Updated: Homer rejects water sale to coal mine

Updated: Homer rejects water sale to coal mine

HOMER — The Homer Village Board voted Monday night to reject an agreement for treated water and sewer services for Sunrise Coal LLC's proposed Bulldog coal mine, surprising even those in the audience who had asked the board to do so.

Traci Barkley with Prairie Rivers Network said she was shocked by the vote.

"This is huge," said Barkley, whose nonprofit organization has been working with some Homer-area residents against the proposed coal mine and Homer's proposed agreement to supply it with up to 20,000 gallons a day of treated water and sewer services.

The mood was celebratory outside the village meeting room immediately after the vote in which three of the six board members present voted no, making it impossible for the proposal to get the four "yes" votes required to pass.

Board member Guy James was absent, but he had voted "no" last month in a straw poll on the proposed contract. The straw poll had come to a 3-3 tie among the six village board members, and Mayor David Lucas voted yes to break the tie.

But on Tuesday night, one board member, Mike Johnson, changed his vote to a "no."

The other two who voted no, Roy Woodmansee and Kevin Knott, had also voted that way in the straw poll. The two who voted yes Tuesday night were Ray Cunningham and Larry Mingee. The mayor did not cast a vote because three of the six had already voted no, so his vote didn't matter at that point.

After the vote, Lucas asked Johnson whether he had problems with something in the proposed contract or was voting no for other reasons.

Johnson said it was not an issue with the contract itself and didn't elaborate further.

Lucas then told the two Sunrise officials and their attorney that he didn't believe they could go any further at that point and told them the village would have to see if anything could be done to get the contract presented again.

The meeting was then adjourned for 5 minutes, and the Sunrise officials left, declining to comment. Sunrise has absorbed all the village's costs of the negotiations, which have amounted to more than $50,000 in legal fees, including a special municipal attorney hired by the village.

Barkley said she believes the village board members were voting their conscience Monday night.

"It might be the end of Sunrise Coal in this community," she said. "This is not the future for the community. Ag and small business is. Coal is not."

Early on in the discussions in fall of last year, a Sunrise official told the village board that the coal mine would be built regardless of what happens with Homer, and Sunrise has other alternatives for water, but working with Homer was its preferred choice. Sunrise has not disclosed any alternative plans for accessing treated and raw water.

The agreement voted down Monday night was for treated water and sewer services only. Sunrise has also asked Homer to consider supplying the proposed coal mine with up to 540,000 gallons a day of raw water, but the village had not officially decided whether to move forward with that request, working on the treated water and sewer agreement first.

After the meeting, Lucas said he was surprised by the vote. He said he had recently talked to Johnson, who gave no indication he planned to change his vote. Lucas said he will talk to Johnson about his reason for voting no and see if there's something in the contract that can be rectified to his approval.

But, Lucas said, it's a dead deal if Johnson changed his vote for philosophical reasons.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on February 12, 2013 at 10:02 am

Every once in a while someone votes with their conscience.  Whether you agree with Mike Johnson, or not; you have to respect him for his decision.  He must have been, and evidently still is under a lot of pressure.  Evidently, David Lucas has a deep interest in getting the mine in the area.  Pressuring Mike Johnson after the public vote will be the wrong way to go.  The man made his decision on what he feels is best for his community.  Best to respect him, shake hands, and let it go.

Glad to see that Big Business doesn't win them all.  Good luck Homer.     

yates wrote on February 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

 Seems to be more anti-domestic energy then anything else. Obama would be proud. Bet that coal mine would create more jobs then all that small business flocking to Homer these days.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

It was Homer's decision; not yours, or mine.  They are the ones who live there.  They are the ones to decide what they want, or do not want.  It's called Democracy.

SaintClarence27 wrote on February 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Why would Obama be proud?

bluegrass wrote on February 13, 2013 at 9:02 am

Perhaps the name Keith Judd could provide you with that answer?  The West Virginia coal mining community has not expressed a lot of love for our current Pres, and in return I think President Milhouse has made it pretty clear he's not a huge supporter of fossil fuels. 

mark taylor's ghost wrote on February 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm

That's right!!!!1! This is just more proof of the Obamao CONSPIRACY TO BRING AMERICA TO ITS KNEES. It's worse than Solyndra and Fast and Furious and Benghazi all rolled into one. It's not the least bit loony to belief all of this!!!!!!!!!!!!1!

