Coal Companies Have Eyes on Wheelwright's Coal

By: Dara Rees Email
By: Dara Rees Email

About 50 years ago, city officials say Wheelwright was booming with more than 3,000 people employed by coal in and around the city. Now, city officials say the town is shrinking with few opportunities for work, and some believe the money from this coal project could be just what they need.

Mayor David Sammons says Wheelwright has changed since the coal mines left in the 1970s.

"There was a lot of business here. There were carpenters shops, grocery stores, there was barber shops, beauty shops, you name it, it was here," says Mayor Sammons.

Years ago, excess coal and slate was piled near downtown Wheelwright. Now, at least two coal companies are looking to remove the hundreds of thousands of tons of coal.

"We don't know a lot about what we did have back there. We didn't know anything about it until TECO Coal company approached us," says Sammons.

TECO Coal and Trexis Energy are looking to use the coal, but city officials want to make sure this it is the right decision for the town.

City Commissioner Don Hall says, "I want the town to prosper and make money, but I don't want the people to be hurt in the process."

Mayor Sammons says he plans to sign on with one of the two coal companies. He says the project will bring new jobs and money to Wheelwright, money he says the city needs.

"It's a tough choice, but I think in the long run it's better for the city money wise, financially. But we just want to make sure in doing this, we don't hurt the people," says Hall.

"We're waiting to find out exactly what's back there. We're going to do some checking on what we own. So it will take us about three weeks," says Sammons.

Both TECO and Trexis energy say it will take about two years to remove the coal. Once the land is cleared, city officials hope to use it for new parks or businesses.

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