County Council approves economic incentives for “Project Mystery Green”

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By Stan Welch

Anderson County Council unanimously passed an inducement resolution identifying a power generating project of a company identified only as Project Mystery Green Tuesday night. Since there are only so many power generating companies in the area, and only one that District Six Councilman Ken Waters works for, his request to recuse himself from the discussion and vote narrowed it down to one. That would be Duke Energy. (See related story)

The resolution expresses the Council’s intent to offer certain tax and infrastructure incentives at the appropriate time. Economic Development Director Burriss Nelson told the Council that the existing site, i.e. the Lee Steam Plant, currently generates $2.64 million in annual ad valorem taxes. That amount will increase to $4.1 million in the first year of expanded operations. In addition, inclusion of the property in a multi-county industrial park will generate an additional $1.8 million, bringing the annual amount to $5.69 million.

The total economic impact on the local economy the first year will total $229 million. Five hundred construction workers will be involved in the project, and eventually 25 full time jobs at the power plant will be realized. Those jobs will pay in the thirty dollar an hour range.

The Council also reviewed their recent decision to increase sewer rates in order to slow and eventually stop the practice of using funds from other sources to defray significant deficits in the sewer fund. That fund is designed to operate as an enterprise fund, paying its own way.

County Finance Officer Rita Davis and Wastewater Director Derrick Singleton explained to the Council that in 2009, $700,000 was transferred in to cover shortages, a figure which grew to $1.6 million last year. Davis pointed out that with the newly implemented residential equivalent unit, REU, the fund should break even, and begin making money next year.

Singleton explained that what once was a new system no longer is. “We have transfer stations and sewer lines in the ground that are ten to fifteen years past their normal life. We have been very lucky and worked very hard to keep this system up and running.”

District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, a longtime critic of the county’s sewer plan, agreed; saying that the Five Mile line is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. “I only hope we continue to be lucky until such time as the new revenues can be applied to repairing and upgrading the system.” Singleton added that the Five Mile project alone will cost $10 million dollars.