Due to the consensus of Tyrone Borough council last evening, at the April 22 primary voting booths, borough residents who are registered to vote may check mark an informal survey about his or her thoughts on a proposed Gamesa Energy USA 10 to 15 turbine wind farm on the borough’s watershed property on Ice Mountain.
The survey decision comes in the midst of Gamesa increasing payout figures in its proposed 30-year lease agreement with the borough, due to wind resource information gathered from an Ice Mountain meteorological test tower. Gamesa is willing to increase the Option Period for the option to lease the land to $5,000 per year, compared to the original $1,500 per year.
Gamesa has also increased the Operation Period per windmill per year from $6,000 to $7,000. The original three percent gross annual electricity revenue has now gone up to 3.5 percent, and increase to a maximum of 4.5 percent in the latter of the 30-year contract. The gross annual electricity revenue is only paid if it is higher than the now $7,000 per windmill per year.
The windmill survey that will be placed at voting booths throughout the borough requires simply a “yes” or “no” to the proposed wind farm.
Registered borough voters will have to show his or her voting stub before the survey can be taken. Council members and police enforcement will be at the polls to oversee the conducted survey without being of any influence for or against the proposed project.
The results of the survey cannot be binding upon borough council due to Home Rule Charter, but council feels the informal survey will provide a fair and impartial assessment of the opinion of borough residents on the proposed wind farm project.
Borough residents who are not registered to vote but would like to register can do so by coming into the borough office by the registration deadline of March 24.
Tyrone Mayor James Kilmartin feels that not only will this survey be yet another tool for council to use in its decision on Gamesa’s proposed wind farm, but he hopes more people will get registered and vote at the upcoming primary.
“We want to hear what the voters have to say, that’s very significant,” said Kilmartin. “If people aren’t registered, we want to get them registered. We want to hear what the borough residents have to say.”
He added, “We hear from people all around the area and outside of the area, but we want to hear what the very residents in the borough say. This will be a non-judgmental vote in the way that it’s not pressured.”
In added fairness, Councilperson Patricia Stoner said that the borough will gather the completed surveys and compile the results with the assistance of not only council members, but also representatives from the “Save Ice Mountain” coalition that consists of borough residents who oppose the wind farm project.
Borough resident Terry Hyde, who attended last night’s meeting and suggested an informal survey at the voting booths in a Feb. 9 Herald “Letter to the Editor,” said he didn’t want to see the registered voters in the area be “disenfranchised” from a choice that they had an opportunity to at least let council know how they feel about it.
“Whatever way it falls, it falls,” said Hyde. “One of the important things of it is that our community is about a 50/50 community, about half of us are retired, and for those who aren’t retired are on a limited income base. You have to look at when this all started with the windmill project, people we’re talking maybe between $2 to $2.5 million, and now we’re up to maybe $3 million coming back to the community from an energy source, of which no other energy source has ever done that.”
He continued, “When you talk about green and greed, natural gas wants a 20 percent increase; they didn’t give us any money. Coal companies don’t give us any money, they just take it from the land. Electric companies aren’t giving us any money.”
“They’re (Gamesa) willing to put $3 million in investment to you, and may go even more, which that money can be used for the Chesapeake Bay project, community projects, or used for anything to help that limited income base out the whole way down,” added Hyde.
As Kilmartin stated, Hyde said that the best thing about doing a survey for registered voters is the fact it might draw people into getting registered and voting at the primary.
“Whatever the decision goes, that’s the way it goes; but, we’re not leaving anybody out of the picture who wants to register and vote,” said Hyde.
Kilmartin added of the survey, “It gives us (council) more tools, it gives us more research to be able to deal with.
By Kris Yaniello
11 March 2008
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