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Scrap rebar is available at county site

CONYERS - The pile of twisted rebar at Rockdale County's Parker Road facility looks a little bit like the "Bird's Nest" stadium in Beijing, and it may have disappeared by the time the Olympic Games were done had county officials not stopped scavengers from hauling off the metal.

Residents who called The Citizen questioned whether the county should attempt to recoup some of the cost by recycling the rebar themselves after witnessing people pick through the pile at various times throughout the day and night.

Rockdale County spokeswoman Julie Mills said Public Works considered recycling the rebar, but backed away after factoring the labor costs and effort to remove the concrete chunks off the rebar.

"It was determined it was too labor-intensive to make the numbers work," Mills said. "Believe me, if we could make a buck off of recycling the rebar, we would."

The rebar, or reinforcing steel bars, were a part of the concrete slabs of a building that had been torn down recently. The building had housed the packaging operations of Maxell Corp., which operated a cassette tape manufacturing operation there until the late 1990s.

The county is clearing the site to make way for a new tennis complex. The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will take action on a bid to construct eight courts, a building and resurface two existing courts.

Rockdale County Public Works Director Dave Smith said the county crews did the work in an attempt to save some money after an early estimate showed it would cost $80,000 to have a contractor remove the concrete slabs.

"The theory and the plan was to cut it up in useful pieces, but it didn't work out that way," Smith said. The concrete was thicker than expected and there was more rebar. In some spots, the rebar was three layers thick.

The crews eventually rented a large jack hammer to bust up the concrete that resulted in very little reusable concrete and a lot of rebar. The new problem was how to get rid of the debris.

"We have some guys that you would call Dumpster divers who would take metal pipes or what not from jobs sites away. They would find some value in it, and the county wouldn't have to pay to have it taken to a landfill, so those fellows began taking some of the rebar away," Smith said. "That in itself would not have been a problem, but the next thing you know their brothers and uncles were coming out and taking rebar."

Smith said once he heard what was going on, he put a stop to the rebar salvaging. "If anybody is at fault, it me because I'm the director," he said. "We don't want just anybody going out there, especially during the day because we're out there working."

In the end, the plan is to have whoever is hired to build the tennis complex to also haul off the remaining rebar and concrete, Smith said.

Some scrap metals are in high demand. Thieves have resorted to stripping copper from air conditioning units when in their minds the price of the metal outweighs the risk of arrest.

However, rebar is not as coveted. Newell Recycling in East Point said they would not accept rebar from demolition sites. Jay's Recycling in Covington said they would accept rebar and pay $8.50 for every 100 feet. Smith said Allied Recycling in Conyers would accept rebar cut up for 9 cents a pound.

Mills said it did not cost the county anything to tear down the building that stood there. A contractor paid the county $5,000 to demolish the building and haul off the debris. She said the contractor did the work primarily to recycle Maxell's racking system housed inside the building.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.