Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy has been working diligently for the approval of the Rail Splitter Wind Farm in Logan County.
And its opponents have been working just as hard to stop the construction at its current location.
The opponents and proponents, however, aren’t the only people breaking a sweat.
Logan County Engineer Brett Aukamp has possibly been one of the hardest, neutral-party workers since Horizon has filed for a conditional-use permit to begin constructing its wind turbines.
At 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Aukamp was sitting in the top row of the bleachers at Hartsburg-Emden High School for the third night of Logan County’s Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on whether to allow Horizon to begin construction. And each meeting on the two previous nights ran just as long.
“I’m here in case they have any questions,” Aukamp said.
Although the length of the process was visibly beginning to wear on him, he was still available.
Despite whatever the zoning board of appeals decides, Logan County has to be ready for the results.
In comes Aukamp.
One of the most crucial details in the county allowing Horizon’s plan is the County Road Upgrade and Maintenance Agreement. Aukamp has been working with Horizon representatives since the project’s inception to ensure county roads will be in better condition after construction of the wind turbines.
He approached the road and bridge committee first about establishing the agreement in March and has made clear to public officials the importance of making sure county roads are protected.
This agreement outlines both Horizon’s financial and physical responsibilities, where county roads are concerned.
Horizon has agreed to 25 different items, listed from “A” to “Y.” In turn, the county has agreed to 10 different items to assist Horizon.
Some of the main points Horizon agreed to are:
n Obtain permission of the county highway department for any alterations of the original plan.
n Become a state-wide member of J.U.L.I.E. (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators) and provide them with all of the information necessary to update its records.
n Install all cables at least 10 feet away from any existing Logan County right-of-ways.
n Provide plans for the widening of any corner radius necessary to facilitate the turning movements of the transport trucks used by the developer.
n Transport the tower segments and other oversize loads so as to minimize adverse impact on the local traffic.
n Pay for all repairs of county roads damaged during the construction.
Throughout the plan, the agreement consistently makes Horizon responsible for notifying the county of any major moves, construction, road closing or other issue that may affect roads or traffic.
It also makes Horizon responsible for establishing an escrow account to ensure funds will be available for repair, as well as providing additional funds to the county for its road use.
The agreement states: At the start of construction of the project and on the first, second, third and fourth anniversaries thereafter, pay to the Logan County Highway Department, the amount of $12,500.
Thirty days before upgrades begin, Horizon will put $150,000 in an escrow account, which will be used to pay for expenses. Additional deposits, not to exceed $300,000, will also be made after the escrow account is established.
Horizon will need to show a “performance bond” or letter of credit, which the county can draw against if Horizon doesn’t pay for a necessary repair.
Aukamp has also stated to both county committees and the county board that he prefers his own people over Horizon’s to do the sealing work, once the roads have been reconstructed.
“I know our people do a really good job,” said Aukamp in an earlier committee meeting..
Despite the fact that county workers will be used, Horizon will be paying for the materials and cost of the construction.
Another important part of the agreement is the pre- and post-construction inventory. If the roads have problems that didn’t exist prior to construction, Horizon will be responsible for payment.
After Aukamp said he was “comfortable with the agreement,” the Logan County Board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve it.
By Joshua Niziolkiewicz
20 June 2008