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January 26, 2012 Issue

Nearly 100 attend Wrens public hearing
100 days and counting
Budget tightened 8 percent across the board
New laws go into effect across state

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Nearly 100 attend Wrens public hearing

By Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

Nearly 100 people crowded into the Wrens council meeting chamber last Tuesday to ask questions and hear state officials discuss a proposed air permit for a new kaolin plant.

PyraMax Ceramics LLC officials have said they are awaiting approval of an air quality permit by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) before they will begin work on the facility, which would be located 3 miles south of Wrens at the Jefferson County Development Authority’s Kings’ Mill Road industrial park.

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The PyraMax plant would 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 that can be operated independently.

Eric Cornwell, manager of the Stationary Source Permitting Program of EPD’s Air Protection Branch, led both the presentation/ question and answer session as well as the official public hearing, which followed.

In his presentation on how air quality permits are issued, Cornwell explained that the proposed plant is subject to many requirements under the Georgia Air Quality Act. Three of the main requirements include air pollution controls for pollutants that are emitted in significant quantities, an air quality analysis demonstrating that the proposed emissions from the project will not cause or contribute to a violation of an air quality standard and control for hazardous air pollutants emitted above threshold.

“And we wouldn’t be here tonight if they didn’t meet these standards,” Cornwell told the crowd.

He then detailed the emissions that the plant could be permitted to release and the pollution control technology PyraMax has said it will use to keep emissions to these maximum levels.

For instance, the plant could be permitted to use catalytic baghouses to collect 157 tons per year of PM-10, particulate matter Cornwell described as “really just dust” as well as the 351 annual tons of NOx. Sorbent injection would control the plant’s 103 tons of SO2 and 70 annual tons of HAP (methanol, HF, and HCI). Combustion control would be used to restrict the amount of 608 tons of CO. Material use should control the 103 tons of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). General efficiency should control the 167,570 tons of greenhouse gasses, mostly CO2, that would be released.

Cornwell explained from which portions of the refining process these and other emissions are produced, and how the control mechanisms work.

Citizens who live near the site of the proposed plant asked about the odor the plant would put off.

“I live about a mile from the plant,” said Tommy Burke. “We have good clean air there now, and I want to keep it that way.”

Cornwell said that he was not sure if there were any odors associated with the plant, but that he had been in a number of kaolin refining plants and has never noticed an odor.

Other citizens, like Minnie Brown, who said she may be the closest neighbor to the site, asked about what chemicals would be present there. Fernandias McCoy asked about the greenhouse gasses and their physical effects.

Cornwell said that since these are all air quality issues, that many of these leave the plant as a gas and will disperse, thereby not appearing in any dangerous concentration levels in the surrounding area.

Any violations of the numbers set forth in the permits would make the plant susceptible to enforcement by another branch of EPD. The plant, Cornwell said, would be inspected annually by a third party and its records of emissions, kept continuously, will be available for review by EPD.

“The first thing we look at is the effect on human health,” Cornwell said. “I can tell you that the regulations and requirements are constantly reviewed. They are 10 times more stringent than they used to be. We also have a set of secondary standards where we look at their effects on soil and vegetables.”

Since the meeting, Cornwell said his office has received four official written comments, one from PyraMax, two from individuals who opposed the project on the general principal that they opposed any more pollution in the area, and a short comment from the Riverkeeper.

These comments along with the application, draft of the permits, EPD’s preliminary determination, and the public hearing notification are all available online at http://www.georgiaair.org/airpermit/html/permits/psd/dockets/pyramax/index.htm

Cornwell explained that his office would take the comments gathered the night of the hearing and subsequently sent in, review them all and make a final decision regarding the air permit application.

"Hopefully we will be able to make a determination on this permit in the next week or so,” Cornwell said.




100 days and counting


Counting by ones, fives and 10s, area kindergartners celebrated the 100th day of school last week. In addition to practicing their arithmatic skills, many participated in games counting how many times they could jump or do other activities in 100 seconds.

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Budget tightened 8 percent across the board

By Faye Ellison
Staff writer

Cities, counties, businesses and citizens alike are tightening their belts because of slow growth in the economy.

The city of Louisville recently implemented an 8 percent cut to all departments for the coming year. The cuts are because of the coming closure of Thermo King, as well as a loss in revenue.

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“Several things have contributed to the decline in revenue,” City Administrator Don Rhodes said. “We have made cuts in our budget so it will balance in 2012.”

One factor is the increase in insurance premiums tax, which is a tax on any insurance that is based on population.

