By Shawn Byrne
When Tom Galvin’s laptop provided nothing but the spinning wheel of death prior to Alliance Metals’ presentation to the La Paz Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, Dec. 5 in Wenden, it was an ominous foreshadowing of what was about to happen.
Rough estimates had the crowd at about 300 people from the Salome-Wenden area in standing room only at the Centennial Community Center, and it was hard to find anyone who was in favor of Alliance bringing a $30 million investment and 30 jobs with a secondary aluminum smelter at the intersection of U.S. 60 and Centennial Park Road.
Galvin, an attorney with Rose Law Group representing Alliance, told the commission the company would “go through additional state and independent third-party testing each year to make sure water and air in the area are protected.”
Alliance has been granted an air permit by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for its investment of creating new local jobs and what it calls “a substantial increase in tax revenue for schools, first responders and community services” in the area.
The 30-or-so speakers from the area were unanimous in their remarks asking the commission to not recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the smelter be brought to their community.
Christy Potts was not impressed with the condition of the property as it currently sits.
“They say can clean up the air, but they can’t even clean up the tumbleweeds,” she told the commission.
Another local resident asked for Alliance to walk in the community’s shoes.
“You guys would never put it next your house,” Dean Lyman said. “We all live right here. This is our community.”
And Ed Fields, who told the commission he was a registered geologist, fears inhaling poisons that may not be contained by the smelter.
“I know for a fact because I have a friend who does this. They will bake some cooking and the Teflon pan killed their parrot,” he said. “There are toxic gases coming off of that, and how are they going to take care of that?”
Alliance brought with it an expert on the environment, Major Kinswater, who told the commission, and the crowd, that any emissions from the smelter would be considered “a minor source.” This is why ADEQ issued the plant a Class II permit and not one at a higher level.
“Alliance is subject to rules and have gone through the process,” Kinswater said. “There is a lot of technical analysis that have been done to ensure that health and the environment will be protected in this project.”
It just wasn’t enough to convince the commission.
Commission Vice Chair Dennis Schilling scolded the Alliance team for not listening and taking into account the feelings of the community.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Schilling said. “The applicant was unprepared for tonight’s presentation.”
Commissioner Dennis Price made a motion to recommend to BOS that it deny making an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan (CP) on behalf of Alliance. He said he didn’t believe the CP should be changed on a lot-by-lot basis. Commissioner Daniel Tucker seconded the motion, and the vote went 7-0 with two commissioners absent.
Alliance was also asking the commission to rezone its property from Rural Agriculture to Industrial Planned Development. Instead of making an additional presentation, Galvin conceded the night.
“Based on the prior vote, we won’t expand our presentation,” the lawyer for Alliance said. “The message is clear.”
The commission then voted 7-0 again to recommend to BOS that if it should vote to pass the CP amendment, then the commission recommends that BOS does not approve the rezone requested.
La Paz County Board of Supervisors is expected to take these items up in January.