June 01, 2011 Edition

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Update given on IRR plant

Dalton Sullivan

Near the end of the monthly meeting of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority (NEARIFA) Board of Directors, Tim Kizer, General Manager of Integrated Renewable Resources (IRR) summed up what had been a productive meeting when he said, "As my Daddy would say, we are going to go from a turtle to a rabbit real quick."

Kizer was in essence saying, after months of slow, but steady progress in his work with NEARIFA, things were about to move forward in a more rapid fashion. Speaking at length at the meeting held Thursday in Walnut Ridge, Kizer gave an update on where IRR is in their plan to build a facility in Hoxie to produce railroad ties. Kizer said in the last few months IRR has had to change a few of the engineering designs, and they have plans to meet with the design firm and Jerry Kelso of Crafton Tull, the NEARIFA engineering firm, this week to finalize plans for the complex. He said he should have a more definite timeline by the next meeting. Kizer assured members of the NEARIFA board, as well as others gathered, none of the original plans for the business have changed, that they still plan on employing approximately 150 individuals, once they are at full capacity.

"We are in this for the long-haul," Kizer said, "we remain excited and ready to go." Kizer said at full capacity, they would be bringing in 70 truckloads of timber a day. Kizer said once the ties are made one of the biggest challenges will be what to do with the remaining scrap wood, which could be as much as 50 percent. He said they are looking at several possibilities, and they would be cost effective since they would be their own supplier of raw materials. Kelso gave an overview of what has transpired at the Hoxie site to date, and introduced Jody Taylor of TerraCon, a firm that helped with some of the required studies needed to satisfy various government agencies.

Taylor reported on the environmental assessment, a study that is mandatory if any federal dollars are going to be involved on the site. She added the environmental assessment is currently in review with the highway department, and she expected them to issue a statement of no significant impact. She also reported the noise impact study had been completed as well.

"Once this study is done," Kelso said, "we can go chase our funding." NEARIFA Director Wayne Gearhart said he was pleased with the progress being made. "We are moving forward in a good, controlled process," Gearhart told the board. "It may seem like we are moving slow, but that is a necessity."

Kizer took a minute after Gearhart's remarks to echo what the director said.

"I am quite pleased with the speed this is going," Kizer said. "The pieces are in place, and we are blessed with the support of the communities."

Several members of the Cox Family of Lawrence family were also in attendance, and again expressed their concern about the possibility of a road adjoining their property being relocated. Kelso and Gearhart both addressed the issue saying they were looking at all options. "We want everybody," Gearhart said, "to be as satisfied as possible."

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