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Crew tearing down old Homelite bldg.

Several decades of Brookhaven’s industrial past are coming downin clouds of acetylene smoke and asbestos dust.

Two months after it was sold at auction for $450,000, theHomelite Jacobsen manufacturing building on Industrial Park Road isbeing demolished and its structural steel and other metals beingsold to recyclers.

Daniel Nguyen, a representative for Texas-based AppliedPrinciples that purchased the building in April, said his companyis keeping quiet on the long-term plans for the 21-acre site. Eventhough the demolition project will leave the building’s foundationintact, he said there are currently no plans to rebuild.

“After we tear down the building, they may come in withdevelopment,” he said.

The focus of the demolition so far is to remove the building’scopper, aluminum, tin – and especially steel – for recycling.

“The metals can be recycle; we cannot waste them,” Nguyensaid.

Monticello’s Kevin Davis – owner of Kevin Claude DavisConstruction, the contractor bringing the Homelite Jacobsenbuilding down – estimated the building contains between 5,000 and7,000 tons of steel.

Brookhaven Recycling Service reported the price of short iron -steel cut into 4-foot lengths for recycling – at $9 per 100 poundsTuesday morning. At $180 per ton, Applied Principles potentiallycan make approximately $1 million from the scrap metals in theHomelite Jacobsen building – more than twice the price the companypaid for the building in April.

Aside from the financial benefits Applied Principles stands togain, Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said the city will ultimately gain fromhaving a clean, ready for development spot in its industrialpark.

“If anything, it’s an improvement over an old, decrepit buildingthat was ill-suited for modern manufacturing,” he said. “The sitehas some advantages in that it is located adjacent to the railroadand is close to Interstate 55.”

Brumfield said the building’s state of disrepair, along with itscomparatively low roof height and many supporting columns that takeup valuable floor space, would make it basically unusable formodern industries. With the building gone, the site’s acreage willbe added to existing space in the industrial park and LinbrookBusiness Park for future development.

“I see it as a win-win all the way around,” Brumfield said.

While the demolition of the roughly 50-year-old building is aneconomic benefit, its month-long leveling will be the end of an erafor some Brookhavenites who once worked at the site.

Dennis Valentine – who moved to Brookhaven in 1978 whenAllegheny Ludlum sold its Jacobson lawn mower division to Textron,resulting in the creation of Homelite Jacobsen – remembers when thefacility was “rocking along.”

“There was some pretty heavy manufacturing in there for thispart of the world,” he said. “We had a 1,000-ton press, a dyemachine – it was pretty heavy stuff.”

Valentine served as materials manager for seven years atHomelite Jacobsen until the plant was closed in 1992 and itscapital shipped to other manufacturing sites. He said the plantemployed between 300 and 400 people generally, with up to 1,000 onpayroll during peak times.

“Homelite’s production was moved back to the Carolinas, and somepeople from Brookhaven went back, too,” Valentine said. “But mostof the people that were there were like me – without a place to goto work.”

The Homelite Jacobsen building was used by Wal-Mart DistributionCenter as a storage facility until 1996, when it was abandoned.

Even though the building has outlived its usefulness, Valentinesaid its destruction was “a little sad.”

“A lot of time and effort was spent out there. It was a largepart of my life,” he said. “But, it’s been a long time ago.”