July 28, 2010 Edition

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Intermodal Authority hires
attorneys, receives updates

Hoxie Mayor Donnie Roberts (left) and Intermodal Authority Board Chairman Wayne Gearhart look over drawings of a site in Hoxie that is being considered for an Integrated Renewable Resources plant, which will manufacture crossties.
Star Herald Photo ~ Dalton Sullivan
Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority met Thursday at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas and hired attorneys to represent and assist them in endeavors to bring new jobs to Northeast Arkansas. They also received updates from board members who visited facilities in Russellville and Pine Bluff, similar to what Integrated Renewable Resources would like to build at Hoxie.

The firm of Friday, Eldredge and Clark (FEC) in Little Rock, the largest firm in the state, was retained by the board. Two attorneys from the firm outlined what the firm's role would be in assisting the Authority.

Attorney Jim Saxton said acquiring and/or leasing real estate was one of their specialties, and they have an attorney on staff who specializes in environmental legal issues.

"Our job is to look after your legal interests," Saxton said.

Fellow attorney Michael Moyers Jr. focused on issuance of bonds and financing.

Several members of the board recently made a trip to inspect the Thompson Industry facility in Russellville and the Fiber Resources facility in Pine Bluff. Thompson Industry manufactures railroad ties similar to the plant proposed for Hoxie, and Fiber Resources takes waste wood and scraps and makes wood pellets.

If Integrated Renewable Resources does build a facility at Hoxie, they plan to bring the Russellville and Pine Bluff operations and combine them with the one in Hoxie.

Authority board members Deb Ball and Don King both told other members of the board how impressed they were with the facility in Russellville.

"It was clean, well-managed and everyone I talked to was very knowledgeable of the operation," King said. "I was also impressed that there was very little odor coming from the facility."

Jerry Kelso of Crafton, Tull and Sparks engineering firm told the board about his meeting with Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials to discuss possible spurs off their respective lines. He said the railroad officials both asked for more information in the form of a "10-percent" plan, which would show where the spurs would be located and how they would connect.

"We are working on a boundary survey and will submit it to the two railroads, which is one of the first steps in getting rail spurs built," Kelso said.

The proposed property for the facility is located near the intersection of the railroads in Hoxie.

He added that they are about to begin the environmental assessment of the approximately 300-acre site, and that the study should take eight to 10 months.

Kelso said his firm has turned in the application for a USDA grant and should be hearing about more grant opportunities in the months ahead. He noted that the federal government's fiscal year begins Oct. 1, and they should have a better idea of what monies are available for the coming year at that time.

Hoxie Mayor Donnie Roberts pointed out that in the last year FEMA has designated some of the Hoxie property on the south end near Highway 63 to be in a flood zone.

"We are working to get the designation changed, but if we are unsuccessful, some of the property would need to be built up by approximately one foot," Roberts said.

The next meeting of the Authority will be on Aug. 19 at BRTC.

(Note: Assistance in reporting this information was provided by Dalton Sullivan of The Pocahontas Star Herald.)

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