Location, not Heartland Co-op, is at issue here
To the editor:
A revered part of our democratic process is the exchange of viewpoints and observations. With this, ideally, a course of action can be reached that take into account the interests of as many people as possible, when planning for the long-term health and economic development of any community.
Asking questions and raising concerns is an important part of our democratic process. This is not the same as “being against economic development.”
So, while we welcome Heartland Co-op to SE Iowa and the benefits it represents to farmers, we must also address issues arising from the proximity of the location to the city of Fairfield. The question is not whether Heartland is coming. Rather, given the location, the question is how is the county and city will manage its presence: In a helter-skelter manner or a controlled intelligent manner?
Elected officials are proceeding on the assumption that the JeffCo location will be similar to similar sized Heartland elevators and/or that its JeffCo facility will never grow to its full projected capacity. Consequently, it is argued, there is no need to take a closer look at the traffic impact on the community.
However, in an application to the IDOT, the Co-op projects shipping 20 million bushels of corn and 12 million bushels of soy bean, attracted from the 91 million bushels of corn and soy beans grown in JeffCo and five contiguous counties.
Will Heartland reach this capacity? An agreement with the BNSF Railways for lower shipping costs, could be sufficient to offer competitive pricing and attract the volume projected from surrounding counties. Surely, building a $25 million facility would be predicated on such an agreement.
At 50% capacity, this translates into 20,000 truck loads or 40,000 to and fro trips—(assuming 800 bushels/load). At 75% capacity, it translates into 30,000 truck loads or 60,000 to and fro trips. Much of that traffic would be concentrated in the 30-40 day harvest season.
How will the trucks from north counties with no easy access to the Highway 34 bypass reach the facility? How will the truck volume affect Fairfield residents? What will be the impact on maintenance costs for county roads and city streets not built to handle heavy traffic? What will be the impact on the already dangerous entrance to Cambridge Investment on Present Plain?
Heartland is a major industry. The request for a traffic impact study is a reasonable request of our elected officials. The Board of Supervises initiated a traffic impact study for the Cambridge Investment expansion in 2008 in anticipation of increased traffic volume. Should we not want to do the same due diligence when looking at the addition of a considerable volume of trucks on JeffCo roads?
Asking for an honest, open exploration of the issues at hand and how they might affect residents does not translate into being against economic development. It is simply part of the planning and due diligence any county or city government undertakes all the time.