ABERDEEN – Disconnected telephone numbers and unreturned phone calls mark the NEMS Daily Journal’s recent look into a proposed biofuels plant for Aberdeen.
The owner of the Port of Aberdeen property has a disconnected home phone and did not respond to questions about his business Monday.
And CEO Jon Lunceford of Lilburn, Ga., declined repeated inquiries about the project he aims to establish as Mississippi Investment Petroleum Co.
MIPCO was chartered in Mississippi on Jan. 9, 2009, by Lunceford and Kenneth M. Cook of Madison. When plans for the operation were announced earlier this year, the projected start date was early June. But so far, little work has been done and few people know or seem willing to answer question’s about the project’s status.
A land records search in the Monroe County Chancery Clerk’s office Friday shows the most recent Port of Aberdeen transaction on Oct. 2, 2008, a deed for $10 from the city to Red Panther Construction LLC of Okolona.
Friday, City Clerk Jackie Benson provided a copy of the Board of Aldermen’s Sept. 15, 2008, regular meeting minutes, which shows all members present voted to authorize Ballard to sell the property to “Company X.”
Lunceford says the deeds were delivered and signed Feb. 6, when construction began on the refinery and a glycerin facility.
There is no record of such transactions in the clerk’s office.
The Secretary of State’s business records show Red Panther, first led by William T. Tacker III of Thaxton, was incorporated July 18, 2008. In December 2008, he transferred his sole member/manager status to John Michael Tacker of Thaxton.
Messages left at Red Panther went unanswered Friday, although an Monday e-mail from Red Panther signed “JM” states only that he is involved with getting some kind of patent.
Without talks with the Tackers, it’s unclear if they are related to William T. “Tommy” Tacker II, who established a Nettleton biofuels refinery that went bankrupt.
An unidentified person, who answered the telephone at Red Panther on Monday, was asked if John Michael is related to Tommy Tacker. The man declined to answer.
Tommy Tacker faces multiple federal charges that he and a partner swindled nearly $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the business.
What is known for certain, from Lunceford, is that Tommy Tacker is directly involved with renovating equipment for the Aberdeen facility through Red Panther Construction.
Ballard said he doesn’t know any of the Tackers or whether they are related.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, which issues the permits to open and operate the facility, has no paperwork from MIPCO, its spokesman Robbie Wilbur repeated Friday.
In an e-mail to the Daily Journal at mid-week, Lunceford said it doesn’t show up with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality because the site is less than 5 acres. Wilbur said the size relates only to a storm-water permit for construction, not operation permits.
Lunceford says MIPCO is “finishing up” its air permit, and that Eco-Systems of Jackson “takes care of all permitting” for MIPCO.
Wilbur said that while a consultant can apply for these permits, it must do so in the name of the facility.
In an e-mail last week to the Daily Journal, Lunceford said his business plans to operate two other biofuels projects.
MIPCO reportedly has leased a Houston biofuels refinery, where it will train employees.
The only permitted facility in Houston is Tri States Petroleum LLC, managed by state Sen. Jack Gordon of Okolona. Its phone is disconnected.
Gordon did not answer a phone call and an e-mail Friday.
Lunceford also said MIPCO is in the “final phase” of leasing a refinery in Nettleton.
While he declined to offer any more information about it, Nettleton is the site of Tommy Tacker’s defunct plant, Biodiesel of Mississippi Inc., which apparently was acquired by Nevada-incorporated Universal Bioenergy Inc. in January 2007.
Repeated attempts failed to locate officials at Universal Bioenergy. No one works at the Nettleton plant and a recording says the UBI telephone there has been temporarily disconnected.
Project on hold
Lunceford said MIPCO’s construction go-ahead from the city of Aberdeen is pending grant approvals.
Three Rivers Planning & Development District recently prepared a $975,000 roadwork grant request to the Mississippi Development Authority.
Ballard said the work, which must preceed MIPCO construction, will improve another access road to the port and provide two ways to move in and out.
The Aberdeen facility has been promoted as a refiner of fuels from various biological sources, such as chicken fat.
A first-hand look at the proposed MIPCO plant site Thursday showed little change from a month ago, except for a new sign.
The same tanks lay scattered around, a small wooden pad area appeared still waiting for concrete and the gravel driveway was riddled by erosion.
Lunceford said its equipment “is presently in storage” but wouldn’t say where.
When construction resumes, he said, the facility should be complete in less than 90 days.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeff Clark of Monroe360.com contributed to this report.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal