Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 20, 2017

Heartland can continue with construction as litigation looms

By DIANE VANCE | May 16, 2014

A telephonic hearing Monday for Fairfield’s Leahy family counsel, attorney David Sykes of Fairfield, and Heartland Co-op’s counsel, attorney Michael Thrall of Nyemaster/Goode in Des Moines, was a formality to find time in the court docket for a hearing.

Judge Myron Gookin set a hearing for 9 a.m. Sept. 30 to be heard in District Court, Jefferson County, by Judge Daniel Wilson. Two more days have been set aside, Oct. 1 and 2, if needed for the case.

Sykes filed temporary and permanent injunctions against Heartland Co-op with the Jefferson County District Court April 25.

Sykes was hired as lead attorney by Overland Sheepskin Company and members of the Leahy family to represent their interests in the issue of a proposed grain elevator facility to be built by Heartland Co-op at Nutmeg Avenue and Highway 34.

Each side, the Leahys and Heartland Co-op, will have an opportunity at that hearing more than four months away to state their cases, said Sykes.

“The Leahys and I will talk about the potential nuisance and injury to my clients if the grain elevator is built there,” said Sykes.

“In the meantime, Heartland Co-op can do whatever it wants,” he said.

Thrall agrees.

“The plaintiff requested temporary and permanent injunctions against my client, and precluding any court action until then, Heartland Co-op can proceed with construction,” said Thrall. “Heartland can continue until the court orders differently.

“Heartland Co-op certainly does not believe its project will become a nuisance as the plaintiff claims,” said Thrall.

Sykes said he would like to take the next few months until the hearing to enter a discovery period.

“We want to ask questions of the other side, and ask for documents from Heartland Co-op,” said Sykes. “We don’t have enough information about the impact this facility could have.

“We have no environmental or economic reports or studies. We’re dealing with the railroad’s involvement and roads that need repair. We anticipate increased traffic from semi-trailers.”

Sykes said the time until the hearing could allow the Leahy family to get information.

“I’m not questioning the board of supervisors’ judgment in approving the project,” said Sykes. “I’m speaking specifically about my clients.

“I’m also concerned about a certain amount of upset within the community about the issue and it’s important that clear heads prevail,” said Sykes.

“The community farmers have a need for a market to sell grain. My client and I support the agricultural community; that goes without saying, Iowa is an ag state.

“We also understand this will be the largest grain elevator in the state.

“We need to draw down the rhetoric,” said Sykes. “What’s not at issue is the economic need for the area to have services.”

Sykes said it would have been common courtesy for an industrial agricultural business to talk with neighbors directly across the street. The Leahy family property and Overland Sheepskin Company have concerns.

“It would have been common decency to release more details about the project,” he said.

“After trying to communicate with Heartland Co-op and having no success, my clients did the only thing left, and went to the courts for relief,” he said.

Sykes said he intends for the attorneys on both sides of the case to continue to communicate.

“I’m holding out for a chance for mutual negotiation,” said Sykes. “I want to make every effort to keep lines of communication open and find a solution that works for both sides.

“I’m working with all counsels on both sides to explore all sides, even though construction and the court case continues,” he said. “I’m hoping for the best.”

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