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Mill owner comments on loss

By Michael Butler

The owner of the East Tallassee mill that ignited on May 4, spoke on WTLS' "Wake-Up Call" radio show on Tuesday morning about the events that have transpired since his April 29 aquisition of the property.

Tommy Hudson is the president of HUDCO Industrial Products, Inc. in Bessemer and co-owner with his son of Mount Vernon Pine, LLC.

"It is quite a disaster to the city and us as well," Hudson said of the fire that left the buildings in ruins. "It was something totally beyond our control. I know that when the fire occured and people learned that we had just acquired the property, the natural tendency is to believe there may have been something less than honorable on our part, but I can assure you that is not the case. We certainly hope that the authorities are successful in their determination and proof as to who did it."

Mount Vernon Pine purchased the east side mills and 20 acres of property from Process Knowledge Corporation of Birmingham for $1,088,000. Process Knowledge bought the property from Mount Vernon Mills in 2006 shortly after it closed the Tallassee operation.

"There were a number of single story cotton warehouses. Those were deconstructed by Process Knowledge," Hudson said. "Our intention was to deconstruct Mill No. 2."

Hudson said his company's plan was to reclaim the heart pine in the 1890s era Mill No. 2 and to not deconstruct the 1920s addition.

"That would leave us about 225,000 square feet of warehouse space. We intended to use some of the funds we received from deconstruction to improve that building for warehouse space to lease and a portion we intended to designate as a museum."

Hudson had a $1 million insurance policy on the mill. There was two million board feet of heart pine within the structure.

"It sells for an average of well more than a $1 per board foot," Hudson added. "We had hundreds of thousands of dollars of orders for which we received deposits. One man bought $230,000 of wood. He sent us by wire transfer $45,000 because he found the wood to be so desirable.

"If you look at the facts, just if we didn't have to clean the site as we intend to do, we lost $88,000 on the fire. (That's) not to mention all of the work we had done for the previous seven to eight months in putting together all of the plans for the product that we were going to receive from the mill."

Hudson said he is still not sure of what might be salvaged on the property.

"We've lost several million dollars," he noted. "We dont' see any reclaimable wood left. The only utility that is remaining on the site is the stone and maybe some of the bricks. It's very low value."

Hudson is as curious as everyone else to learn of how the fire started.

"There was no wiring in the building. There was no gas piping or any utitility from which a fire could have been generated. There were no storms that night. There was no lightning source that could have caused a fire, which takes you to only one conclusion - that the fire was caused by human intervention. We believe that because the fire was so extensive from the pictures we've seen and the people we've spoken with, (that) it was initiated in more than one location.

"Logic would suggest that the fire had something to do with our acquisition of the mill. I'm not accusing anyone of anything. It either had to be someone that may not have been happy with us acquiring the mill or it could have been in a more remote circumstance, someone just happened to be in there and built a small fire maybe for recreational purposes. We hope they find the culprits."

As for the future of the site, Hudson said it is too early to tell.

"We have not made any plans whatsoever. We've considered a number of things, but I wouldn't even want to repeat them. They may be as outrageous as the fire. We'll obviously do something with the property."

Tommy Hudson Interview WTLS/Tallassee Times TV
Travis Jones WTLS Wake-Up Call Interview
Mill Fire Video 1
Mill Fire Video 2
Mill Fire Video 3
Mill Fire Video 4
Mill Fire Video 5
Mill Fire Aftermath Drone Video (Courtesy of David Lawrence)

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