Originally created 09/30/97

Sewer plan may bring industry



Augusta commissioners took steps Monday to help lure a company, and 350 jobs, that business leaders have been pursuing for more than six months.

A committee of the Augusta Commission voted to put a sewer through the property of several residents, despite their objections, so the Augusta Corporate industrial park will be ready for the unnamed prospect two years sooner.

The commission's Engineering Services Committee voted 3-1 in favor of the sewer route after city engineers said the alternative route along Georgia Highway 56 would add two years of building time and $500,000.

The engineers recommended a route crossing five or six parcels of private land in south Augusta from Bennock Mill Road to Horseshoe Road.

Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Moses Todd and Freddie Handy voted for the quicker route. Commissioner J.B. Powell voted no.

Commissioner Ulmer Bridges attended the meeting, even though he is not on the committee, because the property owners are in his district. He objected to changing the route since the company hasn't committed yet.

The Development Authority of Richmond County passed a resolution Sept. 18 asking the commission to select the route that could be completed soonest. The unnamed company needs the sewer in place by 1999, according to Jerry Dye, development authority attorney.

Although officials will not publicly name the company, many have said privately it is Hankook Synthetics Inc., a South Korean maker of polyester filaments for the carpet industry.

Some call it "our Bridgestone" in reference to the $435 million tire factory coming to Aiken County. Company officials have said they want a 500-acre site to build a $300 million factory that would employ 350 people, but have not committed to Augusta.

There are no sewer lines, roads or utilities in the park Kimberly-Clark Co. donated to Augusta several years ago. Laying the line on the highway's right of way would have to wait until the Georgia Department of Transportation widens the road.

The development authority has given the prospect company first pick of sites in the 1,100-acre Augusta Corporate Park before planning the rest of the park.

"We're dealing with a 900-pound gorilla. He can sleep wherever he wants," said Monty Osteen, development authority chairman.

Blue Ridge Engineering of Dunwoody, Ga., has been hired to do preliminary analysis of a 500-acre site. The study is needed to prepare a budget for construction of a factory should it decide to locate in Augusta.

"I would say they are still in the consideration phase," said David Bleakman, head of engineering with Blue Ridge.

Though he declined to identify the company, he said it had not asked his firm or anyone else to analyze any other sites, though he understood that others had been considered.

"That could be an indication - I hate to read between the lines - that they are considering this site more seriously," Mr. Bleakman said.

The engineering study is also giving some impetus to the development authority to firm up details about the park's layout. Since the company has first choice of land in the empty park, roads and utilities will be planned around the site.

As Blue Ridge planned where railroad tracks could go to serve the new plant, it made some basic designs about how the rest of the park could be laid out. It offered to do formal designs for the development authority, but authority members postponed accepting until they hear a definite answer from the company.

The development authority's own engineering firm, Southern Partners, mapped the park and is working with the state Department of Transportation in planning roads. The state has agreed to widen Georgia Highway 56 in the area of the park to six lanes and to allow the development authority to build two roads and several driveways into the park.