“We had a decrease in our population according to the 2010 census,” Rhodes explained. “It makes a difference in the way the state divides money.”

Looking at Thermo King’s impending closure that is expected this spring, one of the main affects it will have is the amount of gas the company consumes, but it will also affect revenue to local businesses where employees shop.

“It is hard to say for sure how much the impact will be,” Rhodes said. “It will definitely have a considerable impact on revenue, because of the company being a gas customer. The city pays for so much space that are fixed charges, and we are charged every month for that space in the gas pipeline. It makes a difference when you lose a big gas customer.”

Rhodes said that all of the city’s departments had to scale their budgets back by 8 percent, only cutting one position back from 40 hours to 20 hours, which was an investigator position held by Teddy Jackson in the Louisville Police Department. Jackson resigned in December after learning about the cut. Jackson said that 20 hours is not enough time to fully investigate crimes, as well as understanding the job would be full-time when he was hired March 2009.

“It was the last position that the city added on,” Rhodes explained. “We have not had to let anyone go, and we have only had one resignation. We do not anticipate any layoffs. We have to look at things that are going to happen in the future. All these things affect the city’s budget and we do not want to increase the ad valorem tax. This was a belt tightening.”

Rhodes also said the city does not plan to cut any services, but the city is trying to cut back on purchases, but he added there are some things the city cannot control.

“We’ll take a look at these figures at the end of June and see where we are at, and see what we will have to do for the remainder of the year,” he said.

The 8 percent cut will save the city around $50,000 on an operating budget of around $1.4 to $1.4 million.

“We don’t anticipate raising the millage rate for 2012,” Rhodes said. “The millage rate is usually set sometime in September. We’ll take another look at that and see if we can operate with the amount of money for the ad valorem tax for the remainder and we will not have to adjust the millage rate.”

The millage rate is set at 8.49 mills, and Rhodes said it is as low, if not lower than most cities. On the brighter side, Rhodes said from the reports he has seen including job reports, indications are that the economy is beginning to turn around.

“It takes time to trickle down to small cities.”

Effective Dec. 1 of last year, the city had to adjust water and sewer rates, an increase of up to 8 percent, because of a mandate from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

The city has to repay a loan of $500,000 at 0 percent interest for work on the city’s water system, including the need for a new well that is already online and completed.

Rhodes said the loan covered a coating on the water tank north of town, as well as other improvements at the pump station.

“When making the loan payments, part of the mandate of the loan was an increase in water and sewer rates to cover the costs,” he said.




New laws go into effect across state

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

With a new year, comes new laws from the state of Georgia, which include stricter requirements for those who plan to drive golf carts on roadways.

The new law that took effect on Jan. 1 creates a separate classification of personal transportation vehicles for golf carts.

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From what I understand, I don’t think it will have any bearing over us,” Louisville City Administrator Don Rhodes said.

Almost three years ago, the city of Louisville put an ordinance in place giving laws of where a golf cart may be driven in the city, as well as requiring golf carts operating on city streets to have a decal.

“I don’t think it will have any effect on our ordinance, but we will have the city attorney look at it,” Rhodes said. “I know GMA (Georgia Municipal Association) has come out with two model ordinances, and I plan to look at those and see if we are in compliance.”

The new law will help towns and counties who do not have ordinances for golf carts, allowing drivers to use the carts on residential streets and multi-purpose pathways. The law requires that golf carts must have braking systems, a reverse warning device, tail lamps, a horn and hip restraints.

The carts must weigh less than 1,375 pounds and not top speeds of 20 mph. The carts must also be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Just 23 Georgia cities have golf cart ordinances.

Other laws going into effect this month include a measure allowing cities with 911 centers to require retailers selling prepaid cell phones to charge a fee to support the emergency systems. Towns can charge businesses up to 75 cents per sale, but the law does not apply to sales of $5 or less.

Key parts of Georgia’s new law targeting illegal immigration are also set to take effect. Starting Jan. 1, any employer with 500 or more employees will have to use a federal database called E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of all new hires.

The mandate is being phased in with smaller businesses that have 100 or more employees required to use the database starting July 1, and companies with more than 10 employees to start using E-verify by July 2013. Employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from this requirement.

Already, any company with a federal contract is required to use E-Verify, and Georgia has required state and local government agencies and their contractors to use the database since 2007.

Also taking effect Jan. 1 is a provision that any agency administering public benefits must require each applicant to provide at least one “secure and verifiable document.”

The following list of secure and verifiable documents contains documents that are verifiable for identification purposes, and documents on the list may not necessarily be indicative of residency or immigration status.







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