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Residents get opportunity to speak  

Carolyn Gerwin, at the lectern, asks questions of PPM Energy representatives Tuesday during the second session of a public hearing on the proposed Cayuga Ridge wind farm. The hearing will continue tonight at 7 in the auditorium at Pontiac Township High School.

Several residents who live within the 15,000 acres where Cayuga Ridge Wind Farm turbines are planned raised a series of questions Tuesday, the second night of a public hearing on the project. An attorney representing some of them said information would be presented tonight countering some of the claims of the company seeking a special-use permit for the 155 turbines.

The second three-hour session of a public hearing held by the Livingston County Zoning Board of Appeals in the auditorium at Pontiac Township High School, Tuesday’s meeting was taken up by questions from the public to representatives of PPM Energy, who had made a presentation that constituted Monday’s session of the hearing. Tonight, in the third session, public comment and testimony will be heard by the Board of Appeals, which will make a recommendation to the Livingston County Board on whether to grant the permit that will allow the wind farm to be built.

The only person not coming to the lectern near the auditorium stage to ask questions Tuesday was Peoria attorney Chris Spanos, representing People Protecting Cayuga Ridge. The first person in the public-comment phase of the hearing, he said an appraiser would testify tonight about wind turbines’ effect on property values and an acoustical engineer will dispute some of the information PPM supplied about noise levels.

Spanos encouraged the Board of Appeals to “at least consider requiring” a property-value assurance plan before recommending approving the special use permit to the County Board and to put off that recommendation until hearing “both sides of the story” from “people just as qualified” as the PPM employees and consultants who presented their side on Monday.

Evidence and comment from the public will be received at tonight’s session, scheduled for 7 to 10 p.m. If more time is needed, the hearing will be continued, to an as-yet-undetermined date in May.

Questions on Tuesday to the PPM people ranged from the amount of tax money the turbines will produce to whether they could trigger an epileptic seizure to a sister visiting a resident near one of the turbines. Three County Board members – Carolyn Gerwin, Dee Woodburn and George Knudsen – asked questions as individuals, and Saunemin Mayor Mike Stoecklin asked about tax revenue to some of the government units in the wind-farm area.

Forty-three people had signed Monday as wanting to comment in the public hearing, and more signed before Tuesday’s session. When it began, Board of Appeals members had the first chance to ask questions, and one had to do with the 25-year lifespan of the project that had been mentioned previously in the hearing.

“If they’re not used, they’ll have to come down,” said Project Manager Jesper Michaelsen, and PPM’s Scott Winneguth said the turbines could get new blades as technology develops.

“I’m fully expecting to have these turbines running thirty years from now,” Winneguth said.

Gerwin, the first member of the public to ask questions, asked a number of them, including about a decommissioning agreement between the wind-farm company and Livingston County. At this time, a PPM legal adviser answered, it’s one of the aspects of the agreement that’s in progress. It was noted later in the meeting that the decommissioning plan and costs will be updated every three years, and a financial guarantee will be in place to pay for it.

Questions from Kim Schertz, who lives in Hudson but whose husband does some cropdusting in Livingston County, included some about tax subsidies for wind-energy companies, including the Production Tax Credit, a federal credit that will end this year if not renewed. Michaelsen said wind-farm projects have to fit in with the overall tax picture.

In answering some of the questions posed by Blackstone resident Laura Buscher, PPM representatives said that “a large percentage” of the 90 families who have lease agreements with the company live on the land where the towers will be located or in nearby towns, like Odell and Pontiac. She also asked which courts any lawsuits would go to, since PPM is being absorbed into a Spain-based company in May. Michaelsen said an agreement would be in place for decommission in that case, via either an escrow account or a letter of credit from a bank or other financial institution.

Another Blackstone resident, Cheryl Tate, was told in answer to some of her questions that wind turbines pose no threat to people with heart conditions or cause epileptic seizures. She was also told that during construction a well-publicized local phone number would be available to residents with concerns, such as night work installing rotors because of lower wind speeds than in daytime.

Saunemin resident Rich Fox and that village’s mayor Stoecklin asked some tax-revenue questions, and were told that the Odell, Saunemin and Emington-Campus fire districts will each get $22,000 to $70,000 a year, with some reduction over time.

Stoecklin asked about projected tax revenue that had been shown at Monday’s PowerPoint presentation by PPM, and covering periods of one, five and 25 years.

The 25-year projections included $723,000 to the Odell Park District, $8.5 million to the Dwight High School District, $10 million to the Saunemin Grade School District, and $8.3 million to Pontiac Township High School District 90.

By John Faddoul, Staff Reporter

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


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