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Counties see electricity facility generating jobs

Officials in Thomson and McDuffie County have launched a partnership with neighboring Warren County officials that is expected to become a fruitful relationship.

The partnership, which was officially adopted by the City of Thomson and McDuffie County Board of Commissioners along with the Thomson-McDuffie County Water and Sewer Commission on Dec. 21, is designed to provide much needed water for a planned biomass electric generating facility in Warren County.

Such a facility, which is to be built by Oglethorpe Power Co., is not scheduled for construction until 2012. The plant is expected to be operational by 2014. In 2010 company officials will be spending much of their time gaining state and federal permits required to operate such a facility, according to Warren County Commission Chairman John Graham.

One of the main things needed from Thomson and McDuffie County officials is water -- including that called gray water (sewage water) will be sold to Warren County through a 50-year contractual agreement. All three local governing bodies agreed to such an agreement during back-to-back special called meetings last Monday.

"This is a long-term project," Mr. Graham said.

Entering into such an agreement is not expected to effect local water supply for customers, according to Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry.

"We've got ample amounts of water to enter into this partnership," Mr. Usry said. "We feel this is a great project for us, as well as Warren County. And the good thing about it is that it's going to bring in new jobs."

Warren County will be responsible for installing the infrastructure needed to pump the water from McDuffie County to the site. Power company officials, meanwhile, will be responsible for the costs all water testing.

Mr. Graham said the first phase of the project, holding public meetings and acquiring permits, will take about two years to complete. Construction would then take another two years.

Officials with Oglethorpe Power Company purchased 355 acres of land in the East Warrenton Industrial Park in Warren County several months ago Mr. Graham told more than a dozen Thomson and McDuffie County officials attending last week's meeting.

Oglethorpe Power Company (OPC) decided on Warren County over Washington County. The electrical power company also has plans to build a facility in Appling County, Ga., Mr. Graham said.

"We're very excited about this plant coming to Warren County," he added.

"And we're excited about what it means in terms of additional jobs for this area. It's also a plus for our landowners."

Mr. Graham said OPC has made a sizable investment in coming to Warren County.

"This is a $400 million commitment on their part," he explained.

OPC officials have indicated that about 40 jobs would be created at the plant, while as many as 200 other jobs would be what were described as "spin-off jobs" in other sectors associated with the plant.

After the contract was agreed to between local officials, Mr. Graham said, he was pleased with the reception he received concerning the project.

"I appreciate the cooperation we've received from the officials in Thomson and McDuffie County," Mr. Graham said. "This will be a good thing for all of us."

Web posted on Thursday, December 31, 2009

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