November 23, 2014

Elyria
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Limestone plant plan presented

LORAIN – About 100 people who are worried about dust, odor and truck traffic from a proposed limestone grinding factory grilled representatives of Oglebay Norton Co. on Sunday about plans to build the plant in the 200-acre Riverbend Commerce Park south of Missouri and Colorado avenues.

People toured the site across the Black River from the U.S. Steel plant and then spent nearly three hours questioning company officials at the Knights of St. John building.

ABOUT THE PLAN
Where: 15-acre site on the Black River across from the steel plant
How much: $17 million investment in land, buildings and equipment
Estimated tax revenue: $8,000 to $12,000 yearly income tax to the city; $150,000 in other taxes to the schools, city and county
Employees: 12 to 15 workers with hourly employees earning $40,000 to $50,000 a year
Property: owned by the city of Lorain; Falbo Construction Co. has an option to purchase it at $80,000 an acre and lease it to Oglebay Norton
Pollutants emitted: up to 40,000 micrograms of calcium carbonate per cubic meter
Deliveries: Boats would deliver limestone every month, with one or two trucks per hour daily transporting from the plant.

Source: Oglebay Norton and a representative of Falbo Construction Co.

Company officials first showed residents a video showing that pulverized limestone would be pumped directly into closed vehicles resembling concrete-mixing trucks. A worker closing the chute on the truck was not even required to wear a mask, they said.

Jim Mueller, a consulting engineer for Oglebay Norton from Chagrin Falls, told the crowd that the closest resident living six-tenths of a mile away would receive the equivalent of a Bic pen`s weight of fine dust on an 80-by-120-foot lot over a year`s time.

“I`m not here to tell you that breathing dust of any sort is good,” Mueller said.

However, Mueller said the airborne dust is “a very small amount.”

“I wouldn`t mind having this plant in my neighborhood,” he said.

Melanie Szabo, who will be sworn in Dec. 17 to represent the area on City Council, said the commerce park owned by the city was supposed to be for light industry and facilities such as day care.

“We`re going back to heavy industry,” Szabo said. “What about the health concerns of all those other companies that will be moving in?”

Resident Beth Priestas Henley asked Oglebay Norton representative Scott Dwyer about the number of Environmental Protection Agency citations at the company`s other 23 sites.

Dwyer said he didn`t have that information Sunday but said, “None of our plants have been shut down because of EPA violations.”

Henley also asked about how the plant would affect property values.

Attorney Anthony Giardini, representing an affiliate of Falbo Construction Co. that has an option to purchase the 15-acre site, said he owns five properties on the east side and property values “go up and go down.”

East-side land was probably most valuable during the height of steel-making when “at 3 o`clock in the afternoon it looked like it was dark outside,” Giardini said.

Anthony Krasienko, the city`s mayor-elect, did not speak publicly but said after the meeting he was surprised that Falbo had an option to purchase the land at $80,000 an acre.

“I don`t know how they got an option on that land without Council approval,” Krasienko said.

Krasienko, currently a Lorain councilman, said he plans to look into the matter today. He doesn`t recall voting on the land option deal, “and usually you`d remember something that significant.”

He said it would be better to have 150 jobs on a 15-acre site, but Oglebay Norton jobs paying $40,000 to $50,000 are “better than a Wal-Mart greeter or fast-food worker.”

Resident Sandy Campana said she was concerned about one more polluter in an area that already has the steel mill, a gypsum plant and other industrial concerns.

“The industrial park is beautiful – it`s gorgeous, but I can`t see other people coming in with that down the street,` Campana said.

After years of pollution from the steel plant, resident Tom Paterson said the area is “just recovering” environmentally.

“I don`t believe this plant is as clean as you`re making it out to be,” Paterson said.

Krasienko said it is too early to take a stand, but he said he was glad that Cleveland-based Oglebay Norton set up the meeting.

The company made a “fatal mistake” by lack of public input into its earlier plan to build the plant closer to the mouth of the Black River on Henderson Drive, where it was believed truck traffic would be a safety hazard.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.