More than 300 residents hooted and jeered radio personality Danny Neaverth and a Lackawanna councilman who asked him to appear Thursday evening at a hearing on a proposed a tire-burning plant for Lackawanna.
Neaverth was introduced by First Ward Councilman George W. Halsey III, who arranged for a presentation at Friendship House by Oxford Energy Co.
Neaverth, who lives in Orchard Park, said he has no connection with the project but happened to visit Oxford's tire-burning energy plant outside Modesto, Calif., while attending a relative's wedding in the area.
"I was very impressed with what I saw," he said. "I saw a plant burning tires. I saw no smoke. I saw steam coming out of the stack . . . It had no smell. Zero smell."
Although he saw "more old tires than you've ever seen," Neaverth said, the plant "is not an eyesore" and the orchards and farms across the highway "looked like the Garden of Eden."
"In time, what's going to happen to those green things?" a resident demanded. "What about the human beings?"
Neaverth said had come just to report what he saw.
"If you're just here to tell us what you saw, why are you doing us a sell job?" asked the Rev. Dennis Riter, pastor of Queen of All Saints Church in Lackawanna.
"No, wait," Neaverth said as the crowd howled and clapped. "Just a second. I'm telling you what I saw. I was not hired by anybody."
Joseph Litwiniak, a West Seneca retiree, charged that "your lawyer" has called his house several times on behalf of Oxford Energy.
"Wait a minute," Neaverth protested.
"Furthermore, why do they want to build a 200-foot stack if it's not injurious to people?" Litwiniak asked. "Emphysema . . . cancer . . . all this, to create just 50 jobs?"
Halsey took the microphone from Neaverth and cut off further questions so a videotape could be shown. The crowd immediately broke out in sustained boos at the sight of the Lackawanna councilman wearing a red hard hat and being shown around the California plant.
As the videotape droned on, many people complained of the poor sound quality, and a stampede began for the door.
"Lights on," Halsey ordered. "It seems you don't want the facts. You just want to ask questions. Patience is an extreme virtue."
The jeers rose in the gym.
"I didn't call this meeting to be heckled," said Halsey, who became a councilman on Jan. 1.
"We are not stupid people," said a woman at the microphone. "We are here because this is not the right thing for Lackawanna."
Finally, Richard Norman, vice president of Oxford Energy, took the microphone and showed slides of other tire-burning plants.
On an aerial view of Landau, West Germany, he pointed to green vineyards growing near the Oxford plant since 1972 and added that the city has permitted a second plant.
Soon the crowd had quieted down and was listening.