It took three hours Thursday night in a crowded school gymnasium for the Woodford County Board to postpone action on the controversial El Paso Wind Farm until its July meeting.
“The actions that I’ve witnessed here tonight make me sick to my stomach,” El Paso Mayor Herb Arbuckle said to the roar of the crowd.
Arbuckle was among 20 people making public comments to the board after an extended fight between board Chairman John Krug and board member Gary Jones on what agenda the board should be using.
Three different board committees voted earlier to bring resolutions to the board about the proposed 40-turbine development by Minneapolis-based Navitas.
The approval of a special-use permit nearly a year ago by the Zoning Board of Appeals included a stipulation that township road commissioners reach an agreement with Navitas on future road maintenance. The project has been stalled for lack of that road maintenance agreement.
County Board members have been battling over whether the board can vote on the project before the maintenance issue is settled and whether the board should seek to broker such an agreement.
The agenda for the May 20 meeting was altered at least three times. When the board finally met that night, it had to adjourn to Thursday night because the crowd was too large for the County Board room.
With the meeting reconvened in the Eureka Middle School gymnasium, Jones challenged Krug’s authority to remove from the earlier agenda a resolution that was recommended by a board committee.
That caused Krug to accuse Jones and board member Larry Whitaker of bullying county Administrator Greg Jackson to place items on the agenda against the recommendations of State’s Attorney Michael Stroh.
“That action of bullying will stop in Woodford County,” Krug said.
Jones countered that “it is crystal clear in our rules” that committee resolutions should be on the agenda.
“It is crystal clear in your mind, not our rules,” Krug said.
Jones persisted that there was a pattern that “rules no longer apply to this chair.”
Krug ruled Jones’ efforts out of order, which caused Jones to challenge Krug’s action and call for a vote of the board.
The board sided with Jones 9-6 and then voted 8-7 that the original May 20 agenda should be valid for Thursday night.
All this and more occurred before the public input part of the agenda and clearly agitated the approximately 200 people, most opposed to the project, who had been waiting on hard bleacher seats.
Many were opponents who say turbines are unsightly and zoning limits tied to them will hamper economic development.
“Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t value my quality of life,” Don Kingdon, former El Paso school board member, told the board. “Do you believe you have the right to take away my lifestyle? How many businesses will not come to El Paso when you put me in the shadow of those blades?”
Board member Thomas Janssen said he will insist that no towers be within 1.5 miles of El Paso.
After extended public comments, some in support of the project and most opposed, the board considered several items before the wind farm issue came up for board discussion.
At Janssen’s suggestion, the board tabled the matter until July.
By Jerry McDowell
29 May 2008