While Sims Bark south of Crothersville has yet to officially get into production, some residents have expressed concerns about an odor that’s emanating from their still under construction manufacturing facility.
During the first of the year town council meeting Tuesday night, East Moore Street resident Kathy Thurston said she’s extremely concerned about the smell coming from Sims Bark Co., a mulch manufacturing facility at U.S. 31 adjacent to Interstate 65 south of Crothersville.
Andy Johnson, vice president of operations, and Joe Mills, procurement manager, attended the meeting to answer questions.
Mills said as the wood product starts composting it give off an aroma. “We been accumulating bark and wood mulch getting ready for when we begin production,” said Mills. “Once we get into production, I don’t expect there to be the large mounds of wood product and odor that there is now.”
The company expects to officially get into production later next month.
“We won’t be stockpiling as much as we have now because we’re going to be processing that as it goes,” Mills said.
He told Thurston the smell can’t be completely eliminated, but Sims Bark will keep it at a minimum as much as possible.
“It will not be near what we’ve had in the last few months because we won’t have that much product on the ground,” he said. “We can’t bring it all in when we’re ready to flip the switch and process it. We had to bring it in early to have it here.”
Around 5,000 truckloads of material were brought in, and Mills expects processing to start within the next month.
“Those piles will disappear quicker than you think,” he said of the large piles on the site.
“When consumers go buy mulch, that’s our season, so we have to have it ready,” Mills said. “We do 80% of our business in those four months. We have to be processing it all year-round to be able to supply demand during those four months, so in the next season, most of all of the product we’ve brought in will be processed as the year runs. It won’t be waiting until all of the construction is done.”
North Preston Street resident Candi Lewis asked if there’s any way to eliminate the smoke that rolls off of the piles.
“I notice on some days, it’s worse,” she said. “Some mornings, it seems to be smoking more. I don’t know if it’s because it has heated up.”
Mills said a lot of that is steam as a result of the natural and intended decomposition process. “As the piles sit there so long, they do heat up,” he said.
“The longer the material sits there, the stronger that smell gets,” Johnson said. “Once we get into full operation, those piles won’t sit as long. They’ll be turned over fairly quickly.”
“If we can take that material that’s in those big piles now and put it into pallets, that’s what we want to do,” he said. “We’re trying to maintain about a month’s supply of raw material out there, which is about probably a quarter of what’s there now,” said Johnson.
Council President Danieta Foster said in October, she and her husband visited his hometown, Corbin, Kentucky, and went by the Sims Bark operation at nearby Woodbine. The Tuscumbia, Alabama-based company also has operations in Brent, Alabama; Olive Branch, Mississippi; Woodbury, Georgia; and Bowman, South Carolina.
Foster said she didn’t see large mounds of wood bark in Kentucky, but she saw thousands of pallets of bagged mulch.
“The biggest pile we’ll have on our yard will be the fine material that we make soil out of,” Mills said. “We do want that to break down as much as possible. That’s the only piles we’ll have an abundance of. If you saw piles in Corbin, that’s probably what it was.”
Mills said “first in, first out” is the thought pattern that keeps material turning over.
In terms of the smell, Johnson said what Crothersville residents are experiencing now is the worst it’s going to get.
“Just because we’re starting with nothing,” he said. “All of these other plants got all of the pallets out there. We need that, but we don’t have it right now.”
South Armstrong Street resident Ed Koerner asked if Sims Bark had received a tax abatement from the county because he heard a rumor about the company hiring people from out of state.
In April of last year, the Jackson County Council granted 10-year abatements on $4,904,000 in equipment and $3,250,000 in new building construction. At the time, Johnson said they planned to order equipment for four automated bag lines at $1 million each and construct a number of buildings for its operations. He also said the company planned to hire 20 full-time employees with combined annual wages of $1.2 million.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Johnson said all of their employees live within a 60-mile radius of the Crothersville plant. “The only people who may not be from the area are among the 25 there now to build the processing plant,” Johnson said. Mills said they also use as many local vendors as possible.
Lewis said she doesn’t want the odor coming from Sims Bark to deter people from coming to Crothersville.
Mills said he lives in the community, too, and he doesn’t want any smells to offend anyone.
“We’re here to support the community, support this town and support the county and the surrounding counties. That’s what Sims Bark is. I came in with this company in June, and they’ve backed me with that and told me that’s what they wanted, so they are a part of this community,” he said.
In it’s first meeting of the new year, Danieta Foster elected president of the Town Council and Chad Wilson was named vice-president.
In other appointments, new council members Jason Hillenburg and Katie Masters and town resident Albert Stormes were named to the town safety board with Foster serving as inspector.
Lenvel ‘Butch’ Robinson, Rick Strong, Dale Schmelzle and Hillenburg will serve on the town’s redevelopment commission.
Jeff Lorenzo was reappointed as town attorney, Duane Davis as the town’s Indiana Department of Homeland Security representative and Curt Kovener as the town’s representative on Jackson County Industrial Development Corporation.