Public input was bitter and confrontational at this week’s Woodford County Board meeting.
The board has discussed ways to respond to the input – mostly in opposition to the proposed El Paso wind farm —including having board Chairman John Krug refer issues to the appropriate public official or board committee for an answer.
The dilemma prompted a veteran board member Tuesday to take the public input microphone himself.
“I believe the Woodford County Board was better before public input was allowed,” Ken Uphoff of Hudson said. He said it is “ridiculous” to allow public input that derides board members and tells them how they should vote.
Teresa Gauger of El Paso earlier told the board that “my quality of life does not include a wind project,” and asked the judicial committee to investigate board members Larry Whitaker of Eureka and Gary Jones of East Peoria for “bid rigging” as members of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.
She also chided board members Terry Pille and Thomas Janssen, both of Minonk, for alleged conflicts of interest with the wind farm projects, saying they should abstain from voting.
A wind farm in Minonk is one of four proposed in the county. Babcock and Brown own both the Minonk and El Paso projects, having purchased them from Navitas. The company has applied for meteorological towers for around Minonk.
Invenergy of Chicago owns a project north of Carlock, including 10 turbines in Woodford County. The company is expected to reapply for a special-use permit.
Iberdrola owns a project near Benson. Its special-use permit expired and the company is expected to re-apply and double the original size of the project to the north, said John Hamann, zoning administrator.
Later, responding to the allegations, Jones said, “If all public input is just going to be to come in and throw bombs and leave, I agree with Mr. Uphoff.”
Whitaker described the events that led Jones’ company to get the bid for insurance for the Tri-County body. He said Tri-County had been with the same company for 23 years, put it out for bids and hired a consultant to write the specifications. Jones’ company was the lowest bidder and provided better coverage.
“We did the right thing,” Whitaker said. “Bring Kenneth Starr in if you like.”
The board is expected to vote on a special-use permit for the El Paso wind farm at its July 15 meeting at Eureka Middle School.
By Jerry McDowell
20 June 2008
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