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LGR: Make decisions 'based on facts'

Developer says 'supposition,' 'false information' has been spread about biomass plant

May 20, 2009
Officials from Liberty Green Renewables LLC, the company wanting to build a 28-megawatt woody biomass-to-electricity plant near Milltown, made their first appearance in front of the Crawford County Council last Tuesday night at English.

The LGR officials didn't ask for a property tax abatement, as has been rumored for months, but they did lay the groundwork for the request, asking the council to not be prejudiced by "false information" spread by opponents of the plant.

Terry Naulty, joined by fellow LGR partner Larry Ott, said those against the plant have filled the papers and public meetings "with innuendoes, misleading statements and suppositions" about the project.

"They've made the claim that because things happened at other, similar facilities, they're going to happen here. That's not factual; it's supposition on their part," he said.

In addition, Naulty said, opponents have impugned the character of some LGR officials "without a basis for such statements."

"We have to assume that this is an effort to force away a renewables energy plant, a renewable energy technology that is supported by leading environmental organizations, like the World Wildlife Foundation, the Environmental Defense Council and even Sierra Club," he said.

Naulty said he expected LGR to begin the process of requesting the necessary environmental permits by submitting an application for an air permit to the Indiana Department of Environmental Manage-ment either late last week or early this week.

Details about the plant, including its design, which hadn't been finalized when LGR officials appeared before the county commissioners first in December and again in February, will be available in the public application, Naulty said. He added both opponents and proponents will have the opportunity to register comments with IDEM.

"We would just ask for you to make any decisions that come before your council based on facts, facts that aren't in evidence today, facts that you will get as part of the permit applications, which are going to be a matter of public record," he said.

Naulty assured the council that anything LGR provides it or the commissioners will be backed with independent verification of its accuracy, and asked the council to trust the findings of IDEM, whose approval is needed for the plant to be constructed.

"We implore you to get all of the facts and weed out the false information, make sure you make a good decision, based upon what the true impact of what this facility is to your community," he said.

Many members of the opposition group Concerned Citizens of Crawford County were at the meeting, but few commented following Naulty's presentation. Those who did mainly asked whether a tax abatement request must go before the commissioners first and if public notice would be given before the council votes on such a request.

Marcus Burgher IV, attorney for the council, said a tax abatement request may or may not have to go before the commissioners, as the process varies depending on the type of abatement being requested. He did say sufficient public notice would be given before the council votes on an abatement request.

The proposed biomass plant, however, did come up inadvertently earlier in the meeting, when the council was considering requests for additional appropriations. Mark Woods, co-chair of the Concerned Citizens, asked about a request for $8,095 to the County Economic Development fund to pay engineering costs.

Burgher said a feasibility study was conducted to determine if Ramsey Water Co. could serve as back-up source for Blue River Regional Water District, which serves Milltown and Marengo. Crawford County Water Co., he added, also conducted a study regarding interconnectability.

Blue River, which formed earlier this decade, has been looking for ways to increase its water supply, in case of a shortage as well as if a large commercial operation located in the district's service area, Burgher said.

The Crawford County Economic Development Commission agreed to pay for the study, as Blue River didn't have the funds, he said.

Woods said he takes issue with tax dollars being spent to benefit, in his opinion, one customer: LGR.

Burgher, who also represents Blue River, said that is a mischaracterization of the study's purpose.

"Could it benefit Liberty Green or any other industrial facility that wanted it? Yes, it can," he said. "The study is not for Liberty Green; it is for Blue River Regional Water to have a back-up source of water."

That doesn't mean the study, should a water line connecting Blue River with Ramsey be constructed providing Blue River with additional capacity, wouldn't benefit LGR, Burgher said. However, Blue River, which has had issues with meeting needs, has been looking to interconnect with another water company for some time, he said.

"The problem has been ... they don't have the money to do it," Burgher said.

The study, he explained, could help Blue River's customers, should it result in grants or LGR paying for the project, by keeping millions of dollars' worth of upgrades that likely will be needed at some point in the future away from their monthly bills.

Woods said if the study would be of benefit, even if LGR were not to build a plant, then he does not have a problem with it.

The council approved the additional appropriation.

In other business, the council:

•Voted, 7-0, to approve the county commissioners' request to use $9,800 of the Harrison County gaming dollars designated for road improvements to pay for preliminary engineering work on Alton-Fredonia Road.

The work is needed so the county can submit the project for possible federal stimulus dollars. If approved, the county would receive about $800,000 to repave about nine miles of the road.

The road was the only viable option for stimulus funds, J.D. Sloan of R.W. Armstrong, the firm that will do the work, said.

In a related matter, District 3 Commissioners Jim Schultz said rehabilitation work on Bridge No. 45 at Alton is expected to begin this summer.

•Approved, 7-0, using $2,500 from the county's riverboat contingency fund to pay for mowing services at the Crawford County Judicial Complex and old courthouse, both at English.

•Voted, 7-0, to transfer $50,000 from the Orange County gaming fund to the supplies and repairs fund in the county highway budget. Schultz said the fund is empty and the county owes $14,000 for repairs made to a grader. The additional money is to assist with bills for the remainder of the year.

•Approved, 7-0, additional appropriation and transfer requests.

Additional appropriations approved, in addition to the $8,095 for the water feasibility study, include: county general fund, $20,000 (medical for prisoners), $803.25 (retainer for county commissioners' attorney), $6,000 (printing and advertising) and $12,500 (litigation); reassessment fund, $140,865 (2011 reassessment); 911 fund, $6,070 (911 time server).

•Did not take action on a request by Bobby Tousignant, owner of Tech-Knowledge-IT, after David Neel, owner of Cybertek Engineering, questioned the validity of Tousignant, whom Neel says formerly worked for him.

Tousignant was seeking to provide computer upgrades to the judicial complex.

The county council's next regular-scheduled meeting will be Tuesday, June 9, at the Crawford County Judicial Complex at English. It will begin at 7 p.m.

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    Tax Abatement for LGR
    May 20, 2009 | 01:00 PM

    Why would crawford county officials consider any tax abatement to LGR? I thought that tax abatements were used as an incintive to entice a company to come to your county. LGR purchased their property back in December of last year and have made it very clear they are here to stay. Why shouldn't they pay their taxes just like other small businesses that have started up in the county without the benefit of tax abatements? If they want to be "good corporate citizens" as they have stated they want to be, then they should pay their taxes and help this poor struggling county all that they can.

    Patti La Hue
Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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