Breathing easier
Published: November 28, 2006 09:15 am

Athens joins Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition

By Cristin Ross

After giving themselves a week to think it over and get their questions answered, Athens City Council members unanimously approved joining the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition during Monday’s regular meeting.

Representatives of the coalition, TXU, the East Texas Environmental Concerns Organization (ETECO) and other citizens attended Monday’s meeting.

“As a concerned citizen and as a member of the (ETECO) I want to say thank you for passing this resolution,” said Carol Brinkman, during the citizen’s forum portion of the meeting.

The option to join the coalition — which was initiated by the mayors of Dallas and Houston — was presented to the council during the Nov. 13 meeting.

“We’re asking you to consider joining to keep dirty coal power plants from having a negative impact on our area,” ETECO president Margaret Rands said at the Nov. 13 meeting.

Rands explained that TXU is planning to build several new coal-burning power plants — plants of which the city of Athens would be in the downwind path. Rands said the coalition wants to see Athens join because the city would make the best case against the plants since it stands to be most harmed by the air pollution.

Several questions were raised on Nov. 13, including whether Athens would have to follow other cities’ environmental standards as a member of the coalition.

“The city is not entering into any EPA standards Dallas has,” City Administrator Pam Burton said. “We wanted that clarified (before approving the resolution to join the coalition).”

Environmental specialist Dionne Driscoll — also representing Dallas Mayor Laura Miller — and TXU spokesman Gary Trammell were on hand to answer any other questions at Monday’s meeting.

“Do we know if the plant in the Fairfield area has elevated the mercury levels in Richland-Chambers Lake?” Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Gould wanted to know.

Trammell said, “That plant has been there for 35 years and every test shows fish in the Richland-Chambers Lake, as well as Lake Athens and Cedar Creek Lake, are free of mercury.”

City Attorney Jack Holland asked if joining the coalition would cost the city any dues, legal fees or other funds.

“The $10,000 fee has been waived,” Driscoll said. “There should be no expenses to the city at all.”

Council members also appointed Mayor Randy Daniel to serve as the city’s representative to the coalition.

Council members also approved on Monday:

• replat requests for lots 141 and 142 and lots 57-62 in the Oakwoods Subdivision, from owners Paul Fletcher and Aaron Kozmetsky, respectively;

• Athens Economic Development Corporation’s incentive package for Biotech Manufacturing Company; and

• lowest bids of $13,980 from Philpott Ford in Nederland; $34,956 from Elder Dodge in Athens; and $31,920 from Philpott Ford, for a sedan, a one-ton pick up truck and two half-ton pick ups, respectively.

Council members also held two public hearings on Monday concerning requests from Fred Neely and Larry Stauffer to annex roughly 65 acres located at Loop 7 and County Roads 4637 and 4828, into the city limits.

“They want to get on the city’s sewer system and they can only do that if they’re annexed in,” said Athens Director of Planning and Development Gary Crecelius.

No public spoke at either public hearing.

Council took no action on either request on Monday.

The Athens City Council meets at 5:30 p.m. every second and fourth Mondays of the month at the Athens City Hall Annex, 501 N. Pinkerton St. The public is welcome.