By Jessica Mathews /

The City of Howell is working to better educate and communicate with residents about a controversial industrial shredder project.

Padnos Iron & Metal on Lucy Road already has needed state and local approvals to construct an industrial car shredder and recently worked out an agreement with the City to extend water service to the site.

Council met Monday night and Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor asked for support in asking staff to put together a communication plan for citizens in regard to the project. It was also noted that flyers are still being sent out by Protect Livingston – a group vocally opposed to the shredder that has raised various environmental issues. Manor told Council he keeps getting the flyers, which contain "misinformation and scare and frighten tactics." He feels the City is not providing enough consistent, broad-based information and wants to reassure the community that the City is looking out for the best interests of its citizens.

City Manager Erv Suida has also issued a response to an earlier letter from Genoa Township officials about the project that he says contained "erroneous and blanket statements...based on speculation, not facts.” Suida stated that the City is more than willing to work with neighboring townships and authorities, especially in regard to regional planning, but “cannot allow a public letter of this type to stand alone without correcting the record with facts and without speculation”.

The letter states the photos the township referenced were from the prior business, Regal Auto Salvage Facility, and questioned if that was an oversight or a misrepresentation. It further clarified the City’s stance when it comes to providing water service to the site. During Monday’s meeting, he stated that they haven’t really heard much since the letter and noted it was there for Council review.

Suida said staff has been having discussions about better communication but noted they won’t be following up the Protect Livingston flyers with any of their own. For the vast majority of people, he said “the flyer probably ends up where it belongs”, referring to the recycle bin, and for those that have reached out; staff has done an excellent job of educating them, speaking with upwards of 300-400 people.

Mayor Bob Ellis stated that every time a flyer comes out they get some communication but it seems to be less and less each time – adding people are being inundated with the flyers and many have learned the information is not true or they’re just fatigued.

Suida said one strategy being discussed involves Padnos. Suida stated, and Council agreed, that Padnos also has some responsibility to put residents at ease as well. He said they need to come up with something to explain the reality of their updated process that’s better and safer than what’s been going there for over 40 years – stressing air and water quality are regulated by the EPA and the state of Michigan and noise and odor issues are addressed.

Councilwoman Jan Lobur felt communication should be ongoing and that it would be beneficial to have one point person, to which others also agreed.

Suida said they’ll put together something and bring a plan back to Council, even if it’s one area for people to easily find the information they’re looking for and show the project is meeting all health and safety standards.

A link to Monday’s Council meeting packet is provided, which contains Suida’s letter. Genoa’s letter starts on page 23, and the City response starts on page 26.