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Steel plant gets final approval
Morrison residents once again voice displeasure
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Morrison resident Jennifer Burks points to the crowd as she explains to the board that these are her neighbors and Morrison is her home. - photo by Bethany Porter
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Donna Solomon was one of many who voiced her thoughts on the rezoning during Monday night’s Morrison public hearing. She is pictured asking board members when they were going to answer her questions. - photo by Bethany Porter

McNeilus Steel officially got the OK to begin building on W. Maple Street when the Morrison Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to approve the rezoning. 

Before voting to rezone the land from agriculture to industrial, Morrison had a public hearing. During this time, those in attendance were able to voice their opinions. 

“I just want us to not put the almighty dollar in front of our lives. I want us to treat our neighbors the way we want to be treated. There are a lot of people in this town in a big uproar and the ones in here are not the only ones against it. The whole town is against it, they are just not coming to the meetings,” said Donna Solomon. 

John Henderson said he was in favor of the rezoning and explained they do not manufacture anything at this factory. Licensed planner Cecelia Ward explained that the rezoning would be in violation of the town’s zoning regulations. Teresa Prater lives next to the parcel the steel company will be moving into and she thanked Vice Mayor Keith Youngblood for voting against the rezoning and says this will affect her grandchildren as they currently play in their backyard. 

“This young man (Youngblood) was taught government in my class. He learned the preamble to the constitution and it says ‘We the People.’ He knows that the government is by the people and for the people and I really feel you are ignoring their voices. You have not listened to them or offered anyone an opportunity until it was too late to do anything about it. Do you know there are some that have already said ‘I’ve got my mind made up on how I am going to vote?’ That is wrong. You are not listening to us,” said Prater.

IDB Chairperson Jenny Nafrada explained why the IDB has supported the project since the beginning. She explained that many industries want to come to Warren County, but do not meet the requirements. McNeilus met the requirements. She also explained that if the rezoning did not pass, something worse could buy the property. 

“Let’s say that it doesn’t pass and that is zoned for agriculture. Who is going to pay $40,000 an acre to buy it? There aren’t a whole lot of private citizens and private farmers who would think that is a good investment. I tell you who would think it is a good investment  - a corporate farmer who will snatch that land up and slap 20 chicken farms on it,” said Nafrada. 

Zach Wilson said he was in favor of the rezoning and that many local companies would benefit from it being in Morrison. Commissioner Steven Helton said he was hesitant about the company at first, but after he visited one of its facilities he was in favor of it coming to Morrison. 

“The industry is coming guys. I don’t know if everybody knows or not, but 200,000 acres have  already sold right over the border there. It is coming and we need to be prepared for it. We need to pick our neighbors and I feel like McNeilus Steel is a good neighbor. I think they want to partner with our community and I think they would sponsor our ball teams. I think they would sponsor our schools and community and help build our parks because that is the kind of company I believe they truly are,” said Helton.  

Attorney L. Craig Johnson said this rezoning is incompatible with the city’s zoning ordinances. 

“Unfortunately what is proposed here is against your law. I1, light industrial, is supposed to be further away from low density. If you are to pass it, you are supposed to talk about how you are going to mitigate noise, odor, dust, and keep it to a minimum. Those are the things you as an elected board are supposed to be talking about and unfortunately your citizens have heard nothing from you,” said Johnson. 

Jennifer Burk said she had plans for her family to live in Morrison forever, but the steel company is impacting that decision. 

“Industry is growing it is coming, but guess what? We will be leaving. It will be your residents, your people leaving. What good is a town when you do not have the people to live here? I had plans for my family to live here until the day I died and hopefully give my land to them so they stay here,” said Burk. “If you want to talk numbers, you are talking about maybe 40 jobs. Count your residents that live right around that area. Then think about the amount they paid to live here in their homes. The amount we paid to live here. Multiply all those dollars and it is a lot. If you want to bring money to the town, my husband and I thought it was a joke that we were paying $27 a year for our city taxes. Most of us can afford to pay more than that and would be willing to rather than live next to this.” 

Alderman Jeanine Miller explained that this is not the first controversial decision Morrison will have to make. 

“I have lived in Morrison for most of my life and have seen many changes. Some of them were more controversial than others. This is not the first hard decision the town has made over the years and I am pretty sure it will not be the last,” said Miller. 

Alderman Donald Miller questioned why they would not want the factory in Morrison and said that the train in Morrison is louder than any McNeilus Steel trucks will be. Mayor Sue Anderson explained she was in favor of the company because of all the jobs. 

“Because of the jobs and the future of the town of Morrison. I want the town to grow. I grew up here. I have been here as long as most of the people in the room. I liked it in the '60’s too and I liked being able to walk up and down the street. I like where I live. I live where I grew up. I love it. I love Morrison. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be taking all this from the people of Morrison. I have been threatened, I have been cursed, I have been called a liar, I have been told I have blood on my hands because a person died. Just things like that from people I have known all my life. Yes, ma’am it’s been hard. Is it a hard decision? Yes ma’am, but it is best for the community. You have to look at the overall view. I have had numerous people call me and want this in here,” said Anderson. 

The board voted to approve the rezoning with Donald Miller, Jeanine Miller, William Dillard and Sue Jones voting in favor of it and Keith Jones voting no.