It's time for the city to talk about Hyperion Between the Lines By: David Lias
Plain Talk In my best effort to create a Sarah Palin analogy, Vermillion may someday be able to see the Hyperion Oil Refinery in Union County just as Palin says she can see Russia from her front porch. Thatâ�?�?s how close weâ�?�?ll be to the refinery, and all of the people who will work there, assuming that it will be constructed in the future. Despite the outcry from area people who are opposed to the refinery, listening to both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates has made it clear that refineries, like the one proposed by Hyperion, will likely be strongly supported as our government seeks new ways to get oil from places other than the Middle East. Is it too soon to say Hyperion is a done deal? Probably. But one canâ�?�?t ignore the fact that itâ�?�?s growing more and more likely that someday the refinery will be up and running in Union County, just a few short miles from Vermillion. I mention this because earlier this month, the City Council of Sioux City, IA, taking all of this into consideration, decided to begin planning for the eventual construction of Hyperion. Staffers told that communityâ�?�?s city council that, should the refinery be constructed, plans will be under way to expand residential subdivisions in the northern part of Sioux City. â�?�?With the announcement about Hyperion, we are looking at the demands that will bring to housing here,â�? said Jeff Hanson, planning and neighborhood services division manager, during the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission annual joint meeting. You may recall that last March, Vermillion City Alderman Mary Edelen attempted to get the local city council to vote on a resolution to â�?�?welcome and support the economic development that will follow the construction and operation of Hyperion Energy Center to our area and to encourage our citizens to ask questions about all facets of this project.â�? The resolution got nowhere. And since then, things have been progressing. Not in Vermillion. But nearly everywhere else nearby. In June, Union County voters approved rezoning the land for the $10 billion refinery by a 58-42 percent margin. Hanson said the city intends to continue working with Plymouth County on any housing developments north of Sioux City, which might provide Hyperion housing. The planning commission and then the council approves such subdivisions located within a two-mile radius of the city limits. After the Union County vote, the council created a Hyperion Task Force to prepare for opportunities that might arise should the oil refinery be built. Councilmen Brent Hoffman and Aaron Rochester were named to the panel. Paul Eckert, the city manager of Sioux City said at the time, â�?�?Weâ�?�?re looking at opportunities presented by a new Hyperion opportunity such as in transportation, transit, environmental issues, housing possibilities and business opportunities.â�? Last spring, we noted that other nearby communities have recognized the potential impact of the proposed refinery. Yankton, Beresford, North Sioux City and Hawarden, IA have all noted that yes, they need to be prepared. They have either passed resolutions similar to the one introduced by Edelen, or have begun strategic planning for how to best deal with the economic and social issues Hyperion may bring. Our local Chamber of Commerce and Development Company long ago approved a measure voicing its support of Hyperion. So far, not a peep from the city council. We realize the council has been busy recently. In the last couple of months, it has had to devote much of its energy to finalizing the city budget. That work is complete. Now its time, once again, for the city council to at least begin talking about Hyperion. The city council must demonstrate to the public that they are aware that 1) Hyperion, if built in our backyard, will be one of the biggest construction projects ever undertaken in the nation, and 2) steps are being taken for the city to be prepared for that.