Negotiations are under way for a more mutually beneficial understanding on emergency response to any mishaps at construction sites for the Grand Ridge wind farm.
With the first construction phase of the 66-turbine wind farm south of the Illinois River now started, concern was sparked among area fire protection districts on a proposed agreement that would call for the Ottawa fire department to respond to locations outside its jurisdiction.
That proposed agreement between Ottawa and Chicago-based Invenergy, which is building the wind farm, drew criticism from the fire districts where the turbines would be located. They pointed out the Ottawa fire department would be responding to locations outside its jurisdiction. Also, in the case of high-altitude rescue, Ottawa would call for help from the same mutual aid organization of which all are members.
The emergency response agreement was part of an Invenergy-requested expansion of the regional enterprise zone Ottawa administrates. The zone runs east along the Illinois River into Grundy County. The benefit to Invenergy would be an exemption to state sales tax on construction materials. Under the original agreement, Ottawa stood to benefit from a fee equivalent of up to 20 percent of the sales tax savings.
The expansion must be approved by all enterprise zone members. The La Salle County Board gave its approval Tuesday after board attorney Troy Holland reported the county still would receive its full share of property and county sales taxes.
Jack Leininger, R-Marseilles, also president of the Marseilles Fire Protection District Board, said a new arrangement between Invenergy and the fire districts is being devised.
“It’s going to benefit not only the Grand Ridge Volunteer Fire Department and Marseilles Fire Protection District and Seneca and Ransom, but it’s going to benefit everybody in the county because they’re going to benefit everybody in the county.”
Leininger said Invenergy is “going to put some expensive equipment into those departments that have jurisdiction out there” to service the unique situations responding to a wind turbine may pose.
Invenergy is proposing to spread around $200,000 to $300,000 in new equipment, he said.
More meetings are scheduled, Leininger said.
“This is a win-win situation in my opinion.”
“At first we were kind of questioning this agreement,” said Ron Wilson of the Grand Ridge Fire Department Board. But now, he said, his department was happy with the change in direction for the response agreement.
By Charles Stanely
14 November 2007
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