We don't usually have anything to do with rumors. Like any small community they fly rampantly in Wellsville. They are usually preceded with “Well, I heard...” or “they said...” It's been said don't believe anything you read and only half of what you see. Any worthwhile reporter will tell you about the enormous amount of time it takes to run down and verify facts that start as rumors.
These are two items we have been holding back on for a few weeks or more. We hope they are baseless but then, sometimes, more information comes out. In both cases nothing has changed and trying to contact responsible parties has either been fruitless or unsuccessful.
The first rumor we tried to run down is about the new Ohio River Bread Co.(ORBC) That is the new company that just a month ago got a zoning change for the old MacDonald School building on 9th St. After going through all the required steps Wellsville Village Council voted to change it from a business zoning to light industrial. On March 1 they passed Ordinance 11-1 granting that change.
Allegedly since then there has been a falling out with the principals of both the bread company and the owners of the MacDonald building. It was rumored that the bread company will not be located in that building or even in Wellsville. LSW Sanitation Services owns the former MacDonald School building.
At the April 5 Council meeting we asked LSW employee Debbie Lemley for comments on that rumor. In answer she asked us if we believe everything thing we hear. When we responded we do not she added that "nothing has changed" since the zoning change was granted. We had previously asked the Mayor if he had any knowledge regarding the rumor but like us he claims to have heard the same as we did. The owner of LSW did not return our call after leaving a voice mail message asking for comment more than a couple of weeks ago. ORBC CEO Candy Bangor did answer her phone but only offered “No comment”.
We sincerely hope Ms. Lemley is correct. The prospects of being the home of a brand new company was exciting news for Wellsville. It was an innovative idea to get something going in the old school building and more exciting was that it will bring employment prospects to town. With a ready made customer pledging his support and business for his grocery stores it sounded like a win-win situation.
The second “rumor” we heard about and was sitting on is that the Ohio River Clean Fuels (ORCF) plant proposed to be built just outside the Village limits is a dead deal. That proposed plant is a $6 billion facility that is to be located in Yellow Creek Township converting coal & biomass into liquid fuel similar to diesel. It will be a Baard Industries company using technology that has been around since the days of WWII. It's never been done in the USA but there are international companies that have been doing that for decades.
Three or four years ago owners Baard Industries went through all the permit processes. They were given the green light to build ORCF on 500 plus acres in Yellow Creek Township. Since then it has been one delay after another blamed on the economy. The CC Port Authority started lining up the land with buying options from several landowners.
Late last year it was announced Baard had struck a deal with Planck Trading LLC located in Boca Raton, Florida, for $2.5 billion in loans. John Baardson, CEO of Baard, announced that site preparation would begin in the spring.
Since then it's back to more delays forcing the Port Authority to seek extensions on the land options once again. Recently it was rumored that a land owner selling his property is claiming Baard defaulted on the last option extensions. Port Authority officials did talk to us and advised that the latest delay was due to Planck holding up the financing until a long term agreement could be reached with Baard Industries. The day after we talked to those officials there was a press release in the local papers saying the same thing. From what we understand there is still no agreement reached. The VP of Development for Baard did not return our call.
We find it hard to believe that there wasn't some sort of agreement reached when the Planck deal was first announced. We're still wondering if we're only getting part of the story. From a little research we did we find that Planck also has holdings in West Virginia coal interests. That part of Planck is headquartered in Beckley, WV.
Is the demise of both commercial ventures fact or fiction? We've been wondering since first hearing the stories if the ground rules originally agreed to for both are being changed? We certainly hope it is just rumor. It's a discouraging rumor. Just keeping the rumor consideration in mind leaves a ray of hope. Both of the proposed companies would have been a real boom for the whole area. Right now we just don't have a good feeling about the whole thing.
We hope we're wrong...