Gov­er­nor Per­due tours Cov­ing­ton plant

Visit high­lights smart wa­ter use

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

Gov. Sonny Per­due vis­ited Cov­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day to con­grat­u­late Gen­eral Mills and the city on their work to­gether to re­duce wa­ter con­sump­tion – an is­sue that has re­ceived statewide at­ten­tion due to the on­go­ing drought.

At a small cer­e­mony at the Gen­eral Mills plant, Per­due toured the wa­ter treat­ment fa­cil­ity with Cov­ing­ton Mayor Kim Carter and other lo­cal of­fi­cials, in­stalled in Au­gust 2006. The gov­er­nor even drank a glass of treated waste­water from the plant.

Since go­ing on­line, the treat­ment fa­cil­ity has re­cy­cled about 100 mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter, cut­ting the plant’s wa­ter use in half, ac­cord­ing to Mark Bi­ble, man­ager of the Cov­ing­ton plant.

“What we’ve seen to­day is an ex­am­ple of a ma­jor cor­po­ra­tion… do­ing the right thing for the world,” Per­due said.

Ac­cord­ing to a release from Gen­eral Mills, the treat­ment fa­cil­ity cleans the plant’s food pro­cess­ing waste­water so thor­oughly that the wa­ter can be used for any pur­pose, in­clud­ing for cook­ing and drink­ing. How­ever the Cov­ing­ton plant chooses to only use the treated wa­ter for non-food con­tact uses, such as dust re­moval and cool­ing.

The treat­ment fa­cil­ity cost $5 mil­lion to build. The New­ton County In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity is­sued bonds to cover the to­tal cost of the fa­cil­ity. Gen­eral Mills is re­pay­ing $4 mil­lion of the bonds and Cov­ing­ton is re­pay­ing the re­main­ing $1 mil­lion,

ac­cord­ing to Frank Turner Jr., a mem­ber of the IDA.

Cov­ing­ton is re­pay­ing the $1 mil­lion in bonds at a rate of $100,000 a year for 10 years Turner said. So far $300,000 has been re­paid.

Gen­eral Mills will own the ti­tle to the treat­ment fa­cil­ity once it is paid off said City Man­ager Steve Horton. He said the city pur­sued the part­ner­ship with Gen­eral Mills be­cause of the re­turn on waste­water treat­ment ca­pac­ity it of­fered to Cov­ing­ton.

“The old waste­water stream com­ing from Gen­eral Mills took up a lot of the city’s ca­pac­ity,” Horton said. “We in­vested in their process be­cause it does give us ca­pac­ity and that ca­pac­ity be­comes more valu­able over time.”

With construction prices on the rise, Horton said it was less ex­pen­sive for the city to free up some ex­tra ca­pac­ity at their Wil­liams Street treat­ment plant by part­ner­ing with Gen­eral Mills than it would be to con­struct a new plant.

“What’s hap­pened right here has not only met a spe­cific need that Cov­ing­ton/New­ton County and the state had, but it truly is a pub­lic/pri­vate part­ner­ship that we be­lieve we’ll be able to use as an ex­am­ple in the fu­ture,” Per­due said.

Bi­ble said the cost sav­ings the wa­ter treat­ment fa­cil­ity has pro­vided have made the Cov­ing­ton plant more com­pet­i­tive with other Gen­eral Mills fa­cil­i­ties, both na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“We could not ask for a bet­ter cor­po­rate part­ner in this com­mu­nity than Gen­eral Mills,” Carter said. “Gen­eral Mills was green be­fore it was cool to be green. They walk the walk.”

Carter ex­tended thanks to for­mer Cov­ing­ton mayor, Sam Ram­sey, who helped shep­herd the project to com­ple­tion dur­ing his last term in of­fice.

Per­due briefly ad­dressed the Home­owner Tax Re­lief Grant, a $428 mil­lion statewide pro­gram that re­im­burses lo­cal gov­ern­ments that pro­vide a homestead tax ex­emp­tion. In the wake of a huge bud­get short­fall, the gov­er­nor has said he would like to see the pro­gram cut. The Ge­or­gia leg­is­la­ture is hop­ing to work out a com­pro­mise for the pro­gram when they re­con­vene in Jan­uary.

Per­due said lo­cal gov­ern­ments, “should be able to take the steps to make sure they’re liv­ing within their means and not re­ly­ing on the [Home­owner Tax Re­lief Grant].”

He said the grant has not suc­ceeded in low­er­ing prop­erty taxes as it was in­tended to and that fact would be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion go­ing for­ward in his ne­go­ti­a­tions with the leg­is­la­ture.

If the grant is elim­i­nated, it could cost New­ton County as much as $1.8 mil­lion in state funds that have al­ready been in­cluded in the county’s FY 2009 bud­get. Cov­ing­ton stands to loose $132,000 if the grant is elim­i­nated.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Work­ing to­gether to re­duce wa­ter use: City of Cov­ing­ton Mayor Kim Carter, left, looks on as Gov­er­nor Sonny Per­due speaks at Gen­eral Mills Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

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