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Ennis approves plant annexation despite protests

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Ellis County Press Staff Writer
ENNIS - Despite citizens vehemently voicing opposition to the city's annexation of land and possibility of a Steag power plant being constructed on the property, Ennis City Commissioners unanimously approved the public hearing item before a packed crowd at city hall during regular session Monday night, Aug. 6 in commission chambers.

Citizens said their concerns included air quality, water, sewage, pollution and respiratory diseases regarding a proposed Steag plant.

Commissioners said annexing the approximate 10.70-acre tract south of Highway 287 near Old Boyce Road, the city would have more control concerning regulations regarding air and water quality in connection with the plant.

Ennis Mayor Russell Thomas reminded citizens they were limited to three minutes in their public speaking in front of the commission.

Dr. Bill Kinzie, city health officer for Ennis for 10 years, said he was speaking in favor of this annexation.

'It would be an advantage to the city from the way of tax base, industrial advantages,' Kinzie said. 'Employees won't be a significant amount of income. Gas-powered plants are quite a bit cleaner. They're a less environmental problem than the plants down at Fairfield.'

Karl Evans of the Ennis area said he opposed the annexation.

'The city has not followed rules,' Evans said about its attempt in annexing the property. I'd like to have a legal opinion whether Ennis has a legal right to annex this property since it's not within its ETJ [extraterritorial jurisdiction].'

Evans read from the Local Government Code Chapter 42, specifying 42.021 Extent of Extraterritorial Jurisdiction, which states, 'The extraterritorial jurisdiction of a municipality is the unincorporated area that is contiguous to the corporate boundaries of the municipality and that is located: …(2) within one mile of those boundaries, in the case of a municipality with 5,000 to 24,999 inhabitants…

Katy Hubener of Blue Skies Alliance, a coalition for clean air based in Cedar Hill, said the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Council would be overseeing the Steag power plant if constructed in this area.

'Annexation is the cart ahead of the mule,' Hubener said. 'The TNRCC rarely denies petitions. The TNRCC is in the business of permitting.'

Hubener told city commissioners to not only be concerned with current emissions, but future emissions from the Steag power plant.

'This will undoubtedly impact future economic development,' she said. 'Will people want to continue farming around here? Where will they [Steag workers] get their water? What kind if runoff will there be? The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex doesn't meet air safety standards. Ellis County doesn't meet air safety standards. I would encourage further discussion. I think citizens' impact should be taken seriously.'

Leslie Campbell of Howard Road in the Waxahachie area echoed concern for water at the site.

'Where would water come from?' Campbell said. 'That's a major concern that should be addressed. They would have to put water out there to meet demands. Wastewater? Ten million gallons a day would have to be disposed of.'

Bill Sanders of the Ennis Chamber of Commerce said he thought this agenda item at the recent city commission meeting was about annexation, not a power plant.

'We at the chamber of commerce are 100 percent behind the annexation,' Sanders said. 'We should've done this 10 or 20 years ago.'

Some of those in the audience laughed.

'Does the city have enough personnel trained in hazardous waste?' said Michael Harwell of the Ennis area.

Harwell said there were only three access roads to the annexed land. He said one was 'a gravel road with a little bitty bridge. It won't hold concrete trucks. Commissionefs don't have funds to ignore this gravel road.'

Harwell said the two other access roads were farm-to-market.

'These roads were constructed for the sole purpose of getting farmers from farms,' he said. 'They have 58,428 pounds maximum. They're in different stages of collapse. There are no steel reinforcements.'

Harwell said cost to improve these roads woukld be $1 1/2 million per mile.

'Annexation iof this land would benefit only the City of Ennis, Ennis Independent School District and Steag,' he said.

'I'm about a mile from where the wind blows,' George Luck said of his home in relation to the annexed property. 'I moved here 18 years ago to get away from industry. This is in the Avalon school district.'

Luck asked how the EISD could take this from the AISD.

'I wished you had annexed this 20 years ago. I wouldn't have moved out here,' he said. 'You don't want it in your neighborhood. I don't want it in mine.'

Marshall Evans of FM 876 said members of Texans Alliance for Good Government trying to keep open minds concerning issues.

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