Homer Mine Talks Continue After Mayor Breaks Tie Vote

Opponents of the proposed coal mine in Homer gather at Monday night's village board meeting.

Opponents of the proposed coal mine in Homer gather at Monday night's village board meeting.

(Jeff Bossert/WILL)

The mayor of Homer has kept discussions alive on a possible coal mine for a couple more weeks.

Village board members Monday night voted to a 3-3 tie on a possible water contract with Sunrise Coal Company, but Mayor David Lucas voted yes to break it.

Lucas said normally after a tie, he will seek more discussion.  But Lucas said Homer and Sunrise Coal had come too far not to see this one through, when treated water and sewer services are there to offer.

More than 70 people, mostly mine opponents, filled the village board room, some carrying signs. Lucas said they make up a small part of the population, and have not been able to sway the minds of others, including farmers who have sold mineral rights.

“They’re trying to use the village government to accomplish their goal,” he said.  “I don’t think that’s appropriate use of government.  That’s not what we’re here to do.  And it’s a minority, I know the room was filled, but it’s a small room.  It’s a minority group that has a special interest, and they’re trying to use government to accomplish their purpose. I don’t think that’s the right thing for government to do.”

Opponents like Homer resident Suzanne Smith said mine supporters fail to look at the future, and what she calls a ‘dirty process’ would mean to water quality.

Jonathan Ashbrook of rural Homer said he is encouraged a couple trustees seemed to have a change of heart.

“There’s still hope,” he said.  “The board is clearly divided, and the public has been providing lots of feedback to the board, and all the board members have been receptive to receiving feedback from the public. So the fight goes on.”

The straw poll prompted by Lucas followed two hours of fine-tuning the contract.

In that vote, Trustees Mike Johnson, Ray Cunningham and Larry Mingee backed the contract, while Roy Woodmansee, Guy James, and Kevin Knott voted no before Lucas broke the tie.

A final draft prepared by the Homer Trustees, Sunrise, and their attorneys will be finished by Jan. 25, with a special board meeting to vote on the contract on the Jan. 28.

Story source: WILL