MILLERSBURG – Holmes County, already a known tourism spot for Amish culture, may become known for a different type of tourism in the future – eco-tourism.
“Holmes County seems to be an ideal area for potential development of alternative energy through wind,” said Commissioner Dave Hall.
The commissioners met Thursday with Fred Deel, director of the Appalachian Regional Commission Fred Deel; assistant director Lou Gentile and Don Myers, director of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association, to discuss Appalachian development and the possibility of wind energy in the county.
“The potential for Holmes County could be huge,” Hall said. “You have to have wind at a continuous wind at a certain level and if you can do that, why not try it?”
According to Green Energy Ohio, Holmes County is on the map for having the most solar installations of any county in the state. Wind would be the next step.
“They’ve been looking at the wind map and the land in the area and the hills and what would be the best for wind,” Hall said. “I think you might be hearing from this group in the future.”
One problem with wind power investors might run into, Myers said, is the high expense of setting up turbines, with some of them costing upward of $2 million each. Wind turbines could provide another reason for people to visit the county, he said.
“That’s a tourism attraction in itself,” Myers said. “Some people hate it but 90 percent of people are drawn to it.”
Before committing to any alternative energy project, Gentile said, ARC is waiting for the Ohio House of Representatives to make a final vote on state’s comprehensive energy bill.
“I think wind is part of an advanced portfolio you want to look at,” Gentile said.
Right now, ARC has $120,000 to help with energy projects.
“Once this legislation is figured out in both chambers and passed. Maybe we can attract some other entities, public and private, and make that $120,000 a lot more,” Gentile said.
Infrastructure also was a concern of Deel’s, beginning with water systems.
“The water’s pretty strong,” said Commissioner Joe Miller. “It’s our sewer.”
“The minute you get the water out there, people are expecting wastewater,” Hall said.
Walnut Creek has run into that problem, Miller said. The treatment facility in Walnut Creek is a 90,000-gallon plant but is operating at 140,000 gallons.
Commissioners in August delayed giving Miller Hope Development a guarantee wastewater pipes would be available for a condominium development.
The estimated cost of expanding the facility is $3 million and included.
While the county’s sewers get an update, its broadband networks and telecommunications systems are much further ahead than some of its Appalachian neighbors.
“We are starting to look at that as infrastructure as much as water and sewer,” Gentile said.
Most businesses requiring Internet and cell phone services for operation and require a telecommunications network be in place before moving to an area, he said.
Infrastructure is essential to the county’s growth, and although the tourism dollars coming into the county are good for business, they put an added strain on the county’s infrastructure, Hall said.
“That’s the issue we’re dealing with,” he said. “We are trying to get funds for our infrastructure and they say we’re a little over 40,000 people; but we have 4 million people come through here. It’s an issue of showing the federal government we explode nine months out of the year because of tourism.”
By Katy Ganz
11 November 2007
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