Wind farm deal comes down to 'tweaks'; Three Woodford County townships still working on road agreement
A road agreement between three Woodford County townships and the developers of a multimillion-dollar wind farm comes down to a few “tweaks,” the attorney representing the townships said Monday.
But when those various tweaks will be worked out still is unknown, leaving many rural residents, school districts, county officials and others with a stake in the approximately $260 million Benson Wind Farm concerned that the entire project might be in jeopardy.
More than 30 people attended a Greene Township Board meeting to voice their concerns about the road agreement and to listen as attorney Sheryl Kuzma updated them on the negotiations.
“We want the roads taken care of,” Kuzma said about the rural roads, which she claims are not structurally fit to withstand heavy loads from trucks hauling the material needed to construct the 79-turbine wind farm. “All we’re asking for is to put it in black and white, and we’ll sign it.”
Kuzma hopes to hear from attorneys representing the wind farm and its developer, Navitas Energy of Minneapolis, Minn., today. She said both sides are negotiating in good faith and there are hopes an agreement will be reached soon.
The township governments of Panola, Greene and Clayton are negotiating.
“We expect it will all work itself out and the project will proceed,” Kuzma said.
There are several issues the company and the townships are working out, including a two-year guarantee on maintaining township roads and a clause that would keep the townships away from any legal responsibilities if a problem were to occur.
But she said the townships will not make Benson Wind Energy LLC responsible for any third-party damage to the rural roads.
“If something goes wrong, we want assurance the township will not be responsible.”
Kuzma said once an agreement is reached, the township boards will hold a special meeting to approve it.
But on Oct. 17, the Woodford County Board is expected to approve a special- use permit allowing the wind farm to be developed. The measure already has been approved by the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
Kuzma said even if the board awards Navitas the permit to build the wind farm, it would likely be contingent on the townships approving the road agreement.
Roanoke-Benson School District 60 School Board President Mike Blunier and School Board member Janet Gibbs hope the wait to get the road agreement adopted does not prompt Navitas to abandon the project.
“I hope you know you represent the taxpayers and that (the wind farm development) affects taxpayers in the school district and neighboring school districts,” Gibbs said to the Township Board. “If this slips through . . . I don’t know, I would feel as if our system failed us.”
Louis Vogel, a rural Roanoke resident who will have some of the turbines constructed on his property, also is concerned about the negotiations, saying he never anticipated a road agreement to stall things.
“(The townships) want every little demand met,” he said.
By John Sharp, The Journal Star
John Sharp can be reached at 686-3234 or email@example.com.
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