County Commissioners hear public input on various topics
The Lincoln County Commission met last Tuesday, October 24 in the Lincoln County Boardroom to hear agenda items including advisory committees, lien compromise and budget transfers.
Chairwoman Tiffani Landeen requested board discussion on the establishment of a carbon dioxide transport and storage advisory committee.
“You should have all received a draft of the resolution, and the only change that I noted would be to provide input and make recommendations, it should say for Planning and Zoning and Commissioners,” Landeen stated.
Drew DeGroot joined the meeting to explain the legalities of changing a ordinance.
“Under Statute, if you’re making an amendment to the comprehensive plan, you have to do it in the same manner as which you passed the comprehensive plan, which would mean that the Board of Commissioners has to send an ordinance or a contemplated ordinance down to the Planning Commission for review and recommendation back up to the board,” he said.
With no more changes to the draft, Commissioner Landeen requested the board put the item on the next agenda meeting and opened up the floor to public comment.
Betty Otten took to the podium to voice her opinion.
“First of all, madam chair, I want to thank you for bringing this forward, I think it is very proactive for what’s going on,” said Otten.
“I would like to recommend Tony Ventura as our grassroots, well known expert to be part of that committee and then also I have a question because I think a pipeline person supposed to be appointed on this committee I’m not sure but with no pipeline company before the PUC I was wondering why they should have a seat at the table thank you,” Otten continued.
Ernest Straatmeyer stood up next to express his opinion on the matter.
“It came to my attention that there’s a possibility of somebody from the pipeline to be on committee. I am opposed to this also because they’re not citizens of Lincoln County and they are trying to get eminent domain. There are photos that show where they’ve trespassed onto people’s property and then they use armed guards too, trying to protect their people against the citizens. There’s nothing they’ve done that shows that they’re trying to get along with the people or cooperate when asked the question if they would be doing these projects without the federal subsidy. PUC found that they had people that came to promote it that were hired employees, attorneys, and no local farmers. There were many local farmers and local people who oppose CO2 pipeline but none that we’re supporting it. If they would have came in and just tried to address the people appropriately and not trying to push the people with there easement, they’re eminent domain and trespassing they might have had a better chance, but there’s nothing that the CO2 pipeline is doing for the community and it’s obvious that the main reason they’re doing it is the money that’s available through the tax credits,” he said.
“The veterans gave their lives for our freedom many people fought in wars so we can have freedom so we could be here and do this and it wasn’t so that foreign companies or foreign investors were able to come and take our property and force their way onto our way of life. If they were given these easements and so on like this they’re just doing the same thing as stealing the land because these are lifetime easements they’re not just something that goes in and goes away again,” Straatmeyer continued.
Landeen wanted to have further discussion as to who the members of the committee would be.
“A point that was made saying I think you know who is going to be on this committee, I don’t know that. I don’t know who if anyone is actually going to want to be on it from the industry. I think that they have valuable information to share I think that somebody from the industry would be a good person to have on this to have that discussion. Now, that said, I would like to have seven people on it with that will vote I could see adding another planning and zoning commissioner and then perhaps inviting somebody from the industry for informational purposes who is a non voting person on this ad hoc committee,” she said.
Auditor, Sheri Lund joined the meeting to request board action regarding an application for County Aid Lien Compromise Settlement.
“Back in August, yes we had an application for compromise we resolved to look into financial statements between Mike and Commissioner Poppens and Commissioner Schmidt they did look through the financial documents and their recommendation would be to deny the compromise at all,” she said.
The compromise is for juvenile court-appointed attorney fees, competency evaluation and medical records cost in the amount of $4,260.43.
“We reviewed it and saw that there was really no substantiation to the parent, hardship that was there, so we recommended it to the auditor that we deny that,” said Commissioner Schmidt. Motion to deny, unanimously.
Auditor Lund also requested board action to approve a budgeted cash transfer.
“The second item that I have is a board action to approve a budget transfer from the general fund to the 24/7 fund in the amount of $25,683.00. That’s the total cash budget transfer that we need,” she said.
Commissioner Arends asked what the money would be used for.
“It’s not budget money, it’s cash, so they have $6,000 in their cash and they have $23,000 left in budget to spend,” Lund said. Motion passed.
