|Commission support for incinerator is peeling off|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Mike Anderson|
|Thursday, 19 April 2012 16:19|
If a proposed medical waste incinerator is built near the Walmart Distribution Center it would become the City of Macclenny’s thirstiest water customer, consuming an estimated 36 million gallons of water annually, or about 139,000 gallons every day.
It’s probably moot, however, for the city to begin counting on the new $345,000 annual revenue the plant would pump into city coffers.
The proposed development by Integrated Waste Management Systems Inc. [IWMS], which set off a fire storm of protest throughout the county earlier this month from residents concerned about the potential health risks, attracted more heat during a Baker County Commission meeting on April 16.
“I’ve tried to be objective,” Commissioner Michael Crews said. “But I’m at the position now where I’m opposed to the incinerator.”
Mr. Crews, who has to face the voters in a reelection campaign this year, said he was concerned that the proposed biological waste incinerator could pose a potential risk to pregnant mothers and their unborn babies.
“A child is God’s gift to us all and I will not vote for anything that would destroy those babies,” he said. “I strongly encourage the company to come back and have the board hear what needs to be heard and take a vote. Let’s put this thing to rest one way or another. The community needs closure, this board needs closure and the company itself could use some closure.”
Commissioner Mark Hartley, who chaired the board meeting this week because Chairman Gordon Crews was on vacation, declined to specify how he will vote but said he agreed that the issue should be put to a vote sooner rather than later.
“I’m ready for that last public hearing and to make a decision as quick as possible,” Mr. Hartley said.
Because of advertising requirements, the earliest the board could schedule the next public hearing on the issue probably would be at its second meeting next month, which begins at 5 pm on May 21.
Commissioners Jimmy Anderson and Adam Giddens, neither of whom is up for reelection this year, remained silent on the issue during the board meeting last Monday. But both indicated the next day that they saw no further reason to delay final action on Integrated Waste Management System’s proposed development agreement.
“I don’t think I’m going to vote for it either,” Mr. Giddens said. “I think all the commissioners feel the same way. I stand exactly where Mike (Crews) is.”
He said there’s nothing else the applicant could say or do to convince him to support the project, which company representatives have said would create 37 jobs in the first three years and up to 100 in the long term.
“There’s not enough jobs for the risk,” Mr. Giddens said.
Commissioner Anderson said he didn’t say anything at the board meeting because he doesn’t believe in voicing his opinion on something “until it’s on an agenda.” However, he said he did “not want to drag it out” any longer either.
Following a first public hearing on the issue on April 3, which drew a standing-room-only crowd voicing unanimous opposition to the proposed development, a final hearing was set for 6 pm on April 16. But IWMS temporarily withdrew its application and offered to fund the hiring of an independent third-party consultant of the county’s choosing to conduct a thorough review and analysis of the company’s proposal.
So far, the county has not taken the company up on its offer and Mr. Anderson said it would only cause more delays and greater expense to the company.
“I would hate for them to spend any more money without a clear indication” of how the county commission feels about their plans, Mr. Anderson said, adding that the matter should be voted “up or down” next month.
If the project is doomed, as appears likely, it won’t be a huge loss to the City of Macclenny, officials there said, because other commercial utility customers use less water than the proposed incinerator would use but pay a much higher total utility bill because of sewer charges, which are determined by the number of employees and restrooms.
“They wouldn’t be as big a customer as Walmart (Distribution Center), which has over 800 employees,” City Manager Gerald Dopson said.
Assistant City Manager Roger Yarborough, who also serves as the city’s building and zoning chief, said he already thought the incinerator proposal was dead and that IWMS had withdrawn its application.
Unless the company does so soon, it appears certain to face a vote of rejection by the county commission next month.
|Last Updated on Friday, 20 April 2012 09:39|