Anyone who is familiar with the several main routes through the city of Ishpeming may have noticed something missing lately.
The small “replica” statues that once pointed the way to the incomplete wind turbine construction site near the Pine Bluff senior housing complex were taken down just before the Fourth of July by the city’s Department of Public Works.
“We’re storing them and will put them back up if there is any progress in that project,” City Manager Al Bakalarski said. “As long as the project moves forward and the community wanted them, we would reinstall them.”
Bakalarski said city hall had received complaints regarding the statues, which were placed in the public right-of-way. The statues, which stood along the side of the road and sported red arrows pointing the way toward the future wind turbine, were struck by city snowplows and turned around to face the wrong direction on occasion.
“We were getting some complaints,” Bakalarski said. “A lot of people thought they were inappropriate, considering the status of the project.”
The Ishpeming Housing Commission was responsible for placing the statues and is also the group that helped arrange to have the wind turbine built. The commission entered into an agreement with Windstor, a company based in the Lower Peninsula, to purchase power from the turbine after it was built. The turbine was originally scheduled to be finished in 2006.
The company responsible for constructing the wind turbine, McKenzie Bay International Ltd., cited restructuring and financial difficulties in several delays that pushed the expected completion date into 2007.
As last year came to a close, a clearer view of the problems standing in the way of the turbine’s completion started to emerge.
MTI Energy Management, located in downstate Brighton and listing the same physical address that McKenzie Bay once listed for its offices, filed a complaint in United States District Court in 2007.
According to court documents, MTI is seeking more than $75,000 in financial damages as well as injunctive relief against Mackenzie Bay. MTI alleged Mackenzie Bay entered into a contract to help complete the Ishpeming turbine project but then impeded MTI’s ability to do so, failed to meet its obligations and “engaged in various acts of fraud.”
Phone calls seeking comment to Bryan Zaplitny, the president of MTI, and to Ishpeming Housing Commission director Evelyn Valente-Heikkila were not returned.
“I did talk to Evelyn after the fact and told her that we will put them back if the turbine gets going again,” said Jim Bertucci, the superintendent of public works in Ishpeming. “We’re going to keep storing them until we hear otherwise.”
By Sam Eggleston
Journal Ishpeming Bureau
18 July 2008