King Pharr plant to get cleaned up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2005

UNIONTOWN–Uniontown took another big step towards becoming a cleaner, safer city Monday night.

The Uniontown City Council met Monday evening and opened a pair of bids for cleaning up and clearing away the city’s abandoned King Pharr vegetable canning plant. The job was awarded to the J&E Scrap company from Grove Hill.

“The King Pharr plant has been an eyesore for the last 15 years,” Uniontown mayor Phillip White said Tuesday. “We’ve always needed to have something done about it, and now we are.”

The cleanup of the King Pharr site is made more complicated by the ugly, irritating presence of “carbon black,” a substance used in cement production that had previously been stored at the plant.

“Carbon black is a very fine, black powdery substance,” said White. “It’s been studied by ADEM [the Alabama Department of Environmental Management] at that site and they have determined it to be non-hazardous. But it is a big nuisance.”

The removal of the King Pharr plant will help beautify the city and make it safer by removing a dangerous abandoned building, but because the city owns the building and the property the cleanup will also actually add some money to the city’s bank accounts.

“It’s a large metal building, lots of aluminum, tin, and iron,” White said. “They’ll tear it down, cut it up, and sell it for scrap. And Uniontown will get $40 for every ton.”

The $40 per ton was established by the bid submitted by J&E. A local salvage company promised the city $50 a ton, but their bid also would have charged the city a $30,000 fee for the removal of the carbon black. J&E proposed to bury the carbon black on-site for only $1,500. White pointed out during the Monday meeting that the Council could ignore the low bid and accept the local one if it came within 10 percent of J&E’s, but it did not. No other bids were submitted.

The Council accepted the J&E bid unanimously, but with the condition that some form of written agreement be reached between the city and J&E to ensure the work was done properly.

“You all need to come in here and do this right, now,” Councilman Eugene Booker told a representative from J&E.

The representative said work would begin on the site as soon as they received final approval from the Council.

“We’ve found a solution that will not only eliminate an eyesore,” White said, “but will also help the city make a few dollars on top of that.”

In other news from the Monday night meeting:

* For the first time since 1995, the city now has an active Industrial Development Board. The Council approved an initial list of seven members who will work on the Board to attract business and industry to Uniontown. The members come from a wide range of Uniontown occupations, from an attorney to representatives from Community Bank or the Dollar General. Two more members will be added later to bring the total up to the state-mandated nine. The ID Board is necessary, White told the Council, to take part in Alabama Power’s speculative building program. The Board’s first meeting is expected to take place in early June.

* Owners of nightclubs located along Highway 80 appeared before the Council to air complaints regarding the lack of parking space near their businesses. The lack of legal parking space has led, they told the Council, to police harassment of customers looking to park and has hurt their business. One resident said the police entered a restaurant he was dining in to interrupt his meal and ask him to move his vehicle. “We’re not trying to hurt anyone’s business,” White said, referring to recent decisions by the Council to try and curb illegal loitering in certain areas. He promised the Council would come up with a solution to the problem.

* The Council voted 5-1 to hire Demopolis law firm Gibbs, Sellers, Vance, and Bozeman to perform the services of city attorney. The firm will replace Marion attorney Robert Turner. White said Tuesday the move wasn’t made out of any unhappiness with Turner, whom he considers a personal friend and is expected to work with the Council again in the near future. “We just need someone who’s a little more accessible,” White said. “Mr. Turner’s a really good attorney and we’re planning on using him on some issues in the future.” Councilman Don Moore cast the sole dissenting vote for the switch.