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October 25, 2012 Issue

Here came Honey Boo Boo
City of Wrens lowers millage rate
Power plant appeal settled
Hearings scheduled on biomedical waste

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Here came Honey Boo Boo

Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

Grins, spunk and country-fried glitz, Honey Boo Boo has got it all and she brought it with her to Kackleberry Farm Sunday, along with a camera crew.

Several locals got the opportunity to redneckognize up close and personal Sunday with the little central Georgia pageant queen who is taking reality TV to a whole new level.

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“We just started production on three holiday specials for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said TLC Publicist Joey Skladany.

“Literally, we just started production last week.”

The whole family, Alana (Honey Boo Boo), her mom, June and dad, Mike (aka Sugar Bear), sisters (Pumpkin, Chubbs and Chickadee) and niece, Baby Katelyn, from McIntyre, Ga. were at the Louisville-area Kackleberry Farm, wandering through the maze, rooting for their favorite piglet at the races, zipline touring and mixing with locals during the filming, which took place over most of the day.

“People have asked how we got them here,” said Lisa Vaughn, who runs Kackleberry with her husband, Mitch. “Well, we didn’t call them.”

A little more than a month ago the couple, who had heard the name, had never even seen the show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”

“Exactly four weeks ago today I saw the show for the first time,” Mitch said Tuesday. “I came in, saw it and asked Lisa, ‘What in the world are you watching?’”

“I had never seen it before either; but, it was the episode where the baby was being born, and something was wrong and I just couldn’t turn it off,” Lisa said. “I just had to see what happened next.”

And like the other 2.4 million viewers who, on average, have tuned in since the series premier just a few months ago, the Vaughns were hooked. They watched another hour of the show that night.

“The very next day we got a call from the show’s producers in LA saying they had been online looking around the area for places for the family to go,” Lisa said. “When they asked if we had heard of the show, I burst out laughing.”

According to a TLC press release, the show which has taken top spots in ratings weeks in a row, “follows Alana and her family: From family outings to loud and crazy family get-togethers, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” takes us off the pageant stage and into the unapologetically-outrageous family life of the Honey Boo Boo clan.”

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” has become a pop culture phenomenon,” said Amy Winter, general manager of TLC. “What you see is what you get; and, we are excited to share even more of Alana and her family’s unbridled hilarity, sincerity and love with our viewers.”

The Vaughns, as well as some local individuals who interacted with the family, were asked not to reveal anything that happened during the shooting to keep from spoiling plot points for show fans. The “Holla-day” specials are currently scheduled to run in January.

“We really can’t say what’s going to make it into an episode,” Skladany said. “It all depends on the footage they get. Some locations may be brief mentions and others full 15-minute segments. It just depends. It’s hard to say what’s going to hit the cutting room floor.

“The show really is pretty organic. I’m not sure where all they are shooting or where Alana wants to go. The show is very unscripted and about as real life as you can get with them.”

The Vaughns said they felt the filming went real well and despite their initial concerns about how their business may be portrayed, seem pleased with the overall experience.

“I know they’re just a redne…well, a simple country family, and some people don’t like the way the show portrays Georgia, but they really do take care of each other,” Mitch said. “And after talking to June for 15 or 20 minutes, she just seems as normal as anyone.”

“Well, pretty much,” Lisa said laughing.

Mitch said they were asked not to promote in advance the fact that the show would be filming there because if the crowd had been too big, it would have interfered with the filming.

The crowd was pretty average, Lisa said, but thinks there may have been a few more locals who wandered in later as news hit Facebook that the little star was making a local appearance.

"They said that some of the shows last season aired just a couple of weeks after shooting them,” Lisa said. “They’re just living their life on TV and I think they’re still getting used to the idea that this is really happening.”




City of Wrens lowers millage rate

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In a called meeting Thursday, Oct. 18, Wrens City Council voted to drop the city’s millage rate to 16.50 mills from last year’s rate of 16.90 mills.

Mayor Lester Hadden said he and Wrens City Administrator Arty Thrift worked on the budget in order to drop the millage rate.


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“(We’re) dropping it a little bit, not as much as we’d like,” the mayor said.

“We’re hoping this will satisfy everybody,” Hadden said.

Thrift said there will be a difference of $64,174 in taxes billed out this year versus last year.

“We will have a net tax decrease,” he said. “Everybody should get a reduction in taxes unless the value of their property went up.”

The council approved the millage rate of 16.50 mills.

In an interview after the meeting, Thrift said the city’s millage rate has gone down in the last couple of years.

