Friday, December 10th, 2010
By William Kincaid
Opposition stops land buy for digester
Florida company will continue to look for land in Mercer County
  CELINA - A private company's plan to construct a manure digester just west of the city has been scrapped.
Andy Tangeman, president of Optional Energy Partners of Florida, told the newspaper Thursday afternoon that the company's plan to purchase property at 5150 state Route 29 West is off the table because of to opposition from neighbors.
"We're not coming here to cause problems," he said, adding that the company is searching for other properties in Mercer County.
Tangeman said the company is interested in managing manure and there's plenty of that in the area.
"It has to be a community project and we have to be a part of that community, not a thorn in it's side," he said.
The announcement comes as Celina City Council members were poised to vote Monday on the final reading of an ordinance to purchase electricity from the plant.
Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue said Thursday that she was aware of the possibility that Optional Energy Partners may look for another location.
The ordinance likely will be tabled on Monday night, she said.
The newspaper this week talked with some neighbors of the state Route 29 site who had concerns ranging from fears of odor and accidents to decreased property values.
Laura McNeilan, who lives a few hundred yards from the site, said she was opposed to the digester because of traffic concerns - several accidents have occurred at the intersection of Fleetfoot Road and state Route 29 over the years - and its proximity to a flood plane.
When McNeilan was notified today of Tangeman's change of plans, she said she was shocked.
"I guess I appreciate the fact that they did hear our voices," she said, adding that she hopes the concerns brought up by neighbors will be taken into consideration when selecting a new site.
She said she is not against digesters but was opposed to the location.
At least 15 busses travel the stretch of road every day and there are four bus stops within a mile range, she said.
When busses stop, vehicles accumulate with some trying to pass the accumulation which endangers children, she said, and adding approximately 20 trucks each day delivering manure would only compound the problem.
She also said the property is located within a flood plane and was submerged in water during the 2003 flood.
"Manure and flooding don't mix," she said. "The idea is to clean up our water."
She believes the proposed digester would be too far from the main source of the area's manure problem: the southern half of the county.
Reducing manure run-off from fields in the Grand Lake watershed has become a priority because of the toxic blue-green algae degrading the lake's water quality. Phosphorus in livestock manure feeds the blue-green algae.
McNeilan and her husband, Dave, discussed their concerns with Mercer County Commissioners Thursday morning.
"I'm not against the digesters in general," Dave McNeilan told commissioners. "I think it's a technology that could work in the right hands."
Commissioner Jerry Laffin told the couple commissioners had no authority on the matter because West Jefferson Township is unzoned.
Michael Schilling, who also lives close to the state Route 29 site, told the newspaper he was primarily concerned about the effects of such an operation on nearby property values.
He also mentioned the possibilities of odor, increased traffic in a child-populated area, the problems associated with building in a flood plane and the dangers of methane gasses that he believes are fairly explosive.
"I think it's a good thing if they can make it work," he said, before adding that it would be better suited on the other side of the county.
Nick Dammeyer, who lives in the nearby subdivision of Silver Lakes, said he was concerned about the heavy truck traffic. He also said a manure digester should be constructed closer to the farming community.  
Celina City Council members this week approved the second reading of the ordinance to purchase power from the manure digester. Jeff Larmore, Bill Sell, June Scott and Mike Sovinski voted yes, while Ed Jeffries and Myron Buxton, who voted yes on the first reading, cast dissenting votes.
"I don't think it's the right place for it," Jeffries told the newspaper, explaining that there are several issues, including truck traffic and school bus stops.
He also was concerned about odor from all the trucks.
The meeting was attended by several people concerned about the plant.
According to the meeting minutes, Matt Heckler of Mercer County Soil and Water stated that hog manure in the area is problematic, not dairy manure that was to be the main source of waste for the plant.
"We will find a site," Tangeman told the newspaper. "It probably won't be tomorrow morning."
Tangeman said the company did a poor job of explaining itself to the community and will have better public relations with the community in the future.
Council members will meet for their new regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at city hall.
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