Ameren's Labadie Power Plant

A member of a county appeal board will recuse himself from a hearing next week on a controversial coal ash landfill project because of his involvement in a potential property sale.

Labadie real estate agent Fred Thatcher explained that he is removing himself from the hearing because he stands to potentially profit from a levee that Ameren Missouri wants to build.

Thatcher represents a client who may sell property to a contractor so earth material can be excavated to construct the levee.

“The last thing I need is a conflict of any sort,” Thatcher said, adding that the landfill issue is too sensitive to the community.

Ameren wants to build a 20-foot high levee out of clay material around the 166-acre landfill containment area, according to Joe Feldmann with Franklin County.

Thatcher said he is voluntarily recusing himself from next Tuesday’s Franklin County Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing.

The hearing is being held because the Labadie Environmental Organization says the proposed landfill design does not meet Franklin County regulations.

LEO President Patricia Schuba said she thinks it is best for Thatcher to recuse himself and she appreciates him coming forward with the matter. It makes sense that Thatcher would recuse himself if he has an economic interest in the project, Schuba added.

Thatcher said the land he represents is 19 acres in Labadie on Highway T, and the asking price is $171,500. It is owned by the Merle Newman Trust, he said.

However, Thatcher said he may not make any money on the deal because other property may be purchased for the levee material. It may not be known for three months after the hearing whether his client’s land is purchased, he added.

Still, Thatcher said he was writing a letter Wednesday morning to the county zoning department, the Franklin County attorney and BOZA Chairman Gordon Upchurch to formally recuse himself from the matter.

He said he sent parties involved a letter last week to see if he should recuse himself. He said he had not heard back from anyone and just decided that he would remove himself voluntarily.

Schuba noted that there was another member of BOZA who removed himself from the hearing earlier because of an employment connection with Ameren. That board member is Joshua Green.

There are alternate members who might be able to replace him for the hearing, Thatcher said. They are Kat Shaw of Washington and Andy Geisert of St. Clair, he said.

Other members of BOZA are Chairman Gordon Upchurch, Carl Ridder and William Walker.

The BOZA hearing will be held at 6 p.m. at the Franklin County Government Center in Union.

In its appeal, LEO argues that there would not be a 2-foot buffer between the landfill’s liner and the groundwater table.