Who’s for What at the VLCIA

I don’t like to publish hearsay, but since the Industrial Authority won’t talk, that’s what I’ve got. According to Leigh Touchton, Ashley Paulk told her Tuesday night:
He said that Jerry Jennett took the biomass vote off the agenda at last Industrial Authority meeting (April 19) even though Mary Gooding and Roy Copeland wanted the vote to be taken ( a vote that was to oppose an extension of the biomass contract since the biomass incinerator had not met timeline benchmarks like having a buyer, etc). He said that Allan Ricketts, Industrial Authority attorney Steve Gupton, and Jerry Jennett went up to Atlanta to meet with Wiregrass officials and that’s when he (Chairman Paulk) got a call telling him all this and he said he wouldn’t keep quiet about it. He said the three men asked Wiregrass LLC officials to rescind their letter asking VLCIA for an extension on their contract and to substitute a new letter saying they were withdrawing their request for extension (or not going forward to ask for extension).
This is in addition to what you can see him on video saying during the meeting. More after this picture of the cast of characters:

Allan Ricketts, Acting Executive Director, G. Norman Bennett, Roy Copeland, Tom Call, Jerry Jennett (Chairman), Mary Gooding, J. Stephen Gupton (Attorney)
Regular Meeting, Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA), 19 April 2011
Picture by John S. Quarterman for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

Leigh Touchton also reports:

He said that Allan Ricketts has been the guy pushing this biomass incinerator even when “everyone else” was saying it needed to go away.
So I called Ashley Paulk, who confirmed the parts of this that were in the newspaper, which is almost all of it except the part about a potential vote at the 19 April 2011 VLCIA board meeting. He didn’t deny it; he just asked not to be quoted directly about the rest. It’s not clear a vote was ever actually on the agenda for that VLCIA board meeting, but any board member could have made a motion, which if it got a second would have caused a vote. I can confirm it was not on the agenda that was handed out at the meeting. That’s a picture of it on the right. That’s only way I know of that you can get a copy of a VLCIA agenda for free: go to their board meeting, pick up a copy and photograph it. Does that seem right to you?

Let’s not forget the man in charge up in Atlanta at Sterling Planet, their Chairman Therrell “Sonny” Murphy. I wonder why he wouldn’t rather be known as the man who financed the Wiregrass Solar plant rather than the man who wouldn’t let VLCIA off the hook for the biomass plant. Not that that excuses the VLCIA board for its lack of transparency and inability to find a way to cancel a project that has no buyers for its product and is costing VLCIA huge amounts of political capital.

I have left messages with all five Industrial Authority board members asking them to call me back. Hm, I wonder if they’re ever going to put a picture of Tom Call on their own Staff and Board web page.


3 thoughts on “Who’s for What at the VLCIA

  1. Leigh Touchton

    Thank you for posting this, Mr. Quarterman. I did not have a tape recorder, I described to best of my recollection what I heard inside the meeting and what Mr. Paulk shared with us in the parking lot after the meeting, and I will say up front that I cannot now remember what was imparted inside from what was imparted outside, but I’m pretty clear on the particulars of how Mr. Paulk described the situation WRT the VLCIA. Dr. Noll, Bobbi Hancock, and a few other people were with us in the parking lot, so perhaps they can make additions or corrections to my recollected conversation. It wasn’t just me that Chairman Paulk was talking to.
    Chairman Paulk said a few other things that were received favorably by the group, but for me I was just happy that he chose to discuss with us as a public official to concerned citizens.

  2. Michael Noll

    Thanks for posting this Mr. Quarterman.
    I can confirm this conversation with Chairman Paulk and the details of it as described by Mrs. Touchton. I also agree with your general evaluation of the situation.
    Simply put, I cannot understand why some on the Industrial Authority or with Wiregrass Biomass LLC are still playing games when it is clear that this project lacks both the economic footing as well as the community support.
    Instead of wasting any more time and energy on this project, our community should finally focus on alternatives in regard to (smart) economic growth, the creation of jobs, the exploration of clean, renewable energy sources, and options to improve energy efficiency and energy conservation.

  3. Bobbi A Hancock

    I can also confirm the conversation that Leigh summarized. I have to admit I paid little attention to what Paulk was saying after the meeting. I do recall one patricular comment Paulk made while he was speaking to us in the parking lot. He said he could never (parapharasing) “sit on a lie”. Whatever that means, he was referring to the VLCIA and the biomass situation.
    Although I certainly appreciated the information Paulk shared with us (and told him so), I cannot understand Paulk’s motive behind “suddenly” going public and saying the VLCIA should admit they were wrong about the biomass plant. If he felt this way, why didn’t he support us long before the biomass battle was almost over? Maybe he will keep the dialogue between us open and we can ask!
    It also puzzles me as to why Paulk was so willing to go as far as telling us how peeved a few of the VLCIA board members were at Alan Ricketts.
    I have personally stood before Ashely Paulk and had spoken with him on the phone about the biomass issue prior to my address to the board. He, nor any other county commission board member, ever bothered to respond to the questions I presented.
    This “sudden” open dialogue with us protestors seems a bit curious to me. Does Paulk have another agenda on his mind that he hopes we will support….like a new prison? For the record…that will never gain my support. Ive had the pleasure of contracting with the Lowndes county jail system as the owner of a mobile xray business in years past. I saw first hand how a jail was ran under Paulk’s leadership. Since he’s on the state prison commission, Im certain he would have some direct authority over the proposed new prison. Quite frankly…that scares me!
    Dont go to sleep people and beware of wolves in sheeps clothing. Paulk may seem to support us now, but I bet the reason has little to do with the actual biomass plant. Let’s see how open the dialogue stays when also start to protest the private prison issues…

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