EPA, attorney for note holder tour 105-year-old Peerless Mill

EPA, attorney for note holder tour 105-year-old Peerless Mill

February 10th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Les Coffey, owner of the Peerless Mill in Rossville, shows off a check that has been discarded in the abandoned mill as he leads RDC attorney Philip Whitaker, Don Bynum, and Mitchell Bell on a tour of the 105-year old facility Wednesday.

ROSSVILLE -- The owner of the Peerless Mill got visits from an attorney who doesn't want him to tear down the mill and federal officials who warned him to be careful if he does.

Owner Les Coffey said he got a visit from Environmental Protection Agency officials Wednesday who said they had been flooded with concerns and complaints from local residents on potential contamination from demolition.

The last time Coffey knocked down a building at Peerless in 2008, he was investigated by Georgia environmental officials for improper asbestos disposal after tenants complained.

Coffey said the agents told him he would have to give the EPA 10 days' notice before he began demolition so they could evaluate the 27-acre site.

Contacted after 4 p.m. Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the EPA in Atlanta said she would try to confirm the visit and provide more details today.

Earlier in the day, Coffey led representatives from the company that holds the note on the mill on an inspection, and the fate of the Peerless appears headed to court.

An attorney for note holder RDC obtained an emergency injunction Tuesday preventing Coffey from demolishing the 105-year-old mill. A meeting between the two parties Wednesday morning was more inspection than dialogue.

"Apparently, they didn't want to work anything out because they didn't talk today," Coffey said.

He said he expects an emergency hearing before a judge later this week.

Coffey bought the mill from RDC for $1.3 million in 2007. If a judge determines Coffey has violated terms of the deal, RDC could say he defaulted on the property and force it into foreclosure.

RDC's inspection was triggered by a line in the deed that says, "No part of the premises shall be materially altered without the prior written consent of grantee."

Made up primarily of members of the Hutcheson family of Northwest Georgia, RDC owned the mill for about 50 years as well as other properties around Catoosa and Walker counties.

Attorney Philip Whitaker, former Peerless maintenance man Don Bynum and Mitchell Bell, who married into the Hutcheson family, represented RDC.

Whitaker carried a videocamera on the tour, apparently paying particular attention to areas that appeared to be partially demolished and former locations of air conditioning units that had been scrapped.

Neither Whitaker, Bell nor Bynum would comment publicly. During the tour, Whitaker and Bell questioned Bynum about buildings, air conditioners and wiring, asking him to remember what might be missing.

Coffey pointed out to Whitaker the improvements to the site, loudly asking the RDC crew if they remembered the enhancements and mocking them when they didn't respond. He pointedly showed how he and his crews had "materially altered" the site with renovations but said RDC never made him get approval for those.