Updated: Homer board to vote again on water for Sunrise Coal
Updated 7:39 p.m. Friday.
HOMER — One village board member is reconsidering last month's no vote that helped defeat a proposal to sell treated water and sewer services to Sunrise Coal.
So, the village board now plans to reconsider its proposed agreement with Sunrise on Monday night, according to Homer Mayor David Lucas.
"Basically they are going to ask us to reconsider the contract," Lucas said. "And it will be handled the same way."
Lucas said one of the board members who voted no at the Feb. 11 meeting has indicated a change of mind this week. Lucas would not disclose which of the board members has reconsidered.
He said the board member has reconsidered for two reasons.
First, he said, the mine is inevitable, and although the board member still does not like the idea of a coal mine, the person is convinced the mine will be built with or without Homer's services, and it will be a loss in revenue to the village.
Second, Lucas said the board member has also been approached by several who wish he had voted differently.
"So, it's been a difficult two weeks," Lucas said.
The Homer Village Board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the village hall, 500 E. Second St., Homer.
At the top of the agenda under old business are the two items for approving the agreement: "Sunrise Coal renewed request for water/sewer services," and "Consideration of Ordinance Approving a Water Supply and Sewer Services Contract with Sunrise Coal, LLC."
On Feb. 11, the Homer Village Board voted to reject an agreement for treated water and sewer services for Sunrise Coal LLC's proposed Bulldog coal mine. Sunrise, based in Terre Haute, Ind., had formally requested in the latter part of 2012 that Homer supply its coal mine with up to 20,000 gallons a day of treated water and sewer services, and the company and village had been working on a proposed agreement for months.
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 has not officially decided whether to move forward with that request, and had been working solely on the treated water and sewer agreement until it was voted down.
In January, the village board conducted a straw poll on the proposed agreement. The board voted 3-3 and the mayor broke the tie, voting for the sale of water to Sunrise. But one village board member, Mike Johnson, who had voted yes in the straw poll, joined two other village board members in voting no, making it impossible for the proposed agreement to gain the four yes votes necessary for approval.
Lucas said the board member reconsidering and Sunrise requesting reconsideration has all come about this week. Sunrise has officially asked the board to reconsider and will have that request in writing either at the meeting Monday or deliver it to the village prior to the meeting, he said. The village has consulted with its attorney about whether this agreement can be reconsidered and what's the most appropriate method to do that. Lucas said it will be the exact same agreement that was voted on Feb. 11.
"I believe it is all legal and appropriate, but it's certainly not going to be viewed that way by the opposition."
Lucas, who supports the village selling water and sewer services to the mine, said he would not say he's happy about this latest development, because this process has been so uncomfortable and loaded with so much conflict.
"There's no victory in this. It is, I believe, the right thing for us to do in light of the welfare of this town. I don't celebrate a victory if this passes. It's an unfortunate avenue to the right answer, I believe," he said.
The village's water budget is running a deficit, according to Lucas, and this agreement would mean additional revenue for the village. Without it, the village would be considering an increase in its water rates, according to Lucas. Homer residents currently pay $3.15 per 1,000 gallons of water, and those rates haven't increased in several years.
In a posting on the village's Facebook page on March 1, Lucas writes that legally the village has limited time to reconsider the contract for passage, and it must be brought up for a vote in March. The mayor's statement went on to explain that the contract would mean $40,000 a year in additional revenue to the water and sewer budgets and is needed to keep rates low.
Lucas wrote in his statement that, "It is in your best interest to make a call and tell your board members to not let this opportunity pass. We have precious little time to correct this misguided decision. Call or write board members and ask them to reconsider the contract. Our next board meeting is March 11. According to rules, the only three people who can make a motion to reconsider the contract are the three trustees that voted against the original motion and won the vote. The three that can do this are." Then the names of the three who voted no — Kevin Knott, Roy Woodmansee and Johnson — are listed along with either their phone numbers, email addresses or both.
Knott said that he did receive phone calls and emails after the mayor's posting, which was on the village website initially as well as Facebook, but most of the people were encouraging him to retain his no vote.
Knott said he did not think the mayor's posting was an appropriate use of the village's website, because it was his personal opinion. Knott said the village's water budget is not currently running a deficit and will not be the one to ask for the vote to be reconsidered on Monday.