Crystal City officials ended a contentious city council meeting early this morning with an amended lease agreement that will allow an iron-ore smelter to locate just outside the municipality’s historic downtown business area.
Council members emerged from a seven-hour, closed-door meeting with attorneys and developer Jim Kennedy of Wings Enterprises at 2:50 a.m. today. The city council then re-convened its public meeting that began at 7 p.m. Monday evening, but grew unruly when audience members in support and opposition of the smelter hurled insults at each other from across the aisle. Mayor Tom Schilly and the council voted at 8 p.m. Monday night to adjourn the meeting and discuss in private the new lease agreement.
Some two dozen audience members remained stationed in the lobby of city hall this morning when the council once again opened the meeting to the public. The new ordinance was read three times before city council members voted 5-2 in support of the smelter lease. The meeting adjourned at 3 a.m.
Unlike the original lease inked in September, the new agreement puts more liability on developer Kennedy who has proposed a $1 billion smelter on property that once housed the Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) factory. Under terms of the deal, the city will purchase the PPG land for $2.2 million and lease it to Wings for the same amount of money over 100 years. The new lease requires Wings to pay $50,000 to the city for administrative expenses related to the sale and ensure that the city loses no tax revenue on the deal.
Last night’s meeting was also significant in that it brought out reclusive St. Louis developer Dave Jump, owner of American Milling Co. Jump plans to build a barge and railcar transfer center on part of the PPG property. During the closed-door council session, Jump waited patiently in the lobby as members of a group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Crystal City peppered him with questions about his project.
Jump remained fuzzy on details other than saying that he’d been interested in building such a facility in Crystal City since the early 1970s. The location, says Jump, is unique because it’s the only place the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads intersect near the Mississippi River.
At least three civil lawsuits have been filed in an effort to halt the smelter. Those lawsuits have yet to be heard in court and could impact when – and if – the smelter deal becomes a reality.