Author Topic: The clock is ticking.  (Read 1832 times)

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Tom Rubillo

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The clock is ticking.
« on: February 11, 2021, 02:24:12 PM »
If my fading memory is correct, heavy industrial operations at the steel mill stopped last March or April.  If I recall, the passage of one year from the halt of operations triggers a change in the city's zoning ordinance for the property from heavy industrial uses to mixed use, the latter including, at most, light industries, commercial activities and some residential uses.  While the city could, once again, rezone the property to allow the steel mill to go back into operation, that issue would have to go back before the Planning Commission for public hearing and, that done, back before City Council for three readings.  In a political year like this one -- an election with three council seats and the mayor's chair at issue -- allowing the mill to go back into operation would undoubtedly prove to be a very hot button issue.  Indeed, it could very well determine the outcome of the election.

In an earlier post another member has suggested that a new buyer for the mill is on the horizon.  I'd be surprised if that assertion turned out to be correct.  No investors who have tried to maintain profitability at this site has been successful.  Georgetown Steel went bankrupt.  That big German company sold out to Liberty.  Liberty in on the record as saying the mill cannot reliably produce a profit without a major investment in new equipment.  Add to those fundamental economic realities, the clock is ticking. 

We are talking about an old, antiquated and unprofitable mill.  Councilman Humes may think it is eternal.  Mr. Sanderson may be working hard to convince new investors.  But political and temporal realities are what they are.  Stay tuned.  Meanwhile, this is not a laughing matter.  The future of the community will be dramatically affected by what happens next.  And, as Yogi Berra might have said, the future ain't over yet. 

PBSIAT

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2021, 08:46:04 PM »
The fat lady may not be singing yet but Paige Sawyer sure is screaming. Paige wants the mill torn down yesterday. He blames the steel workers for his defeat for city council. So there is something positive about the steelworkers union. They beat Paige. But seriously do you really think Tupelo is going to let council tear down the mill. Not a chance.

Tom Rubillo

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2021, 04:22:17 PM »
PBSIAT  Tupelo Humes has one vote on city council.  Just one vote.  He, like Mr. Sawyer (who no longer has a vote), is not omnipotent.  To the contrary. 

That fundamental fact that both of these gentlemen put their shoes on one foot at a time aside, the issue of whether or when the steel mill comes down will be determined by economic realities, not the wishful thinking or desires of any one or two small town politicians.  Those realities are: (a) the mill's steel making equipment is outdated and not particularly efficient by modern competitive standards and (b), that old and run down equipment has a long and pretty dismal financial history of being unable to sustain profitability in a competitive steel making environment.  Most recently Liberty's investors bought believing they could turn a profit with the mill "as is."  (If they didn't think that they were fools.)  After trying to do so, they publicly acknowledged that it would take a substantial investment in upgrading and modernizing mill processes in order to make money. Despite that acknowledgement, Liberty's investors haven't put reinvestment money on the table.  That tell us something?

Meanwhile, all this talk about the need to upgrade all happened as the city council changed the zoning ordinance to put a time limit on continued industrial use of the property.   If the mill were to stop producing steel for one year for any reason other than a labor dispute, the zoning changes automatically.  Heavy industrial use would no longer be allowed. The clock is ticking on that time limitation. 

If anyone wants to buy the mill now and restart it, they'll have to do so within the time frame set by the ordinance.  If my memory is correct, that deadline would be sometime this Spring.  Since the ordinance is a public document, any purchaser would have actual notice of the very short time frame in which they'd have to get moving.  Even if some investors came long and wanted to give it a try, they're still faced with (a) the fact that they've purchased an old and outdated mill, (b) they ultimately will need to spend a lot of money upgrading it to compete with other steel producers and turn a profit, and (c) the long term problem that they will have purchased a seriously contaminated site that, sooner or later, will have to be cleaned up at their expense.  Do the math.  You want to put your money into that?  Would Tupelo Humes?   If what is reported here about his attitude about the mill, it is pretty obvious that Paige Sawyer wouldn't and he wouldn't encourage other Republican fat cats to do so..

