After contemplating a decision to invite Loudon County Economic Development Agency officials to the next Air Quality Task Force meeting later this month, Dr. Bud Guider, a local pediatrician, confessed to Loudon County Commission on Monday that the move was "too little too late."
"What can we do now? We can't do anything," Guider said about Ceramica Del Conca's plans to open its first U.S. plant in Loudon County. "The decision’s already been made to bring this plant in. Nobody knows the environmental impact."
Ceramica Del Conca, an Italian tile manufacturer that has promised to bring 178 jobs to the county, plans to open a 320,000-square-foot plant on a 30-acre site at Sugarlimb Industrial Park. Other than assurances from the EDA and representatives from Del Conca, county and city of Loudon officials are unclear on the level of air emissions that may emanate from the facility.
Guider, who described the industrial recruitment process as "clandestine and secretive," called for more cooperation between the task force and county officials in vetting future industry.
"There's a lot of information given to our legislative bodies regarding the economic impact of industrial recruits and little to no information, other than the fact that the industry says they're clean, given to legislative bodies so that there can be some discussion prior to final decisions being made on bringing those recruits into our community," Guider said.
He said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation does not take into account cumulative risks associated with air pollution. If multiple plants open shop at the same location, they are only considered and approved by their individual air emission levels, he explained.
"There appears to me to be a general misconception in the legislative bodies, and this was what was told to me at Loudon City Council, that if TDEC approves an industry that it must be safe and it must be healthy and it must be A-OK for our citizens and oftentimes that is very, very, very untrue," Guider said.
He said community leaders needed to be more informed beforehand about potential environmental impacts of industries seeking to call Loudon County home.
"I've been told that if you tell anybody it might get into the community," he said. "It might nix the deal. Well, if telling your elected officials and the people who are supposed to look out for our well being and make the right decisions for us, how can those people make decisions in the dark? If telling this group and the city council group what's going on nixes the deal, then so be it in my opinion, and that industry didn't need to come here to start with."
Meers said he asked whether Del Conca would be a green industry during a joint meeting late last year between county commission and Loudon City Council.
"I think the most specific thing we were all told was that it wasn't a major source contributor," Commissioner Brian Jenkins said.
"Even a minor source contributor in an area that has significant underlying problems can be an issue is my point," Guider said. "And that cumulative effect is a big deal, and TDEC doesn't respect that cumulative effect."
Commissioner Don Miller said the Air Quality Task Force's charter states that the panel is supposed to advise local governing bodies on air emission concerns. He said the task force may have whiffed.
"It certainly became clear, at least to me, and I think to the task force, that we've kind of fallen down in this area by maybe denying neglect," Miller said.
Miller said he thought a good next step was to partner with the EDA going forward.
"I don't know if it's anybody's fault," Miller said. "We haven't taken any initiative on the task force to say, 'Hey, we'd like to be (involved) early and find out about this new industry that's most likely going to come here.' On the other hand, the EDA hasn't gone the other way and come to us either. I don't think it's because anybody has been trying to avoid the issue. It's just that we've never thought much about it before. Well, now we're going to think about it."
In other business, commissioners:
* Approved a resolution to change the name of Loudon County Emergency Management Agency to Loudon County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.
* Approved a 2012-13 county road list.
* Approved a recommendation declaring a 1982 GMC truck as surplus, along with two salt spreaders and a milling machine.
* Accepted a portion of Kash Road as a county road. Road Department Superintendent Eddie Simpson said a property owner had previously acquired a building permit and constructed a home along a portion of Kash Road. Simpson said after consulting with county attorney Bob Bowman, he recommended accepting the road into the system to avoid any potential liability.
"After talking with Mr. Bowman, I felt like because of the liability should we say, 'You have no access to that home,' we all felt — and I agree — that we need to at least accept that road up to the property line, which is four-tenths of a mile," Simpson said.
Simpson said Kash would remain a gravel road and be serviced once a year.
● Approved a revision to the county's travel policy allowing for a maximum of $46 reimbursement per day to align with the state standard. The county’s previous max was $30 per day.
* Approved payment to Lou Ann Malone for her service as interim trustee after George Miller's resignation. Malone will be paid at the trustee’s regular salary for work performed between Jan. 1-7. The trustee’s budgeted salary is $64,977.
* Approved allocating $10,450 from the Sugarlimb Industrial Park fund to assist in the purchase of a new vehicle for the Loudon County Economic Development Agency. In addition to funds from the county, the city of Loudon will provide $10,450, and Lenoir City will contribute $3,460. The vehicle will replace a 2005 Jeep Cherokee.
* Approved the following notaries public: April Ray, Joshua Hartsook, Denissa Jones, Norma Blevins, Deborah Arthur, Kara Kinzalow, H. Edward Wilson, Robin Roberts, Ladonna Beaty, Bret King, Yaling Loy, Stephanie Putkonen, Stephanie Myers, Kathy Wilson, A. Jane Criswell, C. Dawn Feezell and Rebecca Collins.