Rural area residents apprehensive about SpaceX’s planned expansion in Central Texas

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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McGREGOR, Texas (KWTX) - When Space X CEO Elon Musk announced the space exploration giant was planning on expanding its footprint in Central Texas with a rocket manufacturing facility, city leaders in McGregor rejoiced.

They were elated with the idea of more tax revenue and jobs the new structure promises to bring to the area. Others who live near the current rocket testing facility were less enthusiastic.

“It just shakes everything. You know, it really shakes the walls , pictures fall off the walls, stuff on the shelves falls off,” said Rick Van Guilder, who lives about a mile and a half from the testing site.

Van Guilder has just about given up on repairing cracks that form in the walls of his mobile home in Ogelsby.

His stepson who lives next door has constant plumbing issues that he believes are caused by his shifting home.

“I bet the City of McGregor is excited because they probably get a lot from Space X but here in Coryell County, I bet they don’t get anything,” Van Guilder said.

Not everyone in McGregor is thrilled with the expansion plans either.

Beth Dutschmann, who lives about three miles from the testing site, says the pool in her back yard hasn’t been able to hold water for the past five years.

She blames that on the Space X testing that happens at least three or four times a week, often as late as 8:50 p.m. The cut off time for testing is 9pm.

“We had a beautiful pool in our backyard, now we have an eye sore.”

Dutschmann, who is married to a city council member, sees both sides of the issue.

“I have no problem with an entity that is entrepreneurial minded and brings jobs and money to town. I do have a problem if they leave us with out-of-pocket repairs and there’s no recourse,” Dutschmann said.

Many homeowners in the area feel their hands are tied because of a deal which was made by state lawmakers in 2011 and amended in 2013.

Local attorney Jim Dunnam says the agreement amounts to blanket immunity from prosecution for any nuisance caused by space exploration testing.

“Evidently they believe they have legal rights to mess up these people’s homes mess with their quality of life,” Dunnam said.

“One would hope that with someone like Elon Musk with his influence and resources, If he understood what he was doing with these communities and these people’s daily lives he would something about it,” he added.

Without much hope of any legal action, the homeowners are left hoping that Space X will live up to its commitment to reducing the noise and vibrations caused by the testing by altering the testing process.

“I just wish they would be a little more considerate to the people who live close by. Van Guilder said. " I don’t hold much stock in that. The proof will be in the pudding as they say,” Van Guilder added.

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