The political reality here is pretty straightforward.  To get things going at the mill the city council will have to give its permission.  It cannot do so without changing the zoning ordinance.  To do that properly, the matter has to go back before the Planning Commission where the whole can of worms will be opened for public comment.  This would all be going on at the same time as three council seats and the mayor's seat are up for grabs in the upcoming election.  If that weren't enough, there are enough lawsuits -- environmental and others -- floating around this whole mess to put a smile on the face of every attorney worth their salt (no ambulance chasers, please) east of the Pacos River.  Meanwhile, the county council, state legislature, the Governor's office,  environmental groups, citizens groups and voters will have their say too.

To avoid the appearance that I'm just another naysayer or finger pointer, I will express a personal opinion about this subject and hope it falls on other than deaf ears.  I think it is very much in both Liberty's interest AND the best interest of the Georgetown community as a whole if Liberty were to salvage or sell off whatever still useful equipment exists in the mill, tear down the rest like it did with the unused half of the property last year and sell or use the scrap, and either find a buyer for the land or donate it to a Carolina/Clemson/Coastal consortium for use as a combined campus for a school of environmental studies.  As to the latter suggestion,   Of at least equal (and perhaps even much greater) importance, a deal of this kind with the State of South Carolina and its Higher Education czars could be crafted in a way that relieved Liberty of any  liability for the cost of cleanup of this heavily contaminated site.  A simple "hold harmless clause" would do the trick.  The company's high powered lawyers and the State Attorney General's office should know how to draft a binding agreement of this kind.  If they don't, they need to go back to law school.  As to land value, that could be determined by South Carolina's industry friendly Commerce Department.

The bottom line here is that only Heaven and Hell are eternal.  The steel mill isn't.   At this point in time all any of us can do is express our views and try to persuade others to (a) think about them, (b) invite constructive criticism or counter-proposals and (c) advocate and lobby.  That's what I'm doing here.  Others are invited to do the same.

Liberty's investors have a big problem on their hands.  What I'm proposing here is my effort to help them, help the community at large and help create a vision of the future.  Who cares if Liberty's investors get back some of the money they've put into this failed investment.  Who cares if they write their losses off of their taxes?  Who care if they reap a huge tax deduction for an in-kind of contribution of the land in the process?  More power to them if they do.  So long as Georgetown ends up with a cleaned up site and an attractive college campus, I'm okay with all of it.

JW

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2021, 02:01:00 PM »
So I spoke with City Councilman Tupelo. He said to tell all you Steel Mill haters to go fly a kite. The city council will not enforce the rezoning and the mill will live on forever. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Tom Rubillo

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2021, 08:26:44 PM »
I, for one, do NOT, "hate" the steel mill.  That's a childish notion -- that people who are concerned about economic reality and the future of the community "hate" anything at all.  In point of fact, nothing about this situation is funny.  Nothing about it has anything to do with the forces of good and evil -- about things generally the subject of love or "hate."  Nothing about the need to take a realistic look at whether this antiquated facility can ever reliably produce profits without a major reinvestment in updated machinery is the source of amusement.   I suggest that those who think otherwise think a little more seriously about the overall subject. 

Mr. Humes has one vote on city council.  He is up for reelection.  His reported belief (or anyone else's) that enforcement of the existing ordinance is somehow optional is misguided and would, itself, be evidence of government malfeasance in expensive litigation over the matter.  In the meantime any amendment to allow the mill go back into operation after production has been suspended for more than a year will have to go through the ordinary process, first to the Planning Commission for public hearings and then three readings at city council.  Three members of council -- Mr. Humes included -- will be up for reelection.  So will the mayor.  Voters will choose among the candidates.  That is the reality of the circumstance.




Tupelo Humes

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2021, 03:44:20 PM »
   Mr.Rubillo, whomever "JW" is, he's telling the untruth. I haven't spoken with anyone about the mill besides the plant manager in quite some time. Mr.Rubillo, when you speak of equipment at Liberty, your only correct about steelmaking, the rolling mill can produce and produce efficiently. The "clock" you speak of doesn't expire this spring, matter of fact, Liberty has no intentions of letting that "clock" expire. One thing I can assure you guys, they do have a plan in place to operate the mill. And if the rolling mill runs, that " clock" will stop.

