Woodford County officials will look at whether any government or legal options can be made to ensure a $260 million wind farm northeast of Benson actually happens.
Woodford County Administrator Gregory Jackson will examine whether the county can proceed with annexing township roads or if the county can forcibly seize them through eminent domain.
The County Board requested Tuesday that Jackson look into what alternatives exist amid problems between three townships and the project’s developer, Navitas Energy, over a road agreement.
“We need to see where the townships will go with this,” Jackson said after the board approved its own road agreement with Navitas and a special-use permit allowing the project to be developed.
Both approvals were 12-0.
Jackson said he will have a report available for the County Board in time for a specially scheduled meeting at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
On Saturday, the three townships – Panola, Greene, and Clayton – approved a road agreement that Navitas officials have said they will not endorse.
“The township’s roads are vital to the movement of equipment,” Jackson said.
Christopher Moore, managing director with Navitas, said it is not in the company’s interest to pull the project out of Woodford County, although he said the company needs to start taking steps toward construction, which is targeted for a 2007 completion.
He said if an agreement is not reached to use the township’s roads soon, the company will consider alternative locations outside Woodford County for the project.
“We have to order (equipment) now,” Moore said. “Every day (the project is stalled) makes a difference.”
The particulars of the disagreement between Navitas and the townships revolve mostly around liability concerns and legal responsibility for mishaps on township roads. Ten weeks of negotiations have yielded no resolution over these concerns.
Under the county’s road agreement with Navitas, a two-year guarantee suggests that Navitas is responsible for any damage that occurs to county roads caused by construction of the wind farm.
Moore said a similar agreement has been requested of the township, calling it a “good-faith” and “reasonable” deal with the company.
If constructed, the wind farm will consist of 79 turbines that stand 400 feet tall from the base to the very highest point, or considerably higher than Peoria’s 29-story Twin Tower buildings.
The project would also be the biggest economic revenue generator for Woodford County.
Jackson said land owners will get $450,000 to $475,000 in leasing property for the project and government entities, notably Roanoke-Benson School District 60, also stand to reap millions from it annually.
By John Sharp of the Journal Star
John Sharp can be reached at 686-3234 or email@example.com.
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