Here’s a post to follow previous ones on this website, and a story today in the Janesville Gazette, about a proposal between the City of Whitewater and Green Energy Holdings for a waste digester.
The project has been touted as a large one, but large claims for municipal projects require substantial justification.
In today’s newspaper story, Whitewater’s Interim City Manager, Cameron Clapper, is quoted, in response to questions about the project, as saying that “I know of no such problems…It is my understanding that we have a memorandum of understanding with Green Energy and all conditions either have been met or are expected to be met.”
Although these remarks are reassuring, there must be a careful, substantial basis for that confidence. We would surely agree that this is no private endeavor, but one to which our city of many thousands is a party.
Open government is good government.
If the City of Whitewater has information to corroborate the soundness of this proposal, then why not post that information on the city’s website? The city has a fine website – why not create a page with thorough information about the project for all Whitewater’s residents?
To help in that regard, for convenience, I’ve collected in this one message links to two of my three, prior posts on the deal, with reasonable, simple questions about the project. (The third of those prior posts was about a Daily Union story, and addressed the press rather than local government.) Other questions may arise, but these seem a good starting point.
The questions appear as a postscript to this note. (The original posts have follow up, explanatory questions below each main one.) The Interim City Manager owes me no personal response to this note; I neither expect nor want one.
Our community, though, does deserve much more information than it has received about this project. In that spirit, I’ve sent this post via email to Mr. Clapper’s attention.
P.S. Questions about the GEH Proposal
(For a comprehensive list of all posts about this proposal, FREE WHITEWATER now has a designated category.)
1. What’s the actual name and business form of Green Energy Holdings?
2. Green Energy Holdings, Inc. was registered as a Wisconsin corporation on 4.3.12. Why so recently? How – under what form — was it doing business previously?
3. If GEH registered as a Wisconsin corporation in April, with whom was the city negotiating previously?
4. How did the city first learn of this proposal?
5. Which employees from city staff worked with GEH – under whatever business form — during the nine months’ time that Brunner mentioned?
6. If city employees have worked for a long time, why is there so little information available?
7. Why has there been no document of any kind – other than the proposed development agreement – shared with the public about this proposal!
8. How many digester sites does GEH own and operate now?
9. In the sites that GEH operates now, what value have the GEH plants contributed to the community?
10. Where is GEH’s headquarters now? [7.17.12: is this a WI or an out of state company? Is there a licensing deal between an out-of-state and a Wisconsin company?]
11. Why does GEH’s corporate filing with Wisconsin use the same post office box address as the one listed for Northern Concrete Construction?
12. How has GEH calculated its reported claims of economic or property value added to a community?
13. How did GEH arrive at a target figure for incremental property value claimed for a Whitewater digester?
14. Before submitting a draft proposal to the Common Council, did Whitewater’s city manager or others on his staff undertake or request an independent analysis of claimed incremental value for a digester?
15. Other than Whitewater, in what other communities does GEH have present plans to build?
16. One of those other, proposed communities is Maribel, Wisconsin. What is the status of the project in that community?
17. Before submitting a draft proposal to the Common Council, did Whitewater’s city manager or others on his staff undertake or request an independent analysis of the environmental impact of the project?
What impact will the processing of food waste in the facility have on the surrounding land, air, and water?
18. Before submitting a draft proposal to the Common Council, did Whitewater’s city manager or others on his staff receive visit other communities, and interview residents in those cities, about existing GEH projects?
19. How much public money will be required for this project, and how much of the investment will be privately funded, from GEH?
1. Don’t both Whitewater and the State of Wisconsin have prohibitions against conflicts of interest among officials?
2. Shouldn’t we have a government, including all who serve on boards and commissions, meeting – at a minimum – the standards that our city’s ordinances, and our state’s laws, require?
3. How were these remarks [about supplies for the developer from a board member’s own employer], just less than 12 minutes into the session, from the CDA board chairman Jeff Knight, and a CDA member Jim Allen, consistent with even that minimum standard?
4. Why does the CDA chairman assume approval of a deal even before going into closed session?
5. In light even of a potential conflict (and that’s a generous interpretation), why did the CDA member and chair vote on this proposal?
6. In light of a potential conflict (again, a generous interpretation), why did the CDA member and chair vote on the GEH proposal?
7. In light of a potential conflict (again, a generous interpretation), why did the CDA member and chair even participate in this part of the CDA discussion?
8. In light of a potential conflict (again, a generous interpretation), will the CDA member and chair continue to participate in CDA discussions of GEH?
9. What did the CDA know about this project at the time it deliberated preliminary approval?
10. If GEH is providing private funding, have audited financial statements for the company been provided to the city and CDA for the purposes of ascertaining whether GEH can meet its commitments?
11. Why was there nothing about GEH in the CDA’s online agenda packet?