A wind energy developer will meet with five fire departments to discuss training and coordination of emergency services for a planned 66-wind turbine farm south of Ottawa.
The announcement came after commissioners in Ottawa and Marseilles questioned a request from Invenergy, or Grand Ridge Energy, for the Ottawa Fire Department to provide emergency services at the development, located in Brookfield, Allen and Grand Rapids.
The developer has requested the Ottawa enterprise zone be expanded to include the project. The benefit of being located in an enterprise zone is a state sales tax break on construction materials.
At Tuesday’s Ottawa City Council meeting, officials said the developer agreed to pay the city an amount equal to 20 percent of the state sales tax savings for coordinating emergency services to the project and administering the enterprise zone. However, two commissioners questioned how the city’s fire department personnel and equipment could handle emergency services to the development, which sits outside the city limits.
The enterprise zone spans from Ottawa to Grundy County, and for the wind farm to be included, the various government entities along the route also must approve the request. On Wednesday, Marseilles officials tabled the agreement after learning the developer would provide Ottawa compensation and had asked the city to provide emergency services.
Michael Arndt, Invenergy senior development manager, explained to the Marseilles Council the fee is customary to an enterprise zone’s administrator, which in this case is Ottawa.
Arndt said the fee would cover emergency response services, including high altitude rescue, from Ottawa, even though the project area is served by multiple fire service agencies.
Marseilles Commissioner Jim Hollenbeck, also assistant fire chief with the Marseilles Fire Protection District, dubbed the arrangement “kind of a slap in the face” to Marseilles.
On Thursday, Ottawa officials again met to discuss the agreement and voted to place it on file for public inspection.
Meetings now will are planned between the developer and fire departments in Ottawa, Grand Ridge, Marseilles, Seneca and Ransom.
Ottawa City Council members are expected to consider final action on the proposed agreement, together with an ordinance to expand the enterprise zone, at the Tuesday, Nov. 20 meeting.
By Tammy Sloup
9 November 2007
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