Opponents of Heartland project speak out
Nearly 90 people showed up at today’s Jefferson County Board of Supervisors meeting as news has spread in the community about Heartland Co-op’s proposal to build a 4.4 million bushel storage capacity grain elevator facility at Nutmeg Avenue and Highway 34.
All but one person who spoke at the meeting seemed to be against the co-op locating so close to Fairfield or asked why it was trying to locate there and what the community could do to stop it.
Supervisor chairman Dick Reed invited members in the overflow, standing-room only audience in the second floor courtroom at Jefferson County Courthouse to speak.
He laid ground rules that everyone could have a chance to speak, but must address the board of supervisors, not argue back and forth with other audience members; state their name; each speaker would be limited to five minutes; when speakers began to repeat other speakers, he would stop the speaker; and Reed and supervisor Lee Dimmitt could address issues and questions between speakers. Supervisor Becky Schmitz was out of the country this week.
Paul Glossop, speaking with a British accent, identified himself as an American citizen and resident of Jefferson County.
“I have a vision of the future of Fairfield that involves it being free from any kind of pollution,” he said. “That includes dust pollution, noise pollution and biological pollution.
“If this grain facility has to be built, I feel it should be at least five miles from Fairfield, in the country. It can still be close to the railroad and Highway 34.”
Glossop said when he started building near but just outside the city limits of Fairfield, he was told the city had a legal say regarding development in an approximately two-mile buffer area around the city.
Later in the meeting, Reed clarified that the county has no zoning laws or regulations, but the city does have some regulations for housing subdivisions.
“Ottumwa has been depressed as a city ever since the stinking slaughter facility was put into operation on its east side,” said Glossop. “For 40 years, many of us have invested mightily in Fairfield to make it a place of international interest and concern.
“We have made huge steps of progress,” said Glossop. “We cannot afford to let this progress be compromised. I have only just heard about the possible polluting factors of this projected facility and ask Jefferson County to be patient before trying to move ahead without further public input. The financial interests of a few should not be advanced before the life interest of a great majority.”
Reed said without zoning laws in the county, neither Heartland Co-op nor any other business needs to ask permission to build.
Mea Lama said she is in the Leahy family, which lives at Nutmeg Avenue and old Highway 34, just across Nutmeg from the proposed grain elevator site.
“I’m responsible for alerting most of the people here today,” she said. “I’ve lived in Iowa 50 years of my 51. I’ve lived in Fairfield 40 years and we’re right across the street from this site. I’m very concerned. We moved here because of the great community.”
The Leahys own Overland Sheepskin Company Inc. and Blue Fish clothing store and keep llamas on the property on Nutmeg.
“We employ 30 people at Overland and about 10 at Blue Fish,” she said. “Having grain elevators right across the street is going to make our property values go down. I wouldn’t mind if it was 10 miles out of town. I don’t think it should be at the edge of town when people enter from the east and see this monstrosity.”
Others in the audience spoke passionately about GMO grain dust pollution, semi-truck traffic and wear and tear on roads.
Reed and Dimmitt explained that the board of supervisors does not regulate county building. The only part the county plays is whether it will offer an incentive to Heartland Co-op, in the way of a Tax Increment Financing district in order to upgrade county roads.
More about today’s meeting will be published this week in The Ledger.