By Chad Hobbs
Last Tuesday evening, a large group of area farmers and local/state leaders came together in a large shop on Greg and J.J. Hager’s farm outside Flaherty to discuss a new grain company. Earlier this year, the region lost Consolidated Grain and Barge’s grain handling facility in Brandenburg when it closed to make way for the construction of Nucor’s new steel mill.
Magistrate Billy Sipes opened the meeting by welcoming everyone, introducing the politicians that were present and turning the floor over to Industrial Authority Chairman David Pace to explain where they were at, related to attracting a new company to replace CGB in Meade County.
Pace started out explaining that last fall, they reached out to four granaries to see if any would be interested in coming to Meade County. One was an immediate no, one said they would look at it, and the other two both said yes. One of those companies came last fall and toured all six prospective sites. The second company, he said, came later, bringing a team to tour those same sites.
“For our sake and those companies’ sakes, tonight, we are not going to mention any names yet but hopefully in the future, we will be able to quickly put out their names,” Pace explained.
Three of the sites are in McGehee bottom along Long Branch Road. He said the issue there is the distance of the leg, due to flooding issues in that bottom. The second issue is Long Branch Road. To get to the bottom, trucks would have to cross a small bridge/overpass that crosses the spillway below Doe Valley Lake’s dam, which is not rated to handle the amount of semi traffic and weight that would come with the granary on one of these sites. The road, itself, is not up to specs for this kind of traffic either.
The fourth site is at Monument Chemical Plant. Pace said this was by far the favorite site of both companies, but they didn’t have permission or rights to that ground, other than to negotiate.
The fifth site was along Ashcraft Road on 228. That site along the river could be made out of the flood plain, but there would be some cost prohibitive work to be done to get it ready.
The sixth site is at the Battletown Quarry. He said that site could be made any size and could be made at any level they wanted above the flood plain. The team is in talks with the quarry, but as it has been recently bought out, they haven’t had a chance to speak with the new owners. They wanted to wait till after the meeting to set up a meeting with the quarry.
“One of our goals in that was to be able to see what site would work. Unfortunately, we are almost ten months when some of these meetings happened,” Pace pointed out. “Both of the granaries that visited with us both said they could take harvest crop in ’21. Now that’s going to be awfully optimistic to think that can happen, but there are two sites that could potentially happen in still if we can get something done in the next couple months.”
He added that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has been very involved, since he had reached out to Keith Rogers, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture. He added that KDA Commissioner Ryan Quarles has been very supportive also. Other departments assisting this endeavor include the Economic Development Cabinet (helping put together who is needed to help with site clearances), the Kentucky Division of Water, and the Environmental Cabinet of Kentucky. He said that the Corp of Engineers has not been brought in, as of yet, due to the fact that a final site has not, been chosen yet.
“So the site at Monument was number one at first. We all said we thought that would be the ideal site to go to, close to where we were, and about the same distance leg, but the problem is that we haven’t been able to get that site at Monument Chemical committed,” Pace stated. “We have asked for two sites on the property. We are still negotiating; just because they haven’t said yes doesn’t mean we aren’t still trying.”
He concluded by saying the quarry has become a favorite site, though, because it would be the quickest site to be ready for operation. They already have barge storage capacity of approximately 42 barges, while only storing around 20 barges at any given time, and they also have their own tug boat on site to stage the barges. He added that the next move is to from that site to discuss synergies that could be put together for them, for the granary and for all the community to use. The Division of Water will be needed for permitting. The quarry is currently only permitted to load rock.
“We would then get a permit to load grain. They are permitted to load rock only at this time,” Pace explained. “We would then get a permit to load grain and that would be the only thing that would really have to be done there to go to work immediately on that.”
It was at this point that Pace turned the floor over to Chief of Staff for the KDA, Keith Rogers. That is where this article will continue next week. Due to the impact this issue has had in the community over the past year, I feel it is important that this meeting is given more than a short summary which can open doors for things to be misunderstood or taken out of context. This meeting has the potential to be a true turning point and example of how government, industry leaders, and community members should work together. It is still too early to tell, but it will be given the complete coverage it deserves.