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Bridges, biomass dominate meeting

March 25, 2009
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners Thursday night was presented with both an update on the status of the new Milltown bridge and a presentation in support of the proposed biomass plant to be built near Milltown by Liberty Green Renewables LLC.

In an effort to give equal time to all parties concerned, the commissioners allowed some time for a supporter of the plant to have his say in the same way the Concerned Citizens of Crawford County had their say last month. Several CCCC members were also in attendance last week.

Jeff Roll of English, owner of Westwood Lumber in Taswell, said he has operated a wood business in Crawford County for 26 years. He said he is in favor of renewable energy and that wood waste is the way to go.

"The wood products of Indiana are one of the most renewable resources available to us today," Roll said, explaining there is a 1.54 to 1 ratio of growth to removal of trees in Indiana.

He also said that wood products are Indiana's top agricultural crop and generated $17 billion for the state in 2007.

Roll expressed his interest in the potential tax income generated by the biomass plant, which would become the county's largest taxpayer if constructed, and the jobs that the plant would create, estimated by LGR to be between 25 and 60.

"Let's not forget that Crawford County ranks 90th out of 92 counties in Indiana in per capita income," Roll said, "and our unemployment rate in January was 9.9 percent."

After Roll's presentation, Larry Bye, president of the board, opened the floor to anyone who wanted to speak to the commissioners concerning the biomass plant. Only a few CCCC members responded.

Cara Beth Jones addressed Roll directly, telling him that her father was involved in the sawmill business and that she supported the county's sawmills.

Lyn Humphries of English questioned the replanting rate, asking if Roll was replanting mostly pine trees that result in "essentially dead forests."

After a brief exchange, Bye spoke up and asked that all comments be addressed to the board and not to Roll.

Another CCCC member quoted a June 8, 2007, ruling by a U.S. Court of Appeals panel stating that former President Bush's Environ-mental Protection Agency was in violation of the Clean Air Act by treating biomass plants as boilers instead of incinerators. This forced existing biomass plants at the time and any new plants to be subject to stricter emission regulations.

This was read in response to LGR partner Terry Naulty's claim at the last commissioner's meeting that the proposed biomass plant was not an incinerator.

The next major item of the meeting was a presentation by Greg Miller of Heritage Engineering concerning the new Milltown bridge.

Miller said it will be constructed adjacent to the existing bridge, about five feet upstream, and that during the course of construction, the old bridge will be kept open to traffic.

The utility lines on the bridge will be different from the old bridge. The water and sewer lines will be placed on the downstream side to protect them from debris during flooding. For added protection, the gas line and force main line will be between the trusses of the bridge with the gas on the upstream side and the force main on the downstream side. There should be no break in utility service during construction, Miller said.

Construction of the bridge is set to begin May 1. The quote on the bridge itself is $564,660. The cost will be split between Harrison and Crawford counties, with Harrison paying 60 percent and Crawford paying 40 percent. The commissioners agreed to accept the quote pending county council approval.

In other matters:

•The EMS department requested support from the commissioners for the purchase of a GPS time-sync device when they ask the county council for funding. The device will sync all of the different computers' time clocks and allow EMTs to instantly recall the last message on a 911 call. This recall takes four or five minutes currently because the time clocks on the computers are off. Helix Technologies, the department's IT manager, offered to install the device for $6,070. The commissioners approved the purchase pending approval of the council.

•Sheriff Tim Wilkerson asked the commissioners for the approval of the department leasing of a drug dog belonging to Eddie Weber, a deputy with department. The dog will be leased for $1 a year. Wilkerson brought pictures of the dog taken during one of its seizures of $10,000 worth of marijuana in Madison, where Weber used to work.

•EMA Director Kent Barrow told the commissioners that the Leaven-worth Volunteer Fire Department wants to take possession of the currently unused Special Operations trailer. He said the department has 15 firefighters certified in haz-mat. The original agreement concerning the trailer was that the fire department that takes it has to cover the insurance and equipment on the trailer and the county covers the cost of expired materials. County Attorney John Colin said a new agreement needs to be typed up between the county and Leavenworth concerning the trailer. He said he would have something by next meeting.

•The commissioners approved the inspection of the Alton bridge No. 45 for construction by the engineering firm FSE.

•Commissioner Randy Gilmore urged residents to complete the upcoming census survey. He cited studies have shown a per capita disposable income loss for the area of $4,000 per person for each person not counted.

The commissioners' next meeting is set for Thursday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m.

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