Smelterville

Crystal City forges one hell of a deal.

Other innovations — including ways to greatly reduce his energy consumption and create quality pig iron at a fraction of the cost of other smelters — are too sensitive to reveal at this time. "These are industries that don't like change," says Kennedy. "If they knew what we were doing, they'd spend all kinds of money behind the scenes to stop it."

The sale of the PPG property closed quietly on December 21, with Jim Kennedy's banks wiring Crystal City the requisite $2.2 million needed to acquire the land. Four days earlier the council held its last public meeting of the year. Only about two dozen C4 members bothered to show up for what would be the final, decisive blow to their four-month campaign.

Shortly after the meeting begins the council votes to gather in a final executive session to discuss the sale. As they wait out the closed-door meeting, the C4 members huddle around a Christmas tree that dominates the lobby of city hall. Someone orders a half-dozen Domino's pizzas. Someone else reads an ersatz Christmas poem titled, "'Twas the Night Before Closing."

Jack Ginnever's historic home could soon overlook an iron-ore smelter.
Jack Ginnever's historic home could soon overlook an iron-ore smelter.

Before you all close
And tie us up in your mess
Rethink what you've done
And decide what is best!

We'll continue to fight
We're not going away
Good guys always win
When it comes judgment day!

After an hourlong interruption the council ends its closed-door session and once again opens the meeting to the public. In rapid-fire succession the council approves two motions accepting the title to the PPG property and closing on the sale. Mayor Schilly strikes the gavel and the meeting adjourns. Just like that, the "good guys" lost.

Outside city hall, Jack Ginnever and others stand shell-shocked in six inches of snow. Tom Kerr soon arrives from a holiday party wearing one of his trademark Hawaiian shirts — this one with a surfing Santa Claus. "Actually, tonight isn't so bad," Kerr offers. "Before, we were just fighting the city. Now we can open it up to PPG and Wings. They're all involved now."

Buoyed by Kerr's optimism, the C4 group once more launches into talks about its recall effort and pending lawsuit. And for a moment it's almost as if the city council didn't sign off on building a smelter in the middle of town. In the frenzy of excitement, no one mentions a provision to the lease agreement that the council approved a week earlier. Should Concerned Citizens successfully get the courts to void the contract, the city must enter into a new lease agreement with Kennedy or allow him to purchase the PPG property for $1.

A few blocks away from city hall someone recently installed a sign in their front yard greeting visitors to town. The name "Crystal City" is scratched out. The sign reads: "Welcome to Smelterville."

Contact the author chad.garrison@riverfronttimes.com

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