October 22, 2014

OUR VIEW: Edgerton officials should represent citizens

Edgerton city officials are in so far over their heads. If they don’t start heeding reasonable advice and using common sense, they’re going to do irreparable damage to their community.
Take, for example, a proposal to construct an asphalt and concrete plant within steps of Edgerton city limits.
The city was caught virtually unaware, when the proposal first surfaced at a Southwest Johnson County Consolidated Zoning Board meeting.
Officials asked zoning board members to delay the decision for a permit for the plant, because Edgerton hadn’t had time to examine the paperwork. It shouldn’t have taken too much time to figure out an asphalt plant so near Edgerton city limits and residential areas would be detrimental to the community.
But instead of publicly and vehemently opposing the plan at the first moment, officials just asked for time.
Formally, Edgerton officials mounted what appears to be a half-hearted campaign to keep the plant from its doorstep, and the limited effort resulted in the zoning board twice recommending approval of a conditional use permit for plant.
Edgerton residents, however, refused to go quietly into the night despite a deck stacked firmly against them.
First, they attempted to register formal opposition to the project. That required a petition, which unfortunately, was not signed by enough people to force a super-majority of support from the county commission. However, they had a particularly stiff challenge because the asphalt plant property is virtually surrounded by county park land, and the county was not a signatory to the petition. In order to mount a valid petition, residents needed a large percentage of property owner signatures.
Meanwhile, Edgerton officials quietly met with asphalt plant officials. They worked out an agreement that amounted to a deal with the devil. In a meeting in which council members said they felt like they were being blackmailed, the council agreed to formally and publicly support the plant, in return for a pittance. It appeared, the asphalt plant would only agree to be a good neighbor if the Edgerton council publicly supported the project to the county commission.
We do not understand or agree with council members’ decision to publicly support a project so many residents vehemently oppose. Council could have rejected Bettis’ requests for public praise, and instead, requested stipulations from members of the county commission themselves.
In our experience, public officials are almost always willing to heed the advice and direction of other public officials, which is how Edgerton has, so far, only narrowly avoided having an asphalt plant on its stoop.
At least two county commissioners said during an Aug. 28 meeting that they would not be in support of the plant, but because the city of Edgerton supported it, they saw no reason to deny the asphalt plant permit. Two commissioners opposed the plant outright. Had the other two, who only acquiesced due to Edgerton’s support followed suit and said “no,” the permit would have been denied on Aug. 28.
Fortunately, Edgerton officials have time to make their true thoughts on the plant known to county commissioners.
If Edgerton council members don’t want an asphalt plant at the city’s entrance, they should be individually and personally calling every single county commissioner in the next 30 days.
And if they aren’t following the citizens’ lead, Edgerton citizens should consider getting a new council. This one has so far let you down.

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