Utility Authority seeking $30K per year from county for operations

Published 3:59 pm Wednesday, August 18, 2021

NATCHEZ — Adams County may have to hand over $30,000 a year to maintain an industrial landfill, water and sewage system formerly owned by International Paper.

Chandler Russ, president of the St. Catherine Creek Utility Authority, made a request to county officials Monday for an annual allocation of $30,000 to manage the property from St. Catherine’s Creek to the Mississippi River around the former IP.

The utility authority was created in 2007 to help with maintaining the property when IP sold its main industrial property to Rentech and used the proceeds from the sale, tipping fees for the landfill and grant money for its operations.

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“The county seeded the original utility authority with $100,000 with the intention that if (Rentech) ever got off of the ground and started generating revenue, that $100,000 would be paid back,” Russ said.

However, when Rentech canceled its plans for a biofuels production complex at the old IP, the utility authority was left shouldering the expense associated with surrounding land, including management of leachate from the landfill, grass cutting, erosion and administrative duties.

These minimal expenses cost the utility authority approximately $1,500 a month plus an environmental insurance policy that costs $8,000 annually, Russ said, which is a $30,000 annual loss.

“It has no ability to generate income. This year, we ran out of money with our grant dollars set aside,” he said, adding if the county were to let the utility authority go, it would still be left holding the land with all of its maintenance needs.

While the landfill and wetland surrounding the creek are undevelopable, Russ said the waste water treatment facility next to it is a “stranded asset” with the potential to be a huge draw to industrial prospects if it were up and running. Potentially, leasing the wastewater treatment facility to an industrial user could take the place of the county having to pay the utility authority directly, Russ said.

“If you could get that facility up, you could process anywhere from 9 to 10 million gallons for a major industrial user for $5 to $6 million dollars whereas if you were to go and build a wastewater treatment facility that could process it 10 million gallons it would cost you $50 to $80 million,” he said. “That is a huge bonus when competing for big projects. That is a huge opportunity that is out there. The future is to maintain it and keep it in operable shape until a major user of it can take over.”