By Nick Worth
The Navajo County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation by Arizona State Senator Bob Worsley and Brad Worsley about NOVO Power, LLC, the new owner of the Snowflake biomass power plant and the old Catalyst coal-fired power plant.
“On July 29 we closed the acquisition of the coal plant and the biomass plant,” Brad Worsley told the board. He said NOVO Power had also acquired 7,000 acres of land in the deal.
Brad Worsley noted that the biomass plant was built in 2008 and changed ownership to the Najafi Group in 2010. When the Catalyst paper mill shut down, assets such as water and compressed air were shared. Bob Worsley then purchased the power plant.
“Novo Biopower is the operating organization,” said Brad Worsley. “We get 40 loads of wood chips per day, 80 percent of which come from local communities. Another 10 to 20 percent comes from the Valley and New Mexico.”
He said the plant furnishes 25.5 megawatts to 27 megawatts of power, enough to furnish electricity to 20,000 homes.
According to Brad Worsley the plant:
* Has 36 direct employees.
* Has created 100 jobs indirectly.
* Does business with 100 local suppliers.
* Has spent $12 million in the local economy.
“This area is unique,” said Bob Worsley. He noted that there are nine gigawatts of coal powered energy being produced in northeastern Arizona.
“We see an opportunity to set the table and see what’s going to replace these coal plants over the long run,” said Bob Worsley.
He said a group from Brigham Young University has come to show how to build a Fischer Trosch “clean coal” system to extract the energy from the coal, but keep the emissions contained.
“Another option is to repower the coal plant with natural gas,” said Worsley. “We can use new modern GE gas turbines, and take the heat off the back of the gas turbines, and run it into the recovery boiler and make steam.
“Natural gas is a cleaner version of fossil fuels,” said Worsley. “It has 50 percent of the emissions of coal.” He said gas-fired plants could be used as backups for solar and wind facilities.
“We see this campus where the old paper mill was becoming a heavy energy facility,” Worsley told the board, “with solar, wind and natural gas all working together to put power on the grid where and when it is needed.
“Navajo and Apache counties are unique in hosting this fleet of coal-fired power plants,” Worsley said, speaking of the numerous power generating stations in the two counties. “I’m hoping that the NOVO Biopower campus can be the example of what can be done with these old power plants.”
In addition to BYU, NOVO Biopower has also received interest from several companies, including My Powerful Home.com, Waste and Power, Nutrix, Enchantment Organics and a proposed $50 million pig slaughterhouse, which would supply blood and waste products that could be burned to generate power.
“We think this is mutually beneficial for Navajo County and NOVO Power,” said Worsley.
Supervisor David Tenney asked when the coal plant would be fired up and Worsley said it would be within six months.
“We spent millions of dollars buying these assets and we don’t intend to let them sit idle,” Worsley said. “We want to get them back into operation and provide jobs.”
The board also heard from Terry Hill, adjutant and legislative chairman of White Mountain Area VFW Post No. 9907, during the initial call to the public. Hill told the board the proposed veteran’s court has yet to be implemented.
“The judges of this county do not want to step forward and take action on a veteran’s court,” said Hill. “A judge needs to step forward. There is a need.”
Hill told the board County Attorney Brad Carlyon has done his preparations for the court, but has not been able to find a judge.
“I’m asking the Board of Supervisors to light a fire under the judges and ask Michaela Ruechel, since she is the presiding judge, to start this,” said Hill. “There’s a need for it in this county.”
In other action Sept. 10, the board:
* Adopted a resolution cancelling the election for the White Mountain Fire District.
* Adopted a resolution cancelling the election for the Pinedale Domestic Water Improvement District, Porter Mountain Domestic Water Improvement District and Ski-Hi Domestic Water Improvement District.
* Approved Amendment No. 1 to an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) for housing of DOC inmates.
* Approved an agreement between the sherriff’s office and White Mountain Apache Tribe for long-term housing of White Mountain Apache Tribe inmates.
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement between the sheriff’s office, the cities of Winslow and Holbrook, and the towns of Snowflake, Taylor and Pinetop-Lakeside regarding Byrne grant funding for fiscal year 2014.
