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December 22, 2011 Issue

Wrens plant one step closer
Tree of Memories
City’s offer catches lawyer off guard
Louisville’s Club Apollo to reopen, five months after shootings

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Wrens plant one step closer

By Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

With an EPD announcement earlier this week, the Jefferson County Development Authority is one step closer to having its first tenant at the Kings Mill Road industrial park, an industry that could bring some 300 construction jobs and pump an estimated $2 million into the local economy over the next 18 months.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) recently announced its intent to issue PyraMax Ceramics, LLC a PSD permit and a Case-by-Case MACT Air Quality Permit for the construction and operation of a ceramic proppant manufacturing facility to be located near Wrens.

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The draft permits and all information used to develop the permits are available for review at the Jefferson County Courthouse and online at http://www.georgiair.org/airpermit/html/permits/psd/main.html.

EPD is currently accepting written public comments concerning the permits for the proposed project. A public meeting and hearing have been scheduled for Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wrens Council chamber.

PyraMax representatives recently met with area elected officials to explain what they intend to produce at the site and discuss the local impact.

Despite having permit applications in the works in both Georgia and South Carolina, Don Anschutz, president of PyraMax Ceramics, LLC, told area officials that the Kings Mill location is their primary site, assuming the final permits are issued at the same time.

Draft permits were issued in both states on Dec. 15 and are both subjected to a 30 day comment period.

“An experienced management team has been brought together for this venture with over 100 years of combined experience in proppant manufacturing, testing and sales along with more general experience in the oil and gas business,” Anschutz said.

The plant will use kaolin to produce ceramic proppant, tiny balls of baked clay that is used in hydraulic fracture (fracking) operations in other parts of the country. Millions of pounds of this material is pumped into fractures in the earth to prop fissures apart allowing resources like natural gas and oil to be extracted.

“Hydraulic fracturing started in Kansas using water, a gelling agent and later adding river sand as a propping agent,” Anschutz said. “With the new proppants, wells that lasted months, can now last years.”

Anschutz said that the patent on how this material is produced expired about three years ago and his company sees an overall growth market for high quality proppant produced in America. China and Russia, previously non-existent in the U.S. proppant market, have been successful in penetrating the U.S. market because of the increased demand and short supply. his company sees an overall growth market for high quality proppant produced in America. China and Russia, previously non-existent in the U.S. proppant market, have been successful in penetrating the U.S. market because of the increased demand and short supply.

“We’re not redeveloping the wheel,” Anschutz said. “We are expanding on a process that we know works.”

During the recent meeting, Anschutz and the PyraMax team shared an engineer’s three-dimensional computer generated model of the plant, how it will look and operate.

Once operational, the company will be mining kaolin from a site on Highway 88 between Sandersville and Wrens, trucking it to the plant where it will be mixed in slurry tanks, screened, processed and pelletized.

“We built safety into this plant,” Anschutz said. “The majority of the people will not even be in the plant itself.”

He explained how the majority of the plant’s employees, including the quality control staff, will be working in an onsite control center separated from the kilns.

“Fourteen million dollars is being invested in the best available air emission control technology,” Anschutz said. “We are going to make it as green as we possibly can.”

Michael Burgess, the company’s vice president of manufacturing, will also be the Wrens interim plant manager.

“The way we are designing this plant, emissions will be a third of what they are in other places,” Burgess said. “This is going to be a world-class plant.”

He said the plant will be recirculating air back through the process, using a higher temperature air stream to begin with, thereby making it safer and more efficient.

“Emission wise, there’s nothing really ever leaving the plant,” Anschutz said. “We designed the plant with the idea in mind of if we lived here, how would we want to live. There will even be tire washers so we don’t track kaolin out on the roads.”

Everything is shipped out by rail and primarily going to North Dakota and Texas, he said.

“We’ve spent millions already,” Anschutz said. “There are items we’ve ordered months ago with the anticipation that this (the EPD permits) will go through.”

He said that similar companies typically build a one-line process, but at the Wrens plant, PyraMax plans to start with two lines.

“We’ll be arguably the second largest U.S. producer the day we come on line,” Anschutz said. “The world’s largest capacity plant produces 1,75 billion pounds and we’re starting out at 500 million.”

If the final air permit is issued within the next 45 days, Anschutz said he hopes construction can begin in the first quarter of 2012.

