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Weston threatens strong opposition
Letter requests environmental impact study for power plant

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

One week after agreeing to write a "letter of concern" to the Platte County Commission, officials from the City of Weston are calling on Great Plains Energy to perform a complete environmental impact study for the Weston area.

Drafted by Weston Mayor Howard Hellebuyck on behalf of the Weston Board of Aldermen, the letter asked the commission to "lead the way in seeing such a study is conducted" in order to "stem strong opposition by the City of Weston."

The letter is the first action of its kind from the city regarding Great Plains Energy's plan to build a coal-fired power plant about four miles outside the city and in nearby Atchison, Kansas. Great Plains Energy has said the company is only in the permitting phase of the project and that no decisions to build have been made. The company is currently working on an environmental assessment for the area, but has stopped short of providing a more in-depth, full environmental impact statement for the project.

"Although our board is confident there is a commonality of interest with each of you to insure (sic) the safe development of this part of the county," the letter went on to say, "there are long-term concerns that our board feels should be addressed.”

According to Hellebuyck, the aldermen had questions concerning the proposed landfill location and how it could potentially affect the area's water supply in the event of a flood or natural disaster.

"We have an underground drinking water supply," Hellebuyck noted. "When you talk about a landfill there, it impacts Water Districts 3 and 7. That affects everyone here…from New Market clear to the Buchanan County line, all the way to Farley. It doesn't matter if it's approved or not…what are the emergency preparations? What are we going to do in a catastrophic situation? How do we handle something like that? We need to examine these things.”

Weston Alderman Cliff Harvey said he recommended writing the letter after hearing from residents in his ward.

"It was a spontaneous thing," Harvey said. "As alderman I've been getting several phone calls asking 'can't we do anything about stopping the power plant?' So I made the motion. Based on our strategic plan, which is to keep Weston rural and focus on tourism, smokestacks and pollution don't really fit into that plan.”

Harvey said he hasn't received any positive comments from residents regarding the proposed power plant project.

"They've been all negative," Harvey claimed. "I haven't seen anything from the citizens from Weston or Iatan or the surrounding areas that is pro (power plant). I've struck up conversations with people in town and they're all totally against it. Now that I know how they feel, as their representative it's how I have to feel, too.”

West Platte R-2 School Superintendent Kyle Stephenson, who has supported the project in large part because of the $1.7 million the district would stand to make annually from the project, said he understood why the city took the action they did.

"It's a free country," Stephenson said. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't getting negative calls on this, too."

Stephenson echoed Platte County Commissioner Steve Wegner's assertion that he trusted in the governmental agencies like the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency to address health risks associated with the project.

"That's what they're there for," Stephenson said.

As of press time, the Platte County Commission was drafting their response to the Weston letter, saying only that their reply would be forthcoming. In the meantime, Harvey conceded that the commission had more to consider than the city aldermen did.

"They have to take overall responsibility for the entire county," Harvey said. "They have a broader picture to look at. All we can do is tell them about the city's view."

Hellebuyck agreed.

"This plant isn't going to affect me in the same way it will others," Hellebuyck said. "I don't have small children to think about…by the time the school gets their money, I'll hopefully be retired. But there are future generations to consider.

"I'm no scientist. But at the same time, I couldn't sit here with a good conscious and say I'm not concerned."

LETTER CARRIES
POSSIBLE POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS

The power plant issue has also reportedly spurred a grassroots effort to find candidates to run against Commissioners Steve Wegner and Michael Short in the upcoming November elections. Although power plant opposition group Concerned Citizens of Platte County has no official stance, certain members of the Weston area have told The Landmark they have been urged to run by those opposed to the plant.

One candidate who says he has been approached is Curt Cook, who ran as a Democrat and lost to Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight by more than 5,000 votes in the 2002 election.

"I've received about 50 calls (asking me to run)," Cook said, adding he would make his final decision in late March, just before the filing deadline. He said most of the callers expressed concern about the power plant.

"I didn't think it was that big a deal, but it sure is," Cook said. "I'd be totally against it. I would vote no, knowing what I know now about mercury pollution."

For Weston, the problem cuts deeper than concerns about asthma or mercury ingestion. In a city that only plans on adding 125 to 500 residents over the next 20 years, every opportunity for economic development in the area has to be carefully considered. Although respondents to a city funded survey in 2002 said the future of the city lies in tourism, nearly 34 percent of those surveyed said the city needs to add jobs at any cost.

"We don't have an I-29, we're never going to get a Harley plant out here," Hellebuyck acknowledged. "You know, that plant has meant jobs for people out here, too. We've heard that they (Great Plains Energy) might just take the plant across the river. Then we'd still be getting (pollution) but none of the money.”

