By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
Former Boyne City Commissioner Mike Cummings has returned to city hall in an attempt to convince the city to give Kirtland Products more time to mitigate its noise issues.
Following the Boyne City Commission’s decision on Aug. 13 to send the Kirtland Products noise issue to the Boyne City Planning Commission for a decision on whether the wood pellet fuel manufacturer is in compliance with its conditional use permit, a group of concerned citizens began circulating a petition in favor of the business.
“We want our elected officials to know we appreciate what they’re doing but we also don’t want that plant to close without more effort being placed on fixing the problem,” Cummings said in an interview at the Boyne City Gazette office.
“In a recent decision noted in the newspaper came the information that the commission was sending back the conditional use permit to the planning board; that such review could lead to the closure of the plant,” Cummings wrote in an Aug. 23, letter to city officials and Kirtland Products. “This notice caused great concern to many residents and workers of the Boyne City area. Much has been covered as to those in opposition to the plant and little from those that are for the plant.”
He added, “Thus, the need was established for this non-binding petition approach to let you know the feelings of the general public as to the closure of the plant.”
On Friday Aug. 24, Cummings took the petition containing more than 165 signatures to Boyne City City Hall with plans for more to be collected and submitted.
“We all agree that the plant is creating a noise and that it does trouble some individuals,” Cummings wrote. “We wish that the city and the company … continue down the path to resolve the issues in a timely manner, with the company given more time to comply.”
He added, “To this end, Kirtland should be allowed to continue seeking the answers necessary to reduce the noise and the city continue to assist. But, the plant must remain open to achieve any type of results.”
Cummings asked that the city take into consideration that Kirtland’s plans to open the plant began back in 2008, and that numerous man hours and dollars have been spent on plans, meetings, hearings, studies and noise mitigation efforts.
“Many questions linger as to why the project was allowed to reach the 2011 position,” Cummings wrote.
According to Cummings, Boyne City is a progressive place where the factory was given the blessings of several groups, boards and the commission.
“It gave a building a second chance at life and provided employment for our residents. The city relished in attracting industry,” he wrote. “Boyne City can overcome this problem and be a strong progressive city, hanging its ‘open for business banner.’ A denial of this permit will create a strong negative to industry about our community.”
The petition states that the undersigned support the community’s efforts of bringing industry to the state certified air industrial park.
“The city, after several years of working with Kirtland Products in obtaining various loans, permits and inspections, granted permission to build this plant within the industrial zone,” the petition states. “The plant was opened in 2011, and various ‘noise’ issues surfaced. Additionally, the ‘smell’ became an issue. Kirtland, in concert with the various requests from the city and its committees, agreed to and went into contracts and other inspections to improve upon the operation of the plant. Kirtland also agreed to various cutbacks of various operational hours in determining and correcting the problems. These cutbacks resulted in the loss of full-time employment for several area residents.”
The petition goes on to state that the plant should be given, “all the additional time it needs to reasonably address the issues of ‘smell and noise’ and that the plant remain open, giving employment to local residents. Do not close the plant. The city’s oversight of this facility has been going on for several years during its permit process, and could have addressed the ‘problems,’ now identified, earlier.”
The petition further states, “The city and company should continue to work out some of the problems. It has been stated by some that individuals are not coming to this city because of this ‘noise and smell’ issue; however, as all Boyne City residents know, the normal complaint is that of high taxes or millages. Let’s not gain a reputation of not wanting industry.”