Power plant, Limestone prepare for president
By Catherine Godbey
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"The president's coming — here?" Yes citizens of Athens, tomorrow Air Force One is landing at Huntsville International Airport, and President George W. Bush is visiting Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.
"I thought it was a rumor," Steve Curtis of Athens said, "I'm glad he's coming, I think it's exciting."
Teresa Thomas of Athens added, "This is surprising. We're just a little bitsy place."
Even though residents of Athens aren't prepared for the president's visit, Tennessee Valley Authority employees and Athens city leaders are anticipating the president's arrival.
To ensure optimal security, the Athens Police Department and TVA security force are in constant communication with the Secret Service. Athens Police Chief Wayne Harper said, "Preparations are being made by the Secret Service, and we are available to help in any way."
Athens Mayor Dan Williams said he believes the police will block the intersections on the drive from the airport to Browns Ferry. "To my knowledge, the president is landing at Huntsville and then taking a motorcade to the plant. There are a lot of intersections on that route, and I assume that the local police and Sheriff's Department will help to stop traffic."
"All I can say is that we will cooperate with them (the Secret Service) any way we can," Harper said.
Along with the police department, the Secret Service is seeking assistance from the security force at Browns Ferry and the TVA police. Craig Beasley, a TVA spokesman, said, "We are working closely with the White House and Secret Service to ensure the highest level of security for all aspects of the event. ... We added additional patrols and are working closer with state, federal and local law enforcement."
As the police and security forces prepare for the president's arrival, the Live Well Center at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant is undergoing final arrangements. Workers are setting up flags, watering plants and anchoring a podium.
"We are setting up a venue where President Bush will speak to employees and guests. He will give his speech, and if the schedule permits, he will tour the plant," Beasley said.
If the president tours Browns Ferry, he will see a fully operational plant. Beasley believes this is one reason the president decided to visit Browns Ferry.
The plant recently restarted the third of its three units. For the first time since 1985, all three units are putting power on the TVA grid.
Beasley said, "Browns Ferry is back in full operation and is able to supply electricity to 2 million homes. Being at full operation gives us a sense of satisfaction, and for the president to come and recognize our accomplishment is icing on the cake," Beasley said.
Williams hopes that when the president leaves he leaves with a good impression of the people and the city.
"I hope the president is impressed with the excellent workers at Browns Ferry, some of them third generation, who can build and maintain a nuclear plant that has led to the growth of North Alabama," he said.
The Secret Service invited Williams to the airport when the President lands. Williams said, "During my time serving as mayor, I have welcomed Sen. (John) McCain, governors and U.S. representatives. ... I will be lucky if I am also able to speak with the president," Williams said.
If he does meet the president, Williams already knows what he will say. "I want to be able to shake hands with him and say 'Welcome to Athens, Ala., Mr. President.' "
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