CASS COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)—It's a battle that's lasted over five months.
"It's kind of suspicious to me," said City Council Member Jake LeDonne. "It seems like they are almost holding the county at hostage."
People living in Logansport have voiced opposition over WSP, a zinc factory, setting up camp in their city. On Monday the Logansport city council unanimously passed a resolution against WSP's construction.
"We're hoping that it's going to sway the county to change their thinking on WSP coming to Cass County," said LeDonne.
Council member LeDonne said if the city opposes the decision, it should speak volumes to county leaders.
"Logansport represents nearly half of all Cass County and I think it sends a pretty strong message that the City of Logansport is against WSP coming to Cass County," said LeDonne.
A messge that has caused residents to create a Cass County Coalition Facebook page, which has nearly 5,000 members. Phillip Stephenson is one of them. He said he's tried reaching out to county leaders about the issue.
"The only response I've gotten was: When I was your age I thought I knew it all too," said Stephenson. "You forget that we represent the whole county and not just your opinion."
Stephenson said the county's silence on this issue does little to rectify the gap in understanding.
"The county and WSP have been doing all of this behind closed doors, they had been negotiating, and coming to agreements," said Stephenson. "One day they just had a meeting and confirmed all of these agreements."
Agreements that have allowed WSP to begin construction. It's shy of 4 miles south of the city and sits across from a crop field and nearby homes. Retired chemical engineer Malcolm Jarrell says the risk out weighs the benefits.
"What was a concern to me is it's just that, it's not the kind of thing that you want located next to crop storage, outdoor crop storage and farm land and it's not the thing that you want up wind from a big population center like Logansport," said Jarrell.
WSP reached out to News 18 with the following statement. The company said it has reached out to city council members.
“There is strong support for our project in Cass County and the recent unanimous votes by the County Commission and Redevelopment Commission to move the project forward are the proof. We’re also getting a lot of interest in the jobs from local residents and we will soon announce the hiring of the plant manager, which will allow us to turbocharge the hiring process at a time when good-paying jobs are desperately needed. Bottom line, the City Council has no authority over this project and their vote is of no consequence. In fact, this appears to be a publicity stunt that may backfire because it tells any current or future company that might be considering the area to look somewhere else. This is the wrong message to send in this current economic crisis.”
– Ali Alavi, Sr. Vice President, Regulatory Affairs & General Counsel, Heritage Environmental Services
The company continues:
WSP was made aware several weeks ago of the possibility that the CCCC resolution was to be considered by the rules committee of the Logansport City Council.
Upon learning of that, WSP reached out to the City Council on several occasions, including by way of the attached letter, to offer to meet with the city council to answer any questions they had and allay any fears or apprehension related to the project caused by the vast amounts of misinformation being spread throughout the community by an opposition group. ALL went unresponded to.
To date, the city council has not taken up WSP on its offer to brief them on the project and candidly answer any questions they may have.
If the City Council wishes to say they responded and/or reached out to the company, I would ask that you request proof.
It is not clear how such a resolution can be considered without appropriate due diligence being performed by the relevant legislative body.
It should be noted that the resolution has no force or effect as the project is not within the Logansport city limits.
While the City Council vote has zero bearing over the course of the project, the County does have jurisdiction.
There have been 3 recent votes by the County to advance the project—ALL 3 were unanimous in their support:
County Commission vote on Resolution 20-10, related to the allocation area for the Tax Increment Financing (or TIF) bond.
Redevelopment Commission vote on Resolution 2020-05, approval of the real estate purchase.
Redevelopment Commission vote on Resolution 2020-08, related to the sale agreement.
The votes were required to ensure that the successful sale and transfer of land to WSP and that property taxes from the project support a local “TIF” bond that is part of the financing.
The collective votes mark the final action by the Cass County Commissioners on the project. The next step is a formal vote by the County Council.
WSP has begun the hiring process and plans to begin operations in the first quarter of 2021.
WSP has gone to great lengths to engage with local stakeholders, including hosting an in-person community forum at the county fairgrounds, two virtual town halls, being available at public meetings and hearings of the county commissioners, council, redevelopment commission and numerous one-on-one discussions with concerned residents.
As stated on the occasions described above and on the WSP website, the facility will be subject to and comply with applicable environmental laws, an air permit, and under the oversight of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and United States Environmental Protection Agency. It will be environmentally sound and a model of sustainable development.
News 18 will continue following this story.