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January 12, 2012 Issue

EPD to hold hearing in Wrens
A life in the field
Avera and Bartow ISO ratings reduced

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EPD to hold hearing in Wrens

By Parish Howard

Next Tuesday, Jan. 17, area residents will get the chance to talk with Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) officials about PyraMax Ceramics LLC’s air permit application for the ceramic manufacturing plant it proposes to build and operate at the county’s Kings Mill Road industrial park near Wrens.

“Residents living in the communities in which facilities seeking permits are located need to know the permitting process and to be heard,” said Eric Cornwell, manager of the Stationary Source Permitting Program of EPD’s Air Protection Branch. “We will consider all air quality related comments prior to making a decision whether to recommend issuance.”


The question and answer session and public hearing will be held at the Wrens council chamber, located at 401 Broad St., and the meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.

According to EPD, the purpose of the meeting is to present information and to answer questions about the air quality permitting review process.

Cornwell said that in meetings like this, EPD uses the first portion of the meeting to answer questions regarding the air quality control issues. After that, EPD holds the official public hearing in which it accepts formal public comment for the record.

The PyraMax plant will use kaolin to produce ceramic proppant, tiny balls of baked clay 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.

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

The proposed facility will have two parallel process/kiln lines level can be operated independently.

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

The draft permits are available for review at the Jefferson County Courthouse and online at http://www.georgiaair.org/airpermit/html/permits/psd/main.html.

“The way we are designing this plant, emissions will be a third of what they are in other places,” said Michael Burgess, the company’s vice president of manufacturing. “This is going to be a world-class plant.”

Burgess will also be the interim plant manager for the facility.

“PyraMax is proposing to use a novel and innovative control system,” Cornwell said. “They will be using a catalytic back house that offers both controls for both particulate matter as well as Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions. To my knowledge, no other kaolin facility in this area has this level of NOx controls. It sounds like a very viable process and hopefully the wave of the future when it comes to NOx controls which will mean a potentially a large reduction in them everywhere.”

If the final air permit is issued within the next 30 days or so, Anschutz said he hopes construction can begin in the first quarter of 2012.

The developers hope to have the air permits in place by February and the engineering for the plant completed by June. If so, they estimate construction, which brings with it an estimated 300 temporary jobs, could take from February 2012 through March 2013 with the plant being operational by the spring of 2013.

Cornwell said written comments on the proposed permit should be sent by Jan. 23 to Georgia Air Protection Branch, Attn: Eric Cornwell, 4244 International Parkway, Suite 120, Atlanta, Ga., 30354. Comments can be emailed to epdcomments@dnr.state.ga.us with EPD requesting “PyraMax Ceramics” be included in the subject line.

A life in the field

Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Since March 2004, if a homeowner had a question about an unknown plant that sprouted up in her flowerbed, or if a farmer had a crop emergency, there is one man they could call who may not have had the answer, but would do his best to get one.

Agricultural Extension Agent Jim Crawford came to Jefferson County from Moultrie after some restructuring in the state extension program. Since then, he has been the link between research and information and that homeowner or farmer.


Originally from Texas, Crawford later lived in Stone Mountain while he attended high school and college. Though he lived a mostly suburban life, Crawford did get to dabble in farming with his uncle.

“My dad did not farm,” he said. “But I had an uncle I was close to when I was young. He would row crop and raise cattle. I looked up to him. He was one of my heroes. So I guess farming and agriculture just got in my blood somehow.”

He started off his college career as a Yellow Jacket engineer at Georgia Tech, but he never was happy.

“My sister said I should go to the University of Georgia and major in agriculture, and you know, it just hit a note with me,” Crawford remembered. “I just thought, ‘Yeah. That sounds like the ticket.’ It just changed my life. Ever since I switched to Georgia and majored in animal science, it was like something was tapped into in me. It was like discovering an unknown passion.”

After graduation, Crawford went home where he worked for Texas A&M’s extension service.

"I had already decided what I wanted to do,” he said.

Crawford said he then came back to Georgia for an assistantship to earn his master’s degree.

“About that time in graduate school, my mother died, as soon as I finished, I went back to Texas to be with my dad,” Crawford said.

He then got deep into agriculture starting from scratch to raise cattle after leasing 300 acres from a widow. He also was a mail carrier, but decided he needed more in agriculture.

“Texas wasn’t hiring and Georgia was,” Crawford said of his transition back. “Things were going good in Texas and when I decided to leave and come back to Georgia, cows were bringing a good price. I left with money in the bank.”

Once back, Crawford first went to Baxley in 1987, followed by McRae, then Moultrie. At that time extension was involved in community development.

“We more or less helped the urban leaders,” he said. “We tried to build up the quality of life for everybody, whether helping to get a new rural fire station to promoting a flower show for the town or starting a farmers market.”

