Summers addresses concerns on Unicoi asphalt plant, board approves $2.8 million budget

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 15, 2020 at 11:05 PM

UNICOI — Summers Taylor President Grant Summers addressed the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday to clarify what he said were misconceptions about the company’s application for permits to increase the capacity of the company’s Unicoi asphalt plant.

In brief comments to the board — limited to two minutes by meeting protocol previously established by the board for public comments — Summers began by saying only one asphalt plant will operate at the two-acre plant site at the base of Buffalo Mountain.

Unicoi citizens who live near the plant last week expressed concern to the town Planning Commission that two public notices of the company’s request for permits to increase air contaminant emissions at the plant suggested up to three plants would be operating at the site.

Summers told the board Monday the company will instead dismantle the existing plant at the Unicoi site and replace a mobile plant that was brought to the location earlier this year with a newer and more efficient plant that will produce asphalt more efficiently and with less impact to the community.

The Tennessee Division of Air Pollution Control granted Summers Taylor a permit to relocate the portable plant from Blountville to Unicoi earlier this year following a public notice of the company’s request for the permit was published in the Kingsport Times-News.

In a question-and-answer session with the board members and several town residents who also spoke at the meeting, Summers said the notice was published by the state without any input from the company and he does not know why it was published in Sullivan County.

Summers also addressed a second TDAPC notice published in the Erwin Record on May 19 that referenced a subsequent application in which Summers Taylor sought a permit to place a double-drum asphalt plant at the Unicoi site.

He said the double-drum plant was actually a single plant with one shell inside another shell for a total of one drum rather than two and was to replace the portable plant that was to be brought to Unicoi from Blountville.

According to Summers, the company scratched its plan to use the portable plant from Blountville in Unicoi after it found a newer, more efficient plant it believes “will be a better neighbor.”

“The new one will replace the one we had in Blountville,” he said. “This one has the capacity to do it quieter and quicker ... It’s portable so it might not always stay here.”

While the TDAPC notice indicated the double-drum plant will increase air contaminant emissions from the site, Summers said the plant’s “gross emissions will be quite a bit less.”

“I don't know where the state got that,” he said.

Summers said the new equipment will increase the value of the property and its county property taxes and that company will also pay sales tax on asphalt sold from the plant, including asphalt sold for state paving projects.

Finally, Summers welcomed a request for a public meeting with the town and residents in which the plant and its impact on the community could be discussed at greater length.

Town Attorney Lois Shults Davis advised the board to wait for the TDAPC to respond to requests for the meeting already submitted by the residents and the town.

In an earlier statement to the Johnson City Press, Summers said, “Unicoi deserves to have a plant within the county limits, to keep the cost of asphalt down for its residents and municipalities to purchase.

“Having to haul asphalt from plants in other counties would result in exorbitant costs for all purchasers. Given its adjacent proximity to the only operating quarry in the county, we are pleased to continue operating an asphalt plant here as it has been for over 30 years at this location.”

In other business Monday, the board gave final reading approval to Unicoi’s 2020-21 budget with $273,597 taken from the general fund to balance the books.

Town recorder Debbie Kessler said the final numbers reflected $2,855,317 in total expenditures and will reduce the general fund to about $1 million.

While less than the budget shortfall projected in the first reading of the budget, the final expenditures included two new additions — a $2,500 contribution to the Unicoi County Heritage Museum and $3,600 needed to meet the town’s portion of a 5.4% increase in employee health insurance premiums.