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June 7, 2012 Issue

Memorial Day celebrated...
Power plant permit gets green light
Budget review reveals shortfall
Officers get active shooter training

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Memorial Day celebrated...


Citizens and members of the American Legion Post 229 remember those who died in defense of their country during a Memorial Day ceremony Wednesday, May 30. Legion member and WWII veteran C.W. Speakie Stephens was the featured speaker. He talked about the history of Memorial Day and its importance.

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Power plant permit gets green light

By Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

After several months of review, the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has approved an air quality permit for the biomass power plant proposed for Wadley.

This past fall North Star Jefferson Renewable Energy announced its plans to construct and operate a facility that would use 80 percent woody biomass, primarily untreated wood scraps, and 20 percent tire derived fuel (TDF) to generate around 25 Megawatts of electricity that would be sold to Georgia Power.


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More than 150 people attended a public hearing in March regarding the permit and since then EPD has reviewed and addressed the comments made by the public and environmental groups who oppose the plant.

Eric Cornwell, program manager for EPD’s Air Protection Branch Stationary Source Monitory Program said that after reviewing the comments made during and since the public hearing EPD did alter the permit some.

The approved permit and narrative of comments complete with EPD responses is available online at www.georgiaair.org under the “Issued Air Permits” tab. It can be found by searching “North Star Jefferson.”

The narrative illustrates many of the concerns and comments voiced in regards to the plant’s expected emissions as well as the EPD’s responses to these comments.

Several citizens opposed construction of the plant claiming that it would be located too close to residential areas in Wadley. the EPD responds that, “The Georgia Rules for Air Quality Control and the Federal Rules for New Source Performance Standards and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants are designed to protect the environment and human health….The Georgia Air Toxics Guideline is a guide for estimating the environmental impact of sources of toxic air pollutants…. The Georgia Air Quality Act and the Georgia Rules…state that the permit for the construction or modification of any facility shall be issued upon a determination by the director that the facility can reasonably be expected to comply with all the provisions of the Act and the rules and regulations promulgated there under.”

Citizens also made comments regarding concerns about dioxins and emissions of heavy metals from burning tire derived fuel.

“EPD conducted a toxic impact assessment on this source based on State Implementation Plan and Guidelines for Ambient Impact Assessment of Toxic Air Pollutant Emissions,” the EPD’s response reads. “All the toxic pollutants of this facility were modeled within the acceptable ambient concentrations. The toxic impact assessment is protective of human health and it ensures the toxics and the chemicals emitted from the stack will meet the Georgia Toxic Guideline.”

In all, the narrative includes some six comments by the general public, two by North Star Jefferson, 23 comments by Partnership for Policy Integrity submitted by Charles Lewis and Mary Booth, six comments by Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, 10 comments by Frank Carl of the Sierra Club, as well as the EPD’s responses to all of these comments.

Cornwell said that despite meeting all of the EPD’s requirements, North Star Jefferson opted to increase their restrictions in a couple of areas in an effort to further quell some of the public’s concerns regarding the plant’s emissions.

In an effort to address concerns regarding alternate fuel sources and certain emissions, according to the narrative “the facility has proposed to further clarify the lists of fuels that may be burned in the boiler. Condition 2.9 is updated and it does not authorize the facility to fire any construction and demolition debris and pallets in the boiler.”

North Start also addressed concerns regarding Hydrogen fluoride emissions by proposing to test for these under both operating scenarios to establish is HF emission factor and HF control efficiency-initially and annually, thereby requiring the company to test for these emissions both while firing 100 percent wood as well as the 80 percent wood, 20 percent TDF model they have proposed.

“Based on North Star’s emission estimates, the worst-case emission for HF is 1.5 tons per year, which is less than the major source threshold of 10 tons per year,” the EPD said.

Cornwell said that North Star has also proposed to install a continuous emissions rate monitoring system for HCl emissions, that was not required in the original permit.

“This will ensure facility wide HCl emissions are less than 10 tpy,” the EPD said.

In response to comments that the plant would be located in an environmental justice area, the EPD said “One aspect of what US EPA suggests for environmental justice areas is increased public awareness. The EPD has provided 60 days of public comments period, a public hearing, and a press release. A detailed toxic impact assessment was performed which indicates that ambient concentrations are well below acceptable levels.”

The document also explains that the facility should not be regulated as an incinerator as both tire derived fuel and biomass are considered alternative fuels and not solid waste.

After considering and responding to all comments on the proposed permit, the EPD recommended issuing the air quality permit.

“The facility is a PSD minor source, but will be a Title V major source,” the agency says in the conclusion of its narrative. “Therefore, North Star Jefferson Renewable Energy Facility will be required to submit a Title V Major Source Operating Permit Application within one year after startup of the wood biomass boiler power plant.”