“We’ve been dropping our millage rate,” he said, adding the city billed out $795,927 last year and will bill out $731,753 this year.

Thrift said the bills will go out within about a week; and, taxpayers will have 60 days to pay their bills.

The city administrator said the city will handle the difference in revenue through budget management.

“We’re not going to cut services; and, we’re not going to raise rates,” he said.




Power plant appeal settled

By Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

After negotiations and more than a $1 million in agreed upon additional costs for North Star Jefferson (NSJ), the appeal of its EPD issued air quality permit has been settled.

Not long after the Georgia Environmental Protection Division approved the air quality permit in June for NSJ’s biomass power plant proposed for Wadley, three parties, including the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, filed an appeal that delayed the project by about four months according to Rick Cashatt, the plant’s developer.

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Despite the plant’s meeting all of EPD’s requirements, the Riverkeeper and local environmentalists Tim Goodson and Charles Lewis filed the appeal claiming that the permit failed to provide adequate emission limits.

Since then an administrative law judge encouraged the parties to come to a resolution and the plant’s representatives sat down with those who signed the appeal to work out the settlement that was recently reached.

“This resolution demonstrates that parties to litigation can work together in an effort to significantly minimize the discharge of pollutants while at the same time recognizing the need for responsible economic growth in less populated areas which are often desperate for jobs at the risk of the health and safety of its residents,” said Don Stack, with Stack and Associates, the legal representation for the Riverkeepers.

Among the terms met in the settlement are the installation of an ambient air monitoring system at Carver Elementary, additional emission control technology that will cut the plant’s particulate emissions in half and NSJ’s agreement to pay the Ogeechee Riverkeeper $250,000 over the course of five years.

“I think the biggest win in this settlement is that through our negotiations we were able to get North Star to cut their (particulate) emissions in half,” said Ogeechee Riverkeeper Dianna Wedincamp. “That’s huge. But really, it was all of it together. If any one part of the agreement had been taken out it would have been a no deal.”

Ambient Air Monitor


North Star Jefferson agreed to install an ambient air monitoring station at Carver Elementary, subject to the school’s approval, within 30 days of financial closing on the power plant facility.

According to Cashatt, NSJ will own the monitoring system, which he says can cost up to $75,000. In the settlement, NSJ also agreed to commit an additional $20,000 a year for the operation of the monitoring station through one year following the NSJ facility beginning commercial operation. A third party contractor will be used to sample and analyze filterable PM 2.5 on a quarterly basis. Remaining funds will be used to sample for zinc, mercury, dioxin, hydrogen fluoride and hydrogen chlorides.

“After a couple of years, we could look at giving it (the monitoring system) to the community,” Cashatt said. “I am confident that after a certain amount of time it will show that the plant has no measurable effect on the air quality and so it will not be needed there.”

Cashatt said that NSJ suggested the system be put in place and that the idea for it came from his listening to the comments from citizens at the public hearing in Wadley in March.

“We want to get a good baseline of data long before the plant ever actually goes on line,” Cashatt said. “I believe it’s going to show that controlled burns and forest fires release significantly more particulate matter than our plant will.”

Wedincamp said that she hopes to work with a local university system who can use the ambient air monitor to do other air quality research.

Reduced emissions
NSJ also agreed to add an additional ESP field in series and amend their permit for a filterable PM emission rate of .015 pounds per million BTU heat input.

“Our precipitator had three cells,” Cashatt said. “How it works is flue gasses pass through there and the particles, which are charged one way, are attracted to a bank of metal rods, which are charged the other way. Then there is this hammer that strikes the side and the vibrations shake the material out the bottom. This is an extremely efficient system and we added a fourth cell. We proposed that as well. This will take our particulate emissions from .03 pounds per million BTU to .015 pounds per million BTU.”

The plant’s emissions were already below EPD’s required particulate emission standards.

The addition of the fourth cell will cost the NSJ around $460,000, Cashatt said.

“All of our goals were not met in the settlement,” Wedincamp said. “But we do feel that now there are a lot more restrictions and a lot more measures in place to protect the local environment and the residents of Jefferson County. We feel like we have a better permit than we did before.”

Throughout the permitting process, one of the primary concerns raised by individuals concerned the plant’s intent to burn a small percentage of tire derived fuel (TDF) in addition to woody biomass like untreated scrap wood. TDF is produced from shredded tires with the metals removed.

