Georgia Power Plant Hammond was officially decommissioned during a vote by the Georgia Public Service Commission on Tuesday morning. The first of the four coal-fired units at Plant Hammond came online in 1954.
The plan approved by the PSC calls for Georgia Power to add 2,260 megawatts of new renewable (solar, wind or biomass) generation to the company's energy mix.
"Working with the Georgia PSC, we are positioning Georgia as a leader in the Southeast in battery energy storage, which is critical to growing and maximizing the value of renewable energy for customers as we increase our renewable generation by 72 percent by 2024," said Allen Reaves, Georgia Power's senior vice president and senior production officer, in a press release. "Through the IRP process, Georgia Power will continue to invest in a diverse energy portfolio including the development of renewable resources in a way that benefits all customers to deliver clean, safe, reliable energy at rates that are well below the national average."
Future plans call for development of a pilot solar project on top of some of the closed Hammond ash ponds.
The closure of Plant Hammond and one unit at Plant McIntosh on the Georgia coast is yet another step away from coal generation.
Coal-fired plants have been the frequent target for environmentalists for reasons from air quality emissions to the storage of coal ash.
"Even though Georgia Power is right to cut back on dirty, climate-disrupting coal, it's still moving much too slowly to phase out fossil fuels and it lags in helping families and businesses get more access to money-saving energy efficiency programs," reads a statement from the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club.
Several of Georgia Power's plants have converted to burn natural gas, however company officials have indicated in the past that conversion of Plant Hammond would require a massive capital investment.
Employees at Plant Hammond received the 2015 Spark of Energy Award for their efforts to clean up Rome's waterways. The employees used to host a fishing tournament each year, but changed that to a river cleanup effort over a decade ago. Volunteers have worked annually to clean up the local rivers, removing tons of trash, everything from old boats to refrigerators and tons of tires from the local waterways.
The decommissioning of the plant will have a significant impact on the Floyd County tax base, however the real impact of Tuesday's action won't be felt for another year because of the way the property is assessed.
Plant Hammond was named to honor of William Phin Hammond, a Georgia Power design engineer who was the employee responsible for the design and construction of many of the utility's generating plants for nearly 40 years.
The deadline for bids on the old Rome-Floyd Recycling Center property on Watters Street passed Tuesday afternoon, with no proposals submitted.
"We were surprised and disappointed that we did not get a response," Assistant County Manager Gary Burkhalter said. "More than one prospect had shown interest in it."
County Purchasing Director Bill Gilliland said potential buyers had a month to submit a packet detailing their financial offer and what they planned to do with the 1.6-acre site at the corner of Watters Street and Calhoun Avenue.
Before it was used for recycling operations, the property was part of the old Fox Manufacturing facility, which used a variety of chemicals such as lead and arsenic. It's been cleaned up but remains on the Hazardous Site Inventory maintained by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
"That was part of our disclosure in the legal ad," Gilliland said. "Our hope was that someone would want to use the building ... It's fine as long as there's no land disturbance."
City Manager Sammy Rich said he has a meeting scheduled later this week with County Manager Jamie McCord and he expects a discussion of the next step will be on the agenda.
Members of the North Rome Community Action Committee had been hopeful a new business would locate on the property to continue redevelopment of the area. The request for proposals said the sale would be partially contingent on how the intended use might improve the neighborhood.
The site has been vacant since January, when a new recycling center opened in the former Zartic plant at 412 Lavender Drive.
The 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package contained $1,379,000 for the project.
The SPLOST funds were initially slated to remodel the Watters Street facility.
However, neighbors wanted it out of their back yards and officials determined the larger location could be modernized for long-term gains.
Expenses grew as the plant makeover continued and the joint citycounty Solid Waste Commission put in $324,000 from its capital fund to complete the equipment purchases. Officials had hoped the sale of the Watters Street property would help offset that transfer to the new facility.
The Solid Waste Commission's capital fund, which comes from landfill fees, is meant to pay for opening and closing sections of the Walker Mountain Landfill over time.
At the June meeting, department heads warned that the fund could not subsidize recycling operations indefinitely.
The next Solid Waste Commission meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. July 23 at City Hall, 601 Broad St.
During their Monday morning meeting the Floyd County Schools Board of Education heard from their chief safety and security officer about school safety during the upcoming school year.
Rick Flanigen brought board members up to speed on the current projects he is working on to make the schools a safer place for students.
The system will be rolling out the Raptor Visitor Management Program, which will cross reference every visitor and volunteer with the U.S. National Sex Offenders Public Registry. The system will be implemented at every front office across the system, Flanigen said.
"This way we will have an electronic database of who is in that school," he said.
Visitors and volunteers will be required to insert their driver's license or government issued ID card into a card reader which will alert front office staff if a registered sex offender is trying to enter the building. According to Superintendent Jeff Wilson, the system will be paid for with help of federal grant money marked for security and will cost around $1,000 per school. The system will be ready to roll by the first day of school, he said.
The system will not perform a background check on the visitors, Flanigen said. Only the sex offender registry will be checked since it is public record. Other public records such as active warrants will not be checked by the system, he said.
The school system is looking into whether or not parents of students who are registered sex offenders will be allowed in school. Wilson said his understanding of the law is the system could not deny a parent of the school entry regardless of their status on the registry. He said the system would have a staff member monitor the parent while they were in the building to make sure they would only interact with their child.
Brinson Askew Berry Law Firm partner Stewart Duggan chimed in and said the system does not have to allow the offenders on school property whatsoever. The law has been analyzed by a number of jurisdictions he said. While the system does not have to change its policy or practice on allowing parents who are sex offenders to see their children at school, the system can certainly prevent it.
"The children have a right to a free adequate education, but parents do not rights to be on the premises," Duggan said. "If push came to shove and there was someone you felt very uncomfortable with, you do not have to allow them on (school property)."
"If that's true, we may talk about that," Wilson said. "If you are coming in and you come up on some sex offender list we want to know who you are and what you're doing."
On other school safety notes the system has updated its emergency plans and made it to where it can be viewed on mobile devices. Flanigen said the system is trying to move away from paper copies and make it so when a plan is updated the changes can be seen immediately.
Flanigen has also been working on arranging reunification sites around the county in case of an emergency. The system would chose a site and bus students there in case of an emergency he said.
The locations of the reunification sites will be kept confidential to ensure student safety he added.
Natalia D. Jones, a fifth-grader at East Central Elementary School