Homer Board to Consider Water Contract for Mine
By Jeff Bossert
Nearly a month after a straw poll kept talks going, the Homer Village Board is expected to vote Monday on a coal mining company’s request for treated water.
On January 14th, Homer Mayor David Lucas broke a 3-3 tie in a straw poll between board members, favoring the contract, continuing talks with Sunrise Coal. He said discussions had come too far not to see this contract come to a vote.
Lucas says regardless of how residents feel about coal mining, Monday's vote is simply about the sale of treated water and sewer services, and Homer has the water and well capacity to sell water at a time when people are using less of it and the village needs the income.
“I have tried to separate this as more of a business arrangement, a regular sale of water to a company, and tried to stay out of the debate on whether coal is good, bad, evil, a necessity," he said. "I tried to look at it strictly as a water sale, a utility sale for the village.”
Negotiations with Sunrise have gone on for six months, and Homer Village Board meetings have brought large crowds concerned about damage to groundwater, private wells, and air pollution. The contract calls for about 20,000 gallons in treated water a day. Lucas says there’s no discussion yet with Sunrise on a separate contract for hundreds of thousands gallons of raw water.
Homer resident Suzanne Smith does say the extra time taken by village trustees has allowed them to weigh all the issues involved.
But Smith says a yes vote on the treated water contract Monday enables the mine, since it’s one of the requirements.
“Since they think it’s inevitable they want to be able to cash in on whatever they can while it’s here," she said. "We just disagree on that. And they’re looking at their fiscal responsibility but I do think that it is shortsighted in short term.”
The contract for raw water would be seeking hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day. At that point, Smith says the Champaign County Board could get involved, since that contract could involve the Salt Fork River.
The Homer Village Board meets at 7 p.m. Monday in the village building's Jackson Ellis community room.