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This week's Commerce News

This week's Commerce News

This week's Commerce News


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Flowers Anyone?

Christy Westmoreland, a member of the Commerce High School Beta Club, helped distribute the scores of Valentine's Day flower arrangements, balloons, cookies and candy sent to CHS students and staff Monday. In-school delivery of the material was a Beta Club project. Similar scenes could be found in all local schools for one of the nation's favorite holidays.


$50 Million Investment
Georgia Power To Build 9th, 10th Generating Units At Center Power Plant In 2001, Adding $50 Million To Project
CENTER -- The Georgia Power Company has decided to build two more 80-megawatt generating units at its peak power plant next year.
Eight units are currently under construction at an estimated cost of $200 million on Jarrett Road, just off U.S. 441 across from Louisiana Pacific. Those plants are due to come on line starting in March, the first phase of what could eventually be a 16-unit plant.
Georgia Power plans to use the gas-fueled generators during times of peak electrical demand. The process is more expensive per kilowatt hour than conventional generating plants, but the cost is more than offset by the savings over purchasing power to meet peak demands.
"We plan to build two more units in 2001, but we have made no other decisions beyond that," explained John Sell, a media relations official for Georgia Power.
The company has a contract with the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority for up to 900 gallons per minute after July 2001. It will begin taking county water ­ most of it from Commerce ­ in March, when it will need 200 gallons per minute. Starting June 1, the company's contract calls for it to receive up to 450,000 gallons per minute, which was the company's original estimate to cover eight units.
According to Sell, the company believes it can bring the two additional units on line without exercising its option to go over the 450 gpm mark.
The two additional units will increase Georgia Power's investment at the Center site to $250 million, according to Sell. If all 16 are built, the project's estimated cost would hit $400 million, by far the largest industrial project in the county.
Originally, it was thought that Georgia Power would build in two eight-unit phases, but the decision to add two units during 2001 is a departure from that plan.
Meanwhile, the water authority is building lines to bring water to the plant, both from its current system and from the Bear Creek Reservoir, which is projected to come on line in July 2001.
Last Thursday night, the authority's engineer, Charlie Armentrout, told members that the water storage tank, pump station, piping, etc., has been built and that General Electric is testing its equipment on the site.
"Georgia Power is still scheduled to receive water for generation in June. Our contract says the flat fee begins in March," Armentrout noted.
Plans for a water line from U.S. 129 east to U.S. 441, some 52,000 feet of 16-inch pipes, have been submitted to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for approval. Armentrout projected that the authority would be able to advertise for bids on that project in 60 days.
Armentrout is also designing a line from South Jackson to the Bear Creek Reservoir, and he expects those plans to be sent for EPD approval within a month.
Speaking at last Thursday's regular water authority meeting, Armentrout predicted that Georgia Power would build more units.
"I think they're going to commit to the other units. They sure have the site developed for it," he said. "They have 400 or 500 employees, from subcontractors, on the site."
The authority expects to use water purchased from Commerce for the plant, but also plans on using more expensive water from Athens-Clarke County at times of peak demand. Its contract with Georgia Power protects the authority in the event that the authority has to use greater amounts of water from Athens-Clarke.

No Deal
City To Oppose Railroad's Plan To Close Three Grade Crossings
If Norfolk-Southern Railway closes any of the grade crossings in Commerce, it will be over the objection of the Commerce city government.
The city council voted Monday night to support its citizens in opposition to the closing of even one of the three grade crossings Norfolk-Southern has indicated it wants to close.
The council's decision was apparent even before nine citizens spoke, a unanimous wall of opposition to a move both leaders and citizens agreed would make driving more hazardous in Commerce.
In the end, the council not only voted to send Norfolk-Southern a letter stating its opposition, but also encouraged citizens to start and sign petitions voicing their opposition to the move. One councilman even threatened legal action.
Asked by the Rev. David Harbin, pastor of Madison Street Baptist Church, if the railroad could close the grade crossings without the city's permission, city attorney John Stell responded, "The Georgia Supreme Court is about to rule on that," referring to a case Marietta brought against a different railroad.
"Should they do that, we would go to court and file an injunction to stop them," advised Councilman Bob Sosebee.
Norfolk-Southern wants to close grade crossings at Brookwood Avenue, Madison Street and on South Broad Street Extension, across from Hart's Barbecue, citing safety concerns.
But it was the issue of safety that citizens cited as reasons to keep the grade crossings open.
Dr. Larry Meadows pointed out that grade crossings at Madison Street and South Broad Street Extension are both used so motorists can avoid the intersection of Georgia 98 and old U.S. 441 near the Kangaroo convenience store, which he said was the most dangerous intersection in town.
Meadows questioned the railway's claim it was attempting to reduce its liability for accidents, observing that funneling more motorists across fewer railroad crossings did not appear to make sense.
Mike Brown, owner of a gas station on South Elm Street near the Madison Street grade crossing, worried over the "great detriment" to his business.
"I talked with all of the businesses at that end. We vehemently oppose closing any of the grade crossings," he stated.
Harbin worried that closure of the Madison Street crossing would increase the illegal use of the church's parking lot as a cut-through between Madison Street and Ila Road.
"If they're concerned about safety, when you look at 98 coming into South Broad and Elm, you've got a major problem," he said. "That would make it worse."
As for the church parking lot, Harbin called it "a thoroughfare now," and predicted that closing the grade crossing would result in "all these folks going to shoot right across our parking lot. It will endanger our situation."
Mayor Charles Hardy also voiced opposition after a citizen expressed fear that closing the grade crossings could increase the response times of fire or rescue personnel.
"With the trains getting longer, we need all the crossings," Hardy noted, adding that fire, police and rescue people had "looked at" the situation.
Mr. and Mrs. James Brooks voiced opposition to the Brookwood Avenue closing, saying it would hurt their business, Goldmine Used Cars. The railroad had approached Commerce about closing the crossings after the city approached the railroad about repairing the retaining wall on the railroad right of way on North Broad Street.
"The railroad put the crossings in ..." Sosebee stated. "Businesses have grown up around them and never have we had a train/car accident I am aware of."
Sosebee made the motion to oppose closing any of the grade crossings. Sam Brown seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously.
As for the retaining wall, Councilman Archie D. Chaney noted: "If it needs fixing, it's theirs."
"If it falls, we'll clear it out of the street and let them move the track if they need to," Sosebee added.
Police Chief George Grimes endorsed the move.
"A lot of people in Mr. (Donald) Wilson's ward use the Madison Street crossing," he said. "I don't see how we can put more traffic in that (Maysville Road/old U.S. 441) intersection. From a public safety and fire safety standpoint, if we close these things and have a train blocking the crossings, we'll be asking for trouble."
Hardy urged Harbin to get a petition from his church to show its position, and encouraged others in the audience to do the same. At the suggestion of Wilson, the city agreed to have a petition opposing the grade crossing closings at City Hall for the public to sign.
On a related matter, Sosebee asked City Manager Clarence Bryant to write to the Georgia Department of Transportation requesting a traffic light at the Maysville Road/old U.S. 441 intersection.
"It's not as bad as the intersection at Hardee's, but it's close," he said.
Later in the meeting, Sam Brown proposed that the city contact the DOT and possibly Rep. Scott Tolbert about having a stop light put up at the intersection of Georgia 326 and the bypass.
"We've already had two or three fatalities there and several other bad accidents," he said.

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