Friday, May 23, 2008

The Devil's Advocate

Chapter 7: The Devil’s Advocate
April 10th, 2008

Just as I get my article ready to send in to the paper - POW!, another great story falls into my lap. This story is just too good to pass up, and I’m going to really play the devil’s advocate on this one.
I’m sure many of you read the article in the Sioux City Journal about area leaders meeting at Bev’s on the River on Thursday April 4th. What you might not know is that the meeting was closed to the public and the press. I understand it was by invitation only.
Debi Durham, who is the president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, is quoted in the journal “We’re just following the same procedures we’ve always set up for these.” Durham said. “They’ve never been open to the public and the media. They’re educational forums for our membership.” The closed-door format, she said, permits a more frank dialogue between the participants. What a load of crap!
What I find harder to believe is that there are 250 community leaders in this area that allow this to happen in the first place. The Journal reports that there are normally only 75-100 business and industry leaders attending these Roundtable meetings. The high-profile nature of the Hyperion project generated much more interest in Thursday’s presentation. Can you imagine how many people would have attended if this had been an open forum? Hyperion Resources by the way touts the fact that they are going to be “Transparent” in dealing with the public in order to inform them on the process that they are undertaking in this project. If this is transparent, I’ll eat my hat. Oops, I forgot this was not a public meeting, so Transparency is not a problem here.
Councilwoman Patty Anderson from Hawarden said her city’s delegation learned the company would have its own fire department on site, as well as its own medical personnel and ambulance. Now really, do you think maybe she should read Hyperion’s application? I would like Ms. Anderson to ask herself what is going to happen if there is an accident at the refinery. Surely she doesn’t believe that only one person would be injured in an accident. How many people at a time can be transported in an ambulance, and to where? As far as I know if a catastrophic accident were to happen, every community in this area would be tasked to respond, because one ambulance and one team of medical personnel on call 24/7 would not be able to accommodate this. That means that like it or not, Hawarden must prepare to assist in something of this nature.
Ask Hyperion if they are going to aid them financially to increase the equipment and personnel necessary to assist in the possibility of an accident? I don’t think so. If not, Hawarden is going to pay for this out of its own pocket. This is only one item folks. I’ve said this before and I will continue to say, we (the Siouxland community) do not have the infrastructure or the money to handle situations like this. When Hyperion says this refinery will create jobs, did they mean at the refinery or did they mean what the surrounding area will have to do to accommodate them?
Mr. Skip Perley, president and CEO of Tech Corp. was amazed that the refinery would require up to 960 electricians. He said that’s approximately three times the number of electricians that are in the metro area today. Golly Gee Mr. Perley. The one interesting thing that did impress Mr. Perley is the fact that there are 796,000 valves needed to operate a 400,000 bbl per day operation. I hope he didn’t pay too much for his lunch.
One of the things I have been saying for many months, and a question that Mr. Bob James, Chairman of the Union County Planning and Zoning commission, asked and the public input meeting with Hyperion is what impact is this going to have on existing businesses in this area that have the skilled people Hyperion is looking for? I don’t know what a journeyman electrician makes per hour now, but I’m sure it is already more that $20-30 that Hyperion is going to offer. Does this mean that in order to keep a business staffed they will be in a bidding competition with Hyperion to ensure that they have enough employees to keep from going out of business?
Don’t get me wrong folks, I’m all for economic development, but not at the expense of local businesses going out of business just for the sake of a refinery coming to town and luring skilled company employees to go to work for them. You have to remember that during the construction phase there will be a need for 4500 workers. When the construction phase is over and the operation phase begins, many of these jobs will no longer been needed. Then what? Are these workers going to go back to their old employers and ask for their jobs back? If you were one of the businesses that were hurt by them leaving for greener pastures, would you hire them back? Is this loyalty to your community and your old company, or is this economic development?
Hawarden also was represented at the luncheon by City Councilman Bob Borcers and city economic development director Spencer Haacke. They could see a growth in population and economic activity. What kinds of economic activity do they forsee for Hawarden? Bear in mind that Hyperion has options on over 12,000 acres of land on I-29 and only need 3200 acres for the refinery. What do you suppose Hyperion is going to do with all those extra acres?
I’m starting to feel like the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” I hate to paint such a gloomy picture, but let’s face reality here. What is it going to take to make people realize that this is not good?
If you have comments, just email me at
Till next week



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