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

One week after agreeing to write a "letter of concern" to the Platte County Commission, officials from the City of Weston are calling on Great Plains Energy to perform a complete environmental impact study for the Weston area.

Drafted by Weston Mayor Howard Hellebuyck on behalf of the Weston Board of Aldermen, the letter asked the commission to "lead the way in seeing such a study is conducted" in order to "stem strong opposition by the City of Weston."

The letter is the first action of its kind from the city regarding Great Plains Energy's plan to build a coal-fired power plant about four miles outside the city and in nearby Atchison, Kansas. Great Plains Energy has said the company is only in the permitting phase of the project and that no decisions to build have been made. The company is currently working on an environmental assessment for the area, but has stopped short of providing a more in-depth, full environmental impact statement for the project.

"Although our board is confident there is a commonality of interest with each of you to insure (sic) the safe development of this part of the county," the letter went on to say, "there are long-term concerns that our board feels should be addressed.”

According to Hellebuyck, the aldermen had questions concerning the proposed landfill location and how it could potentially affect the area's water supply in the event of a flood or natural disaster.

"We have an underground drinking water supply," Hellebuyck noted. "When you talk about a landfill there, it impacts Water Districts 3 and 7. That affects everyone here…from New Market clear to the Buchanan County line, all the way to Farley. It doesn't matter if it's approved or not…what are the emergency preparations? What are we going to do in a catastrophic situation? How do we handle something like that? We need to examine these things.”

Weston Alderman Cliff Harvey said he recommended writing the letter after hearing from residents in his ward.

"It was a spontaneous thing," Harvey said. "As alderman I've been getting several phone calls asking 'can't we do anything about stopping the power plant?' So I made the motion. Based on our strategic plan, which is to keep Weston rural and focus on tourism, smokestacks and pollution don't really fit into that plan.”

Harvey said he hasn't received any positive comments from residents regarding the proposed power plant project.

"They've been all negative," Harvey claimed. "I haven't seen anything from the citizens from Weston or Iatan or the surrounding areas that is pro (power plant). I've struck up conversations with people in town and they're all totally against it. Now that I know how they feel, as their representative it's how I have to feel, too.”

West Platte R-2 School Superintendent Kyle Stephenson, who has supported the project in large part because of the $1.7 million the district would stand to make annually from the project, said he understood why the city took the action they did.

"It's a free country," Stephenson said. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't getting negative calls on this, too."

Stephenson echoed Platte County Commissioner Steve Wegner's assertion that he trusted in the governmental agencies like the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency to address health risks associated with the project.

"That's what they're there for," Stephenson said.

As of press time, the Platte County Commission was drafting their response to the Weston letter, saying only that their reply would be forthcoming. In the meantime, Harvey conceded that the commission had more to consider than the city aldermen did.

"They have to take overall responsibility for the entire county," Harvey said. "They have a broader picture to look at. All we can do is tell them about the city's view."

Hellebuyck agreed.

"This plant isn't going to affect me in the same way it will others," Hellebuyck said. "I don't have small children to think about…by the time the school gets their money, I'll hopefully be retired. But there are future generations to consider.

"I'm no scientist. But at the same time, I couldn't sit here with a good conscious and say I'm not concerned."

LETTER CARRIES
POSSIBLE POLITICAL RAMIFICATIONS

The power plant issue has also reportedly spurred a grassroots effort to find candidates to run against Commissioners Steve Wegner and Michael Short in the upcoming November elections. Although power plant opposition group Concerned Citizens of Platte County has no official stance, certain members of the Weston area have told The Landmark they have been urged to run by those opposed to the plant.

One candidate who says he has been approached is Curt Cook, who ran as a Democrat and lost to Platte County Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight by more than 5,000 votes in the 2002 election.

"I've received about 50 calls (asking me to run)," Cook said, adding he would make his final decision in late March, just before the filing deadline. He said most of the callers expressed concern about the power plant.

"I didn't think it was that big a deal, but it sure is," Cook said. "I'd be totally against it. I would vote no, knowing what I know now about mercury pollution."

For Weston, the problem cuts deeper than concerns about asthma or mercury ingestion. In a city that only plans on adding 125 to 500 residents over the next 20 years, every opportunity for economic development in the area has to be carefully considered. Although respondents to a city funded survey in 2002 said the future of the city lies in tourism, nearly 34 percent of those surveyed said the city needs to add jobs at any cost.

"We don't have an I-29, we're never going to get a Harley plant out here," Hellebuyck acknowledged. "You know, that plant has meant jobs for people out here, too. We've heard that they (Great Plains Energy) might just take the plant across the river. Then we'd still be getting (pollution) but none of the money.”

 
 

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