April 9, 2013
Residents concerned about Homer soy plant
HOMER — Neighbors of the former Homer Oil facility at 4 Center St. decried what they called a lack of information about the proposed Homer Soy Products project at a Village Board meeting Monday.
The village knows little about the project because Homer Soy Products is still working through paperwork to receive a state grant, said Mayor Genevieve Suits.
“As soon as we know something, it becomes public,” Suits said.
The Homer Soy Products project is slated to receive $800,319 in state funding through the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council, the state announced in December.
The company is expected to create 25 jobs at the facility and plans to invest $1.4 million in the project. The $800,319 in funding includes $485,319 from Empire State Development funds awarded to the company and $315,000 in Homes and Community Renewal aid to the village.
The village has not approved the project, but it endorsed the company’s right to apply for state funding, said Patrick Perfetti, the village’s attorney.
“I can’t deny business the opportunity,” Suits said.
After a 3-2 vote, with Suits casting the deciding vote, the village endorsed the project at its July meeting.
According to the July meeting’s agenda, a public hearing was scheduled to discuss a tree grant, and many who attended were surprised by the soybean plant resolution.
The time for the public hearing was also not announced on the agenda, and the hearing was held at 5 p.m., rather than 5:30 p.m. when the Village Board meetings usually begin.
Suits said in July the issues were due to a clerical error.
Ed Barhaite, of 6 Center St., accused Suits of being willing to spend taxpayer money on a village office addition because of poor air quality in the Homer Town Hall, but not being concerned with the quality of air surrounding the soybean plant.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has to approve the Homer Soy Products project, Suits replied.
“They really want to make it work,” she said of the company’s efforts to design a healthy plant.
SUNY Morrisville and Empire AgriFuels backed out in 2010 of a previous plan to create a biodiesel fuel factory, not because the plant’s emissions could not be controlled but because it was too expensive to do so, Perfetti said.
“I can’t imagine without a scrubber or something that’ll survive,” said Trustee Mike Berry, referring to a venturi scrubber, which captures and destroys odor-causing gases using a suction process.
Shelly Barhaite, Ed Barhaite’s wife, was not opposed to the project as whole, but took issue with its location.
“We want them in Homer,” Barhaite said, “just not in my backyard.”
The couple’s property, which they bought six years ago, shares an entrance with the meal producing plant that closed in 2004.
The property is very dilapidated, Barhaite said. “The police are there every week,” she said, noting that calls will become more frequent as the weather warms up.
Ed Braun, of 17 Center St., questioned the competency of the project’s developers to run a soybean plant.
The project was proposed by a retired banker from Syracuse and a chemist with previous plant experience, Suits said.
The village should be concerned with the number of tractor-trailers that will travel village roads if the proposed plant opens, Braun said after the meeting, adding that the streets are not wide enough for the trucks to make a turn without riding over curbs.
Within half a mile of the proposed plant is the Homer High School, said Shelly Barhaite after the meeting, a mother of three children who live at home and a college student.
“Our concern is that the trucks won’t see the kids,” Barhaite said, noting that her children walk to school. “How many trucks is it going to take?”
“This isn’t going to happen tomorrow or next month,” Trustee Kevin Slack emphasized at the meeting.
“So we have a lot of time to discourage these people,” Ed Braun replied.
In other business:
l The board scheduled a special meeting for 5 p.m. April 22 to discuss an addition to the village offices.
l Republican Kevin Slack was sworn in for a two-year trustee term, as well as Democrat newcomer Alexandra Mulvihill.
Mulvihill, wife of WXHC radio news director Eric Mulvihill, is a physical therapy assistant at Heyer Physical Therapy and has been active in village events such as Homer Winterfest.
When asked why she wanted to join the board, Mulvihill replied that she did not feel like talking to the newspaper.
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