The issue of the proposed Hyperion oil refinery came up at the city council candidate forum Tuesday night.
We won't go into how it's strange that Vermillion citizens think that our city council can somehow play a role in determining whether or not Hyperion becomes a reality in Union County near Elk Point. There's not a whole lot our city leaders can do about that. Sure, candidates can voice opposition to the project, as many did Tuesday, but that's not really going to influence whether the refinery becomes a reality.
Is it too soon to say Hyperion is a done deal? Probably. But one can't ignore the fact that someday the refinery could be up and running just a few short miles from Vermillion.
One also can't ignore the fact, after Tuesday's candidate forum, of how Vermillion's current city council has for some reason seemed to ignore the potential impact Hyperion may have on the region if it is ever built.
Back in September 2008, the City Council of Sioux City, IA, decided to begin planning for the eventual construction of Hyperion. Staffers told that community's city council that, should the refinery be constructed, plans would be under way to expand residential subdivisions in the northern part of Sioux City.
"With the announcement about Hyperion, we are looking at the demands that will bring to housing here,"? said Jeff Hanson, planning and neighborhood services division manager, during the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission annual joint meeting.
In March 2007, Vermillion City Alderman Mary Edelen attempted to get the local city council to vote on a resolution to "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."?
The resolution got nowhere. And since then, things have been progressing. Not in Vermillion. But nearly everywhere else nearby.
In June 2008, Union County voters approved rezoning the land for the $10 billion refinery by a 58-42 percent margin. Hanson said back in 2008 that Sioux 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 Sioux City 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, "We're looking at opportunities presented by a new Hyperion opportunity such as in transportation, transit, environmental issues, housing possibilities and business opportunities."?
Back in the spring of 2008, 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 recognizing Hyperion's potential impact, or began strategic planning for how to best deal with the economic and social issues Hyperion may bring.
Vermillion's Chamber of Commerce and Development Company long ago approved a measure voicing its support of Hyperion. So far, not a peep from our city council. And we citizens will go to the polls soon to decide who will fill the office of mayor and several aldermen spots in City Hall.
It's time for the new city council that we will soon elect 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.