08/10/08 — Opposition growing to Fibrowatt plant

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Opposition growing to Fibrowatt plant

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 10, 2008 1:53 PM

FAISON -- The longer it takes to resolve issues surrounding a proposed $200 million Fibrowatt biomass-fired power plant at N.C. 403 and Interstate 40 less than three miles from here, the stronger the opposition grows, Mayor Elmer Flake said this week.

Flake said opposition now includes some Faison Town Board members as well as members of a local delegation who first supported the project after visiting a Fibrowatt operation in Minnesota. The company is based in Pennsylvania.

One of those issues is the unresolved question of who will exercise control over the proposed site, Sampson County or the Town of Faison.

The town's extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) was extended to the area in the early 1990s after residents along the Eldon Thornton Road started a drive to obtain water and sewer. At that time Sampson County did not offer those services in the area -- it still doesn't.

Faison officials have said they have no intention of relinquishing their ETJ control as requested by Fibrowatt.

Flake said he attended a meeting of Sampson County commissioners this past week in the Harrells community. More than 200 people attended the meeting where 17 of the 20 speakers voiced opposition to the plant and the three who spoke in favor were associated with the county, he said.

"There is concern growing among (Faison) commissioners about support," he said. "I think the public's opinion is influencing them."

Meanwhile, Deborah Kornegay of Calypso spoke against the project during the Faison Town Board meeting on Wednesday

The town has been asked to oppose the plant as well.

"We are in negotiations with Fibrowatt and we have a proposal on the table so we cannot do so," Flake said.

The closed-door negotiations between the town and company have been ongoing for several weeks. Flake said the town is still waiting to hear from the company about the town's latest proposal.

"I wish I knew myself (about the response)," Flake said. "We are still in the dark. It is getting old the back-and-forth negotiations. I'll be glad when it is over and a decision is made one way or another.

"I do know that opposition is growing the longer it drags on."

He said he could not comment on the specifics of the negotiations.

Approximately 90 percent of the site rests within the Faison ETJ. Sampson County already has rezoned its portion from agriculture to industrial.

"They'd still like us to rezone ours from commercial to industrial," Flake said. "But we are not giving up the ETJ. They have asked us to relinquish zoning control and for us not to annex them."

Duplin County had been in the running for the new plant, but Fibrowatt settled on Sampson County last April after running into opposition because it burns poultry litter. Sampson County has promised some $2.5 million in property tax breaks for the plant that is expected to create about 100 jobs.

Financing is the basis for Fibrowatt's request, Flake said. He said company officials felt like that when it came time to line up finances it would be better to deal with one zoning authority, not two.

Another request that Faison has refused was to allow its water system to be consolidated with the Sampson system. Since that was never an option for the town, there was never any discussion as to how much, if anything, Sampson County would have paid for that consolidation.

Flake said the town would be interested in providing water and sewer for the new plant. However, he said the town has not been given any indication of the volume of water and sewer the plant would require.