About 30 people packed into the Harbor View village hall Wednesday to hear the latest offer from FDS Coke Plant, LLC, which wants to build a coking plant about a half mile away.
The company recently offered the village $500,000 over five years if it dropped its appeal before the Environmental Review Appeals Board (ERAC) in opposition of the coke plant, which will be built on land owned by the Port Authority in East Toledo and Oregon.
“There’s not a buyout,” village Mayor Carl Stanoyevic assured the crowd. “There was an offer made to the village of $500,000 if we would get out of the appeals process. In other words, our appeal has held them up.”
Payments would begin once construction bonds are issued by the state, he said.
“We could do an awful lot for our community with that $500,000. But not this,” said Stanoyevic. “This village has been here a long time. We’ve all pulled together. We can continue to do that. We don’t want their money.”
Stanoyevic said he called the meeting after he heard that FDS Coke Plant, LLC, officials planned to host a meeting on Wednesday at the same time in Oregon’s municipal complex on Seaman Road to provide more information about the coke plant and a proposed Community Improvement Program for the village.
“You all didn’t want to go there. You wanted to come here and voice your opinion,” said Stanoyevic. “How many people are against this coke facility?”
Everyone in the room raised their hands.
“There you go gentlemen,” Stanoyevic said to FDS Coke Plant representative Bill Garber, who sat in the last row of seats along with FDS attorney Matt Cox.
“All I can say is that there’s a very good chance that your objection with ERAC will go in our favor,” said Garber.
“If it does, then you build the coke plant,” said Stanoyevic.
Garber said the village’s opposition at one time seemed to center around money.
“Your position at a council meeting was that Toledo and Oregon got something, but the village wasn’t getting anything,” he said.
“The residents here don’t want anything. They don’t want any money to drop that appeal,” said Stanoyevic. “We have parties in the park twice a month in the summer. We’re a tight knit community. They’ve talked about this coke facility. Many of them have lived here most of their lives. These folks are tired of the pollution that they deal with.”
Many in the room said their dogs and cats contracted cancer as a result of pollution.
Stanoyevic’s 10-year-old dog had recently gone through chemotherapy treatment.
Another resident, who has lived in the village since 1967, said she had a dog that had cancer.
“I had a toy poodle that took chemo every week,” she said.
Dennis Szych, who’s lived in the village since 1998, said he recently had to put his dog down because of severe allergies, which he blames on pollution.
“I just put my dog down the other day because he developed allergies after rolling in the grass from all the crap they’ve been dumping. No more. We don’t want a coking facility out here. We don’t want anymore pollution out here. We want to live out our lives, raise our kids, our grandkids, and enjoy life. No more pollution. None,” said Szych.
One resident said she opposes the coke plant because she has a special needs child. “I just can’t let it go in. It complicates everything. She’s highly susceptible to everything. Cancer is my biggest fear,” she said.
“It’s killing our fish, getting into our lake, where we drink our water from, and it’s getting into our lungs,” said another resident. “Mercury’s a heavy metal. It kills.”
“Right now, the mercury being deposited here is coming from China and India from uncontrolled plants,” said Garber. “Mercury’s a worldwide issue. It’s not a narrow issue.”
Michael Joseph, a resident who works as a medical officer for the Department of Defense, said the addition of mercury, “no matter where it comes from, is a concern.”
“We’re looking at increased amounts of mercury that we have no way to stop,” said Joseph, who just built his retirement home in the village. “We’ve been trying to clean up our lake. No one seems to be listening. I don’t want increased amounts of mercury, no matter where it’s coming from. We need to do what we can as a community to stop that or minimize that. The company you work for is showing a potential risk of worsening the situation. If there’s a way for us as a village to see what we can do, where others have failed to do, we’re going to do it.”
Joseph said the village is changing, and it doesn’t want technology associated with older industries.
“We’re not a bunch of people who you just dump stuff on and we’re okay with it. Not anymore. I know it’s not your intent. But the village and everything in this area is starting to change,” he said.
In addition, Joseph said the area won’t even benefit from the co-generation plant that is planned as part of the project. “Electricity generated by this plant has nothing to do with the surrounding area. It gets sent to a central grid and sold to places where the plant doesn’t even exist. They get the benefit of electricity. We don’t.”
Village Councilman Mark Klatt asked Garber why he took so long to discuss the plant with the village.
“Why didn’t you come to us back in 2004? Why wasn’t there any concern with our feelings?” asked Klatt.
“There was always concern,” said Garber. “They had plans to come and talk to you after we started construction.”
“After construction?” said Klatt, as the crowd burst into laughter.
Stanoyevic said he was disappointed he was not notified about the meeting in Oregon that evening.
“As the mayor and representative of Harbor View, nobody contacted me about that meeting. [Oregon] Mayor Marge Brown didn’t even have the guts to call me,” he said. Residents, who read about the meeting in The Press, informed him of it, he added.
“No one in Oregon came to me, or to anyone on council, to say, `What do you think about this?’ And residents were livid about it,” he said. “And these residents were not going to go to Oregon.”