Tom Rubillo

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2021, 04:37:38 PM »
Tupelo.  I hope you are right and that there is a plan, but as I recall Liberty executives admitted or announced last year that they couldn't profitably run the mill without a major investment in new equipment..  That was quite some time ago.  Nothing has actually happened at the mill to suggest that any new equipment is on the way.  Nothing has been removed to make way for it.  Nobody is working. Nothing is being produced.  Production stopped last year around this time.  That started the clock "ticking."  I supposed people (and lawyers) can argue about when the clock started running, but it is, in fact, ticking. 

Be all that as it may, the purpose of my postings is to get people thinking about the future -- about alternative routes the community can (or should) take should things not work out for the steel mill.  I, for one, am skeptical about it being profitable and staying in operation in the future because so many attempts in the past have failed.  Bankruptcy, mill closures and sales, high hopes going unrealized mark the history of the plant over the past 20 or so years.

I'd like to see great improvements at the Ports Authority property.  I'd like to see great improvements on steel mill property, particularly the half that has been cleared of old equipment and now sits vacant.  An important part of your job, and the job of other members of counsel, I believe, is to think in terms of Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and so on.  I use this site to post my views and invite constructive criticism, alternative views or even, from time to time, encouragement and support.  I encourage you to do the same.  Be well, stay safe, stay healthy.

Tupelo Humes

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2021, 07:19:31 PM »
Liberty was referring to the Melt Shop when speaking of needing major investments, and today, thats still the case. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with their rolling mill, if you have been following them, you'll find Liberty has been making strategic moves to support Georgetowns rolling mill. And remember, the "clock" would tick when there is an abandonment, there never was, in fact, there's about fourteen workers there preparing for what might be. I can assure you, the clock is ticking, but its just recently started. Your plan is awesome, something I'd fully support, but at this moment, Liberty still has a lot of say so....

Marty Tennant

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2021, 01:10:30 PM »
I had to remove post, something I haven't done in a while.

Please do not use this forum to attempt to identify anonymous users.

It is not allowed.

Thank you.
Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.

IWCCTTT

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2021, 04:30:26 PM »
there's about fourteen workers there preparing for what might be.

I'm glad to know about 12 other people are getting a paycheck besides James E. Sanderson, Jr. and his son Jamie. I bet those other union brothers would like to have that check.

Tupelo Humes

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2021, 11:18:56 AM »
  Jamie Sanderson hasn't been employed by that mill in well over a decade. Smh

IWCCTTT

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2021, 04:53:20 PM »
  Jamie Sanderson hasn't been employed by that mill in well over a decade. Smh

Tupelo, really? I gave you a lot more credit than that. You know that is a lie. This is from Jamie's LinkedIn page. After being let go from Agru America Jamie got hired as the Health and Safety Manager at the Steel Mill. Just before it shut down. And he  is still employed as the Health and Safety Manager while other union brothers are on unemployment. Truth.

Jamie Sanderson
Health And Safety Manager at Liberty Steel Georgetown
Georgetown, South Carolina373 connections

Experience
Liberty Steel Georgetown
Health And Safety Manager
Liberty Steel Georgetown
Mar 2020 - Present1 year

Georgetown, South Carolina, United States

 Manages two safety employees, Safety Coordinator and Safety Advocate
 Coordinates, administers, and updates current company safety programs
 Provides direction to managers on HR-managed workers’ compensation program
 Manages incident tracking, performance reporting to local and global company level
 Collaborates with ISO coordinator on creation of ISO 45001 SMS
 Develops safety policies and procedures for plant manager’s review
 Acts as a resource for the management…

Show more
Georgetown Foodland
Food Journalist/Photographer (Community Involvement)
Georgetown Foodland
Nov 2013 - Present7 years 4 months

Georgetown, South Carolina

Exposing and sharing the culinary adventure of Georgetown, South Carolina. Through photos, stories, partnerships and interaction, the goal is to make Georgetown a permanent pinpoint on the culinary map of America. This effort is driven by passion. No restaurants are charged for what I do.

