A road agreement reached late Thursday ensures that one of the largest economic development projects ever in Woodford County will happen.
But exactly when the project begins is anyone’s guess.
A road agreement between the township boards of Panola, Clayton, and Greene was reached with Navitas Energy, the developers of a 79-turbine, $260 million wind farm project northeast of Benson.
In it, both sides agreed that any legal liability matters on the township’s roads will be handled by the party that is responsible, a measure that was accepted eagerly by Navitas since it has been a sticking point in negotiations for some time.
“We will take responsibility on decisions we make, and they are responsible on decisions they make,” Wanda Davies, project manager with Minneapolis-based Navitas said.
Sheryl Kuzma, the attorney representing the three townships, said the deal places a two-year period where various damages to the road are covered by Navitas.
“We’re pleased that it clearly covers latent damage to township roads for a two-year period and it clarifies when the two-year maintenance period related to the road begins,” Kuzma said.
The agreement also maintains that Navitas pay for Kuzma’s legal fees amassed while she represented the townships during the negotiations. Neither side had details on how much money that might be.
Davies said having the company pay for the township’s fees is the only difference between this road agreement and one approved by Woodford County officials in September that pertained to the county’s roads.
Reaching a road agreement ends months of back-and-forth struggles between both sides over various issues, mostly on legal matters pertaining to the township’s roads.
Last month, Woodford County officials said they would consider annexing township roads if a road agreement wasn’t reached. Also, they considered pursuing an eminent domain case to forcibly seize those roads.
“The county had talked about annexation of the roads, but we didn’t want to do that,” Davies said. “We wanted an agreement and to have everyone get along amicably and this was the best way to accomplish that.”
Kuzma said thoughts of annexation were not a concern with the townships.
With the road matter addressed, Navitas will now pursue a building permit to construct the facility. It will feature 400-foot-high turbines, which are considerably higher than Peoria’s 29-story Twin Tower buildings.
Davies said she is unsure when construction will begin, due to uncertainties with turbine manufacturing and how long it might be for Navitas to get equipment for a substation.
“We still have questions on whether we can build in 2007,” she said. “We don’t have a definite answer on 2007 or 2008 construction.”
By John Sharp of the Journal Star
John Sharp can be reached at 686-3234 or email@example.com.
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