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Biomass signs for part of site

SOUTH POINT – County economic developers have taken the next step on the road to building an industrial complex at the former South Point Ethanol plant site, now that part of it officially has a new owner.

Monday, August 09, 1999

SOUTH POINT – County economic developers have taken the next step on the road to building an industrial complex at the former South Point Ethanol plant site, now that part of it officially has a new owner.

South Point Ethanol and Biomass Group LLC of Paris, Ky., filed a deed Aug. 2 in the county auditor’s office, showing Biomass paid $75,000 for 80.81 acres in 14 parcels.

Although the land remains a fraction of the more than 600 acres known as South Point Ethanol, the company’s future work should help fill the entire area, Lawrence Economic Development Corporation executive director Pat Clonch said.

"I don’t know why it took them some time to file but we knew that was going to occur and were assured by the company," Mrs. Clonch said. "We want to see it move forward because there’s no doubt it will be a big job creator."

The LEDC has worked with Biomass for more than a year. Biomass owner Mark Harris has been planning to build a power generating plant since early this year.

Once a 40-megawatt plant comes online with the help of an undisclosed partner, Biomass plans to market the electricity and byproducts of the generation process – steam and carbon dioxide – to industries locating on the LEDC’s remaining 552 acres.

Designing such development at the site is key to a federal Empowerment Zone grant.

The zone, a federally designated area shared between Huntington, W.Va., and Ironton that will receive $100 million in grants over 10 years, incorporates the unused South Point plant site.

"We just received a contract between the LEDC and the Empowerment Zone," Mrs. Clonch said. "Now what we have to do is advertise to do the first phase of the master plan. Our first phase of action will be on the 80 acres."

The LEDC will issue requests for qualifications from engineers and consultants capable of working on the plan so that the Ironton-Huntington partnership can access full zone funding and tax-exempt bonds for future developers, she said.

Officials announced this winter that $3 million in federal Empowerment Zone money, a $100,000 planning grant and $2.5 million in state matching funds would allow that master plan to move forward.

The zone created between the two communities means 10 years of income for promoting predetermined development activities, ultimately bringing better utility lines in Ironton, job retention through more business and livable wages, LEDC officials said.

Meanwhile, Biomass’ deed on the property remains to be processed through state tax channels.

Biomass’s land is listed at $180,660 in value. Buildings are listed at $1,039,120.

A $300 conveyance fee was paid by South Point Ethanol. The fee is a standard county-approved assessment at $4 per $1,000 of property value.

South Point Ethanol paid the fee based on the $75,000 purchase price instead of the land value, claiming it was exempt because the land was sold in lieu of foreclosure, county auditor Ray Dutey said.

An affidavit signed by Bill Hopkins of South Point Ethanol was filed with the deed as requested, Dutey said.

"The sole consideration to the grantor for the transfer of the real property and all structures situated thereon is the sum of $75,000 and for which a deed is delivered to the secured party in lieu of foreclosure," the affidavit stated.

Hopkins cited Ohio Revised Code 319.54 (F)(3)(m) as a legal reference, and the auditor’s attorney agreed, Dutey said.

Now it’s up to the state department of taxation whether or not to accept, he said.

The good news for the county, though, is that the property remains in a strong taxpayer’s hands, Dutey said.

South Point Ethanol has paid a yearly average of $35,600 in property taxes, most of which go to schools and county government, according to auditor’s records.

Buildings on the 80 acres that are taken off the tax roll will decrease that payment. Future improvements will increase payments.

The county has not been notified of any changes, Dutey said.