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After Numerous Delays, Aquaponics Project Set to Begin

Despite the usual problems that inevitably accompany any type of construction project, officials say the aquaponics facility at Kermit is progressing and barring any unforeseen major developments cropping up it should be completed on time.

During her report at last week’s Mingo County Redevelopment Authority meeting, Executive Director Leasha Johnson said she attended a progress meeting three weeks ago with Thrasher Engineering and the contractor and received an update on the project.

She said there had been a couple of problems with the footers, but added they were caught right away and since have been corrected.

“We had to do a $25,000 amendment to our Thrasher Engineering contract to have regular construction inspections, so once every three weeks Thrasher comes to the site to inspect every aspect of construction to make sure it’s in alignment with the project’s specs,” she said. “But that’s a good thing because I did witness first-hand that during that first inspection the contractor had done something that needed to be repaired.”

Johnson said excavation for the concrete slab for the facility has been completed and that the placement of concrete itself should be completed by this week.

“The lift station will be delivered (this week) and when that’s installed then the force main and waterlines will be installed and they will begin asphalt paving,” she said. “The greenhouse is not expected to be delivered until July, but these are things that need to be completed before it arrives at the site.”

Johnson said the required reclamation of the mine portals has also begun, with the contractor having already installed “bat gates” on two of those four portals.

She said the installation of these special gates did not require a special AML (Abandoned Mine Lands) contractor but could be done by the current contractor through the direction of an AML inspector.

Johnson said installing slatted gates instead of simply sealing of the portals was to insure the continuing habitat of any bats that might be residing inside the old mine works.

“When the project started some of the first money that we spent was $6,500 to have a bat study to determine if there was the existence of bats,” she explained. “They were there over a 24-hour period and they did find one bat, so that dictated the fact that we were not able to seal the portals.”

Johnson said the gates were also necessary, particularly at the one nearest to U.S. 52, due to reports of people having been known to “sleep in them.”Orders have also already been placed for power, gas, internet and T.V., and officials continue to work closely with the utility providers to finalize these services.She said Sprouting Farms, the company that will operate the facility upon its completion, has begun putting together job descriptions for those employees who will be working there once it becomes operational.“Chris Becker and I will probably be meeting with (Kermit) Mayor (Charles) Sparks in the next couple of weeks to discuss the job opportunities that will be created by the opening of this facility,” she said. “(Mayor Sparks) has people asking him all the time about when they’re going to start interviewing for those positions.“Chris is also excited because those jobs are going to resemble manufacturing jobs ... that’s why he feels pretty comfortable that the process can be replicable all across the coalfields,” she continued.

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