Vermillion citizens left out by council

Vermillion citizens left out by council
There's not a mention of the Hyperion Energy Center on the agenda of the upcoming Vermillion City Council meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, March 18, in the Al Neuharth Center.

That's disappointing. There's really no reason to delay talks on this topic.

In fact, now, more than ever, it is important for our aldermen to begin a dialogue concerning Hyperion.

They don't necessarily have to reach out to Hyperion at first. There doesn't have to be some sort of huge public forum, which is the only way Mayor Dan Christopherson can imagine addressing a topic of this magnitude.

Discussion of Hyperion, and all of the possible ways this project may affect Vermillion, must begin with the city council – and strangely, they refuse to do this.

It's rather amazing that since mid-summer 2007, when Hyperion announced that Union County was being considered as a site for its $10 billion oil refinery, there hasn't been a peep about it at a Vermillion City Council meeting.

When Alderman Mary Edelen tried to introduce a resolution that hopefully would get fellow council members to begin addressing the topic, she was chastised.

How dare she introduce a resolution without placing it on the meeting agenda first. She must be trying to hide it from the public. And how can the city talk about such a controversial topic without input from the public?

Concerned citizen Lynette Melby spoke out, telling the council that the item should be tabled because many citizens were in Elk Point that evening to participate in a public meeting being held by the Union County Board of Commissioners. The commission was gathering public input before considering action on a zoning request from Hyperion.

Edelen's resolution struck such fear in fellow Alderman Jere Chapman that it appeared he wouldn't be taking official action the proposal at the March 3 meeting. He talked of recusing himself from voting on the measure, not because of a conflict of interest, but because he was afraid to make a decision.

And so, as one may easily predict, the measure was tabled.

Last Monday, March 10, however, the Yankton City Commission had no problem unanimously approving a resolution in support of Hyperion, citing the potential for economic development and the apparent willingness of Hyperion to construct a facility with minimal impact on the environment.

The next day, March 11, the Union County Commission after weighing the public testimony it has heard at two recent marathon public meetings, voted to approve Hyperion's request to turn nearly 3,300 acres north of Elk Point into a planned development district for its proposed refinery.

What the mayor and Chapman and other aldermen who voted to table Edelen's resolution March 3 fail to comprehend is her measure, if approved, would do exactly what they are calling for. It wouldn't close the door on talks about Hyperion; it would, in fact, serve as springboard for local public discussion on the topic.

The mayor's mantra of "take no action on something controversial without first receiving public input" is answered by this resolution. It's too bad he didn't take the time to read it.

The resolution notes that Hyperion, if built, would involve thousands of people in the construction and operation of the facility.

It points out that these employees will need homes in which to live, schools for their children, and businesses in which to purchase food, clothing and other necessities.

Hyperion, the resolution states, will be working with local educational institutions as well as the state to provide the training necessary for employees to perform their jobs.

The potential for growth extends to The University of South Dakota, according to the resolution.

It also states the following, which, sad to say, can only be defined as Edelen's wish that city leadership would be more progressive:

"Whereas the City Council understands that there are many issues relating to the construction and operation of this facility and that many in our community have questions relating to environmental, health and growth issues …"

The city of Vermillion should join the ranks of Beresford, Hawarden, IA, Elk Point and North Sioux City. All have recognized the potential economic impact of Hyperion. It would be nice, too, if our city council got in step with the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company, which recognized Hyperion's potential impact on the area in a resolution it approved months ago.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at

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