Citizens want answers on fertilizer plant near Wever - The Daily Gate City, Keokuk, Iowa: News

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Citizens want answers on fertilizer plant near Wever

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 12:00 pm

By Joe Benedict

MVM News Network

MONTROSE – There are still many concerns Wever residents would like to discuss about the Iowa Fertilizer Plant, which will be built nearby by Orascom Construction Company.

On Tuesday, Lori Beckert asked the Lee County Board of Supervisors if it could set up a meeting with Wever residents to discuss some issues.

The board was open to the idea. Beckert said she would like to set up a format so it didn’t seem like the residents were just there to “yell at” the board members.

She suggested she and the other Wever residents produce a list of questions for which the board could have answers ready for the meeting.

Beckert said she could probably have the questions ready by this time next week. Then she would like to have the meeting in the next two weeks because she believes the plant plans are progressing fast.

“This is a huge, huge issue,” she said. “You all have had many meetings and discussions. We want facts. We want to be informed voters.”

Supervisor Gary Folluo said he would feel comfortable having a meeting on local issues concerning the plant today, but there have been many players from the state level involved in the project, such as Gov. Terry Branstad and the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Folluo said getting representatives from those offices could take more than two weeks because of scheduling issues.

He also said some questions may involved the Environmental Protection Agency and Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Beckert said the concerns would most likely be focused locally on the people who represent Wever in the county. Beckert was encouraged by Supervisor Chair Janet Fife-LaFrenz to get the list of questions and submit it to the Auditor’s Office. The board will then set up the meeting with the Wever residents after being able to look over the questions.

In another fertilizer plant-related discussion, Supervisor Larry Kruse presented the proposed breakdown of how the so-called “Pilot” money (payment in lieu of taxes) will be distributed.

Property taxes on the improvements to the 500 acres where the plant will sit have been fully abated for 20 years. The company will still pay taxes on the land as if it was undeveloped. But the company also will pay this money instead of the property taxes and it expected to pay $16.35 million over the next 20 years.

The largest portion of that, about $8.43 million, or 51.57 percent, will go to the Fort Madison Community School District. Lee County will retain 40.75 percent, or $6.67 million and the rest will be split among the Lee County Assessor’s Office, Southeastern Community College and the Wever Fire Department.

Kruse said the idea is to keep the distribution as property taxes would normally be divided.

The board will vote on the distribution plan at an upcoming meeting.

Entities who receive property tax also will benefit from the natural gas replacement tax the company also will pay. That money will be distributed as property tax would be as well.

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