Friday, May 15, 2009

There's a hole in the bucket dear Liza

May 13th, 2009
There’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza!
Before I get into this week’s article I need to make a correction. I said last week that the planned development was in Spink Township. Sorry for the mistake folks, I guess I had a temporary memory lapse. Brule Township gets all the credit.
Clay Rural Water held a public hearing on an expansion project on May 12th at their Wakonda office. I had a problem with how people were notified about this and talked to Greg Merrigan about it. I told Greg that if I hadn’t picked up an Elk Point paper on Saturday, I would have never known about the meeting. I put 2 and 2 together and said to myself, “Doug, this could be a problem.” Here it is, I’m a voting member of clay rural water and they are holding a public hearing to get public input on project and I don’t know about it. Why are they having a public meeting and not a meeting of the members? Why is the public involved in this?
We are not getting adequately notified, and the board could be taking action on projects we don’t want them to do, and because we don’t know about the meeting, we have no voice.
I told Greg they are getting to be like Union County. (Pun intended) I played the devil’s advocate with Greg and said this could be a serious problem for CRWS, and asked why it was a public hearing. He said that since the project was going to be funded by DENR, it was public funds and the public has a right to know how and when and why the money is going to be spent. I started to have the BIG ONE. I said “You mean to tell me that since the project is going to be funded by state funds that the public and DENR control the vote and not the members?” he said that is correct. He also said that this was discussed by the board at a previous meeting and is now brought to public’s attention. He noted that the board meeting would have been the place for the members to overrule their decision. We would take out a petition of 5% of the members and override their vote. (De’javu all over again) I asked him again if the decision by the public would override the decision of the members, and he said their comments are taken down and forwarded to DENR to make the decision. I almost had the BIG ONE again. “You mean to tell me that even if the members did not want this project it could be overridden by the state? He said yes, the funds come from the state therefore they get the say-so. Now I’m really getting to have the BIG ONE. Do you folks see where I’m heading with this? I’m not saying it is going to happen, but it very well could happen.
Let’s say that Hyperion wants CRWS to build them a water treatment facility and supply them with water. (This could happen because I think they have already formally proposed this and the board turned them down.) The board knows it doesn’t have the money for a project of this size ($30-40 Million) so they suggest Hyperion use state funds from DENR. The board would discuss this and vote on whether or not to do this. Then they have a public hearing and take input and forward this on to the state, and the state says yea or nay. If we are not aware of what is happening this could be a done deal and we wouldn’t know about it because we were not notified of the meeting. The only requirement for CRWS is to publish the meeting 10 days in advance and then proceed as normal. I told Greg I didn’t think this was adequate and that I think they need to modify their by-laws and their notification procedures for the members because not everyone takes the Vermillion or Elk Point paper. The least they should do is publish it on their website, but not everyone has a computer linked to the internet and we don’t read their website on a regular basis. He said he dropped the ball on this one; he could have and should have put it on the web. I have an email account and they could notify me by email. They could send out bulk mailing to the members, they could notify them in their monthly billing statement. (Although maybe monthly billing statements are not sent out.)They need to do some modification, because what they have now is not adequate and this is not acceptable in my mind for the members of CRWS.
The long and short of this is that all the members need to write a letter to the board of directors telling them that they need to change their procedures to adopt a method of notification that will adequately notify everyone of happenings such as a public hearing so that we are not left out in the cold. I am asking all members of CRWS to please send the board of directors a letter asking them to make changes that will adequately inform the membership of what is happening so that actions that we do not approve of are not voted on to happen without our knowledge or consent.
You know, this is getting to be a really crazy world around here. If we aren’t on our toes for every little thing that is happening that could be something for Hyperion to get a toe hold, it will happen. We need to have watchdogs out everywhere; always thinking this could be a problem that maybe we need to look into. This is no time to get caught with our pants down. No wonder I’m getting bald(er).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What is Hyperion up to?

May 6th, 2009
What is Hyperion up to?

