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New steel plant headed for Lowndes


Neal Wagner



About 65 jobs and a $25 million investment soon could be on its way to the Golden Triangle Industrial Park, members of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors announced during a Tuesday meeting. 


Texas-based New Process Steel, which has plants in Birmingham, Ala., Dallas and Mexico, this week signed a memorandum of understanding with Lowndes County outlining plans to locate a 100,000-square-foot flat rolled steel manufacturing plant next to the Severstal steel mill off Airport Road in western Lowndes County. 


"We got a memorandum of understanding from New Process to proceed with the project," GTPDD Project Analyst George Crawford told the board Tuesday morning.  


"Hell yeah, I''m excited about it," exclaimed Columbus-Lowndes Development Link Chief Executive Officer Joe Higgins. "Severstal is tickled to death, the supes are tickled to death and we are tickled to death." 


Once completed, the mill will purchase steel coils from Severstal, before cutting and processing the steel to meet customer specifications. After cutting the steel, New Process will ship the finished product to its customers, explained Higgins. 


"You and I can''t do much with thin-gauge steel, but New Process will be able to cut it into bands and shape it to customer specifications," Higgins said. "They will have kind of a partnership with Severstal, so it will benefit both companies." 


In order to transport the 90,000-pound steel coils from Severstal to the New Process plant, contractors likely will construct an 18-inch-thick, steel-reinforced road connecting the two facilities, Higgins explained. 


"A normal coil weighs 46,000 to 48,000 pounds. Trucks can legally only carry one of those coils at a time on state highways," Higgins said. "With this road they have proposed for the project, they will be able to do what they call a cress carry. That will allow them to carry multiple 90,000-pound coils at a time from Severstal to New Process. 


"If you''ve seen the vehicles they use to transport those coils, they look almost like a big Tonka toy," Higgins said. "By being on site with Severstal, they have predicted being able to save $2 or $3 per ton in transportation costs." 


In addition to the expected $1 million in road upgrades at the site, the county also is expected to fund about $1 million in water and sewer upgrades for the plant. 


"We''ve already had the construction guy talking with different local contractors. I think he''s talked with three general contractors so far, so they''re just working on selecting a contractor right now," Higgins said. "I think this is a project where they could get started with the construction pretty soon." 


Lowndes County officials are seeking a $1.6 million Community Development Block Grant to help fund the plant''s construction. If the grant is awarded, the county will provide a $180,000 match, bringing the grant total to about $1.8 million, Crawford said. 


"They are ready to start the project right now," Crawford said. "I will prep the application and get it out as soon as I can." 


"The way I understand it, we''ve already gotten a letter from the state saying the application has been approved and the grant is in the mail," Higgins said. "The kicker now is just how long it will take them to make the final drawings and engineering of the plant." 




Other business 


In other business, the board: 


n Announced Artesia is eligible to receive a $186,500 grant from the Mississippi Rural Development Department to construct a new volunteer fire department in the city. 


Because the grant would require about a $62,000 match from the county, Artesia could receive as much as $248,500 for the department, explained Stanley Spradling, of Calvert-Spradling Engineers. 


"The original estimate on the station was about $363,000," Spradling explained. "But we should actually be able to construct it within that $248,500." 


Once completed, the volunteer fire station will replace an aged station in use now in Artesia, according to Lowndes County Administrator Ralph Billingsley. 


"This one will be replacing an old station that obviously needs to be replaced," Billingsley explained.  


The county''s $62,000 match will be budged for the next fiscal year, and the total grant amount will be announced later, said Spradling. 


n Announced the county tax office will not offer any vehicle tag renewals or purchases until July 8. The office also will not be mailing out tag renewal cards in July, said Lowndes County Tax Collector and Assessor Greg Andrews. 


The announcement came as Lowndes County Tax Collector and Assessor Greg Andrews explained tax offices across the state today will be unsure how the lack of a state budget will affect them. 


"The cards the public gets won''t be sent out for July," Andrews explained. "The state budget is not set, but the legislature put $27 million into the car tag fund so we could operate without the budget. 


"But honestly, we don''t know how to operate at 8 a.m. tomorrow," Andrews added Tuesday.  


n Adopted a dilapidated property ordinance to go into effect across the county. 


The ordinance will mirror a state statute in place in many cities and counties across Mississippi. According to the statute, owners of dilapidated properties will be mailed a certified letter by the county ordering the property owner to repair or clean their land or residence. 


If the property owner does not abide, the county will summon the person before the Board of Supervisors. The board then will give the property owner a deadline to repair or clean their land. If the owner still does not abide by the order, county crews will complete the work. The cost of the work then will be added to the owner''s property tax. 


"We will get those letters going out as soon as possible," Billingsley said.




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