By SERINA MARSHALL Staff Writer
Citizens raised their voices as continued talk of Bitcoin went down at the Washington County Commission meeting Monday night.
On June 9, county commissioners and representatives from BrightRidge and Red Dog Technologies — the company that operates the mine — drafted an agreement that would take the current Bit- coin facility out of Limestone and relocate it to five acres within the Washington County Industrial Park.
Residents filled Courtroom 7 of the George Jaynes Courthouse to express their concerns for a county proposed relocation.
“We’re all neighbors. We’re all neighbors here in Washington County. What affects any of you because you are my neighbors, affects me,” Telford resident Randy Gillam said. “I am totally against this Bitcoin. Mainly because of what it can do and what it has done. The area of the suggested settlement is a half mile from Grandview Elementary.”
According to Gillam, despite Bitcoin saying they can control the noise, a Bitcoin newsletter he cited states differently.
“The newsletter says there is no way to control the noise as long as they are using industrial fans. It’s going to put out 75-90 decibels and that can be heard over a mile. The school is within half a mile,” he said. “It’s going to disturb our children. I’ve got three grandchildren that go there. It affects wildlife too. I am here to plead with you; don’t put it in this industrial park! Don’t put it near a school.
“In fact, we’ve had the opportunity to do away with it. They are not advantageous to the citizens. They are not advantageous other than making money for our power company.”
Gillam’s comments were met with applause from the audience as protestors that began outside the courthouse made their way into the courtroom to listen to the speakers.
One speaker was current mayoral candidate James Reeves.
“People have been asking me if it’s really a Chinese company. Well, I’ve owned Bitcoin since 2013,” Reeves said. “I give it a 90% chance that Red Dog is a Chinese company. They started pop- ping up all over the country using our electricity. They were kicked out of China because if you weren’t part of the government or didn’t have an in, you were re- moved.”
Reeves has also placed blame to do with the Bitcoin operation on current Washington County mayor and opponent Joe Grandy. “As it went down and people started complaining about the noise, he just sat in the corner and didn’t lead,” Reeves said. “If you don’t know something and something happens, you get ahead of it as a leader and you say, ‘Alright guys, I might’ve been wrong here. Maybe I didn’t know it was going to be this noisy and we’ve got problems. Let’s fix this together.’ And it didn’t happen.”
Commissioner Danny Edens said that he still feels the county was lied to about the intentions of Red Dog.
“We were misled and lied to about what was proposed and approved. Nobody at this table as far as I know, knew it was going to be Bitcoins,” he said. “We voted on it and didn’t find out until after the fact. We are all talking about the best interest of the county. We represent the county. We are elected by the people to do what’s best for them. Bitcoin isn’t best for anybody.”
An ongoing lawsuit settlement between Washington County and BrightRidge over the controversial Bitcoin facility has been delayed as a new site for the mine has yet to be concluded.
“On May 31 we had an informal settlement conference and that was held with the decision makers from Red Dog and decision makers for BrightRidge. And then from Washington County was Planning Director Angie Charles, who under the zoning resolution has the authority to enforce the zoning,” said Washington County Attorney Allison Wilkinson. “She serves as the representative and the plaintiff. She has the authority to file the lawsuit after the commission requested it.
“Commissioner Greg Matherly was also at the conference to represent the county and reminding all contracts go through the Washington County Commission for them to be executed. There was also a proposed framework that was talked about June 9 with Red Dog and BrightRidge and the framework was then discussed in an open meeting. We went back to the jury room with an additional three requests from the commissioners for the framework and we came back with four. We negotiated those additional terms. Under the framework, there was an agreement that Red Dog would leave the Lime- stone location. The framework goes on to say that Red Dog will relocate to the Washing- ton County Industrial Park, with the support of Washington County.”