By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
The citizens committee charged with seeking solutions to and hiring consultants for the Kirtland noise issue held its first meeting on Wednesday Feb. 29.
Despite concerns voiced by committee chairman Hugh Conklin, committee members overwhelmingly decided to hold future meetings open to the public unless certain topics, including proprietary Kirtland information or other sensitive subjects warranted closed sessions.
“There was quite a bit of discussion at the city commission meeting (Feb. 28) … about whether these are open meetings or if they’re private so … you feel free to talk,” Conklin said. “We have a microphone here now … and you just don’t know how people will use it.”
He added, “The question is do you prefer it being, you know, closed so we can have open and honest discussions?”
No fewer than three times during the meeting did Conklin mention to the committee that a “tape recorder” or “microphone” was on the table and that the meeting was being recorded.
Conklin had also expressed concerns about the meetings being open to the public during the city commission meeting of Feb. 28, wherein he said people might not be willing to speak openly and honestly if the community was allowed to view the proceedings.
In addition to deciding to hold the meetings in the public eye, the committee also overwhelmingly felt allowing public comments, within reason, at the beginning of meetings is fine with a potential time limit of three minutes.
Conklin said the committee should meet soon after the proposal deadline and possibly only have a few of the committee members sit in on the interview process until the committee members become more comfortable with one another.
Conklin said the committee could set “working committees” where the entire committee need not always meet as a whole.
Brooks asked what will happen if the committee breaks into smaller groups and if they will be open to the public.
Conklin said that will have to be decided depending on the subject.
“All we’re going to be doing is making a recommendation to a body who is going to be making a decision,” Conklin said. “That’s all we’re doing. We may make a recommendation and it may not fly.”
At least one committee member said there should be a good reason for going into closed session regardless of the size of the committee.
Kirtland President Tom Monley said the only reason he would want to go into private is if Kirtland’s propriety information is to be discussed.
Meetings will occur at 6 p.m. On Thursdays unless otherwise noticed.
The next meeting will be on March 15, at either the Boyne District Library or Boyne City Hall, which will be determined at a later date.
Eight of the 10 committee members attended the meeting. Kirk Jabara and Shear were both out of town.
Committee member Tom Johnson, a Boyne City resident, said he was there due to a number of concernshe had with the plant and the citizens being affected by it.
“I’m hoping that we can find a way to find a positive resolution by working together,” he said.
Another man named Tom Johnson is a resident of Petoskey, but works with Arete Industries and its sister company Kirtland Products.
He administers the air quality permits for the companies, and said he was asked to sit on the committee by Kirtland CEO Leon Tupper.
Boyne resident Paul Smoot, a maintenance manager at Kirtland was also there to help represent Kirtland.
Kirtland President Tom Monley said he was on the committee to help find a way to, “live harmoniously with our neighbors.”
Boyne City Executive Assistant Barb Brooks said her job will be to organize meetings, maintain information and take notes.
Mike Hausler, a Boyne City insurance agent, said he represented the concerned citizens.
Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson said he will help answer questions and help with research and other information the committee needs.
Al Aown said he is representing the concerned citizens.
Laurie Leaman does environmental work for a living, and she does contract work with a local cement plant.
“I felt like I was seeing both sides of the coin because I can hear the Kirtland plant from my house yet I work in this environment that also has similar problems, so I want to be on the committee to help find solutions for this also,” she said. “I kind of feel in the middle in a sense.”
Ryan Giem said he was on the committee representing the concerned homeowners as well.
Conklin said both Shear and Jabara were approached to join the committee for their experience as businessmen and their involvement in the community in addition to their problem-solving skills.
McPerson said technically this is merely an advisory committee that will give recommendations and help look for solutions which the appropriate bodies may use in their consideration of how to proceed on the matter.
“We developed, at direction of the city commission, a request for proposal that identified the number of issues that they talked about: the noise, dust, particulate, odor,” he said. “We submitted it to about 15 firms.”
The firms were identified to have the noise and acoustical engineering expertise desired.
March 12 is the deadline for the RFP, after which the committee will consider which consultant will be best suited to deal with the issue.
The five specific items a consultant will have to address are:
1. A site visit to measure and quantify the noise, odor and emissions from Kirtland.
2. Identify causes of noise and measures that can be implemented, the cost to implement such measures and estimates of what noise can be expected after noise abatement measures have been taken.
The goal of the noise reduction measure is to reduce the noise levels that can be reasonably expected so as not to be disturbing to the homes in the surrounding residential zoned areas that are approximately 1,000 to 2,000 feet away.
3.Review and assess the MDEQ emissions permit and plant configuration and operation. Review emission modeling done by consultant to obtain permit and, per professional judgment identify any additional modeling that may be necessary to evaluate impacts on public health.
4.Would determine source of odors and identify mitigation measures than can be implemented.
5.Determine specific source of any particulate being transported off-site and identify any measures that can be implemented to eliminate off-site transfer of particulate.
Discussion included whether one company could handle all those tasks, and McPherson said a couple firms had already indicated that they would only be able to deal with the noise issues.
“Since we have little experience putting a request for proposal like this together … we may have to go back and kinda alter this,” Conklin said.
Conklin said he has already begun talking to a few firms that have dealt with issues similar to this.
“This is kind of a fluid process,” he said. “We have no idea what it’s going to cost.”
At least some of the costs of hiring the firm or firms will come from Boyne’s Local Development Finance Authority.
The decision to make the offer to help pay for the consultant(s) was made on Feb. 13, during an LDFA meeting.