Commissioner Landeen opened the floor up to anyone wishing to speak about items not on the agenda.
Mona Homen was the first to take the podium.
“I have lived more than 30 years in Lincoln County I am a retired nurse who spent more than 40 years of her career focused in rural healthcare, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes and I’m here today to voice strong opposition to the proposed site for the men’s prison. Clearly this is an issue of ‘not in my backyard’ and I want to state clearly that my son and his wife purchased 40 acres approximately five years ago that’s a half mile from the proposed site they built a lovely home he’s planted more than 500 trees to improve his property half the ground is rented to a neighbor for ag production, he has two little girls, six years old and three years old and a third girl to come in November. I don’t want to speak about this from the personal connection and perspective today I’m here today to talk about my concerns about the proposed site and the infrastructure needs that come along with it. There are all Township roads surrounding the site about a mile and a half from the proposed corner there’s a bridge that went out with the big flood four or five years ago that road continues to be closed, so clearly there are issues with infrastructure in Lincoln County as it relates to the maintenance of Township roads and the cost that would be associated with upgrading those. I’m also concerned about the demands and the needs for sewer and water and as I understand it the city of Harrisburg has closed the door to that access I’m unclear about the city of Canton. Again, because of my professional career I’m very concerned about the impact on the emergency medical system which is a volunteer service predominantly out of Canton I’m also concerned for law enforcement at both the county and the city level who have already come before you as well as the city Commission to talk about their concerns about how their resources will keep the safety and security for the citizens of this county for the law enforcement crews themselves as well as the citizens. So lastly, this proposed site has been called a prodigious use of tax dollars the seven or $8 million that’s involved in the transfer of this land is very minimal when you consider it within the total cost of the project it’s approximately 1% of the total cost and many financial worlds that’s a rounding error it’s not a significant cost so in closing again just to reaffirm my opposition to the proposed site also to express my disappointment about the veil of secrecy that has shrouded this project for the last six months and I’m imploring you as the Commission of the county of Lincoln to do all that you can to ensure that that veil is lifted and that you listen to the concerns and the perspectives of the constituents of Lincoln County especially those at from Harrisburg and Canton as that’s where I’m hearing most of the opposition bill strong voice for us in thank you for listening today thank you,” she said.
Danny Bliss was next at the podium.
“I’d like to read a statement from my wife, Colette Johnson Bliss. I have been a CFO for 30 years, the site selection in Lincoln County will have long term l and fiscal social impact on taxpayers of Lincoln County. Lincoln County is a thriving, growing community and this site selection no doubt will impact the growth and well-being of Lincoln County taxpayers. Decrease land values, we owned our land for 30 years and recently built a new $500,000 home on our land, our neighbor is the process of finishing a $750,000 home. Within five miles of this site, there are homes from $400,000 to 1,000,000. We received the 45% tax assessment increase on our property this last year, yet with the site just down the road our actual resale value will take a nosedive due to the to no one wanting to spend that kind of money to live next to you know to the Penn. Will the state be reimbursing taxpayers for their losses and decrease their property taxes all of my neighbors have the very same concern. Increased traffic we have already noticed the increase in traffic vehicles flying down our gravel roads in order to see this proposed site parents are worried about their kids playing outside the farmers dealing with city drivers while they try to get their crops out the traffic will do nothing but increase with construction employees and delivery trucks constantly coming and going. Economic impact, there are so many studies that show the decline in economic activity after a prison has built in the area housing, but the housing that remains or actually does develop will be low income the people that live around prisons are generally associated with the inmate. They informed us that the developer which was going to put up a $10 million housing development South of Harrisburg is now a scratching that project as they have no intention to build that kind of house in a prison area. The customer base for that caliber of home simple won’t support it the state claims more jobs really the new facility is supposed to function. With half the staff’s current prison staff as priority and these new jobs studies show that gas stations and other jobs that small businesses try to rely on prisons generally fall fail within five years and so sending it up here with taxes not specialist here but I’m guessing Lincoln County receives some taxes from the ag land,” he said.
Chairwoman Landeen reminded citizens who came to speak on the prison that the County Commissioners had nothing to do with deciding on the proposed location and that any and all comments residents have need to be directed to the state so that their voices are heard, and their opinions make it to those that are in charge of this decision.