In the 1990s, that aspect of the extension service was beginning to be phased out. He then spent a large piece of his early career in 4-H.

“When I began in 1987, there were 550 agents, now there are about 230, that serve 4-H, family home consumer science and agriculture agents.”

Crawford said the physically hardest part of his career was in Moultrie, paying his dues in the 4-H program, doing livestock shows.

“In that county, they traditionally had lots of youth showing lambs, hogs and cattle,” Crawford said, adding that he was in charge of upkeep and maintenance on the county barn, as well as organizing shows and helping care for livestock.

When extensions began to downsize in Georgia, it was decided that extension could not fund three ag agents in one county. Crawford decided to move to Jefferson County where an agent was desperately needed. He moved to Louisville in March 2004.

While here, Crawford has served the community, giving advice and tips to homeowners, cattlemen and farmers who cultivate about 42,000 acres in the county, as well as the 11 dairies here, with about 6,500 cows.

“We are the link from the university to the homeowner and farmer,” he said. “We take the cutting edge, unbiased research from the college researchers and experiment station and get it to the people who can put it to work.

“It has been real interesting for me. I have learned as well. I hope I have been able to pass on information that I have learned. I hope it’s been a mutual learning experience where everybody benefitted. I can never know enough. Anybody that calls, or walks in, my job is to help them, whether growing onions, pecans trees or cotton on 500 acres. I never know what I will do from day to day.”

Crawford has held meetings and programs, while being innovative, just like the farming market now. He has held meetings in the field and the classroom.

“We have demonstration plots, where farmers can actually do things and see the results for themselves,” he said. “I try to have a variety to help educate people in a way that is tasteful to them. I try to present information and facts so they can make educated decisions for their farms.”

He serves as a troubleshooter, making site visits to get to the bottom of problems citizens face, or guiding them through unfamiliar waters.

“The best things about Jefferson County farming, is the crop rotation/diversification,” he said. “Not many areas are as dedicated to good crop rotation as this one is. Some places are just fields of cotton, cotton, cotton. Here, we have corn, soybeans, peanuts and cotton that are pretty much divided equally. Rotation has been a boom to Jefferson County agriculture.”

Farmers also got a head start on the GA-06G peanut, a new variety that was introduced about a year earlier in Jefferson County than the rest of the state.

“If I did one thing that I could hang my hat on, it is the testing of the GA-06G peanut in county trials that allowed us to get the jump on the rest of the state,” he said. “Now 70 percent of peanut acres of that variety are planted here in the state. We did two trials with it in 2007 and another trial in 2008. We knew, here in Jefferson County, what it could do, a year before the rest of the state. We could tell from doing the trials that they would be a winner.”

With eight years in the county’s fields, he has seen the drought diminish dry land farming.

"Commodity prices are high now, but inputs are equally as high, and profit margins are thin,” Crawford acknowledged. “Labor is something statewide, nationwide, that is plaguing farmers more and more. It is hard to find people who will work on a farm. Farmers deal in large numbers. You are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get a crop into the ground, not including getting it up and harvesting it. Everybody is trying to refine their operations and trying not to need as much labor.”

Ever since he began in Jefferson County, things have changed for farming at a rapid pace. He notes the advancements in technology.

“People don’t realize how it has changed,” he said. “You have to be on top of your game. You live and sleep with it now. What happened to winters off? Farmers are working year round now. They don’t have a winter break anymore.”

One problem that no one can fix is the lack of rainfall. With the drought last year, and this dry winter Crawford said the worry is beginning to set in.

“We still haven’t recharged from last year’s drought and we’re going to need plenty of rain to see us through the spring and summer.”

Crawford’s last day will be Jan. 31, but before he leaves, a reception held in his honor will be on Jan. 27 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Extension Office.

“I haven’t met anybody in the county that hasn’t just been cooperative and friendly,” he said. “When trying to educate people, dealing with the public, people are people, and Jefferson County’s people have been very understanding of my efforts. If I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, part of my education is knowing where to go to find the answers. I am willing to give my time to solve it and make it a point to get back to people as quickly as possible.

“I will miss the absence of traffic, and the slower pace and open space.”

For now, Crawford said he still doesn’t have any specific retirement plans.

“I will probably drift west to Alabama or Texas, I don’t know,” he said.

But he promised that the county will not be without an ag agent for very long, applications are currently being taken and a new agent will likely be in the county on April 1.

Avera and Bartow ISO ratings reduced

By Carol McLeod

Two cities in Jefferson County have seen their ISO ratings drop.

Avera has gone from a 6 to a 4 and a 4/9. Bartow has dropped from a 7 to a 5/8B.


The ratings go into effect April 1.