* Approved an agreement with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for a $19,500 grant to Navajo County to establish a position for the Victims’ Rights Program. The grant would pay 50 percent of a salaried position’s wages and benefits.
* Approved an agreement between MyHeritage (USA) Inc. and Navajo County for a subscription to the genealogy software utilized by the libraries.
* Approved the 11th amendment to a revolving credit agreement and request for modification of commitment amount for the Show Low Fire District.
* Gave recognition of excellence to Navajo County Manager James Jayne.
Jayne was recognized for his work as an innovator at the recent League of Arizona Cities and Towns meeting, where he received the Gabe Zimmermann Public Service Award for Innovation from the Arizona We Want Institute.
County Governmental Affairs Director Hunter Moore read letters of congratulations from Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick and Secretary of State Ken Bennett. All of the individual board members also expressed their gratitude and appreciation to Jayne for his work.
* Observed a presentation by Jayne to James Menlove and the budget team for receiving the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Managers Association.
“James has done an extraordinary job in getting our audits caught up,” said Jayne, who acknowledged Menlove’s hard work for the county.
Menlove thanked the board and acknowledged the support of his budget team members.
* Approved a proclamation declaring Sept. 17 as Constitution Day.
Supervisor Sylvia Allen gave the framed proclamation to Terry and Joyce Hill to hang in the Show Low VFW Post.
* Heard a presentation by Representative Ken Ivory, president of the American Lands Council.
* Approved personnel actions.
Supervisor Jesse Thompson questioned the dismissal of a worker from the county recorder’s office.
County Attorney Brad Carlyon told the board they can have no influence over the employees hired by another elected official, and suggested they address any concerns or questions to that elected official.
* Approved Amendment No. 2 to change a line item in the Fuels Reduction Grant project, moving $25,000 from contractual labor to equipment costs to cover equipment expense.
* Approved a $25,279 contract awarded to G&G Construction to install the sprinkler system for the Snowflake Academy Community Development Block Grant.
* Approved Task Agreement No. 7 of a memorandum of understanding between the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Navajo Region and Navajo County.
“The BIA has seen a reduction in road equipment operators,” Public Works Director Homero Vela told the board. “In the meantime, they’re asking to partner with Navajo County. They will provide the road grader and fuel, and Navajo County will provide an equipment operator.”
He said the grading work will be done every other week for seven weeks.
Vela told the board the memorandum will help the BIA through this period of a lack of federal funding.
* Approved Amendment No. 1 to extend the contract with Hatch Construction & Paving, Inc. for supply and delivery of roadway materials to the Navajo Nation for one additional year, through Sept. 9, 2014.
* Adopted a resolution approving a zone change from A-General to Commercial-Residential for a property located in the Bushman Acres subdivision in Winslow.
Planning and Zoning Director Trent Larson told the board Ronald and Deborah Watkins, owners of RW Guns, want to open a gun shop on the property, which was formerly a feed store. The subdivision in which the building rests is on the Navajo County side of the Winslow city limits.
“They need to get a zoning change to commercial,” Larson said, noting that they cannot open the shop under current zoning with a special use permit.
Ronald Watkins told the board he has had a gun-selling license since 1984.
“It shouldn’t make too much extra traffic, because it’s going to be a small shop,” Watkins said. “It will bring in money to the City of Winslow.”
Allen asked what he would do to secure the shop and keep it from being broken into.
Watkins answered that he would be living on the premises and that someone would be there when he was at work.
Diane Pawley, a Winslow resident who lives 400 feet from the proposed store, addressed the board with some of her concerns, including increased traffic, narrow streets, no sidewalks, no street lights and a nearby school bus stop.
Pawley also addressed what she termed “a real lack of traffic law enforcement,” and said she heard Watkins was going to live in the back of the building.
Pawley also told the board crime was a concern.
“The ATF stresses gun shops in rural areas are a danger to the neighborhoods,” Pawley said. “The former feed store took guns in pawn and was continuously being broken into.”
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By Nick Worth