Why so many unanswered questions about Clymer’s Fire Protection project?

Many questions about the county’s new Fire Protection System in Clymers still need answers from our Commissioners, the County’s Planning Director, Arin Shaver, and Economic Development Director, Christy Householder. Here are a few to get started:

• Who will be served from the County’s new Fire Protection System?

• How many properties that will be affected indirectly, by the right-of-way construction of the water line distribution system?

• Will the “fire protection system” be used to supply process water to WSP and/or other private industrial users?

• How many fire hydrants will be installed and where?

In late June, letters were sent from TLF Engineers, on behalf of WSP, inquiring about the willingness of current public water well owners to supply potable water to the Agri-Business park before the new Public Water System could be established. The estimated daily peak potable water usage covered in the TFL letter was approximately 8,000 gallons per day. This compares to 3,500 gallons per day that WSP told us in May. How does the plant’s potable water demand jump by 4,500 gallons per day over the period of one month?

In May, we asked WSP about the amount of process water the facility would be using. We were told 390,000 gallons per day, with about half coming from captured storm-water. This summer, we experienced yet another drought. In winter, precipitation will be unusable for plant operations. The seasonal variability in storm-water availability raises more questions about the enormous industrial demand for ground water.

No one knows whether ground water availability in the Agri-business park is sufficient to supply WSP without adversely impacting other industrial or residential users. To better understand whether there is sufficient ground water resources, we need a full-blown hydrological study in the Clymers area that considers the following:

• Well logs for industrial and residential wells in and around the Agri-Business park whether active or abandoned,

• Documentation of all pumping tests and production histories,

• Documentation of the geological strata encountered during the drilling of each well along with an expert geological interpretation of the aquifer from which water is withdrawn,

• Chemical analysis of water extracted from each well along with expert data interpretation,

• Documentation and test data from all wells that WSP has recently drilled,

• Access to all properties in the Agri-Business park for the installation of observation wells as needed to complete a full assessment of present and future ground water availability.

Apart from ground water availability, there are the questions about how water infrastructure will be funded.

The total of the current bond is $4,675,000.

• Will the bonds/loans be paid for by TIF funds, CEDIT funds, RDC, EDC instruments or higher taxes?

• Will there be a system of rates and usage charges established? Based on consumption? Based on location? Based on classification such as industrial, commercial, residential, governmental, fire district, etc.?

Language in the Redevelopment Commission (RDC) Resolution No. 2020-09 states, “to the extent [the] Tax Increment is not sufficient, [payment will come] from a special benefits tax levied on all taxable property within the District (“Special Benefits Tax”)”. This was explained by the bond counsel attorney from Ice Miller, LLP, and representative and partner of Baker Tilly, to mean that an additional tax called the Special Benefits Tax, applied to property taxes may be needed to make up the difference.

The basis of RDC Resolution No. 2020-09 is that this Fire Protection System would benefit “the public health, safety, morals, and welfare in, increase the economic well-being of, and serve to protect and increase property values”.

It is very important for the property owners to be aware of these promised “benefits” when selling their homes, or applying for adjustments in their taxes or seeking quotes for home-owners insurance. At the last RDC meeting it was disclosed that there are nine (9) businesses, and twenty-eight (28) residents in the area in which the fire protection system will be available.

On September 7th, I asked the Commissioners if the water in the 500,000-gallon tower will be treated. Commissioner Browning replied, “not at this time”. Commissioner Browning also said that “there may be a possible water treatment plant that could come later”. So, an additional question would be;

• If the water tower is eventually treated, is that still considered fire suppression water or is it now to be used as a Public Water Source?

The answers to these questions are needed to protect the water rights for all of those who will be directly affected in the Clymers area as well as for all Cass County taxpayers. Final questions might be, why are there so many unanswered questions, such lack of transparency, and so much lack of foresight on the part of County leadership?

Lora Redweik, Twelve Mile

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