By Darryl Patteson
With November elections just five weeks away, the race in the town of DeWitt hinges on one crucial issue: The status of a coal gasification plant proposed by Empire SynFuels for the quarry site next to Jamesville Road. On top of this, four of the town's seven board seats are up for election, including town supervisor.
Dick Robb, commissioner of development and operations for the town of DeWitt, said the project, first officially presented in January, has been stalled since March. However, the application has never been taken off the books.
"They've not progressed it or communicated anything to us," Robb said of the current status of the project. "We may move to dismiss it, but with no implication that it was unworthy."
This is not the first time an environmental issue has come up in DeWitt. In 1989, the debate swirled around a proposed garbage incinerator to be constructed in the town. Vehemently against it, Vicki Baker of Jamesville sent up balloons with cards on them letting anyone who found one know that their town was in the path of potentially hazardous air.
Just five hours after she released a set of balloons she received a phone call. A five-year-old boy living in Harrisburg, Penn., some 200 miles from DeWitt, had found the balloon.
"That was my eye-opener that what you do locally has an impact globally," Baker said. "Those balloons went everywhere. They didn't just land in Jamesville."
The town board accepted the incinerator plan in 1990. Now, nearly two decades and 12 years in the county legislature later, Baker is returning to local politics by making a push for the town board with three other Democrats. Baker and running mates Ed Michalenko who is a current board member and candidate for supervisor, Lorene McCoy Dadey and Kerry Mannion are looking to squash the plant plan once and for all.