More than 150 town residents showed up to Ixonia’s town council meeting on September 14th at Chivaree on Park (the old fireman’s hall). With all of the seats filled, there was only room to stand. Everyone was there to voice their concerns about the WE Energies proposal to build a Class 1 explosive material LNG holding facility near our homes, town, and schools.
After the normal town affairs were discussed, the board allowed WE Energies to give a 45 minute marketing presentation to the room. As the presentation was more spin than substance, town members in the audience were silenced by chairman Perry Goetsch as they asked for details on the WE Energies risk assessment.
Ixonia’s lawyer Stan Riffle stepped in to assure the town that there is nothing that the town can do to stop the WE Energies proposal and, if anything, that they are doing us a favor for fast-tracking the facility’s proposal without reviewing the final risk assessments. He told us that if we want to stop the proposal that we need to do so at the county level and at the PSC. Het also informed us that although we pay his salary through our taxes, that in fact he does not work for us, and that we should get our own lawyer. Thankfully Save Ixonia has been fundraising and interviewing potential fits to represent the residents of Ixonia.
Thankfully, council member Jeff Taylor took command of the stage for nearly 30 minutes and grilled WE Energies on behalf of the cheering crowd in the hall. Taylor shared that he has taken the time to speak with citizens of Ixonia about the proposal, and that nearly all have been opposed.
Unfortunately, his questions about the inherent risks of building a Class 1 explosive material LNG holding facility near our elementary school was met with the same vague promises that they intend to follow the bare minimum standards set by the deregulated Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
Next, the board allowed a public comment period where each person could only speak for two minutes. Over thirty people got up to speak, and all except the family selling the land to WE Energies, spoke passionately about the concerns of placing an explosive facility of this magnitude next to our elementary school, the impact the proposed 16-story eye sore would have on Ixonia’s rural preservation goals, and the proven 10-20% declines in our housing market values.
Each speaker was met with applause from the crowd eager to have their voices heard among their board of elected representatives, and for a moment it seemed like at least one of their constituents would hit a chord with the board.
But unfortunately the board had already made up their mind.
Councilman Jaeger worded the board’s position best by saying “I’m going to vote in favor of this project, and I don’t care how you feel about it.” He was proud of the fact that he had planted trees along his property line 20 years ago and now wouldn’t have to see the facility from his property, and consoled the people in the room by saying that the facility would be no worse than the annoying barking dogs that he has to listen to near his house.
Perry Goetsch and Brian Derge also voted in favor of the proposal, citing that their job is really hard and that if anyone thinks they could do a better job then please do. When acknowledging the 150 people in the room, the 30 townspeople that spoke, and the dozens of letters sent to them, they said that some of the messages hurt their feelings and therefore didn’t need to listen to anyone besides WE Energies on the matter.
Council member Peter Mark abstained from voting due to his conflict of interest as a WE Energies stock owner, although made it clear to the crowd that he was in support of the proposal and had participated in all of the planning meetings up until the vote instead of recusing himself. According to many who we have spoken, this conduct may be against the law.
Council member Jeff Taylor was the only member of the board that advocated on behalf of the people of Ixonia and voted nay.
Although the final outcome of the vote was a disappointment, and a clear indication that democracy is dying in our small town, the fight is not over. Many of us are committed to bringing these concerns, and our own lawyer, to the next few stages of the proposal at the county zoning committee hearing in October and at the Wisconsin PSC hearings. If you want to get involved in our fight to keep our community safe and beautiful, sign up for our newsletter here, join our Facebook group here, help us to get a lawyer by donating here, and send emails to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org