Riverport Steel Plant Would Bring Jobs, But Nearby Residents Oppose It
By James Zambroski
(LOUISVILLE, January 26th, 2005) -- After years on the drawing board but just weeks of hearings and planning commission review, work has begun on a new steel plant in the Riverport Industrial Park. WAVE 3 Investigator James Zambroski reports.
Neighbors of the soon-to-be built Maverick Steel factory that will specialize in the manufacture of conduit gathered Tuesday night at the Millcreek VFW to hear from opponents.
"They should be somewhere else besides this area," said Mike Stansbury. "They should certainly not be backing up just a stone's throw from a residential area, where there's children playing and elderly folks in the neighborhood."
Maverick, a publicly traded company based in Missouri, plans to consolidate operations at two southern plants and move them here. Opponents believe the Riverport area is the wrong place to locate the plant, which will employ about 250 people in three shifts around the clock. Total cost of land acquisition and construction is around $65 million.
"This is a plant that is heavy industry," Stansbury said. "They're using heavy chemicals like hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulfuric acid and this is a 24/7 operation."
Stansbury went on to say that "most of the industry in Riverport is light industry or distribution warehouse. I have no problem with that."
Metro Louisville's planning and zoning commission voted 4 to 3, with two absences, in favor of the plan just a few weeks ago. During public hearings, Art Williams, metro Louisville's director of air quality, said the company's emissions will meet or exceed EPA requirements.
Political leaders were optimistic that the plant is good for the city.
"If we can have a state-of-the-art business here, in this industry down here and hire 240 people, that's what I'd like to see happen," said Metro Councilor Bob Henderson.
"Obviously, I'd like to see jobs in the district, but at what cost?" asked Metro Counselor Rick Blackwell, whose district includes Riverport. "We want to make sure we've got everything taken care of."
Fear might be the company's biggest obstacle. Elizabeth Willoughby lived near a Maverick steel plant in Detroit and now is in a trailer park across the street from the site of the new factory.
"The smell is like burning tires on top of any and every horrible smelling thing you can imagine," she said. "It takes your breath, it burns your nose, it burns your eyes."
Opponents have little legal recourse. Stansbury evoked a favorite phrase of Sen. John Kerry from the November election.
"Wrong plant, wrong place, wrong time," he said.
Representatives from Maverick and the Riverport complex were invited to the neighborhood meeting Tuesday on Lower Hunters Trace but none attended.
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