Something for city voters to think about

Remember my column last week, in which I stated that it's time for the Vermillion City Council to begin talking about Hyperion?

Today, I must simply say "never mind" to much of what I expressed.

It has been pointed out to me that well, yes, the city has done a fair share of talking about Hyperion. Perhaps more specifically, it has discussed the potential impact that economic developments of various scales – including the scale of the Hyperion Oil Refinery – will have on our community.

This all happened about two years ago. And, I must admit, even after reporting on it, the whole thing just sort of faded from memory. There's a good chance that a lot of townsfolk aren't aware it happened, either, and I didn't do anything to help people recall the action that's been taken by the city council with my column last week. I apologize for that.

City Manager John Prescott kindly reminded me after last week's Plain Talk hit the streets that the city council adopted a resolution in support of development that would happen related to Hyperion. It was brought up at one meeting and tabled to a later date. The resolution was passed on Oct. 6, 2008.

I was at the meeting.  It's a bit strange I don't remember it, because it turned into a kerfuffle with lots of arguing and, let's say, a failure to communicate between some aldermen and audience members who clearly are opposed to Hyperion.

The resolution was eventually approved, and Prescott noted in his message to me that later in that year, city staff conducted two informational sessions with the city council related to the city's preparedness for large-scale development. Information was presented to the city council of the estimated impacts of a large-scale housing development over the course of two meetings.

Staff concentrated on the residential impact and overall system capacity demands. These sessions were presented on Dec. 1 and 15, 2008, at the city council's noon informational meetings.

One thing remains the same despite all of this. As I mentioned last week, it's a bit peculiar for Vermillion citizens to 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. I still believe that candidates can shout their opposition to the project from the rooftops, but that's not really going to influence whether the refinery is built.

We trust that all of the candidates in the vast field of individuals seeking election to the Vermillion City Council are doing so for hopefully the right reasons. We can't help but think that there is a strong likelihood that an anti-Hyperion undercurrent may be a driving force behind the candidacies of several office seekers in the June 8 municipal election.

Which is fine, I guess. There's no requirement that a person running for office has to display a certain set of beliefs. We learned during last week's forum that many are strongly opposed to Hyperion. Others, fully realizing that the best thing Vermillion can do is attempt to prepare should the refinery project become a reality, are more focused on that possibility.

What all Vermillion voters need to keep in mind when they visit the polls Tuesday is that Hyperion, for now, should not be a major factor in this election. That probably sounds strange after I railed about the city council not discussing the refinery enough last week.

But, here's the reality. As I noted earlier, there's not a whole lot the Vermillion City Council can do about Hyperion. And whoever is elected Tuesday will soon find himself or herself up to their necks in issues that are much more pressing. And it's not all fun stuff, like enhancing the Farmers Market or building a skateboard park.

Vermillion desperately needs to broaden its tax base. To do that, it needs to attract more industry. And if it's successful in that area, in needs to find ways to expand the size of the city so more housing can be built. That's going to demand a lot of tedious work involving zoning and talks with county about perhaps expanding the extraterritorial area.

It's going to mean making sure that new growth in housing and industry can receive the necessary utility services, and that, in turn, our water treatment and sewer treatment plants and fire protection and electric utilities are adequate.

And, we have an aging swimming pool and an inadequate city library building. Those projects will all demand a lot of planning and likely some sophisticated funding mechanisms to one day make those improvements a reality.

Oh, and there's that grueling city budgeting process that must be undertaken every summer. It's these types of things that are part of the daily grind of being an alderman. It's not an easy job. The best aldermen are the ones who can remain focused on the myriad of tasks that demand immediate attention.

There's nothing wrong with an alderman being concerned about Hyperion. Unless, of course, it appears that a candidate, if elected to the city council, will be so distracted by that issue that he or she won't be able to concentrate on the things that are truly important to our community.

Think about that as you head to the polls June 8.

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