Brock first spoke about the recent winter crisis, and the efforts made by the community during the storm.
“That storm was trying,” Brock claimed. He contended that the storm “was a test of how ready we are,” and said that it brought to light the areas in which Bell County may need to focus in the future in terms of emergency service.
He then made special mention of the Pineville Independent School System for allowing the community to use their high school facility, as an emergency shelter, during the recent time of crisis.
“There were a lot of folks that came together during that storm. They stepped up, and really went above and beyond.” Brock explained. “The Pineville Independent School System really rose to the occasion. They set up a shelter down there and staffed it without any hesitation whatsoever.”
Brock extended great appreciation to those who volunteered his/her time during the time of emergency. He stated that those volunteers showed undeniable willingness — as well as a tremendous amount of selflessness — and he personally thanked them for serving the community in such an honorable manner.
Brock then added, “That storm tested us, but I feel like we passed the test.”
He went on to explain that Bell County was the only county effected by the storm that did not receive assistance from National Guard crews. He attributed this to the hard work of Curt Hoskins and the Bell County Road Department.
“We have a very elaborate road department compared to our neighbors,” stated Brock. “We have equipment that our neighbors don’t have.” Brock said that on average Knox County only uses 50 tons of salt per year, whereas Bell County uses 260 tons.
He then commended Curt Hoskins for his dedication. “He was the person that built the road department up, and I have to give him credit for that.”
Brock then shifted his sights and spoke about a future coal-fired power plant for the area. He began by saying that Bell County officials are scheduled to be in Frankfort on Wednesday to receive a check for $400,000 from multi-county coal severance funds for the project. He stated that those proceeds will go to acquiring and accumulating the data required to apply for a Federal Air Quality Construction Permit for the proposed power plant.
“It is a huge, huge thing,” stressed Brock. “Now what that means to me as judge, and what it should mean to you as someone living in this community, is that we have a valid project.”
He then stated that coal is under attack nationally.
“They are trying to kill coal, I agree with that,” stated Brock. “Coal is under attack, and it does need defended. You can’t make the power required to provide the energy needs of the United States without it.”
He said that those who are in favor of alternative energy sources also believe that statement. Brock said that their ultimate goal is to reduce greenhouse gases, but it cannot be done by killing the coal industry.
He then claimed that a big cost factor in using coal to produce energy is the transportation. He stated that presently most of the coal mined in this area goes to plants in larger Southern cities, which can be costly.
“Instead of exporting coal, we need to export power,” declared Brock. He said that cleaner coal-fired power plants need to be constructed in order “to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and keep the lights on.”
Brock then spoke about a power plant that is currently being constructed in Wise, Va., which is a replica of the one being proposed for Bell County. He recently visited the site, and said that the plant employees over 1,100 individuals at an average pay of $28 an hour.
Moreover, Brock explained that the facility is equipped with several classrooms for improving literacy, which would benefit this area in a positive way. He also claimed that the plant could quite possibly help with the county’s current drug problem.
“A plant of this nature would naturally not cure our drug problem, but it would greatly alleviate it,” asserted Brock, claiming that people earning greater wages and working more are less likely to abuse drugs.
Brock stated that construction on the power plant could start — as a best case scenario — in March of 2011. He said that once construction began, it could take three to five years before completion. The 600 megawatt power plant is proposed to position in the Pine Mountain Regional Industrial Park, across the Brock- dubbed “Bridge to Nowhere,” which is located directly off of Highway 119.
Brock also claimed that Herbie Hoskins is interested in constructing a “green” wood processing company on 22 acres of the Pine Mountain Regional Industrial Park. Hoskins is currently closing on a loan and finalizing the project agreement.
“He’s ready to go today,” said Brock. “He already has his equipment purchased. The only thing he’s waiting on — is we are going to have to get power to him.”
Brock explained the county is going to use coal severance funds to pay for the power lines to the industrial site.
For those interested, Soup and Sandwich luncheons occur on the second Thursday of every month at J. Milton’s restaurant.
Adam Young is a Staff Writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.