published Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Rossville: Peerless Mill owner begins demolition process


by Andy Johns
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Les Coffee, owner of the Peerless Mill in Rossville, recently requested a permit to demolish the 85-year-old mill. Coffee has owned the mill for five years and currently only has nearly 20 percent filled with tenants.

The 105-year history of the Peerless Mill in Rossville will end with a wrecking ball and the site will take on a new life as a scrap yard.

Peerless owner Les Coffey purchased a demolition permit Monday morning and said he plans to level the 27-acre site, sell the scrap he can and run a scrap yard and waste transfer station.

"Everybody I've spoken to is very disappointed," said Coffey, who added that his phone was flooded with messages after the news broke. "It's just time to move on. We can't keep pouring money in to prop the project up."

Crews began taking down lights Monday, and all of the demolition will be finished by Dec. 31, he said.

In a news release issued Monday, Coffey noted that all current tenants will be allowed to stay until their leases are up and the Prater's Flooring building would remain up and running.

"We must for the benefit of the creditors of Peerless Self Storage and the shareholders change our direction of business," Coffey wrote in the release. "Beginning immediately we will proceed with demolishing of the complex."

The mill, which is the largest single tract of land in Rossville, dates back to 1905 and, at one time, employed thousands of workers as one of the largest woolen mills in the world. The facility was sold to Burlington Industries in 1952, then was taken over by the Hutcheson family and the Rossville Development Corp. before a disastrous fire in June 1967. No one died, but 15 industries that rented space inside the 360,000-square-foot structure were destroyed.

After Coffey bought it from the Hutchesons in 2007, he and the city have been involved in disputes that have led to lawsuits and countersuits over the past few years.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Les Coffee, owner of the Peerless Mill in Rossville, drives Steven Morgan, a general laborer that he employs, past a building that he plans to take down after recently requesting a permit to demolish the 85-year-old mill. Coffee has owned the mill for five years and currently has nearly 20 percent filled with tenants.

Coffey had hoped to rent out the space to tenants, but he blamed interference from city officials as the idea's downfall.

"It is very regretful that a dream of mine will never be realized, as I have invested four years of my life into this project," he wrote in the release. "However, reality must take precedence over dreams and the reality is the city of Rossville and their management will never allow the Peerless site to thrive."

Rossville Mayor Johnny Baker wished Coffey luck on his new venture.

"As long as he complies with the zoning and everything, what he does with it is up to him," Baker said. "I say good luck to him."

Baker said the property is zoned industrial and he believed a scrap yard would fit into that description.

"I'll guess we'll cross that bridge when he applies for a business permit," the mayor said.

In the past, city officials have pointed to the road and rail connections at the site, wishing it could be developed for industry to bring jobs back to the town.

Instead, Coffey said he will sell the bricks, wiring and beams from the building to recoup his investment and pay creditors.

Ken Rule of Black Diamond Slate in Savannah, Ga., recently bought bricks and beams from two other now-demolished mills in Greenwood, S.C., and Albany, Ga. He said the market for salvage materials isn't what it was a few years ago, but he and others probably would be interested in buying some of the Peerless remains.

BY THE NUMBERS

Estimated salvageable material from the mill:

10 million pounds of heavy steel

2 million pounds of shredded tin and steel

200,000 pounds of heavy copper

400,000 pounds copper wire and piping

5 million bricks between 75 and 100 years old

1 million board feet of heart-of-pine beams

1 million board feet of maple flooring

Source: Peerless Self Storage LLC

He said salvage brick usually goes for 16 to 37 cents per brick and the beams could go for as much as $1.50 per foot.

Based on those figures and Coffey's estimates, the mill owner could sell the bricks and beams for $1.55 million to $3.35 million. At current prices, the 12 million pounds of steel, copper and other metal that Coffey expects to salvage would bring in more than $3 million.

Coffey bought the mill for more than $1.3 million in 2007 and said he has spent more than $800,000 on improvements.

Local historian Larry Rose said the mill played an integral part in Rossville's past.

"The whole area was set up around that mill," he said. "Just about everybody in Rossville worked there at one time or another."

