Vote delayed on treated water, sewer lines for coal mine
HOMER — Another meeting has been scheduled to discuss the sale of treated water and sewer services to Sunrise Coal by the village.
Previously, Homer Mayor David Lucas said the contract to sell treated water and sewer services would be voted on at Monday's meeting. However, the contract which would detail, among other things, who would own the water and sewer lines between Homer and the line, was still being written by lawyers.
"It will not be voted on this evening," Lucas said.
Lucas said the water committee will review the contract before it comes to the whole board.
The contract will be available for review on Dec. 21, Lucas said.
The water committee will meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 at Homer Village Hall to review the contract for water sales to Sunrise Coal. The committee will then recommend whether the board should approve the contract.
The board also discussed that the reimbursement agreement between Sunrise Coal and Homer may not be sufficient to cover the expenses related to the project. Village Attorney Paul Hendren said the agreement would need to be modified in order to cover the expenses of the project. Hendren said he would speak to Sunrise Coal.
During the public comment period, Traci Barkley of the Prairie Rivers Network said she felt the board was not being transparent enough with the process it was going through with the coal mine. Barkley said the Prairie Rivers Network had to get documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
Barkley said that documents show discussions were occurring with the coal mine as early as March 2012.
Barkley said that the documents showed that board members were not informed about some parts of the discussions.
"There is a pattern of secrecy here," she said.
Barkley also said that it was very important for residents of Homer and board members to understand that certain things have to be procured before Sunrise Coal can get a mining permit through the state of Illinois.
"It is in their interests to secure sewer and water services," she said.
Barkley said the village of Homer should not take the legal and financial risk of entering into the contract with the coal mine.
Barkley also said it is not uncommon for one entity to sell the coal operation to another company for a profit and any contract entered into with the old company cannot be modified.
Lucas then asked the board members if they had any comments regarding the coal mine issue.
Trustee Kevin Knott said he disagreed with Barkley's statement that the board was not being transparent regarding the coal mine.
Knott said he found the statement offensive and unless there was something he was not aware of he felt the board was being transparent.
Lucas said the village held documents back from Barkley's FOIA request, but upon further review the village released them.
"It's not all about money," Knott said. "It is about money but it is about the environment and emotion."
Lucas said the information that Barkley was referring to was information he collected that the board did not authorize. Lucas said the information was gathered after Sunrise approached the village so Lucas could see if it was something the village could move forward with.
Lucas compared it with the information he gathered when the village was starting the process of a tax-increment finance district.
"As chief executive, it is my job to research things and see if there are things for us to pursue," he said.
Trustee Ray Cunningham said he felt the village needed to take advantage of the economic opportunity it could gain from selling water to the mine.
"This to me is no different than if the school was to come up this way," he said. "The village has to take the opportunity when presented with it."
Trustee Guy James said he was not for or against the coal mine and if Homer didn't sell water to the coal mine the company would just get the water somewhere else.
Lucas said several newspaper articles had called him greedy, but he stressed he was not making money off the coal mine issue and went on to point out the good he had done for the village while mayor, including the tax-increment district.
"It's not about greed, I don't get anything out of this," he said. "My only concern is that we have the money we need to do to cover our accounts."
Lucas said when the tax-increment district was first discussed it was a controversial issue.
"In the long term it appeared to be the right decision," he said.