the parking lot of the old office. The production crew has been working out of the back of the building, where flooding caused extensive damage but stopped short of destroying the press.
Peter Fleming, director of Operations for Civitas Media, which owns the newspaper, directed the renovations and hit the June 1 move-in date.
“I am delighted to know that in less than 24 hours, our employees will be reunited and back under one roof,” said Denise Ward, The Robesonian’s publisher. “Special thanks to Peter Fleming for overseeing this project. Our general contractor and local vendors have been wonderful. On behalf of myself and employees of The Robesonian, we would like to thank you, our readers, and the community for your patience and understanding while being displaced for a long, seven and a half months.”
The Robesonian’s doors will open to the public at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Matthew and its never-been-seen-before flooding locally that followed hit Robeson County harder than any other county in the state, and Lumberton was hit harder than any other municipality in the county. Water from a canal that runs behind the newspaper office began entering the building about 1 p.m. on Oct. 8. The newspaper delivered news online and using social media for one week. The first print edition to be published after the storm hit the streets on Oct. 16. The newspaper’s press was back in action Oct. 26 because repairs were made first in that part of the building.
Fleming was challenged by the extent of the damage, and a desire to return some normalcy to the workday for the newspaper’s staff. The renovation assignment was personal to him.
“I look back on this project as the most rewarding I have ever performed in my career,” he said. “I knew the people well before the flood took place and understood the impact it had on them, and I know how much The Robesonian means to this community. Now that we are nearly finished I take a great deal of pride in seeing the new Robesonian facility.”
Nye Construction, based in Orrum, was the project’s general contractor. Townsend Electric, of Lumberton, handled electrical work, and Rook Technologies, of Lumberton, handled the networking duties, Brooks Carpet & Pro Flooring, did the flooring, and & Stone & Stone Painting, did the painting. Miller Electrical Heating and Air Conditioning, of Dillon, S.C., handled the heating, ventilation and air conditioning work. The furniture was purchased from Corporate Interiors, of Fayetteville.
Editor Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649.