Thursday, May 23, 2013
Fourteen Carroll County citizens addressed the Quorum Court at its May 17 meeting to express opposition to SWEPCO’s proposed plan to clear a 48-mile swath 150-feet wide and erect towers for 345kV transmission lines through the county. Speakers implored the Justices of the Peace to join with them in opposing the plan by passing a resolution in opposition to SWEPCO’s plan.
Dr. Luis Contreras claimed the estimated $100 million construction cost of the project will be maybe one-tenth of the ultimate cost because of maintenance of the clear cut and costs of the lawsuits which are certain to follow. He also pointed out the “irreversible damage to the environment” for a project that citizens will be paying for but do not need.
“Why build it if we don’t need it?” he asked.
Ilene Powell said, “I am reaching out to members of the Quorum Court to stand with those who oppose the SWEPCO plan.” She said destruction of 800 acres of Carroll County environment would set up a catastrophic domino effect that will touch everyone. Once the towers are erected, tax collections will shrivel up as fewer people come here for a getaway. “It would be unconscionable to let it go forward without fighting. You’ve had time to educate yourselves, so how can you not join us?”
Geraldine Hanby, whose property will be bisected by one of the proposed routes, claimed not only will the organic status of her property be compromised against her will, but “the most beautiful landscape you will ever see will be violated by this project.” She claimed springs and waterways on the route would be contaminated by electromagnetic fields surrounding the lines.
Mike Bishop, executive director of the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, spoke up regarding the negative impact on the tourism industry in Eureka Springs, and asked the court to consider how broadly the whole county will suffer as a consequence.
Roger Shepperd pointed out the environmental impact study supporting SWEPCO’s design is seriously flawed and nothing was mentioned in the report about economic or health repercussions. Not only did the report contain errors, Shepperd said, but notification was haphazard because not all property owners were notified. The company that stands on a flawed EIR and did not notify all the property owners to be directly affected wants to inflict permanent damage to pristine Carroll County real estate. He concluded, “Look around the edges. Should we sign up for haphazard work by SWEPCO? I don’t think so!”
James DeVito, Eureka Springs alderman, said SWEPCO has a negligent attitude toward Arkansas. He said, “They want to put lots of money into a useless project, and they don’t care about the effects on people. SWEPCO has nothing to lose because we’ll pay for it.”
He held up a full-page photo from a newspaper that showed scenery near Eureka Springs. “We won’t be on the cover of anything anymore if this project goes through. We’ve got a lot to lose here.”
Mark Armstrong said he could live anywhere in Europe or America but he chose Carroll County because of its beauty. He claimed the project is ridiculous because it is based on erroneous data. He told the court, “This area is a lovely little secret. Don’t let this happen.”
Glenn Crenshaw, Realtor, said, “Give me a reason a project we get not a dime from is a good idea.” He predicted property values would plummet as soon as the clear cut begins. He pointed out very educated people have studied the proposal and are against it. He asked the court “to preserve our legacy.”
Doug Stowe commented SWEPCO still has not touched a boot on the ground along the proposed routes to see the proximity to farms and homes. He called the idea “completely unreasonable and irrational.” He said the public needs to pull the plug on SWEPCO.
Graham Robinson described hikers in the pristine Ozark forests walking upon a clear cut maintained by pesticides with the power poles all in a row holding up the humming transmission lines – there not for the good of the citizens but for more profit for SWEPCO.
Justices of the Peace got their chances to speak, and JP John Reeve said he was not comfortable totally opposing the SWEPCO plan until he had heard SWEPCO speak and answer questions. Reeve said there were several agencies involved in planning the project and they cannot all be scoundrels. He wanted to hear SWEPCO representatives explain whether Carroll County really needs the power. He moved to table the issue until the court could hear from SWEPCO.
In the vote on Reeve’s motion, JPs Jack Deaton, Don McNeely, Joe Mills, Dan Mumaugh, Matt Phillips, Lamont Richie and Gaylon Riggs voted No, so it failed.
Mumaugh then said he supported the comments by those who had spoken earlier. He suggested SWEPCO could at least use existing rights-of-way. He said he did not co-sponsor the resolution because, as an independent JP representing the people, he has a conflict of interest. He said if the plan goes through as proposed, it might “wipe me out.” He said he wanted to see the Quorum Court go on record as opposing the project, but he did not have great hope the plan could be stopped. He said there are powerful forces at play that created “this terrible, impending project.”
Richie said his entire time in Carroll County has been involved in the tourism industry. Tourists come here for several reasons, but they enjoy it here because it is beautiful. If the project goes through, “SWEPCO will be able to take your property through eminent domain,” he said. “Can you imagine what it will look like if the power lines go through Inspiration Point?”
He asked the question, “Who wants to buy land in the country with a 150-foot herbicide-sprayed swath cut right through it?” He said he strongly opposed the project in its entirety.
JP Larry Swofford said he had voted to table the issue, but he would vote to support the resolution because he stands for property owner rights. “The people said we need to stick together and I believe in that,” he commented.
JP Ron Flake said he thought the resolution was a waste of time, but he agreed “we should stick together. In the spirit of togetherness, I am going to oppose the project. I agree with the claims the study was flawed and we need to try to send a message.”
Deaton added, “If there’s a need for this project, there’s bound to be a better way.”
Richie insisted, “The price for so-called progress is more than any benefit, and I refuse to bow down to what is being called progress.”
Mumaugh made the final observation by stating, “Don’t fall into the argument that this power is for us. It will go where the power grid takes it, but it’s not for us. It’s important we understand what we’re up against and fight it as hard as we can fight it.”
When it was time to vote, JP Reeve abstained but the other ten JPs voted to approve the resolution in opposition to SWEPCO’s project, and they were greeted with generous applause from citizens in attendance.
- The court approved the second and third readings of an ordinance creating three committees, County Facilities and Property, Public Water Development and Personnel.
- Considering an ordinance to create a County Finance Committee and a County Library Committee, Flake said committees are essential for finding ways to spend the county’s money efficiently. He said there are difficult issues coming before the court and JPs must keep abreast of the facts, with committees the only way they can stay informed. The vote was unanimous to approve the first reading of the ordinance.
- Sheriff Bob Grudek told the court recently one of his drug dogs assisted in finding an elderly person who had wandered away from her care facility. He also said his department has undergone much turnover in the past year, and he continues to look for ways to save money, such as getting costs of inmate transfers paid for. Grudek also agreed with those who had spoken against the SWEPCO plan.
- Mumaugh, who retired from the court after the meeting, noted his appreciation for those he had worked with while on the court, and JPs commented on Mumaugh’s exemplary public service.
Next meeting will be Friday, June 21, at 10 a.m.
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