Despite the mill's importance in the past, Rose said he doesn't see a lot of historical value in keeping it around. Former mill towns around the South are struggling with how to handle the old mills that used to drive the towns, he said, and in Rossville's case, leveling the Peerless would eliminate an "eyesore."

"What are you going to do with a big mill that's deteriorating daily?" he asked. "There's not a lot of uses you could make out of it unless you did some extensive remodeling."

Contact staff writer Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfree press.com or call 423-757-6324.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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raybarker444 said...

This is all a stunt. For a man who is in bankruptcy and facing foreclosure how in the world can he afford to comply with all the environmental issues? I think he is throwing a temper tantrum. And once again Andy Johns / CTFP is a fiddle, played masterfully by Mr. Coffey. Does Mr. Johns asks the current state of the lawsuits? Does Mr. Johns ask how do the note holders feel about their property being demolish? Does Mr. Johns even know who the note holders are who are trying to foreclose on Mr. Coffey? Did Mr. Johns contact the EPA and see what is involved in demolishing a building of this size? Did Mr. Johns ever question the motive of Mr. Coffey? The answer to all of these questions are NO. So I will ask Mr. Johns how does it feel to be a fiddle?

February 8, 2011 at 5:20 a.m.
njp4419 said...

Why a scrap yard? If the owner loves his hometown, he would want to do something with the property to make Rossville a better place to live and have a place to be proud of

February 8, 2011 at 6:46 a.m.
lcoffey1 said...

Mr. Barker is obviously going to say things as he was caught red handed stalking my 16 year old daughter and posting information about her on the internet. His friend David L. Scroggin's used his position within the City of Rossville as detective to gather information and relay it to Mr. Barker whom later posted these things on the internet. All of this information can be obtained by making an open records request to the Walker D.A. and or the city of Rossville.

The state of the lawsuits are as follows. We have been ordered to mediation. The city has openly admitted Peerless owns the sewer system they have been using for years and has never paid us for. You can contact the U.S. district court in Rome for the file.

The holders of the note is surely frustrated, however they want to be paid and that is the ultimate goal. As the estimates show we will be collecting a substantial sum of money in the sale of salvage. At this time there is roughly 800,000 owed on the property.

The note holders are RDC aka the Hutcheson sisters and some cousins.

The rumor that the property is being foreclosed on has been running in Rossville for 4 years.

The EPA will more than likely be involved in the process as Johnny Baker and Ron Wade will surely be on the phone with them daily. It should be noted that in the investigation and the story written about Roy's grill it was discovered that Ron Wade of the RDDA had an ownership interest in a company that benefited from the asbestos abatement of the Roy's property.

The motive is simple PROFIT. The motive in buying, remodeling and renting the space was profit. The current plan has always been a plan B and a back up to make profit. Profit is not a dirty word and there is nothing wrong with making a profit.

Fiddle. It seems to me that Mr. Barker is the cheap fiddle as he should let the city stand up and speak if they will.

Now to make some additions to the story.

(1) Rossville Metals has a current business license and does not need to apply for one. They are currently operating at the site. Mr. Bakers statement of otherwise is false.

(2)The Peerless site has bent over backwards for the city and they have managed to blow every single opportunity.

(3) 15 businesses and 200,000 SF rented with 75 employees working. Based on what the management of these companies have seen the past 4 years. They will all run to Chattanooga. A huge loss for Walker County.

(4) This is what happens when you run a corrupt government take pay-offs and steal from the public. That is why Rossville has gradually died off over the years.

It is time the city accept responsibility for their actions and come clean. It is time the citizens demand such.

As for the Peerless site we will do as the article says and run a full blown scrap yard and waste transfer station from it. The land will be owned free and clear to generate more profit for the stockholders.

Les Coffey

February 8, 2011 at 7:42 a.m.
rarnold281 said...

Barker: We've heard enough out of you. It's time for you to go away. Now run along quietly and play with your puppies.

Les: You have to do what you have to do. It is a shame that the building has to go. It has a lot of potential and could bring in a lot of jobs. I hope this turns out for the best for both you and the city.