I continue to be amazed at the “Gorilla” project. I guess we should be immune to their antics by now. Elk Point Community Redevelopment Corporation (agents for Hyperion) has just filed some of their options with the Register of Deeds, some dated back to October of 2006. This is the silent, secret side of Hyperion. This was 9 months before the “gorilla” broke. They were taking options out on the land around here. This is the side of big business we have never seen before and don’t want to see again.

3 years have gone by on these options, and I think Hyperion is running out of time. Some of the paperwork filed were releases of some options. This news didn’t even make the front page of the Sioux City Journal. It was back on page 4. It is kind of like old news that is used for filler in the paper. We’ve known for many months that most of these options that weren’t renewed. So what’s the big deal, why make a big production about this? Why now? Unless - -

Some of the options that were released are outside the footprint of the refinery, but are on the I-29 corridor and are what I would consider prime real estate for ancillary companies come to build the support facilities that go along with oil refineries. One has to ask why you would release these options when they could have been sold to help finance the rest of the project. That is unless you don’t plan on a refinery anymore. OR better yet, they tried to sell them and there are no takers. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Can’t sell them, so put them back on the market.

The options that they did keep are along the Missouri river. I would suppose these are where the shallow water wells are supposed to be drilled to supply water for the refinery. I think I mentioned in one of my other articles that we are talking about 10 miles of pipeline just for water. Now we are talking eminent domain because they are going to have to pipe this water to the refinery. If I remember right when this was talked about before, somebody said they would put them in the county and township ditches. This thing is just getting plain weird. I’m seeing a crack in the foundation and this could bring the whole house down.

If they are going to use the land along the Missouri for something supporting the refinery, then it has to come to a vote of the people again. You see, the last vote was for them to rezone the area in Spink township, not the whole county, that was marked “ag” to “Planned Development.” This didn’t include land south or west of highway 50. Come to think about it, aren’t they supposed to build a 500 acre holding pond that can also be used for recreation? Is that part of the planned development? I don’t think so-o-o-. Either the land is going to be rezoned or they are going to have to put in for a conditional use permit. Either way, we get a say in the happenings. This is why I’m confused. Why would Hyperion jeopardize this whole thing to another vote? They might have one the first vote, but they aren’t going to win a second one. I’ll be like Joe Namath when the New York Jets played the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl. I guarantee they will not win a second vote. Or maybe the county commissioners are going to say “Aw just let ‘em do what they want.”

What has happened to all this “transparency” and wanting to be a good neighbor? I don’t think I want a sneaky sneak for a neighbor. Damn, that’s the NIMBY in me talking again.

The thing I’m not quite sure of is how the planning and zoning commission will interpret the ordinance concerning the definition of a planned development. The planned development for Hyperion is the 3200 acres in the northeast corner of Spink Township. The land that Tom Ray is talking about for the water wells is 10-15 miles away on the Missouri. To my knowledge, the area of a planned development must be contiguous. You can’t have 100 acres over here, 500 acres over there and 1000 acres somewhere else. They all have to be co-located. So how do we have a planned development scattered all over the place? In fact, does anyone know exactly what areas have been optioned? We’ve got 10,000 acres out there that are going to be used for what? Who's to say they won't change their mind? Are they going to release options on those other parcels this year? I mean the land that Tom Ray is talking about was optioned in October of 2006. Their option must be running out if it is only for 4 years like the rest of them. This, I would think, would be putting the squeeze on Hyperion to do something. You gotta wonder what is going through the minds of Hyperion. I think we are being played like a piano.

I’ll tell you one thing I think is funny is that it sounds like the people who optioned their land are getting monthly payments for their options. I would think if you optioned your land to someone you would get a lump sum, or is this like a contract for deed? I don’t think I would be too terribly happy getting a monthly check in the mail. It kinda cheapens the whole thing don’t you think? You optioned your land to a "Big Oil" company that can’t afford to pay you lump sum payments; they have to make payments like a mortgage payment. What happens if their payment is late? What kind of a way is that to do business? Smart on Hyperion’s part! They get to keep investing your money. (they took lessons from the government.)

The longer this goes on the goofier it gets. I’m convinced now more than ever that this project will never get off the ground. There are just too many strange things happening, and too many questions being asked for which there are no answers.