“We’ve been buying equipment all along to help lower it, some stuff that we needed to get the points down,” Avera Fire Chief Jason Mathis said in an interview this week.

“We’ve upgraded our water system, added more hydrants, which also helped lower the rating, with our water pressure,” he said.

The chief said the firefighters train throughout the year.

“Your training records help give you ISO points,” he said.

“The training records have to be provided to the ISO inspector who’s out there. Usually he requires a copy of the training record along with fire reports. That is required. Also the inspector reviews the number of calls we respond to throughout the year,” he said.

The Avera Fire Department has 22 firemen and drill twice a month, Mathis said.

“All of them are basic firefighter certified,” he said. “I have six lieutenants, one captain and four sergeants.”

Mathis said rank is based on the firefighter’s experience and the number of years on the department.

The ISO inspections are not performed on a routine basis but are done when a fire department requests them.

“I can’t remember the last time we had one,” Mathis said. “It was before I was fire chief; so, it’s been seven years or better.”

Mathis said all of the firefighters have been instrumental in the improvement in the ISO rating.

“I appreciate all the hard work they’ve done throughout the year to bring us to where we are and the community,” he said.

“People from not only Avera, but other communities within our county and even outside our county support us in our fundraisers. We really appreciate that,” Mathis said.

The fire chief said the ISO inspection involves not only the department’s training records but its water records.

“Like the hydrant records, all our pump records as far as our apparatus. We have to have that,” he said.

Mathis said the department tests the city’s hydrants twice a year.

“We also flush them twice a year,” he said.

The first number in the new rating, a 4, is for the area within the city limits and within 5 miles from the station, Mathis said.

“It’s a 9 beyond the 5-mile count,” he said. “That would put it in the county.”

In Bartow, Fire Chief Billy Neal said the reduction in the ISO rating means better fire service for citizens.

“Better protection and it’s cheaper on the insurance rate,” he said.

“Some insurance policies might be $100 cheaper on the rate per year,” he said, adding it’s the ISO that sets the rating.

“We do not,” he said.

Bartow has 18 firefighters, he said. Like Avera, all firefighters are volunteers.

“It has been a while since we’ve had our last ISO inspection,” Neal said.

“We’re so improved. That’s why they dropped our rating,” he said.

Neal said a major factor in the rating is the water supply.

“We just have one water tank,” he said.

He said the ISO inspectors also factor in what kind of radios the department has and how it responds to calls.

“The equipment is the biggest thing,” he said. “911 helps a lot, too. We’ve got the people where they call 911 instead of one of us. Your time getting to the scene is part of it.”

Neal said his department trains every other week.

Chip Evans, Bartow’s assistant fire chief, read the definition for the 8B classification the city received.

“A class 8B is a special classification that recognizes a superior level of fire protection in otherwise class 9 areas. It is designed to represent a fire protection delivery system that is superior except for lack of water supply,’” he said.

“The biggest thing that’s hurt us is the water supply. The town’s water system is not adequate to supply the volume of water that ISO says we need,” Evans said.

“You’re rated on three different areas,” he said.

“You’re rated on your dispatch, that’s the receiving and handling of the fire call. You’re rated on the fire department, the training, equipment and the ability to fight the fire; and, then you’re rated on your water supply,” Evans said.

“The fire department was relatively a 4 and then the water supply was a 6. And they combine that and that’s how we got a 5,” he said.

“All the fire department, especially Dwayne Morris our training officer, has worked hard to get ready for this ISO inspection,” Evans said.

“The first class applies to the properties within a 5 road mile of a recognized fire station and within 1,000 feet of a hydrant or an alternate water supply,” he said.

Billy Valduga, a State Farm insurance agent in Louisville, addressed what this rating change means for home owners serviced by either of the two fire departments.

“The insurance companies look at that differently,” he said.

Valduga said a reduction in insurance premiums not only varies among companies but depends on a number of issues.

“It’s going to depend on the construction of the structure, the size, the deductible, whether you’re insuring at 100 percent replacement cost. You’ve still got to consider things like multi-line discounts,” he said.

Valduga said most home owners would not see a reduction in their insurance premiums until after the effective date of the rating change, in this case April 1.

“Usually it’s the renewal after the effective date from the ISO,” he said, adding anyone in the effected areas should contact their personal insurance agent after the effective date.

“They should look for the decrease in their insurance premiums in their renewal following the effective date of the protection class change,” he said, stressing that policy holders would probably not see a change until then.

“I’d like to commend both the Avera and the Bartow fire departments and their respective city councils and mayors to tackle this,” Valduga said.

“There are a lot of specific requirements by the ISO that have to be addressed by the fire department. I’m just very happy that we’re getting better in these classifications because that says a lot about the men and women who work in these respective departments,” he said.

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Last modified: January 12, 2012