“We’re talking 300 plus construction jobs and related expenses over the next 18 months,” Anschutz said. “We’ll be using local subcontractors. Once operational, the plant will have 60 full time positions that pay between $15 and $30 an hour.”

The engineers will make more.

Between the plant and the indirect jobs at the mine, the rail and trucking, the PyraMax facility could support as many as 200 positions, representatives said.

The developers hope to have the air permits in place by February, the engineering for the plant completed by June. Construction could take from February 2012 through March of 2013 with the plant being operational by the spring of 2013.

“We want to bring jobs back to America,” Anschutz said. “For the Chinese to continue to compete with us on this, they are going to have to sell below their cost of goods.”

If they see the market success they anticipate, Anschutz said they stand ready to double the size of the plant.

Burgess said that when filling the 60 direct positions at the site, they will be looking locally.

“I expect to find a lot of experienced people here,” Burgess said. “It all depends on how far people are willing to come for a job. In the kaolin industry it seems people go where the jobs are. It just depends on how the skill sets match up.”

In the meantime, the construction manager for the project, Jim Sanders of Alberici Construction, said that he is actively looking for qualified local subcontractors.

They will be looking for contractors with impeccable safety records, he added. At some point they will also be looking into diesel fuel, propane and equipment contractors.

The actual plant’s operations will be 24/7, but the construction crews can expect to work five 10-hour days.

Once fully operational, kaolin will be brought in by day at the rate of about six trucks an hour, probably running five to six days a week.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will decide on the safest route for these trucks from the mine to the plant.

Anschutz said while the plant will be using 350 gallons of water per minute, he does not expect it to have any effect on the area’s ground water levels.

“Our well will be much deeper than most household and irrigation wells,” Burgess said. “It won’t affect their draw. And we’ll recycle that water, it isn’t discharged.”

The company is in negotiations to buy natural gas and potable water through the city of Wrens.

The Jefferson County Development Authority, owner and developer of the Kings Mill Industrial Park, is helping to provide infrastructure for the site.

In connection with the city of Wrens, it is applying for $2 million in grants to build an entrance and road into the industrial park and run water and sewer lines from Wrens out to the site.

The Development Authority is also working on an intergovernmental agreement with the city to provide approximately $2 million worth of gas lines to the site. Lil Easterlin, associate director of the authority, said the city will sell natural gas to the plant to fire its kilns and pay back the authority over time using the profits.

“If you look at the Development Authority’s goals and mission, this is a very attractive prospect,” said Tom Jordan, the authority’s executive director. “When you look at the capital investment this company is talking about making…if they spend $120 million building a plant then they are not likely to pack up and move away. And these are good paying jobs that will take a natural resource we have here in Jefferson County, kaolin, and they add value to it. All of this makes it look like a great project for us.”




Tree of Memories

United Hospice and Jefferson Hospital held a Tree of Memories Ceremony at Jefferson Hospital Thursday, Dec. 8. at the main entrance in front of the hospital. Everyone who has experienced a loss of a loved one was invited to attend. There was a tree lighting ceremony. Ornaments were provided free of charge.

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City’s offer catches lawyer off guard

By Carol McLeod

Bill Keogh, an Augusta attorney representing four industries that have sued the City of Wadley, said last week in an interview that a vote by city council to pay three of those industries came as something of a surprise to him.

“I’ve asked the city’s attorney to bring me up to speed on negotiations,” he said. “The first I’ve heard on a proposed settlement is through the article in your newspaper.”

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Keogh filed a lawsuit Friday, Sept. 2, in Jefferson County Superior Court against the City of Wadley in regards to a Freeport exemption authorized by local referendum about 10 years ago, but never implemented.

The industries, Battle Lumber, Cooper Machine, Fulghum Industries and Rachels Machine and Fabrication, named the City of Wadley; its mayor, Herman Baker; and each of the city’s five council members as defendants.

Although the referendum was passed, the exemption was not given by the city nor was it applied for by the companies. The law allows the companies to go back only three years to ask for compensation from not having received the exemption.

The businesses had been working with the city to reach an agreement regarding the matter, with the companies asking for three years of reimbursement. Several members of the city council did not recognize the companies’ claims.

In a letter dated June 20, Bill Keogh, an attorney who represents the businesses, stated to Baker the overpayments to the city from Battle Lumber is $133,883.10, to Fulghum Industries is $53,783.50, to Rachels Machine is $3,210.85 and to Cooper Machine is $3,093.23.

