Lee County has same Orascom concerns

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LEE COUNTY, IOWA - The Lee County Board of Supervisors confirmed Wednesday morning it had reached a deal with Orascom on a $1.3 billion fertilizer plant there.

The plant will go up on 180th Street outside of Wever. Lee County, Iowa beat out Scott County, Des Moines County, and another site near Peoria, Illinois for the job.

"We're excited," Lee County Supervisor Gary Folluo said. "We're glad to have the development here in Lee County."

The plant is supposed to bring in 165 full-time jobs to the county. That is one of the big reasons why supervisors wanted to lure in Orascom.

"We started negotiations back in November, 2011," Folluo said. "We've met with company off and on since."

But the sell is still very tough for some in the town of Wever. Many of them have the same concerns that were raised at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in Davenport on July 17th.

"It isn't worth it. I don't think," Wever resident Jane Mumz said. "You never know what those kinds of chemicals will do to a person."

Mumz told us she's received letters in the mail from farmers who do not want the plant going up in Lee County. However, Lee County did not have to rezone the area on 180th Street to an industrial area like Scott County had to do. That made it easier for Lee County to lure in Orascom.

"If they're like me, and they're like everyone else, they probably want to be left alone," Folluo said about the people in Wever.

Folluo understands why people do not want the plant going there, but in time, he thinks some will change their minds. Orascom believes its nitrogen fertilizer plant "will result in an increase in real property of $235 million."

"You find out that your daughter, your son, you, or someone you know works there, and then, suddenly, it changes their attitudes."

Now, Folluo and the rest of the county board has to sell the idea to the people who are against it. Others think a big construction plan is not worth just 165 full-time jobs at the plant.

"Why pollute it with all that garbage?" Mumz said. "165 full-time jobs is not that good. I don't think."

2,500 part-time jobs are expected to be created for the construction alone. Orascom is expected to break ground on October 1st of this year. It expects to be working in its plant in three years.

Talks between Orascom and Lee County started heating up at about the same time Orascom started pushing back its public hearings in Scott County. Scott County Board of Supervisor Tom Sunderbruch said his county "never really got to the table" to negotiate with Orascom. That's because the Planning and Zoning Commission rejected a bid to rezone the land for the fertilizer company on July 17th.