February 8, 2011 at 8:12 a.m.
Tiffo said...

Mr. Coffey: This isn't elementary school anymore. Could you please grow up and stop acting like a dramatic child? Those of us who love our city are ashamed and embarrassed at your actions. You've made a name for yourself like you wanted, but unfortunately it's not a very good one. Grow up.

February 8, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.
alprova said...
February 8, 2011 at 1:12 p.m.
alprova said...

Les Coffey wrote: "Mr. Barker is obviously going to say things as he was caught red handed stalking my 16 year old daughter and posting information about her on the internet."


Caught "red-handed" by who?

After doing a little research, this is a completely unsubstantiated charge being offered by Les Coffey. Posting such charges in a public forum is rather reckless and quite brave, but considering the litigation currently being pursued against you already, I suppose you have nothing left to lose.


"His friend David L. Scroggin's used his position within the City of Rossville as detective to gather information and relay it to Mr. Barker whom later posted these things on the internet. All of this information can be obtained by making an open records request to the Walker D.A. and or the city of Rossville."


Wow!! Imagine a city detective actually spending time to discover if crimes are being committed, such as the possible illegal destruction of property that is currently mortgaged and in default, or that property tainted with asbestos will be disposed of according to EPA guidelines and with their full knowledge and supervision.

Personally, I don't want 105 year old degenerating, powdered asbestos floating all over town and it being inhaled by those of us who live in the area. I shudder to think what your current plan is in dealing with it.

Bring in the EPA PLEASE.


"The note holders are RDC aka the Hutcheson sisters and some cousins.

The rumor that the property is being foreclosed on has been running in Rossville for 4 years."


Any truth to that can be easily explained. You're the only person who blindly agreed to buy 27 acres of damaged goods. They're still hoping you can pull it all off.


"The EPA will more than likely be involved in the process as Johnny Baker and Ron Wade will surely be on the phone with them daily."


As they should be. The manner in which you treated your tenant who brought all of this to light, dictates that you be strictly watched to determine how you dispose of the asbestos contained in those buildings.


"This is what happens when you run a corrupt government take pay-offs and steal from the public. That is why Rossville has gradually died off over the years."


Rossville is no different than all other mill towns across the South. To call Rossville "corrupt" is completely without merit.


"As for the Peerless site we will do as the article says and run a full blown scrap yard and waste transfer station from it. The land will be owned free and clear to generate more profit for the stockholders."


What stockholders? You're out there on your own and you're hanging by a thread and the only one who doesn't seem to know it, is yourself.

February 8, 2011 at 1:51 p.m.
whatsthefuss said...

Alpo, Your the biggest TOOL in town. Perhaps Mr. Coffey can hire you to bang your THICK EMPTY HEAD against the bricks to make them fall!!!

February 8, 2011 at 8:54 p.m.
alprova said...

No offense, but I wouldn't want a job from Les Coffey. I'm worth tons more than he will ever be worth. I also would never associate with a man who is so blatantly dishonest.

I mentioned the other day that you are known by the company you keep, as well as those whom you defend. You're really dragging bottom now.

Maybe you've been sniffing around Peerless Mill and have inhaled a couple of lungs full of asbestos. That would definitely explain a lot.

February 8, 2011 at 10:50 p.m.
lcoffey1 said...

Folks, the truth will come out and I do not think that anyone is going to be very happy with the truth. I am willing to allow my dirty laundry and life to be put out in the media. I write under my own name. I do not hide under screen names.

The statement I am worth more than he will ever be worth is a very arrogant response. You are correct I have no net worth. On the other hand you need to compare your net worth to the total net worth of the family estate and trust not my personal net worth. At the same time this is not about net worth. It is about a building in Rossville and how it is and will effect the community.

I could care less if other are welthier than me or smarter than me or prettier than me and all that other B.S.

I will say and admit I have worked in dirty and unpopular industries for my entire life. You can and will find stories, lawsuits and other things that are contraversial. It is a fact and something I do not deny. It goes with the territory of doing what I do for a living.

February 9, 2011 at 5:46 a.m.
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