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County discusses IP land purchase

NATCHEZ — Adams County appears to be inching toward buying the former International Paper site from Rentech.

County supervisors met in executive session Monday morning to discuss the purchase of the 478-acre site.

“There has definitely been some discussions, but nothing has been finalized,” board attorney Scott Slover said after the meeting.

The IP property was once home to the area’s biggest employer, but largely has been a ghost town since IP shuttered its Natchez mill in 2003.

Rentech purchased the property in 2008 with plans to build a coal-to-liquids fuel plant on the site. Rentech announced late last year that it had scrapped its plans and put the site up for sale in mid-March.

The site’s deed was transferred to a Rentech subsidiary, Gulf Coast Synthetic Energy, LLC. The listed price for the property is $8.5 million.

The site includes what remains of the IP pulp mill and includes rail access and valuable Mississippi River access. Perhaps the most valuable to the county, however, is the site’s massive wastewater treatment plant.

Natchez Water Works superintendent David Gardner recently estimated the former IP plant’s capacity is approximately 40 million gallons per day.

County economic developers have already raised a concern that Natchez Water Works’ existing wastewater treatment plant does not have enough capacity to handle much more heavy industrial waste water. The former IP plant could be the cure for that problem.

“We look at that sewage treatment need as a problem, or part of the puzzle, we have to resolve for the future of our industrial expansion,” Slover said.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said if the county ends up consummating the land deal, he hopes the county can sell all or part of it to taxpaying businesses quickly.

“We’re still negotiating with Rentech,” Lazarus said, adding the county has already been approached by businesses that may want to purchase portions of the site.

“We have several suitors interested in pieces of the property once we get it.”

In other news, the board:

•Met in executive session to interview candidates for the county’s administrative assistant/inventory clerk position.

•Made a motion to offer a job to a candidate to fill an open position in the county’s bookkeeping department. The candidate, Patricia Gousset, would earn $25,000 per year, County Administrator Joe Murray said.

•Listened to a request from Flavis Wiley on behalf of the Adams County Drug Court. Wiley requested the board send a letter to the Department of Justice for the disbursement of funds left over from a $5,000 grant.

•Heard a request from Natchez-Adams County Port Director Anthony Hauer that supervisors reappoint two members of the port commission, whose terms had expired. The two members, Earl Bacon from District 3 and Lee Jones from District 1 were approved by acclamation.