Mayor Larry DeVilbiss moved the regularly-scheduled assembly meeting to the Palmer Railroad Depot, expecting a large turnout, but even that larger capacity building wasn't big enough to provide a seat to everyone who showed up to testify.DeVilbiss was the author of a resolution at issue at the meeting, formally laying out the borough's support for mining renewal permits for the Wishbone Hill project.
Usibelli Coal Mine, the group in charge of the project, says Wishbone Hill would provide 75-125 high-paying jobs in the area.
Others in the audience echoed that point.
"Will this give us good jobs?" asked Chuck Leet, speaking in support the coal mine. "I believe so. These are jobs that are typically union paid, or at least high-skilled paid jobs."
"I have no problem with people wanting jobs," said Diana Ramsted, speaking against the mine. "But I do have a problem -- a big problem -- with the wind in Palmer: the wind here that’s going to take coal from where the Wishbone Hill is and blow it into children’s lungs."
DeVilbiss says he doesn't buy that argument.
"I certainly would not be moving ahead if I didn’t think that the three thousand-plus pages of permitting already in place did not accommodate most of the concerns that the public has," DeVilbiss said.
Several people at the meeting on Tuesday supported a group called "Friends of Mat-Su" -- showing up in bright orange T-shirts, saying it was inappropriate for the borough to weigh in on the project, because of the public process going on at the state level.
"We feel the public should have a right to engage in that public process and that the decisions should be made at the state level," said Jeremiah Millen, executive director of Friends of Mat-Su.
The Department of Natural Resources is currently seeking comment on the Wishbone Hill permit renewal. Those comments are due next month.
Contact Jason Lamb at firstname.lastname@example.org