Development questions simmer

Blount County Commission

The Blount County Commission dealt with mainly routine items in its business meeting last Tuesday, while questions concerning a significant economic development matter involving a prospective new aluminum recycling and processing plant were put on hold after being raised by a group of concerned citizens in the commission’s Nov. 7 work session.

The plant has been proposed for the Rainbow Crossing area of northwest Blount County, and is still in early stages of consideration, according to commission chairman Chris Green. The report of citizens comments and objections in the work session appears below, followed by the regular commission business meeting report. Thursday work session discussion

Eight residents of the Rainbow Crossing area appeared at the commission work session Thursday to request more information about the aluminum plant and to raise questions specifically about its possible negative impact on air and water quality in the immediate area.

Green answered spokesperson Karen Smith during the initial presentation of objections by emphasizing that their questions were being raised very early in the vetting process. He said a public hearing would be scheduled later in the process for residents to ask questions and present their concerns.

Residents making up the group, which has no name according to Smith, “feel betrayed by the lack of public information” and wanted to be included as participants from the outset of the vetting and negotiating process, suggesting at one point that information about the plant had been intentionally withheld from the community.

Green said that commissioners have the same concerns as any other person about the safety and welfare of the community and that the commission has not acted in secrecy, but in strict compliance with laws regulating economic development matters. Residents’ requests of commission

Four members of the citizens’ group addressed the commission, collectively making the following requests:

(1) that a delay for a period of six months be allowed to conduct a professional environmental impact study, which Smith said the group would pay for.

(2) that a similar period of up to a year be allowed for the group to identify and recruit a comparable non-polluting industry or industries (such as software processing companies) as an alternative to the aluminum processing plant.

(3) that a thorough environmental study be conducted on potential air pollution due to one specific part of the aluminum recovery/manufacturing process which involves sandblasting with superheated sand and resulting airborne contamination.

(4) that the commission agree to get the facts about any dangers to human health from the plant and that it commit to sharing the specifics of those findings with residents.

(5) that the plant not be allowed to locate at the proposed site due to the impossibility of guaranteeing that toxic substances would not be released into the air, water, or soil that would jeopardize the health of residents, especially children who would be particularly vulnerable, for years to come (broadly paraphrased).

(6) that a commitment be made to “get it in writing” from appropriate sources such as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), as to what levels of any potential harmful environmental substances affecting air, soil, or water will be emitted from the plant.

On Friday, Nov. 8, the day after the work session, Shea Beard, one of those who spoke, filed a complaint in Blount County Circuit Court, apparently on behalf of the group. It requested the court grant an injunction preventing the Blount County Commission from purchasing the subject property or alternatively, preventing the commission from selling the property to any industry that would contaminate the air and water supply associated with the property itself and surrounding land.

According to Economic Development Council executive director Don Mitchell, further details about the prospective company will be provided soon, should the project move forward.

Report on commission’s Monday business meeting

Highlights of the meeting include the following:

(1) Discussion of a modified application by B&B Tire Landfill to expand operations at its existing site in Hayden. B&B had originally filed an application last year to open a new site near Cleveland. The application for that site was withdrawn in late 2018. The modified application applies to expanded operations at its Hayden location. Consideration of the modified application was moved to the December business meeting pending the receipt of additional documentation.

(2) Update on construction status of Department of Human Resources (DHR) building: financing closed recently and a notice to proceed issued and received; work may began as soon as weather permits.

(3) Approval of the Blount County Holiday Schedule for 2020.

(4) Approval of American Fidelity Assurance Company to continue to manage the 125 Cafeteria (Benefits) Plan for employees; the chairman was authorized to execute the agreement.

(5) Renewal of annual rental agreements with occupants of Family Services Mall and Community Services Building and authorization for chairman to execute.

In other actions, the commission:

• adopted a resolution proclaiming Nov. 22-Nov. 28 as Farm-City Week, to recognize the accomplishments of farmers in producing food and fiber, and the cooperative relationship between them and city-dwellers to create abundance, wealth, and the strength of the nation.

• accepted a sealed bid of $889 from Lynn Enterprises for a Ford Ranger declared surplus by District 1 and bids on a new truck for each district ($29,229 for double-cab Chevrolet from Terry Sligh Chevrolet; and $30,393 each for three crew-cab Fords from All American Ford).

• passed a motion for the county attorney, county administrator, and buildings manager to work together to craft a contract for the commission with a sole provider to install new doors and door locks at Family Services Mall, consistent with Department of Homeland Security regulations and to meet a March 1 extension date for installation.

• approved annual agreement with Blount County 911 for funding support of $94,573 (already included in the 2020 budget), and authorized chairman to execute.

• approved purchase of Sentinel 1 anti-virus software for three years for $9,000, paid from safety fund.

• approved Probate Office contract addendum with Ingenuity Software, and authorized chairman to execute; software enables citizens online access to probate documents such as deeds and other records for a charge of $1.50 per page.

• appointed Jim Ed Clayton to the Department of Human Resources board.

• re-appointed Terry Hallmark to the Pine Mountain Volunteer Fire and Rescue board for a five-year term expiring in December, 2024.

• reappointed Marty Stover to the West Blount Fire and Emergency Services district, in a late addition to the meeting agenda.

Engineering items

At the recommendation of county engineer Dustin Stewart, the commission:

• passed a resolution covering a proposed, but not yet approved, project under the Rebuild Alabama Grant Program to resurface or otherwise improve the following roads or portions of roads: Royal-Liberty Road, Williams Settlement Road, a portion of Nolan Loop, a portion of County Highway 30, and a portion of County Highway 38.

• approved authorizing the bid for annual asphalt paving, emulsion (scrub seal) for District 4, fog seal, and concrete.

Stewart also reported on applying for and receiving a $50,000 grant to repair/replace damaged guardrails on County Highway 51.

Quorum and future meetings

All commissioners and commission chairman Chris Green were present at the business meeting.

The next commission work session is Thursday, Dec. 12, at 9 a.m. The next commission business meeting is Monday, Dec. 16, at 9 a.m. Both are in the commission board room at the courthouse in Oneonta.

• The commission has called a special meeting Thursday, Nov. 21, at 1 p.m., in the commission boardroom to consider an agreement for installation of door access controls at the Family Services Center.