Theft becoming problem at old plant

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

SOUTH POINT — Contractors working at the former ethanol plant site in The Point industrial park are looking for thieves who recently stole more than $4,000 worth of scrap brass, aluminum and copper from the site.

Contractors are hoping that a $1,000 reward for information will help to nab the perpetrators.

“It’s just normal everyday Lawrence County,” said Jack Hager of Southern Ohio Salvage and Contracting. “There are more thieves than there are jobs.”

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Hager is contracted through Biomass Energy, which owns a portion of the 700-acre former ethanol plant site. The Lawrence Economic Development Corporation owns the rest. Biomass plans to build a $300 million wood-fired power plant at the site.

Hager’s company, which has eight workers at the site, has been hired to remove all of the scrap materials at the site before the plant is demolished. Biomass receives a portion of the profit that is made from recycling the materials.

“Whoever is doing this is taking money out of both of our pockets and I’m really sick of it,” Hager said.

Over the past year, about $25,000 worth of scrap materials have been stolen from the site. Hager said there was more than 2 1/2 tons of copper stolen at the site at one time. Copper nets about $2.50 a pound at local recycling centers, he said.

There is a security guard at the site at plant night, but Hager said it doesn’t seem to be helping. The Point is not locked and can be accessed at any times. The chamber of commerce and the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office are working with Biomass and Hager to beef up security at the site.

There has been one person charged with stealing items from the site, Hager said. He and his wife nabbed the thief, Hager said, who was charged with a misdemeanor.

“We’ll stop working at the site in the afternoon and by 6, they are already coming into to steal stuff,” Hager said.

“(Executive Director of the Chamber) Bill Dingus has really been working with us on this and he realizes the extent of the problem,” he continued. “Now, we are hoping that something can be done.”

Stopping thieves is difficult because of recycling stolen scrap metals has become an epidemic in the county, Hager said.

Although all of the local recycling centers have been notified of the extent of the problem and what kind of stolen materials to be on the look out for, very few of the businesses have turned in any suspected thieves.

Hager said he is working with the proper authorities, but he has instructed his employees to pull out all the stops if they catch someone stealing at the site.

“It’s private property and I have the right to protect it,” he said.

Anyone with information about the recent thefts at the plant should call (740) 516-3652.

There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.