This anti American vote destroys democracy and is PROOF that Obamao is controlling every aspect of our lives.

mark taylor's ghost wrote on February 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm

That's right!!!! This is all that ding dang Obamao's fault. These Homer voters are nothing but communistical socialistics and brainwashed ignorant sheeple that need to be EDUCATED by TRUE PATRIOTS and REAL AMERICANS like me and others on this thread who know what they should be doing with their community and water!!!!!!!!!11!

They just don't know how ignorant they are. THEY NEED TO SUBMIT TO MY SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE AND LET ME EDUCATIZE THEM!!!!!11!

They need to get smart and do what I tell them they should do. If they don't, our republic is DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED!!!!!!!!11!

EL YATIRI wrote on February 14, 2013 at 8:02 am
Profile Picture

Local government voted against the coal mine development, Obama and federal government had nothing to do with it.

raptureready wrote on February 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Mr. Lucas' reluctance to accept the board's decision makes me question his motives. The vote is in, it didn't go his way so why is he now trying to go around and change board members votes? Has the notorious Illinois political corruption reached this small town too? Is there something personal in this for someone?  Is he also going to try to push through another vote before the full board is there? One of the men that has voted NO in the past happens to be on vacation. If Mayor Lucas does happen to weasel in a second bite at the apple in order to try yet again to get his way no matter what the people of Homer want, then perhaps he should wait until the ENTIRE board is available. Of course, that wouldn't be in his plan would it? This is a farming community, it stands to reason that the farmers don't want their lands and water supplies raped by a mining company.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

My curiosity is why petitions were not circulated by some of the citizens to have the issue put on a referendum ballot.  I realize that sometimes things are not made clear until it is too late to get petitions signed; but the next time, there should be enough time.  Small town politics are more face to face than in metropolitan areas.  You run into each other at the post office, and around the town.  Neighbors discuss things.  Sometimes; feeling go deep, and last for years.  Motives are questioned.  Board members, and village presidents new vehicles, or home modifications bring gossip.  Better to just shake hands, and drop any recriminations.

kwknott70 wrote on February 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi Rapture-Ready:

Allow me to hopefully answer your questions:

**The vote is in, it didn't go his way so why is he now trying to go around and change board members votes?
++ I cannot speak on behalf of Mayor Lucas.  However, I'll say he is doing what he believes is in the best interest of the village. He's a man that cares about Homer, its residents, and tries to guide it the best of his ability with the resources available.

** Has the notorious Illinois political corruption reached this small town too?
++ I am VERY certain there is no "Illinois political corruption" in this small town too.

** Is he also going to try to push through another vote before the full board is there?
++ We'll have to see what happens.  However, at this point, if another vote occurs, I don't feel it would pass.  If the Mayor tries to push another vote through, it will all be within legal bounds, without corruption, or any wrong-doings.

** One of the men that voted NO in the past happens to be on vacation. If Mayor Lucas does happen to weasel in a second bite at the apple in order to try yet again to get his way no matter what the people of Homer want, then perhaps he should wait until the ENTIRE board is available. Of course, that wouldn't be in his plan would it?
++ The board member who is on vacation planned it before the final vote ever took place.  The timing of the final vote is circumstantial based up on the revisions of the contract, people's schedules, the way the calendar fell in relation to meetings, etc.  There was nothing planned or some pre-conceived ulterior motive of when to call for a vote in relation to how many board members were present.

Additional comments:

How do I know these things?  I was there, I've lived it, and breathed it for the past eight months.  I've had a front-row seat to the event by being on the board and voting on the issue.  I can attest to you there is NO corruption and NO wrong-doing by the mayor or anyone on that board.  If there is/was, then I'm oblivious to the matter.   I have served on the board for 5+ years with this man and have the utmost respect for him as Mayor and resident of Homer.  He's honest, works hard, and DOES keep the residents of Homer in his best interest.  Being mayor (and on the board for that matter) is a thankless job.  However, there are people like him willing to do it for little or no money, having to face many challenges, deal with occasional drama, and always being in the critical eye of the public.  In my opinion and experiences, Mayor Lucas has no personal agenda, gain or incentive from selling water to a coal mine.   If he does, then it's news to me and I should be informed.  

Yes, I am defending the mayor by way of his credibility and competence as Mayor, the integrity of his character and dignity of his decisions.  If you knew him the way I've known him via the Board, you would understand and hopefully agree. 

And by the way, I voted AGAINST the coal mine.  I simply did NOT see the benefits outweighing the challenges the way the mayor did.  It’s called a difference of opinion and viewpoint. The majority of the board saw things differently than Mayor Lucas and that’s it.

