Biomass lawsuit negotiations fizzle

By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Negotiations between city officials and Healthy Dubois County to settle a lawsuit that Healthy Dubois County has filed against two city boards concerning the conversion the city’s power plant into a biomass-burning facility have hit another snag.

Jasper Utility Service Board President Wayne Schuetter said at the end of the board’s regular monthly meeting Monday that Healthy Dubois County and Dr. Norma Kreilein rejected the city’s counteroffer Friday.

Kreilein and Healthy Dubois County proposed a settlement through their attorney in July, which was rejected by the utility board and Jasper Common Council in August. The two city boards proposed a counteroffer through their attorney in August, stipulating that the offer was open until Friday.

After Schuetter made the announcement Monday night, he read a prepared thee-paragraph statement in which he said that city officials were disappointed with the rejection. In that, he read, “Despite the City of Jasper’s efforts in reaching across the table, Dr. Kreilein and Healthy Dubois County were not willing to enter into a dialogue to discuss the differences in the settlement offers.”

The Herald asked Healthy Dubois County via an email if it had rejected the city’s counteroffer and if it was unwilling to “enter into a dialogue to discuss the differences in the settlement offers,” as Schuetter stated. In response, Kreilein, president of Healthy Dubois County, submitted a written statement to the media this morning and stipulated that it “be used exclusively in its entirety.”

The statement reads: “HDC initiated dialogue in good faith, contingent upon Jasper government acknowledging the nonviability of the plant, only to have its offer intentionally publicly misrepresented without remorse, and therefore rejects Jasper officials’ failure to provide a respectful, relevant response including their own accountability for illicit, evasive legal procedures, lack of foresight and refusal to heed warnings like candidate Seitz’s June 24, 2011, statement. In other words, stop wasting our time.”

Kreilein was referring to Terry Seitz, now mayor of Jasper. His statement is included in a letter to the editor on Page 13.

Healthy Dubois County is claiming in the lawsuit that executive sessions and meetings with a volunteer group prior to the city’s August 2011 decision to lease the city’s power plant to Atlanta-based Twisted Oak Corp. violated the Open Door Law.

Kreilein and Healthy Dubois County offered a settlement to the lawsuit in July. The terms of the settlement were that:

”¢ Jasper will reimburse the plaintiffs’ legal fees and expenses.

Ӣ Jasper will acknowledge (without specifics) that there were Open Door Law violations.

Ӣ Jasper will acknowledge it underestimated the potential health effects of the biomass project.

Ӣ Jasper will acknowledge that although there were factual disagreements in this case, the plaintiffs and Healthy Dubois County were neither untruthful in this process nor are they a detriment to the community.

Ӣ The industrial/commercial municipal biomass and/or coal combustion project at 1163 E. 15th St. has been abandoned.

”¢ Healthy Dubois County will volunteer, in the spirit of saving taxpayers’ dollars, to assist Jasper in grant-writing and securing funds from the Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Club, Heartwood, ValleyWatch, Hoosier Environmental Council, 350.org, etc. for the power plant demolition costs and brown site cleanup.

Ӣ The settlement is to be a public agreement with no confidentiality.

The counteroffer from the utility board and city council proposed:

Ӣ Mutual dismissal of all claims by all parties with prejudice.

”¢ Each party bears his, her or its attorneys’ fees and costs.

The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 14 and 15 in Dubois Circuit Court with special judge Knox Circuit Judge Sherry B. Gregg Gilmore presiding.

In the meantime, the council and utility service board have submitted a request to Gilmore that Healthy Dubois County be mandated to “respond substantively to interrogatories and to produce documents.” Kaiser said the questions have to do with what the plaintiffs know about the volunteer group that they allege violated the Open Door Law. Gilmore has scheduled a hearing on that matter for Oct. 16 in Knox Circuit Court in Vincennes.

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.




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