Rick Cashatt, the man behind the North Star project, said that he is hoping that by early fall the preparations for the facility will be “full speed ahead” with a physical plant being commercially ready by October or November of next year.




Budget review reveals shortfall

By Carol Mcleod
Staff Writer

Although Jefferson County coffers are dwindling, Jefferson County Administrator Adam Mestres said county workers should not be worried about their jobs. In fact, there is talk of a possible review of salaries for them.

“We need to collect $1 million in the next 30 days,” Mestres told the commissioners during their monthly work session Monday.

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“That’s not going to happen,” he said.

During the work session, the commissioners and Mestres discussed a variety of issues affecting the county’s budget, including a reduction in the amount of sales tax being collected and the number of tax bills that are unpaid.

“The clerk of court owes us an undetermined amount of money,” Mestres said, adding those payments have been sporadic.

Mestres said his office has received three months’ worth of payments since December.

“We have to really think outside the box,” Mestres said.

Commissioner Tommy New pointed out that some of the property owners of mobile homes have not paid their tax or the $100 due annually for the landfill.

New said some mobile homes with delinquent taxes had been put up for auction in the past; but, no one bid on them.

Commissioner Johnny Davis mentioned that the county’s tax commissioner, Jenny Gordy, had asked the commission for an officer to issue citations on mobile homes with delinquent taxes.

Mestres said there’s a lot of liability to send a city officer for county business.

“A lot of mobile homes aren’t livable,” said Jimmy Kitchens, the county’s code enforcement officer. “They’re still on the books.”

“I don’t think levying the property is the only remedy,” the county’s attorney, Mickey Moses, said.

Davis said it is not fair to others who pay their taxes for there to be citizens who do not.

Mestres said he had preliminary figures on the tax digest.

The administrator said he thinks the value of a mill will be about $414,000 this year, possibly $412,000.

Mestres said the commissioners should review the possibility of providing a raise to county employees.

“It’s been at least five years,” he said, adding it would cost $219,612.49.

That would include related increases in FICA, Medicare, Workers Compensation and retirement contributions, Mestres said.

Mestres said there is an increase to Gold Cross that is in the EMS contract and a significant amount to spend at the clerk of court’s office.

The clerk of court needs technology-related equipment, the administrator said in an interview.

“The purpose of that is to streamline data associated with court collections and to enable the office to transmit information to Atlanta to comply with state regulations,” he said.

“We always have to think long term,” he said.

Mestres said the commissioners should consider other reductions in the budget.

“I have projected pulling out the contract labor,” he said.

The commissioners and administrator discussed other factors that will affect the budget, including the change in the tag tax on vehicles and the energy exemption for industry.

“We can’t project the loss because we don’t know the exact amount we currently receive on taxation of energy for industry or what it will be,” Mestres said in his interview.

New said he asked one of the area businesses what they spend in energy and was told around $200,000 a month.

“Our portion of that is 2 percent, $4,000 a month,” he said.

Davis said that would be $48,000 a year.

New said the school systems will still collect this tax.

Rabun asked if Mestres had allowed enough projected cost on the price of gas.

The administrator said he’d factored gas in at $4 a gallon.

“These are the big figures,” Mestres said. “The budget is $11.2 million and we were at $10.6 million. Either lower the budget by approximately $1.2 million or there would need to be a 2 mill increase to meet the current budget demand.”

This difference between fiscal year 2012 and the upcoming budget includes the revenue shortfall expected for 2013, he said.

Mestres asked the commissioners to review the expenditures for the departments they oversee and see if there are additional cuts that can be made.

During the interview, Mestres said the county would need to collect $1,051,381.03 to have a balanced budget.

“We don’t collect $1 million a month,” he said. “The average collection in the last 11 months is $873,166 a month. That is a difference of $178,215.03.”

Mestres stressed that citizens should not be worried.

“The only thing I’m trying to relay to the commissioners is we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to have these figures accurately depicted,” he said.

Mestres said the value of a mill is 1,000th of the value of the digest after exemptions.

“We always have inflation. We should prepare for it,” he said. “The commission is charged with a great responsibility, making sure that we have adequate money to operate the county.”

“A mill is a mill. It doesn’t change,” said Katherine Perry in an interview Tuesday. Perry is the county’s chief tax assessor.

“What they’re saying is the revenue they can expect to get back on a mill. The number of mills is what’s changing.

“If they leave the millage rate where it is, what they’re looking at is what they can expect for revenue. If the value drops, to get the same amount of revenue, they would have to increase the millage. Or cut the budget,” she said.

