Friday, October 24, 2008

water, water everywhere

October 29th, 2008
Water, water, everywhere,
Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.
The above ditty comes from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and seems to fit this article. I had to read that when I was in high school and for some reason it stuck.
At times, I think my mind must be warped, because sometimes I just don’t understand things that happen. I was at the board meeting for Clay Rural Water on the 23rd for the discussion on the correspondence from Hyperion about Clay Rural Water providing construction of a water facility for the refinery. This was the second meeting about this because after public input two weeks ago the Board decided to ask Hyperion for more information. CRWS asked several questions and Hyperion responded to each of them. What I thought was fascinating is the fact that Hyperion expects CRWS to build the system on their money and Hyperion will pay them back over the course of 15-25 years on a monthly basis by adding the amount to their monthly billing. I said at the meeting then and I’ll repeat it now. That is the most brazen act of business I have ever seen. How could Hyperion have the audacity to ask someone to foot the bill for construction of something that is going to cost in the neighborhood of $30-$40 million dollars and they will pay them back over the course of 15-25 years. Hyperion surely must think we are a bunch of country bumpkins to think we would fall for something like that. But then, maybe they were serious. Who is to say that Hyperion will even be refining 15 years from now? Better yet, Hyperion still to this day has not said that they are coming to Union County. We are still just a finalist.
I called Mr. Merrigan the next morning and asked him what the cost was to build the Wynstone project, and if they got any grants, loans or whatever to build that. He replied that the project cost $5,631,000 and that they received $912,000 in grants and they took out a loan for $4,631,000 and that the members in Wynstone contributed $170,000 as their portion of the hookup fees. This project only serves 385 units. Can you imagine what the cost of 12 wells pumping up to 15 million gallons of water a day is? I said the cost of just the engineering study must be over $1 million dollars. He assured me that CRWS must have all money up front before a single spade goes into the ground. Then I asked about whether or not CRWS had any idea of the financial status of Hyperion. He replied that he did not know, so I emailed him a copy of what I was able to find about Hyperion. This information is over a year old, but is the latest that I had available. The net worth of the company is $31 million according to Dun and Bradstreet. The parent company of Hyperion is worth $16 million. After talking with Mr. Merrigan it suddenly occurred to me that nobody or no one has ever asked for a financial statement from Hyperion. I don’t know about you, but I cannot understand how anyone could propose to do business with someone and not have a financial portfolio available for them to look at.
If you will remember back to just before the primary election, someone from CNN News asked Mayor Isabelle Trobough from Elk Point whether or not Hyperion could build this refinery, and Mayor Trobough was quoted that Mr. Huddleston assured her in a private conversation that he had the money. I guess that satisfied everyone concerned because nobody has ever questioned that since. I am not questioning it now. What I am questioning is the fact that through this whole process everyone has assumed that since a company called Hyperion Resources does exist and they are from Texas, then they must have money. (Here it comes folks) - What a load of crap! Is this how we do business in South Dakota?
The other thing that I found interesting was that Hyperion expects CRWS to obtain all the necessary options and rights of way for the pipelines to get the water to the refinery. If they can’t get a right of way, then it is Hyperion’s plan to put the pipeline in the ditches of the county and state roads right of way. Well, I did some checking because this doesn’t seem right and what I found out is that they might not have a problem with the ditches on the state and county roads, but where the townships have jurisdiction they might have a problem. I cannot imagine Brule and Spink townships granting a right of way for CRWS to put a pipeline in the ditches. This leads us back to - you guessed it - Eminent Domain.
Do you see where this is leading? This Hyperion issue is by no means a slam dunk for Hyperion. If we don’t want the refinery here, we are going to have to fight them every inch of the way. If it isn’t water, then it is power. If not those two issues it will be something else. Hyperion will outsource the whole damn thing and pretty soon you will have a refinery in operation and Hyperion won’t have lifted a hammer. What a deal!
The most profound statement that anyone from the public made at the directors meeting on the 23rd was from Elsa Englund. She said “if you allow this to happen (referring to the water plant), Hyperion will become a voting member of the CRWS, and then all the workers will become members. They will vote themselves on the board and then pretty soon they will control the board and you won’t have anything to say about what or what they don’t do. Now those are words to think about. If they can do that to the CRWS they can do this to the whole county. The HEC will be the biggest town in Union County and you know what they say, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”


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