by Mitchell Kirk
Logansport City Council will meet tonight to vote on whether to enter into an agreement with energy company Pyrolyzer LLC to develop the new power plant – an agreement LMU board members and city officials hope will lower electricity rates and prevent LMU from becoming obsolete.
LMU has endorsed Pyrolyzer’s proposal, leaving the decision now to City Council. It will be the first of two votes on the matter. Should it be voted through tonight and at the next council meeting March 4, the city will enter into a memorandum of understanding with Pyrolyzer, with more specific negotiations to follow. Pyrolyzer has proposed to build the plant, which will be powered by refuse-derived fuel, without financial contribution from the city for around $566 million. If the council votes in favor of Pyrolyzer, the company would own the plant for a period of time to be determined through future negotiations before transferring it to LMU.
A public hearing will be held before the vote, where residents are invited to present their opinions on the LMU board’s recommendation. Frank Canterbury, president of Pyrolyzer, and several of the consultants the city has hired to assist with the project will also be in attendance.
Julie Kitchell, a Logansport resident, said the public hasn’t had enough information or time to be prepared for the plan.
“I think it’s overwhelming for most people,” Kitchell said. “I don’t think they understand what’s at stake.”
Kitchell said most of the people she has talked to about the plan have told her they didn’t have enough information to form an opinion. She hopes people will attend the meeting tonight to make this point heard.
“I just wish people would get involved even if it’s just on a basic level to say, ‘I don’t know enough information about this to support it,’” she said. “I do not believe the majority of people living in Logansport or even Cass County for that matter would support it given the information that we’re given. I think they need more time, more information given and more public hearings than just this.”
Logansport resident Mercedes Brugh agreed more time is needed in order to ensure the best decision is made.
“I object to the secrecy and the fast timetable,” she said. “The mayor kept these discussions under wraps from February until October of last year. Then in November, two things happened: we discarded the master plan’s recommendations and we jumped on the fast track to burn trash for energy.”
Councilman Joe Buck said he feels the public has had ample opportunity to be informed and participate in the plan.
“A lot of the information has been published since November,” Buck said, referring a study conducted by Lutz, Daily & Brain LLC that recommended four options for LMU when considering its present and future power demands. A subsequent study was conducted by Crowe Horwath LLP to analyze the economic impact of these options. Both of these studies along with all of the proposals submitted to take on the project are available at LMU’s office.
Buck also mentioned LMU’s practice of taking in questions from the public via email and with the help of the consultants hired to assist with the project, posting answers on the LMU website.
“There are some people that think it’s been done in secret, which I don’t think is true,” Buck said.
There was the executive session in Indianapolis last month however, where city officials met with consultants and representatives of energy companies to delve further into the details of the proposals. As stated in the section of Indiana Code pertaining to executive sessions, the public was not allowed to attend this meeting.
Mayor Ted Franklin addressed the need for secrecy in such circumstances at a recent city council meeting.
“We share what we have to,” Franklin said. “This is an economic development project and economic development projects are protected under the law. Quite honestly, if we’re going to be successful, we can’t reveal everything that we’re doing. We can’t reveal the details of the negotiations.”
With the exception of the executive session, Councilman Charlie Hastings said the proceedings have been transparent.
“Everything else has been out in the public,” Hastings said. “Anybody can ask questions about anything and I think it’s a very democratic process.”
While Hastings said he welcomes this kind of democratic process, he said the decision to move forward with the plant has already been informally made.
“They can express their opinions and that’s fine but I think we’re all going to vote for it,” Hastings said.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or email@example.com.
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