Perry said people should keep in mind the commissioners are reviewing preliminary values.

“We’re in our 45-day appeal time,” she said. “We just mailed notices May 25. The last day to appeal is July 9. This is just a guide that they have right now. So they’re looking at total preliminary figures.

“Once we’ve made all the adjustments that we can through that point of time and the board of assessors gives its final approval to the digest, the commissioners set the millage rate and then we go to Atlanta.”

Perry said the digest from last year to this year has had some decrease.

“Some properties stayed the same, some went down and a few went up,” she said, adding usually an increase in value is because of some change made in the property, such as a new house.

“So far, we’ve got about 10 appeals,” she said. “The county tax digest went down about 1 percent over last year’s.”

In this case, 1 percent is about $3 million, Perry said.

Mestres said Tuesday the final approval of the budget will occur on Tuesday, June 26.

“We have the first reading June 12 and the second reading,” he said. Adoption will occur after the second reading, he said.

As of press time Tuesday, Mestres said there had been an update to the figure he stated during the work session.

“We need $863,894.87,” he said. “For the month of May, we collected just under $600,000.”




Officers get active shooter training

By Carol Mcleod
Staff Writer

Three training officers from Camden County came to Wadley last month to provide Active Shooter Training to Wadley police officers as well as three officers from Waynesboro Police Department.

Lt. Shannon Brock of St. Mary’s Police Department said this was training the local officers wouldn’t normally see.

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Brock said the training is an eight-hour block. The morning was spent in the classroom with the afternoon reserved for role playing where two of the training officers acted out a variety of scenes. All of the officers wore protective gear and had simulated weapons that shot paint rounds.

The round of paint, about an inch in length, came in two colors, red and blue.

“Blue is generally the identifier for law enforcement for training,” Brock said. “Red is for the one being the bad guy.”

The training, held on Thursday, May 31, took place at the old school in Wadley.

Two of the training officers, Brock and Inspector Richard Sapp of Kingsland Police Department, started out with one being the bad guy and one being a captive or innocent bystander.

Officers were told only to follow the noise, in this case a loudly played radio, and assess the threat.

The training put the officers through their paces, at first one at a time and then later in sets of two or three.

“There’s no one around here who can give this training,” said the third training officer, Lt. Todd Tetterton of Kingsland PD.

“The closest would be the Augusta academy,” he said. “This came about because of the relationship between the chief here and the chief in Kingsland.”

Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis said he met Tetterton when he went to Kingsland to buy Tasers for the officers in his department.

“We bought 10 Tasers,” he said. “That’s when he told us about the training.”

Brock explained the definition of an active shooter as someone who has a weapon, has the ability and is actively shooting.

Brock said the officers in his department participate in this type of training once a quarter.

Sapp said they began this particular training about two years ago.

After the Wadley officers finished their training and before they started cleaning up, they took a few minutes to talk about their experiences.

Patrolman Kertray Mangual said the training was awesome. Cpl. E.B. Hambrick said the training was fun.

Patrolman Tim Frawley pointed out this training is different, “They’re shooting back.”

“It’s the closest to getting shot without getting shot,” said Patrolman Dairen Cato.

Hambrick said the training was an adrenaline rush.

Capt. Anthony Dixon who is third in command at Wadley PD said, “It was definitely worth it. In this scenario, what makes it so real is you had someone shooting back at you to let you know what it’s like and to give you an opportunity to correct mistakes you would not get in a real-life shooting.

“This training is different from the training they get in the academy. It makes it real. You shoot at targets that don’t shoot back. In this training, you go into a building and shoot at training bad guys that shoot back.”

One thing the training officers repeated to the others was to keep moving, keep moving.

Brock said this training should be given at least every year.

“It’s not practiced enough,” he said.

Brock said because budgets are being slashed, training gets cut.

“I think it’s good anytime,” Lewis said of his department getting this training.

“We’re small. People take advantage because they think we’re unprepared,” he said.

Lewis said plans are being made for four of his officers to attend officer survivor training at Kingsland PD.

“They’ll put them up for the week free of charge,” he said. He also wants his officers to take SWAT training.

“You’ve got to be ready to go,” he said. “That’s what we sign up for.”

There was no cost of the training itself, Lewis said. “We bought a case and a half of the Simunition rounds. It’s $239 a case. We put the training officers up at the hotel the night before the training.”

The training officers said they were able to come to Wadley and offer the training they did because of their chiefs of police. Tim Hatch is the chief in St. Mary’s. Daryl Griffis is the chief in Kingsland.

“A lot of people think that because you’re a small town, you shouldn’t have certain training that big cities have; but, you have the same things happen. You have to be prepared,” Lewis said.







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