Authority not in danger from sale

Published 12:10 am Friday, March 15, 2013

NATCHEZ — Even if Rentech sells the International Paper property, it will provide at least half a decade’s worth of funding to the St. Catherine Creek Utility Authority if the authority continues to operate at current levels.

The authority was created in 2007 to accept liability for and maintenance of several wastewater and land sites associated with the former International Paper property, which Rentech purchased with plans to develop an on-site alternative fuel plant.

Rentech did not want to accept the properties associated with the wastewater maintenance and monitoring, and the creation of the utility authority insulated Adams County from direct liability for the sites.

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Since its inception, the authority has been funded by $5,000 monthly payments from Rentech.

Recently, Rentech announced its intention to sell the Adams County property, having previously said the planned coal-to-liquid plant there no longer fit in the company’s long-term vision.

But even if the property is sold, the company has an agreement with the county that obligates it to continue the $5,000 monthly payments for the next 21 years, said attorney Scott Slover, who provides the authority with pro bono legal counsel.

“(The agreement) has a liquidation clause in there, and that is for $300,000,” Slover said. “If Rentech is looking to do a full walk-away, they would have to pay the St. Catherine Creek Utility Authority that full amount of money.”

In the long-term, Slover said the authority has a solid waste cell — a landfill — that it can open and operate to cover its costs if needed.

St. Catherine Creek Utility Authority President Chandler Russ said the authority’s operations — which are contracted out — cost approximately $42,000 a year.

The authority has approximately $60,000 in annual revenue from the Rentech payments.

“Looking at the future, if the land was to change hands, we would look to work with Rentech or their broker when the property is available for sale in order to make sure the utility authority’s interests are protected as well as ensuring sufficient funding in order to meet the long term needs of the authority,” Russ said.

The utility authority has no employees, and pays for secretarial and bookkeeping duties on a monthly basis. Its board is unpaid, and the county board of supervisors appoints the members.