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Meeting offers insight to power plant

AHOSKIE – The public will have their say here Tuesday.

The Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Services will hold a Public Scoping Meeting to prepare an environmental assessment of Hertford Renewable Energy’s proposal to construct a 50 megawatt biomass power plant in Hertford County.

The meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 10 in the auditorium at Roanoke-Chowan Community College. At that time the public will have an opportunity to provide written or oral statements concerning the proposal.

Hertford County Economic Development Director Bill Early said the scoping meeting was normal for facilities using government dollars.

“Part of it is because they are seeking federal funding and any time you use government dollars, they require you to hold a scoping meeting,” Early said. “Basically it will be to make sure they have looked at the latest technology and chosen the best site. We have taken all of that into consideration.”

The proposal calls for the facility to be placed on approximately 93 acres on the Joe Holloman Road east of Millennium and could be in service by 2011. It is the same site looked at by GenPower when that company was considering building a similar facility nearly seven years ago.

The plant will be owned by Decker, who already operates a similar facility in New Bern.

“The area the project is located in is pretty remote,” Early said. “There are very few residences. In fact, you can’t see any residences from the site.”

He emphasized the new facility should have no impact on residences in the area and the only major change would be the amount of truck traffic.

Early said the fact Decker is already in business helps give this project a leg up on the earlier talks with GenPower, which dissolved after the 9-11 disaster.

“They have a track record,” he said. “They are currently in North Carolina at a site in New Bern. They have a clean track record.”

Early said the only smell that would come from the facility would be if a person were onsite and then the smell would be that of wood mulch.

Decker, doing business as Hertford Renewable Energy, is looking at a $100 million investment in Hertford County and will bring 25 high-paying jobs to the area.

Early said basically the plant would operate on the parts of a tree that were currently being left in the woods.

“They expect to pay $10 million per year for what’s now being left in the woods and all of that is expected to come from within a 50-mile radius of the facility,” he said.

He also said the facility would have the added benefit of using Ahoskie’s wastewater, which could potentially save the town a significant amount of money.

“Everything about this facility is positive,” Early said. “Nucor and Rivers Correctional have turned out just like we said they would and I think that has given the public confidence that we are truthful in these situations.”

Government agencies, private organizations and citizens are encouraged to participate in the planning and analysis of the planned project.