“We did not get everything we wanted in this settlement,” said Charles Lewis, one of the petitioners. “Our number one demand was for NSJ not to burn tires in their incinerator; an item which NSJ insisted upon. Even though the air permit has been issued, I am still totally opposed to the tire incinerator because of the significant risks to the children and citizens of Wadley and to the Ogeechee Watershed. The air permit may be legal but the tire incinerator is not safe.”

NSJ has insisted that their power plant is no way an incinerator, but a highly technical steam generating power plant that uses no more than 20 percent TDF to burn wood products at a higher temperature and therefore more efficiently. Other terms
NSJ also agreed to provide the petitioners with any and all records related to their operations and emissions that are required to be submitted to EPD and to give notice and reasonable access during stack testing. The plant will also provide regular information on the weights of biomass and TDF used and demonstrate how the TDF is weighed and introduced to the boiler.

“We usually work trying to clean up when industry makes a mess,” Wedincamp said. “Every now and then we get to work on the front end and work with industry to protect the community before a plant is built.”

NSJ also agreed to pay the Riverkeeper $50,000 within 10 days of financially closing on the project and $50,000 for four additional years, beginning at the date of commencing commercial operation. While the settlement agreement itself does not specify how the money will be used by the organization, Wedincamp stated the money will be put to use in the river basin.

“The money will be used for monitoring on the Ogeechee River and for education projects within the river basin in and around Jefferson County,” Wedincamp said.

The settlement also requires NSJ to pay all of the petitioners legal fees up to $96,145.

In all, including their own legal fees, Cashatt said the financial cost of the settlement for the developers is around $1.5 million. But, he added, it is the delay that potentially costs projects like this the most.

“What these delays do is kill your financing,” Cashatt said. “If we can have the plant built and connect to Georgia Power by Dec. 31, 2013, then we are eligible for a federal grant. What this delay did, was put that grant in jeopardy. But, thankfully we are now getting everything ready to sign, and I’m hoping that we should have all of our financing in place by Nov. 1, and can start mobilizing the site by the end of November. The first large foundation that would support the boiler and turbine could then be in place by the end of February.”

Despite the agreement being a “full and final settlement of all challenges which were brought or could have been brought” in the appeal, comments from both Goodson and Lewis in a recent Riverkeeper press release show clearly that they continue to oppose the plant.

Cashatt said he is glad to put the settlement behind him and believes he is making significant progress.

“We hope that for Christmas 2013, I’ll be able to give Jefferson County a Christmas present,” Cashatt said.




Hearings scheduled on biomedical waste

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

An ordinance Jefferson County’s commissioners passed seven years ago will finally have the required hearings.

The ordinance, which governs disposal of biomedical waste, was approved in May 2005, said Jefferson County Administrator Adam Mestres.

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“It was never properly ordained,” he said. “There were no public hearings.”

Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun said one of the reasons for the ordinance was because of sludge being brought into the county.

“There wasn’t anything we could do about that; because, we didn’t have any ordinance to apply to that at the time. In other words, anybody who could get EPD approval could come in and do anything they wanted to,” Rabun said.

“The other reason was if we had it in the ordinance, EPD wouldn’t let a company come into the county that would process that kind of waste,” he said.

The ordinance addresses a variety of items such as pathological waste, biological waste, cultures, chemotherapy waste and discarded medical equipment.

One of the purposes of the ordinance is listed as, “(to) regulate the locations, construction, operation, management and closure of biomedical waste incinerator facilities, including autoclaves, dealing with the storage, transfer, treatment or disposal of biomedical waste.”

Anyone interested in establishing such a business in the county would be required to have a permit issued by the county.

“We didn’t have a company, we just implemented it in case we did have a company that wanted to come in and process that type of material,” Rabun said.

“The idea is to try to keep the folks out that might have some potential to create some harmful effect to the community by way of their waste,” Mestres said.

“Really, what we’re doing we’re reaffirming something that was already there from 2005. Just trying to do the proper procedure. At that time, I don’t know if it was overlooked or what. The ordinance is, whether we talk about the incinerator or not, we don’t want this type of material at all, whether it’s buried or burned or put in the landfill, we don’t want it at all,” he said.

Joey May, the chief engineer and safety officer at Jefferson Hospital, said the hospital and its medical clinics contract out the disposal of its biomedical waste.

The first hearing was held Wednesday, Oct. 24. The others are scheduled for Monday, Nov. 5, at 9:30 a.m.; and Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 6:30 p.m. The hearings will be at the meeting room of the commission building in Louisville.

A copy of the ordinance is available at the commission office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. for citizens to review.







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