The battle over a proposed $75 million garbage-fueled power plant at the Ada County landfill got more dynamic Tuesday. Heres a recap of new developments:
Citizens delivered petitions to Ada County requesting a public hearing as permitted under state law. Two of the three county commissioners have said no hearing is required.
Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower and Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney announced that they have appointed a retired FBI investigator to look into allegations of criminal misconduct surrounding the contract.
Commissioner David Case gave the Statesman a public record that the county refused to provide, in which the county engineer says Dynamis complex and experimental project needs to be independently reviewed to assure that the safety, health and welfare of the public is not jeopardized.
Case said of his fellow commissioners: I cannot idly sit by and see all this stuff going on behind closed doors. It makes me an accessory and I will not be an accessory to their dealings.
When a citizen stood up Tuesday and asked questions during a commission meeting to make additional changes to the Dynamis contract, Chairman Rick Yzaguirre told him that he was out of order and said, I am not listening to your testimony.
Several members of Idaho Citizens for a Safe Environment and Transparent Government gave Ada County Commissioner David Case a large stack of papers Tuesday after the commissions discussion of Dynamis.
I have here 181 petitions calling for a hearing before the Ada County Planning and Zoning Commission on the Dynamis project, said Mike Stilton. Each document bore one signature from a citizen concerned about the project.
Case took the petitions and said he would deliver them to Ada County Clerk Chris Rich.
My job is to make sure we get these to the proper people to get this petition certified and sent through to process, Case said.
The commission majority has so far refused to hold a public hearing on the proposed plant that would turn landfill trash into gas and produce power with that gas. They say a hearing is not necessary because the Dynamis project is an allowed use within the county-owned landfill.
But under Idahos Local Land Use and Planning Act, when no public hearing has been held on an application prior to final action, if 20 affected persons petition for a hearing, the hearing shall be held.
Commissioner Sharon Ullman dismissed concerns raised by citizens about the project. The people who are opposed to this primarily live near the landfill; they knew there was a landfill there, she said.
She and fellow commissioners Rick Yzaguirre and Fred Tilman, who is no longer on the board, approved the project in 2010.
We knew we would be living next to a landfill. We did not know we would be living next to a garbage gasifier and a large power plant, said Ken Lamkin, a member of Idaho Citizens for a Safe Environment who lives near Hidden Hollow Landfill north of Boise.
RETIRED FBI INVESTIGATOR
After several unsuccessful attempts to find a law enforcement agency willing and able to investigate criminal allegations made against Dynamis and the three commissioners who approved the project, Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney and Prosecutor Greg Bower appointed a retired FBI agent to conduct the inquiry.
Verna R. Kessler is a certified public accountant who retired from the FBI with more than 20 years of experience investigating financial fraud and other crimes. She will be working under the direction of Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Hiedeman, the special prosecutor appointed to determine whether any criminal wrongdoing occurred.
We needed to find someone the community would trust and who did not have any political ties to any of the parties involved, Bower said. Verna's experience and credibility made her the perfect person for the job.
Kesslers inquiry is expected to take about two months.
Because Ada County called for the investigation, the sheriffs office is responsible for the costs.
I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOUR TESTIMONY
More than a half-dozen citizens attended Tuesdays commission meeting, at which the commission was slated to make changes to the contract.
The Statesman cannot report what changes Yzaguirre and Ullman made Case voted against them because the county has not responded to a request for a copy of the new agreement.
Case told Yzaguirre and Ullman during the meeting that the public has not had an opportunity to stand before the commissioners in a public meeting to comment or ask questions.
We may not have had a public hearing at this level, but we really dont need to, said Yzaguirre. There have been a number of meetings held by Dynamis. They have gone out into the neighborhood. They hosted two meetings at the Eagle Hilton. I think there is a lot of misinformation out there.
Then let the public address you directly, sir, said Lamkin, interrupting the commission meeting.
I think we have. You are out of order, Yzaguirre said, You had plenty of opportunity to comment. I am not listening to your testimony. This is not the time or the place for it.
One Ada County resident who hoped to weigh in on Dynamis noted that commissioners held a public hearing on a resolution regarding which printer the county would use for election materials.
They hold a public hearing to get a printer but they dont hold one for a power plant and a gasifier, said Kris Stilton.
INDEPENDENT ENGINEERING REVIEW
Last month Dynamis delivered rolls and sheaves of paper as part of its building permit application. The public cannot review much of this application because the company considers it proprietary.
Ada County staff is tasked with reviewing plans for this complex facility, which will super-heat up to 408 tons of trash and tires daily, converting it into gas and then generating up to 22 megawatts of electricity per day.
County engineer Jim Farrens sent a letter to his boss, Development Services Director Meg Leatherman, relaying concerns that he has with reviewing the application.
The Statesman filed a public records request for a copy of Farrens two-page letter. The county denied that request on Monday, saying the letter was a personnel matter.
This did not sit well with Case. On Tuesday, he gave the Statesman a copy of the letter, saying: I fully believe you were wrongfully denied that public record. That is a letter from an employee about a project to his boss.
In his Aug. 28 letter, Farrens wrote: In order to verify that the project will perform as designed, I believe that a professional peer review of the plans and documents is clearly called for in order to assure that the safety, health and welfare of the public is not jeopardized by this project. Although I am a licensed professional engineer, I am not qualified by experience or training to perform a professional peer review of this project.
Both Dynamis and the county have stated that the technology is experimental. If it gets built, this would be the first plant for the Eagle-based company.
The county decided not to heed Farrens advice, so during Tuesdays meeting, Case made a motion to enlist an independent engineering review, but neither Yzaguirre nor Ullman seconded the motion.
I wanted it on the record that I had made a motion to get a third-party review, Case said after the meeting.
Case, who beat Ullman in the May 15 primary and then was appointed to fill the remainder of Vern Bisterfeldts term, faces two challengers in November. He has previously refused to comment publicly on his experiences as the new commissioner these past few months, saying that he does not want to give the appearance he is placing his campaign before his duty as a commissioner.
After Tuesdays meeting, he decided to talk publicly.
This is not about politics. This is about honoring and serving the people of Ada County and protecting their health and their safety. I cannot idly sit by and see all this stuff going on behind closed doors. It makes me an accessory and I will not be an accessory to their dealings.
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell