Loren Barton

Loren Barton

Editor,

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world and our communities upside down. Still, local and county governments as well as other public bodies have continued to conduct business and hold necessary, public meetings online.

 Virtual meetings have been happening throughout Arizona and the country in communities large and small. Some elected boards and councils in Arizona have also started holding public meetings again with social distancing protocols in place.

The La Paz County Board of Supervisors itself held an in-person meeting in Parker on Monday (May 18th). The Board held numerous virtual meetings throughout March, April, and the beginning of May during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Yet, Alliance Metals cannot get a Board of Supervisors hearing and vote on our proposed $30 million economic development investment in Wenden and Salome. This, despite our project that will bring critical new jobs, tax revenue and investment at a time when La Paz County and all governments desperately need it.

Prior to the crisis, the County had taken the unprecedented step of scheduling a hearing outside of the county seat in Parker for a potential vote on our aluminum manufacturing and recycling operations. As far as we know, the La Paz County Board had never scheduled a hearing outside of Parker. The March 16th meeting was scheduled for the Centennial Community Center in Wenden. The meeting was canceled because of COVID-19.

More than two months later we still have not received a hearing or vote on our investment and properly filed application which will bring jobs and tax revenue to La Paz County amidst COVID-19’s destructive economic path.

This is unfair and violates many due process provisions. Why does the County Board hold hearings and votes on multiple other matters and proposals since March but refuse to give us our ‘day in court’?

Alliance Metals has played by the rules. We applied for an air quality permit with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in April 2019. DEQ held a public hearing last September in Wenden and granted our air quality permit in November. The La Paz County Planning and Zoning Commission held a hearing on our investment in December. The Commission also took the unusual step of holding the hearing outside of Parker.

Alliance Metals has held job fairs in Wenden, Quartzsite and Parker. We held open houses and meetings with concerned residents and opponents. We changed our plans to eliminate chlorine from the manufacturing process after listening to community concerns. We met with opponents to resolve concerns about truck traffic, flooding, and safety.

We saw support for efforts to bring jobs and new tax revenues to La Paz County grow even before COVID-19 decimated the economy. The pandemic magnifies those needs ten-fold.

Still, La Paz County refuses to reschedule a hearing and vote on our investment. They could hold a hearing in Parker or a virtual hearing with residents from Wenden and Salome. 

They continue to do neither violating one of the major tenets of our democracy:  Due Process.

Alliance Metals has played by the rules and listened to opponents. We are committed to creating much needed help for local schools as well as public health programs that don’t currently exist.  La Paz County now needs to do its job and hold a timely and fair hearing on our proposal.

The violation of our due process, democratic rights and property rights is not only unfair; it is illegal.

Loren Barton

Vice President

Alliance Metals

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(1) comment

Gary Saiter

Using the backdrop of Covid-19 to express frustration has a legitimate place for many suffering from its existence. Alliance Metals Mr. Loren Barton latest death throw statement is far from legitimate with its limited grasp of Democracy and Due Process. Alliance is simply whining. In the face of valid and extensive public push back, Alliance is attempting to get their project pushed through by shaming and threatening our supervisors and Covid-19 fear mongering. This appeal to the public will fall of deaf ears and here’s why.

Let’s play ‘what if’. If the supervisors meeting in March would have happened, it is highly likely their application to the County for the smelter would have been rejected. However, because of the pandemic, it was delayed. Mr. Barton habitually omits the fact that the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously rejected their application.

Mr. Barton complains about due process, but he seems to not understand the full definition of the term. The actual definition of the term means, “Due process is the fair treatment through the normal judicial system…that the government must respect all legal rights that are owed to a person”. So, while I understand his position, he ignores the rights of all the other stakeholders that are involved in the proposal. Due process is for ALL involved. Those stake holders are the full-time and part-time residents of McMullen Valley. It is fortunate that we have a Supervisor who understands that all stake holders have a right to have their voices heard which includes many that are gone for the summer and will not return until the fall or winter.

In his attempt to shame the Supervisors, Loren is attempting to force a meeting with out all of the stakeholders in residence, in order to improve his chances of having Alliance Metals application approved. I’m sure that he remembers (quite well) the over 300 people who attended the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, and almost all of were aggressively against building the smelter in Wenden.

So, lets take a look at the items of Mr. Barton’s complaint:

1. “The Board of Supervisors has held numerous public meetings since the pandemic began”.

• Yes they have, but a meeting of 20 or so people now is much different than a meeting of 200 to 300 people. That number still seems to be unsafe and Alliance does not have the right to put other peoples health in jeopardy.

2. “The County took the unprecedented step of scheduling a hearing outside of the county seat in Parker”.

• The county should actually be lauded for scheduling the P&Z meeting and the subsequent Board of Supervisors meeting in Wenden since this gave the people who would most be impacted by this smelter the best access to be able to have their voice heard. To keep the meeting in Parker would have been unethical by virtue of trying to undermine the public by creating obstacles. Many government entities follow this same practice and it is the preferred method recommended by International Association of Certified Planners…the foremost authority on planning and planning ethics. Mr. Barton simply knows that despite the lame attempt to win people in McMullen Valley over with their supposed concessions, they failed and they would be facing a crowd of residents that would number upwards of 300, all of which are opposed to the building of the smelter in Wenden.

Mr. Barton forgets that we have a representative government and our Supervisors are voted into office to represent the people’s wishes and best interest, not to serve a company that proposes to build a dangerous polluting facility so close to people’s residents and schools.

3. “Why does the county refuse to give us our ‘day in court’”?

• I believe that the answer is obvious as a process like this requires transparency and the opportunity for all stake holders affected by this proposal to have their say. Additionally, ‘day in court’ is an interesting turn of phrase. It seems to me that they have already had their ‘day in court’, the public court where they have been resoundingly rejected.

4. “Alliance Metals has played by the rules”.

• This statement is wrong on so many levels it is hard to know where to start. First and most important, unlike other responsible companies, Alliance and Mr. Barton never once approached anyone in the community, held any meetings to explain what they were proposing or involved the community in any way. However, they did sneak into the county, applied for a zoning change in April for which they were kicked off the agenda because their application was incomplete.

• Yes, there was a hearing by ADEQ, even though we all knew ADEQ would approve the application because that is what they always do, regardless. And yes, the hearing was in Wenden for which Mr. Barton did not complain about. He should remember that this hearing was held at a time when there were no part time residents in McMullen Valley but still over 100 full time residents attended and no one spoke in favor of the application.

• They had a failed attempt to convince the people of McMullen Valley that they would make concessions and would be a good neighbor and citizen. This attempt was resoundedly rejected. They held an open house which they hoped very few people would attend but they were overwhelmed by residents who opposed their plans. They received no positive feedback despite their claims. I was there. Despite their rejection, they continue to feel that this smelter in this location is a good idea that the residents and taxpayers of McMullen Valley will embrace.

5. “We saw support for efforts to bring jobs and new tax revenue to La Paz County”.

• Well here is the thing… this is just a PR statement with no substance. The virus has less affected La Paz County than many other areas. Don’t get me wrong, we need economic development and jobs but not at the price of our health and future. Alliance Metals brings nothing worth considering to the table.

• They always use the phrase “we saw support for efforts to bring jobs and new tax revenue”. Mr. Barton made the statement at the end of their open house when they were trying to win support, one year after this all started, that he was surprised at the negative response. Duh!

• As far as jobs and tax revenue are concerned ground was just broken for a $10 million truck stop project on I-10 and Avenue 75E in La Paz County. This project will generate ongoing revenue and 20 plus jobs. This is as many or more jobs than the polluting and dangerous smelter would generate with a business that does not threaten the health and economic welfare of the community.

6. “They continue to do neither, violating one of the major tenets of our democracy: Due Process”.

• Mr. Barton forgets that one of the major tenets of our democracy is the will of the people as well. The people have spoken.

7. “The violation of our due process, democratic rights and property rights is not only unfair; it is illegal”.

• Ok, so if in the infinite wisdom of Rose Law and your attorney they sue the County. Let’s see how that turns out for you. Seems to me it will backfire and turn more people against you than there already is. Besides, this lawsuit would be cheaper than the lawsuits that would result if the project were approved.

Here’s the bottom line. Mr. Barton and Alliance Metals made a bad investment and they underestimated the community. They couldn’t build this facility in CA where they wanted, because the environmental restrictions were prohibitive so they came to Arizona…where it is pretty much ‘do whatever you want land’. Alliances poor business planning does not sit well with the residents of McMullen Valley and many other people in La Paz County. Loren, If you got your county hearing right now, the residents and tax payers of eastern La Paz County would do everything necessary to stop you. So now is the time for plan B.

Go back to the drawing board Alliance Metals, lick your wounds and put your smelter somewhere else. La Paz County IS open for business as can be shown by the truck stop development and the recent hemp processing facility. We support responsible economic development that does not threaten the environment, the health of the residents and the ongoing economic viability of the McMullen Valley.

Due process is not for you to hoard and exploit at such a sensitive time for us all. Using evocative and trending inflamed terminology such as ‘democratic rights’ is weak and undermining. Join the club of patience. You will get your hearing in the fall.

Welcome to the discussion.

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