“I feel like I can’t just be quiet”: Development Authority hears complaints on primate facility

Published 4:23 pm Monday, January 22, 2024

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The Development Authority of Bainbridge and Decatur County met last Thursday for a meeting, following a last-minute venue change from the Chamber of Commerce to the County Commissioner’s meeting room. Several members of the public took to the podium to voice their disagreement and concerns with the recently announced primate breeding facility being constructed by Safer Human Medicine.

The first to speak was Chad Dollar, whose property is next door to the breeding facility’s site.

Dollar expressed several concerns: “I’m very concerned for property values, of course, health concerns, waste treatment concerns,” he said. “ I would just really urge y’all to think about all this before it goes too far. I feel like it’s a bad look, and bad news, for Decatur County.” He continued, “I’ve been so proud of the progress that this county’s made over the last ten years, I feel like this is gonna be a stain on all of that.” He emphasized that his proximity to the facility will directly affect him, and that, should something negative happen at the facility, it will affect the county.

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“I’ve never been involved, I’ve always just stayed in my lane, but I feel like I can’t just be quiet,” Dollar said as he concluded.

Next to the podium was Ted Lee, who stated that the facility will be across the river from his residence. Lee expressed concerns over the flies and insects the facility would attract, as well as the damage it would do to Bainbridge’s reputation.

“The city is now known as the River City, the Bass Capital of Georgia,” he said. “But from now on I guess we’re just gonna have to settle for the Monkey Town, and I’m not gonna be proud of that. I hope that all of you are, since you’re the ones that brought it to us.”

Melinda Conger took to the podium to ask for the names of the Development Authority members. Chairman Keith Lyle responded, stating that the Authority member’s names are all listed on the Development Authority’s website.

Following the public participation, the Authority moved into their agenda, approving the minutes from the previous meeting. The Development Authority then heard the Chamber of Commerce report from Karen Tobin, who mentioned the Chamber’s Chamber Awards on Thursday evening, as well as the Bearcat Workforce Now program, and a roundtable set up with industry leaders in the first week of February.

As for old business the Authority heard, Executive Director Rick McCaskill informed that Shannon French had completed the exterior of his facility at the Commodore Industrial Park ands looking to finish the interior. McCaskill also spoke on the solar farm near Climax was progressing on schedule. There was some concern over a shortage of panels, but McCaskill stated that the company had acquired them, though there were some specialized components “that take some time.”

McCaskill also discussed rail at the Downrange Industrial Park, having met with both the railroad and Anovion representatives about railway layout. “We’re looking at the layout now and deciding what else the railroad’s gonna require,” he said. McCaskill also stated that Danimer had finalized its railway design.

McCaskill also mentioned PG Buildings, a metal building manufacturer on Thomasville Road. He stated he was unsure if the company had begun operating in their Bainbridge location yet.

Anovion was brought up next. According to McCaskill, the company is near finishing “some engineering, rearranging-type stuff”. He stated that the project had grown, and Anovion would acquire their air permit between “the middle and the end of February.” This was the last thing he said the company was waiting on before beginning.

Next, McCaskill spoke on the Safer Human Medicine facility. He stated that there had been a meeting that week seeking local contractors and suppliers to sub-contract the project, with 45 contractors present. McCaskill added he had requested several pages of the plans, to publish to address some of the public’s concerns. Chairman Lyle also spoke about the primate facility, asserting that the Authority follows all rules and regulations, and made the assertion that “all economic development projects require a certain level of confidentiality, some more than others,” due to economic factors.

“When somebody knows that if a particular Company XYZ may be interested in a tract of land, all of a sudden that tract of land goes up in price,” he said. “I know some comments have been made about the transparency of it, but I can assure you that we follow all state laws, procedures and practices when we recruit industry.”

Next, the Authority heard about Harrell Ag, which is making a “major” expansion into the Downrange Industrial Park. The  company has, according to McCaskill, completed its environmental proceedings and engineering for run-off. He stated that Harrell Ag would continue making their larger products at the facility on Industrial Boulevard, with implements like sprayers and harrows to be constructed at the new facility.

The last item of old business the Authority heard was regarding Carport Central, which is looking to purchase an adjacent building.

After the old business, the Authority voted on a slate of officers, that being the reappointing of Keith Lyle as Chairman, Andy Bell as Vice Chairman, and Ted Martin as Secretary Treasurer. This was approved.

Under new business, McCaskill stated he had begun meeting with The Musket Corporation. “They have DEF terminals,” he said, “that’s an additive that goes in all diesel engines. It’s a urea-type project.” The musket Corporation, according to McCaskill, is considering putting a DEF operation in Decatur County. This would consist of a facility with several tanks, and a rail facility.

Lastly, Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby, a non-voting member of the Authority, informed the Authority that Rural king has begun renovations on the old K-Mart, with plans to open in late summer. He also added that a Firehouse Subs will be open in the strip next to Beef O’Bradys by February.

After this, the meeting was adjourned.