BY RICH JONES
ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR
The Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County has appointed a committee to negotiate terms of a construction-and-lease agreement with US Nitrogen and others for construction of a two-million-gallon water storage tank, water pipelines and associated infrastructure.
Named to the committee on Friday were Greeneville businessman Scott Niswonger; former Greeneville alderman Ginny Kidwell; and Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels.
The Industrial Development Board's entry into the development of the US Nitrogen plant site became necessary "due to changed circumstances and conditions, including engineering and financial considerations," according to one of two resolutions approved during the board's called meeting at the Courthouse Annex.
THE US NITROGEN FACILITIES are now under construction off Pottertown Road at Midway. The plant, which will produce liquid ammonium nitrate, is scheduled to begin operations in 2014.
'PROJECT HAS CHANGED'
"The scope of the (US Nitrogen) project has changed as far as water and sewer needs," said Tom Ferguson, president and CEO of the Greene County Partnership, early in the meeting.
Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles, who serves as chairman of the Industrial Development Board, told members that "nobody's here today to make money or to spend money."
In essence, the board will serve as the governmental channel for use of existing funds and then lease the water tanks and associated pipelines and infrastructure back to US Nitrogen at a nominal fee.
US Nitrogen will have the responsibility of covering all expenses if there are cost overruns.
'FAST TRACK' PROGRAM
In 2012, the State of Tennessee awarded approximately $960,000 in "Fast Track Infrastructure Development Program" funds to Greene County.
Those funds were matched by US Nitrogen to upgrade the existing water service to provide adequate water flow to US Nitrogen and other industries on Pottertown Road.
The funds were allocated to meet the water usage needs that were deemed to be required by US Nitrogen and Old Knox Utility District to install a 1.5-million-gallon water tank to serve the Pottertown Road area.
MORE CAPACITY NEEDED
Since 2012, however, engineers for US Nitrogen and its consulting engineers have determined that, due to projected growth, a 2-million-gallon water storage tank is required, along with other infrastructure modifications.
The larger capacity is also needed to assure that US Nitrogen does not over-burden the water needs of the Old Knox Utility District, Justin Freeark, US Nitrogen plant manager, told The Greeneville Sun after the meeting.
That's where the Industrial Development Board comes into play.
The board is the legal authority to own, construct, and lease the water tank and associated infrastructure -- and also to make modifications, as needed, to the existing plans for the use of the state-provided Fast Track funding.
"The board has the authority to assist US Nitrogen with this," said attorney Jerry Laughlin, who serves as legal counsel for the board.
To that end, the board's three-member committee will negotiate with the county, Old Knox Utility District, US Nitrogen and other parties if necessary, to reach a "mutually acceptable agreement regarding completion of the water tank and associated infrastructure," a resolution stated.
Then, the board will lease the tank and the associated infrastructure back to US Nitrogen at a nominal fee.
During the meeting, the board gave unanimous approval to two resolutions.
The first authorizes the appointment of the three-person committee to negotiate with Greene County, Old Knox Utility District, US Nitrogen and other parties for the construction of the water tank and associated infrastructure.
The first meeting of the Development Board committee is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Aug. 30 at the Courthouse Annex.
The meeting is open to the public.
The second resolution authorizes the development and submission of a right-of-way application to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to construct water pipelines and associated infrastructure within the state's right-of-way.
The second resolution also authorizes the committee to negotiate the terms and construction of a construction-and-lease agreement with US Nitrogen for the building of the pipeline.
Mayor Broyles said at the meeting that the board will work with US Nitrogen to make sure the county does not retain any liability in the event of a future mishap such as a pipeline break.
Freeark said after the meeting that US Nitrogen is also now looking at the possibility of running a water pipeline from the plant to the Nolichucky River for the purpose of drawing water from the river, rather than from the Old Knox Utility District.
Under such an option, Freeark said, water from the Nolichucky River would be used "purely for cooling purposes."
PARK OVERALL SPEAKS
Greene County resident and environmental activist Park Overall, who has opposed the US Nitrogen plant citing health and safety concerns, attended the meeting and was allowed to give brief comments.
"Administrative practice is not law. It's a habit," Overall said prior to the board's vote on the first resolution.
"You all don't understand what's going on here," she said. "I'm not going to lecture you. I'm going to ask you some questions. Mr. Freeark, how many gallons of water ..."
At that point Overall was interrupted by Broyles, who said, "Let's not have questions, please."
Overall then said, "The state's paperwork -- they're trying to change the laws to accommodate you people, and they can't if I decide to do something about it. I have no reason to lie to you."