Feel free to contact me at kwknott@aol.com


Kevin W. Knott, Trustee
Village of Homer

raptureready wrote on February 12, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I've lived here all my life and have had many, many dealings with the mayor. I guess on the point of respecting him or not, we'll just have to agree to disagree. The only reason it was mentioned that the one board member is on vacation (same time every year for a long time) is that IF another vote is somehow wrangled, it should be when all members are present. You are completely entitled to your opinions and I am too. If my opinions that I expressed have somehow enraged you then, LOL you should hear the ones that I keep to myself. I do NOT want to sell the water to Sunrise, period. I do NOT believe that it would be a good thing for this town's future. There just are not enough safeguards in place and I don't believe that Sunrise could ever come up with enough reassurance to convince me that it would be a good thing for our land and for our water.


rsp wrote on February 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

If any town or city council had to plan every vote or meeting around the schedules, vacations, or illnesses of the members nothing would get done. It's called acting in good faith. Before the request from Sunrise came did you yourself attend every meeting and read all the documents? Those meetings and those reports were just as important and vital to the community. Do you know what happened, what the money was spent on? Suggesting someone may be enraged because you disagreed with them is a little over the top. 

cretis16 wrote on February 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm

There goes the jobs....if I hear the phrase WE ARE MOVING FORWARD...one more time.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm

We are moving forward.  We are better off than we were last year, and the year before that.  The Iraq War has wound down.  The Afghan War is winding down.  We are not fighting in Syria.  Homes are starting to sell again.  Most all of us were spared the tax problem with the Fiscal Cliff.  We are moving forward.

rsp wrote on February 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

I wonder if he meant it like this: WE ARE MOVING FORWARD.

Orbiter wrote on February 12, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I'm so glad to see that the village board voted against the deal with the coal mine. It was a LOT of water to be used. Nevertheless, I was glad to see vigorous discussion of the issue from both sides.  As Sid suggested, there's no need for recriminations or name-calling. Shake hands and move on.  :)

lexdvdt wrote on February 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

Concerning Sid's comment/question above about a referendum: some local citizens did consider collecting signatures to put the issue on the February primary or April general election (which would have been after the expected Board decision). But this is not California. While they would likely have been successful in collecting the needed petition signers (10% of registered voters), the Illinois election code states that such questions "shall be advisory public questions and no legal effects shall result from the adoption or rejection of such proposition." That is, the result would not have bound the Village Board to any action or decision; it would have been advisory only. It's true that "small town politics are more face to face," and efforts to disseminate information to Village and area residents, and personal contacts with Board members probably would have more effect on an ultimate decision than would an "advisory public question" campaign and vote. For more info on Illinois's "advisory referendum", see: http://www.lib.niu.edu/1994/im940725.html

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

lexdvdt;  Thanks for answering my question.  Good luck in the future. 

dw wrote on February 13, 2013 at 11:02 am

"Like many I understand the need for good paying jobs, but I don't believe we should be selling our souls to the coal industry for them." - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, a former 4th generation Appalachian coal miner


If you believe in clean coal, then you should look at a coal miner's lungs sometime.  I'm not talking 'old school' miners, but current ones.  Black lung exists, it is real and it kills.


Danno wrote on February 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm

The community of Homer decided what is best for them. Consider what occured just a few years ago on south I57.

The community spent years of effort, time, monies, proposals and, presentations to the powers that be to win a coal gasification project. Remember what happened? Politics came into play and the project evaporated from that locale

Would you like to see the politicians pull an imminent domain and, force something Homer doesn't want? What might be your position then? Just curious.

syzlack wrote on February 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

It is a coal mine and it's a dirty business.  Coal is not cheap and it's certainly not clean. And with global warming, it's simply stupid to advance its use in lieu of renewable energy and much more stringent conservation standards, areas that begging for innovation and economic growth.  Coal has been and is an environmental nightmare.  Take a look around southern Illinois to see what wonderful economic benefits it has brought. The landscape has been and still is being raped. Jeff Biggers details just how costly it has been in Reckoning at Eagle Creek.  http://www.jeffrbiggers.com/books/reckoning-at-eagle-creek/

Avalon wrote on February 14, 2013 at 9:02 am

Yes and now it looks like Ameren has been accused of dumping coal ash improperly. If coal is so clean why don't some of the areas coal supporters allow this waste product to be dumped on their land? http://www.renewablesbiz.com/article/13/02/illinois-ag-says-ameren-illegally-disposed-coal-ash. Coal ash is filled with heavy metals, uranium and is radioactive. Did I mention it is used in drywall and concrete? Clean coal...what a joke.