Weed City Council members say they were misrepresented

Earl Bolender

The Weed City Council got an earful of contentious and often explosive dialogue from citizens during their meeting Thursday night. The issue was the Roseburg cogeneration plant – a project that was approved by the Siskiyou County Planning Commission during their meeting on Sept. 30.

The heart of the issue in Thursday’s council meeting was the contention that councilmember Brenda Woods misrepresented the council at that  meeting.

“I ask Brenda Woods to resign her seat on the council because she misrepresented the council at the cogeneration hearing,” Nancy Mazzier said when she was at the podium addressing the council.

Steve Henson, operations manager for Roseburg, took his turn at the podium. “I would like to acknowledge the support of the city council on our biomass project especially the mayor. We have been a company for 72 years and take our position in the community very seriously,” he said.

Henson said that all the facts were deliberated in the process the company went through during the Environmental Impact Report. He said that he…”urged people in the community to drop by and take a look themselves. We are very open.” He asked the council for their position on the plant based on what Woods said at the county approval meeting.

Mayor Chuck Sutton apologized to Henson on behalf of the council. “The majority of the council and the city’s position is in support of the plant,” Sutton said.

Others at the meeting spoke in support of Woods. Karen Rogers said, “I understand that she (Woods) is supporting the project as long as it follows the laws of the state. You should be proud of Brenda (addressing the council); she checked her facts.”

Bob Hall, a candidate for city council in November, told the council members that they shouldn’t be that far apart on the potential health aspects of the plant.

Dr. Grace Roberts, a local veterinarian and microbiologist, told the council that Woods was very professional and represented her interests at the approval meeting.

Roberts said, “There are serious health concerns that need to be addressed. I’m not against Roseburg. I don’t want to see a single job disappear. But there are very serious risks of Legionnaire’s Disease from cooling towers. I plan to appeal the county’s decision to approve the plant.”

Sutton said, “It’s not the content of what Brenda said, it was the conduct. She has a right as an individual to express her opinion but not as a member of the council,” he said, referring to a letter the council approved in August stating its position in favor of the plant.

“Brenda didn’t do what this council sent her there to do. I’m upset at that,” said council member Jerry Broomfield. “She deliberately disobeyed the council. I don’t trust her, and it will be a long time until she earns my trust again.”

Council member Leo Sartor said, “She will never have my trust again.”

Mayor Sutton said to Woods, “I do believe you have lost the trust of the council and that is the end of that.”

In her own defense Woods said that she was in support of Roseburg. “I have talked to people on both sides and I believe industry and environment can work together hand in hand. I did not speak against Roseburg not once,” she said, alluding to the fact that she spoke during the neutral comment time at the county hearing, which was after the pros and cons on the issue were heard.

In other business during Thursday’s council meeting, John Hammond, the Mayor of Montague, asked the council for support of his plan to ultimately pursue buying the rail line that connected Siskiyou County with Southern Oregon which has been discontinued. Right now he is looking for local support to pursue money for a feasibility study which he says will cost about $35,000.

The project is complex Hammond told the council but comes down to,” …keeping the line going to stimulate economic growth.”

Hammond gave the council a letter from county supervisor Jim Cook, who wrote, in part, “I will be asking the board of supervisors to move to the forefront of this issue by working with the City of Montague and their feasibility study. We will be gathering information as quickly as possible on how to find the funds to become train line owners… when we have a rough draft proposal with some real numbers behind it we will be asking for your input, suggestions and assistance,” the letter from Cook stated.

Hammond also made available to the council a report by Dr. David Gallo, Department of Economics, California State University, Chico, that concluded switching from rail to trucks, as far as the forest industry goes, would increase transportation fuel costs by $2.75 million overall and collateral costs by $1 million annually.

On Aug. 27 the Montague City Council approved a resolution to put up $2,800 under the Economic Development Allocation (Project Specific and Non-Specific) from the state to do a railroad feasibility study and write an over-the-counter application for purchase of (a) railroad.

Mayor Sutton asked Weed city administrator Earl Wilson to place the proposal information on the council agenda for November.