CLINTON — Archer Daniels Midland and city officials are refuting statements made in an Associated Press story concerning an eminent domain bill that passed a Senate committee Wednesday.

The story read: “Officials have worried that the new restrictions could interfere with a huge development in Clinton, where ADM has proposed the construction of a large ethanol production facility.

“Some of the land for that project is being taken through condemnation, and critics warn the measure approved Wednesday could bring that project to a halt, costing hundreds of jobs.”

Local officials say the inaccuracy of those statements is threefold:

n While ADM recently announced plans to purchase all South Clinton properties west of South Fourth Street to construct a PHA plastics plant, an ethanol facility in Clinton is not in the works.

n Existing ADM jobs would not be affected if the PHA project could not move forward for whatever reason, said ADM officials. If a roadblock halted the project, the new jobs would not be realized, but no estimates have yet been given.

n At this point there has been no indication that eminent domain will be utilized.

ADM officials stated Thursday that some properties have already been purchased seller-willing, or options to purchase signed.

“The city is not involved in any condemnation,” said Planning Director John Staszewski, “nor have we been asked to.”

No discussion or planning to use eminent domain has taken place, said City Attorney Matt Brisch.

When ADM was in the process of purchasing land for the co-generation facility in 2004, said former City Attorney Bruce Johansen, the company talked with the city about whether it would use eminent domain if necessary. No formal request was ever made.

“I would think...” he said, “if all else fails” the City Council would make the decision,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone wants to invoke eminent domain,” said Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Dennis Lauver, “but it’s a tool for keeping prices in” a reasonable range.

Eminent domain was used to acquire a handful of properties for the construction of the Mill Creek Parkway. A few owners appealed the measure to the district court, but the cases were resolved prior to going to trial. In that case, the project was for public use, not economic development.

Land also was acquired through eminent domain for Hy-Vee, but not from unwilling sellers. In one case, the owner was not able to be located, so a free-and-clear title could not be conveyed. That issue was resolved by the condemnation board, said Johansen.

The proposed legislation would limit the ability of governmental bodies to acquire private property through eminent domain. The Senate bill is a compromised version of one passed by the House of Representatives in February.

“I think that it is the intent of the Senate to agree with the House to make (eminent domain) tougher,” said Sen. Roger Stewart, D-Preston, but added that he does not know what the outcome will be.

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