The city council voted in its December meeting to pay Cooper Machine $2,137.03, Rachels Machine & Fabrication $2,121.59 and Fulghum Industries $32,615.59.

This is just for 2008 and 2009 for the taxes that should have been deducted under the Freeport exemption, Wadley City Clerk Sallie Adams said. “Mr. Battle is still negotiating,” she said.

Keogh said last week he had sent an email to Williams-Kirby and said he wanted to talk with his clients.

On a telephone interview Tuesday, Dec. 20, Keogh said he had received an email from Williams-Kirby that morning.

“My understanding is that the city has agreed to pay two of the three years that are in dispute. The other issues are still outstanding,” he said.

“I have not seen the paperwork from the city; so, I do not know how the numbers stack up. I have asked Ms. Williams-Kirby about the procedure they propose to follow. I do not know what the city intends to do; but, I have sent the attorney my ideas on the best procedure to process the partial resolution they have apparently authorized.”

Keogh said Tuesday that he had been in communication with his clients but could not comment on their discussion.

“I am unaware of any contact between my clients and the city or my clients and Ms. Williams-Kirby (since Keogh has been retained) as far as resolution of the lawsuit,” he said.

Adams said the figures came from the businesses’ tax bills.

The payments were for 2008 and 2009, she said.

As of press time Tuesday, calls to Williams-Kirby had not been returned.




Louisville’s Club Apollo to reopen, five months after shootings

By Oraleethia L. Morgan
Apprentice

A club that has been closed for almost five months because of an incident where four teenagers were shot has been allowed to reopen.

Club Apollo was closed by the Louisville Police Department after a shooting outside of the club in late July where four people were injured.

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The shooting was said to have resulted from a brawl that started inside the club. The four club goers who were injured were all 18 years old. Owner of Club Apollo, Shelton Heath, went before the Louisville City Council two times in hopes that the council would allow him to reopen.

Heath first appeared before the council in August, just weeks after the shooting.

The city council gave Heath guidelines and standards he had to meet in order for the council to consider reopening the club.

During the August meeting, the council voted to give Heath until December to meet the necessary requirements. During the meeting some of the expressed issues were loud music, the lack of properly trained security, underage drinking and not carding club goers upon entering the club.

In the December city council meeting, the Apollo Club was first on the agenda.

The owner said he has made some upgrades.

Heath said he had talked to Maj. Charles Gibbons of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office about heading security on certain nights.

Gibbons said he and another law enforcement officer will be there. Gibbons informed the council if no one would be available to operate security at the club, Heath would be notified ahead of time. He said he could not commit himself to heading the club’s security because he has obligations to the county and to the city.

“We’ll do what we can to help,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons said although he and security would be off duty and not on county’s time, they will be in uniform.

“I think deputies are going to have to be a requirement,” said City Administrator Don Rhodes.

Police Chief Jimmy Miller said the department of revenue has had numerous issues with underage drinking at the club.

Gibbons said he would do his best to keep underage citizens away from the premises. He said a person who does not have an ID will not be allowed inside.

Another requirement was for the business to have a valid certificate of occupancy.

Heath said he has a certificate of occupancy that states the maximum occupancy of the club is 262 people.

“It still stands,” said the club owner.

Heath said his club will be opened to an older generation and host a more conservative crowd.

Council members said one of the major issues upon the club’s reopening is the congestion of the street.

Heath said club goers park on one side of the street.

“The key thing is not obstructing any traffic through there,” said Mayor Larry Morgan.

Morgan mentioned an old parking lot that once belonged to a shirt factory. He said the city will not be responsible for any fights that happen there nor are they responsible for any truckers who park in the area.

Rhodes said another complaint received was about the club’s loud music.

“They say they cannot sleep,” the city administrator said.

A citizen in attendance said it was not fair that the loud music was to be pinned on Heath. He said there are some people who don’t like Heath and would love to see his business closed. He said some people come through the area with loud music coming from their vehicles and residents may try to blame the loud music on Heath, which isn’t right.

Heath agreed to do his part to control the issue within his club.

Councilman Robert Dixon made the first motion to allow Heath to reopen the club under conditions. The council allowed Heath to reopen the club.

“There is no room for mistakes,” said Dixon.

The council gave Heath 30 days to get security and all other requirements met and up to code.

“You can go back to work, Mr. Heath,” said the mayor. “Play your cards right.”




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