Rand Dueweke, with VNA Corp, said "We will be back on Nov 7th for the continuation and expect the planning commission will finally vote on both of our cases."
The Sumner County Planning and Zoning Commission once again ran out of time Wednesday evening before a vote could be conducted on the proposed bio fuel site set to be located northwest of Belle Plaine. It was revealed that due a technical glitch with the recorders not working at the previous meeting on Aug. 15th, the cases that were actually tried that evening would have to be conducted yet again. It led to an already tense crowd becoming even more agitated.
Earlier this week, Rand Dueweke, with the VNA Corporation, commented that “we have received preliminary feedback from our water consulting/engineering team which we interpret as favorable, but a final report is still likely several weeks away. And we remain confident that a water permit will be issued to us for volumes well in excess of what we need during Phase 1 (and likely also in excess of what we need for Phase 2).”
Dueweke also issued these responses.
What are your initial water requirements?
We will use up to 150 acre-feet per year during Phase 1, similar to the annual consumption of an irrigation pivot but spread evenly over 12 months. We are currently conducting test drilling on the site and will use the results to support our application for a new subsurface Water Right with the Kansas Division of Water Resources. Our preference is to take our water supply exclusively as groundwater/well-water.
How much groundwater is available to the plant?
Preliminary data indicates that from a battery of wells located on our parcel south of the river, we may be able to pump up to 300 acre-feet of groundwater per year at a rate not to exceed 200 gallons per minute, without negatively impacting water supply to neighboring residential properties. Additional groundwater supply is also likely available from a well that could be located on our parcel north of the river.
Will you tap into the Ninnescah River for water supply?
We have no current plans to source any water from the Ninnescah River. If and when we require volumes in excess of what we can be permitted to receive via groundwater, we will apply to the Kansas Division of Water Resources for a new surface Water Right to obtain supply from the Ninnescah River. The Ninnescah River is currently protected and we would only be allowed to pump from it November through June each year. We would need to make a large capital investment to build a retention pond to provide surface water during the months of July through October. Depending on the month, the Ninnescah River, as metered by USGS near Peck, flows at a minimum rate between 30 and 100 cubic feet per second, and average annual flows are significantly higher. Under no future circumstance would we ever pump more than 1% of this flow for use in our process.
The VNA Corporation, according to the Michigan Better Business Bureau, started in November of 1997, but did not actually start a file with the BBB until July 25th, 2018. It lists its number of employees as being at 30.
When the previous business had finally been taken care of, it was close to 9:30 p.m. with a line of people set to speak on the bio fuel issue.
Robert McIntyre, Treasurer of London Township, says he had not been contacted by the bio fuel company since May or June about the roads near the proposed site. “We should have final say since we are the ones who are going to have to maintain it. You put that kind of truck traffic on the roads, they will destroy it.” The only contact McIntyre reported having was from the county asking about driveway access.
Mention was also made of a traffic study to be done on Highway 81, which passes near the proposed site.
A representative from Sumner-Cowley Electric said, "We can provide them construction power immediately. It would take 6-9 months to get main power to them. Further studies are required. It will exceed at least a million dollars."
Stacy Davis, with Sumner County Economic Development, then spoke, asking for emotion to be left out of the process, and to stick to the facts. She said VNA will provide 45 direct jobs to Sumner County, with millions of dollars being injected into the local economy. She spoke of the potential people wanting to come and work for this company in the future, who might want to move to communities in the area like Belle Plaine. She emphasized the positive impact the site would have on the local economies.
In contrast to the argument Davis made, the residents who live near the proposed site were asking for emotion to be involved in the decision as they spoke about how the site would affect them. They wondered about the repercussions of the wells going dry and the potential smell that would linger from the site. They also were concerned of the routing the trucks would take. One of the residents asked what would happen if the site fails? There was a concern about the lack of bond money being put up by the company.
Sarah Harlan recently built a house near the Ninnescah River and had been looking forward to raising her family there before news of the proposed bio fuel plant hit her hard. She spoke with emotion about how her family would not be growing up near a road that may not be quiet anymore. She called for those on the Commission to listen to the people and have faces put to these stories. She emphasized she is for growth and wants to Sumner County thrive, but not like this.
Another resident of Belle Plaine wondered about the response times of emergency vehicles from Belle Plaine to the site in case of emergencies. He pointed out that they could be delayed by any trains passing through at the crossing on the west edge of town. This concern stemmed from many residents near the proposed plant fearful of another fire like that had occurred near Minneola. That fire occurred at a bio fuel plant and led to evacuations owing to the amount of smoke that blanketed the area.
The audience was clearly emotional Wednesday evening and reacting to the speakers. They had to be reminded several times by the Commission not to clap or cheer as a result of what they were hearing as it was taking up time.
As the meeting once again grew close to the maximum time allowed at 10:30 p.m., the Commission voted to postpone the final vote on the project until their next scheduled meeting on Nov. 7th at 7:30 p.m. Some members were keen on voting to stay an additional thirty minutes and vote on the project that very evening, while others still wanted additional time to process the information that was brought to their attention over the past hour. It was obvious that this subject will still be debated among the citizens of Sumner County for quite some time to come.