- Culinary journalism
- Food photography
- Restaurant marketing and support
- Social media management
- Google analytics
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
AGRU America, Inc.
AGRU America, Inc.
2 years 8 months

Production Manager/Safety Liaison - Plant 1
Jun 2019 - Sep 20194 months

Production manager and volunteer safety liaison at Plant #1

 Managed up to 25 employees, four shifts on 7-day, day/night rotations.
 Worked with maintenance to further grow their CMMS electronic maintenance system
 Trained supervisors on leadership skills, discipline procedures
 Lead safety pre-shift meetings
 Addressed safety-related issues
Safety Liaison - Plant 2
Aug 2018 - Jun 201911 months

Andrews, South Carolina

PBSIAT

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2021, 12:08:05 PM »
Did Tupelo not know Jamie was getting a paycheck from the Steel Mill? Didn't Tupelo get cut off from a check from the Steel Mill too? Bet that hurt his feelings to know the Sanderson family is being taken care of and he is not.

PBSIAT

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2021, 05:17:54 PM »
I guess we all know how to shut Tupelo up? The truth is hard to argue with.

IWCCTTT

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2021, 07:22:16 PM »
The truth shall set you free! And it makes liars shut up too!

Tom Rubillo

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2021, 08:06:30 PM »
Back to the subject matter of the original posting here -- the future of the steel mill -- I understand that there was an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed financial problems the principal investor in Liberty is facing.  Has anyone found or seen that article?

Marty Tennant

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Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.

Marty Tennant

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Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.

Tom Rubillo

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2021, 04:00:11 PM »
Deep do-do. 

JW

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2021, 04:04:04 PM »
You people will never learn. Mr. James E. Sanderson has already found a new buyer. The Steel Mill will be here long after all you working man haters are all gone. Our leader is smarter than all you Steel Mill haters.

Tom Rubillo

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Re: The clock is ticking.
« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2021, 04:41:08 PM »
JW  I'm not a "steel mill hater."  Far from it.  I'm a realist.  If you look on my Facebook page, you'll find that I just reposted an article from the Charleston News & Courier about the mill that discusses in some detail the financial problems of the mill's present owner.  Read it.  As far as a new buyer is concerned, since the current  zoning ordinance does not permit continued heavy industrial use of the property if it remains closed for one year, any new buyer will have to deal with the city and successfully have the property rezoned, unless, of course, that new buyer can close the deal and get up and running before the clock runs out.  According to the newspaper article, the mill will have been closed for a year as of this April.  While I understand (as a retired lawyer) that everybody will have their own version of when the clock actually started ticking, that is an issue that has to be addressed, and very soon.  Meanwhile, everyone seems to agree (at least according to what's in the newspaper) that the mill can't be profitable unless about $25 million in new equipment is installed.  That's a big practical matter than has to be addressed too.

The discussion here hasn't been about any childish "love or hate" relationship, at least not by the adults in the room.  It is about the very real problems involved in planning for the future of the entire community.  The steel mill have made tremendous contributions to the local economy over the years.  The question is not who "loves or hates" the mill, but whether it can continue to do so in the future. 

If James Sanderson has found a buyer, my best advice to everybody is that the identity of the buyer be disclosed or, at least, that James put his reputation on the line by making a PUBLIC statement confirming what is now simply a rumor or wishful thinking so that this new information can be added to the public discussion of the future of the mill.   If he has recruited a big investor with an awful lot of money who can work fast to get the place retooled (with the cooperation of the city as to zoning) and open and profitable, that would be great.  If, on the other hand, people are blowing smoke in your face, you need to know that too, if for no other reason than you not go further out on this "new buyer" limb only to have it sawed off on you.    But without a PUBLIC acknowledgement, I fear that, while you may like what someone told you, it's just rumor or wishful thinking or, as we say around the stable, just a little more evidence of the presence of horses. 

Be well, JW.  Stay safe and healthy.