Live Oaks at former Belwood site being cleared for new projectsPublished 12:01am Wednesday, September 26, 2012
NATCHEZ — For 40 years, the former Belwood Country Club was the site of well-groomed, tree-lined fairways and sand traps, a place where those who could pay the club rental fee could take a shot at the 390-yard, par four 11th hole.
Now, 14 years after the last game of golf was played there, the trees at the former Belwood Country Club are being felled in preparation for the expansion of industry in Adams County. The broad-branched Live Oaks near the former arched entrance lay on their sides, while the trees toward the back of the property are being logged and — if possible — taken to a mill for commercial purposes
Two crews are doing the work onsite. One of the crews is affiliated with KiOR, the alternative energy company that has announced plans for a $350 million investment in an organic matter-to-liquid fuel plant in Adams County, while the other is working for the county government.
KiOR spokeswoman Kate Perez said the company is clearing a portion of the Belwood property for better access to do initial engineering studies and other due diligence. That’s the crew removing the trees in the front of the property.
The log crew in the back is clearing land for the county, specifically for the construction of a levee to protect the flood-prone property from future high-water events on the Mississippi River, Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said.
“We are actually taking whatever merchantable timber there is off the site — which frankly is not a lot — and we have been doing the geotechnical work for the levee in order to continue to draw the plans for it,” Russ said.
The funds from the timber harvest will be directed to the county, Russ said, though he said the trees being harvested will probably only generate between $15,000 and $25,000.
“There is not a lot of timber value in the trees because the Live Oaks are historically short-trunked and usually end up hollow and have a lot of issues like that,” he said.
Once the county’s contracted engineering firm — Jordan, Kaiser and Sessions — finishes the necessary geotechnical work and draws up the plans for the levee, the project will be let for bid. Russ said he hopes for that initial step to happen within the next three weeks.
Though the exact cost of construction of the levee, which the county committed to build as part of the economic recruitment package to bring KiOR to the area, will depend on the bids received, the county board of supervisors has advertised its intention to take out a bond of no more than $7.5 million for its construction. Previous estimates have placed the projected cost of the levee construction at $5.1 million.
The supervisors have previously applied for an ultra-low interest loan from the Mississippi Development Authority for $3 million. An application for a $4.7 million loan from the U.S. Economic Development Administration has also been made.
KiOR’s plans for its Natchez facility are to break ground some time in early 2013, Perez said.
Projections from KiOR are for its Adams County facility to create approximately 320 permanent direct and indirect jobs and 400 construction jobs.
Hiring at the plant is expected to start in the final quarter of 2013, with full-time employment beginning in the third quarter of 2014.