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Grading costs rise for planned Rivian site near Newton County
Development authority now owns all land needed for 2,000-acre production facility
A Rivian battery pack awaits inspection before heading to the chassis line at the company's manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois. (Special | Rivian)

MONROE, Ga. — Joint Development Authority (JDA) members found Tuesday that inflation also was hitting the costs of developing the planned site for the Rivian electric vehicle production facility.

The four-county Authority voted to accept a $47.8 million bid from Austell-based Plateau Excavation for grading of a 500-acre pad site for the $5 billion Rivian project.

The JDA chose Plateau over bids from Brent Scarbrough ($64 million) and Morgan Corp. ($60.3 million).

Officials explained that a state Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA) grant awarded to the JDA for payment of the grading gave it $32.3 million for the work, said JDA spokesman Ben Sheidler. 

However, the cost was determined in February prior to due diligence being completed on the total 2,000-acre site in Morgan and Walton counties, officials said.

Thomas & Hutton representatives said clearing and grading costs increased due to Rivian wanting to chip rather than burn vegetation on the site. 

Also, in February officials had not determined how many structures would need to be removed. 

Earthwork and topsoil costs increased, and rock excavation, grassing and the need for settlement plates were not included in the original cost estimates, officials said.

Erosion control costs — including the need for silt fences around ponds and streams — also increased, they said.

However, Rivian will pay for the increases due to its request not to burn on the site and to preserve trees within the graded area, officials said.

Authority members also voted Tuesday to amend an intergovernmental agreement with the Georgia Department of Economic Development to affirm the state agency will pay any cost overages associated with grading the site.

Also Tuesday, representatives from Thomas & Hutton presented details of a stormwater master plan for the site.

The study concluded the following based on Thomas & Hutton’s review of the plans and modeling:

• Post-development peak runoff rates are less than pre-development peak runoff rates for the one-, two-, five-, 10-, 25- ,50- and 100-year, 24-hour design storm events;

• Extreme flood protection has been achieved by limiting post-developed peak runoff rates to pre-developed peak runoff rates for the 100-year, 24–hour design storm;

• Stream channel protection compliance has been achieved;

• Post-development peak stages in proposed ponds provide 2 feet of freeboard between the maximum water surface elevation and the pond top of bank;

• Treatment strategies also are provided to reduce runoff and for groundwater recharge areas.

In other related items discussed at the Tuesday meeting at the Walton County Historic Courthouse, officials said all land acquisition has been completed for construction of the electric vehicle manufacturing plant.

Officials disclosed during the agency’s monthly meeting the JDA now owns all 44 parcels which comprise the Rivian site after spending more than $90 million to buy them.

After buying the first 665.17 acres in April 2021 for $23.9 million, it used state grant funds of $66.6 million to buy a total of 1,252 acres — about $47,000 per acre — between May and Aug. 10 of this year.

In addition, two closings in August will be on the financial statements next month, including 353.4 acres from William Verner, Thomas Verner and Sara Tuell for $12.7 million; and almost 40 acres from the Albert Felton Jenkins Jr. Trust for $70,000 per acre or $2.798 million.

JDA members also discussed recent security issues at the Stanton Springs North part of the site. 

Chairman Jerry Silvio read a letter sent to the sheriffs of Morgan and Walton counties and the chief of the Social Circle Police Department about issues with illegal dumping and vandalism of some former residences on the site.

JDA members agreed to dedicate funds to post signage and cameras on the site.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced in December 2021 that Rivian was planning the production facility on the site located in Social Circle and unincorporated Morgan and Walton counties on the north side of I-20. 

The state and JDA announced in March the company is receiving $1.5 billion in incentives to build in Georgia, including tax credits; state and local incentives totaling $1.28 billion; $198 million in state site and road improvements and other projects and services such as a state-sponsored training center.

JDA officials have said construction is expected to begin later this year with production starting in 2024. The plant will be designed to produce up to 400,000 vehicles a year, officials said.