ADAGE to donate $350,000 to Gretna; officials mum on specific use of funds

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By Angye Morrison

Officials from ADAGE, the company behind the proposed biomass facility in Gretna, were on hand during last week’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Day in Gretna.

Robert Parrett, director of business development, told attendees the company will remain “transparent,” and promised that not only will Gretna reap the monetary benefits of the facility, but so will the school district.

A Memorandum of Understanding was drafted in December 2009 between the city of Gretna and ADAGE which, although it is not a legally binding document, loosely details the agreement between the two parties. Although the document does not mention the school district specifically, it does state that ADAGE agrees to make a donation of $350,000 to the city to “fund development and construction of those community development improvement projects indentified by the city.” Payment is to be made, according to the MOU, within 15 days after the date ADAGE closes on the financing of the Gretna project.

According to an e-mail dated Dec. 4, 2009 from ADAGE’s Steve Simmons to Antonio Jefferson, Gretna city manager, that won’t be until late 2010.

Jefferson responded that same day, writing, “This creates a problem for me on our community center project. We are trying to complete the work by April 2010.”

There is no indication in the MOU what the donation would be used for. When questioned whether the funds would be used for a community center, as seemingly indicated in the previously mentioned e-mail, Jefferson did not address the community center or its funding specifically.

“The city has an existing building that was used as a child daycare facility. We are working with CDS Manufacturing and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in a pilot program to design a concrete and recyclable material mix to construct wall panels that will be used for the building’s expansion,” he said.

Jefferson also said due to ADAGE’s requirements to meet local, state and federal requirements, as well as the company’s own internal decision making process and the “certainty to the city for commitment to any of the city’s ongoing or planned projects,” it is incorrect to say the funds are already earmarked for a community center.

When pressed regarding whether there was an indication from ADAGE that a donation would be made, however, Jefferson did confirm in an e-mail to the Times, dated Jan. 7, that ADAGE has agreed to make a $350,000 contribution to the city.

In response to an e-mail from the Times, Erin VanSickle, of Capitol Energy, on behalf of ADAGE and Parrett, wrote the following: “Yes, our MOU with the city of Gretna maintains that ADAGE will pay the city $350,000 fifteen days following the close of project financing, which we expect to be late in 2010.  To reiterate, we value our partnership with the city of Gretna and the people of Gadsden County, and we are proud to support community development projects.”

VanSickle  also responded to questions regarding ADAGE’s contribution toward the county’s schools, saying the company’s contribution to the school district would be through its payment of taxes.

“We are investing $250 million in the project and, just like any family or business, we will pay taxes.  As a significant new taxpayer in Gadsden County, we estimate that we’ll pay $1.4 million to the Gadsden County school district.  We see this not only as an investment in a project, but an investment in a community, its children and its future workforce,” wrote VanSickle.  

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