The Marshall County Board gave final approval Thursday for a 40-megawatt wind farm to be developed southeast of Toluca.
The board voted unanimously to grant a special use permit to Minonk Stewardship Wind LLC, a joint venture of a Tiskilwa firm and a Paris company with an office in Chicago.
“I do feel these folks have met all the requirements of our zoning,” said zoning committee Chairman Patrick Sloan.
The meeting included a brief discussion of pending litigation in Houston, where lead developer Stewardship Energy LLC of Tiskilwa is being sued for investment-related fraud. Stewardship president Matthew Kauffman told the board the case would have no impact on the local project.
“Anybody can file a lawsuit, and this one did,” Kauffman said. “It’s a fairly boring contract lawsuit. It’s something that businesses face every day.”
The board’s approval came over the objections of several residents who live in the area where the 16 turbines will be located. Rebecca Donna, an Illinois Valley Community College professor who also had objected at an earlier Zoning Board of Appeals hearing, said the turbines will reduce quality of life and property values for residents not involved in the project.
“There are 31 residents (in that category),” Donna said. “I know that’s not a lot of people, but I think the county should consider those people. It will very negatively impact our lives.”
Construction is expected to start next summer. The board’s approval stipulated that no building permits can be issued until the developers provide a funded decommissioning plan and reach a written agreement with Bennington Township for repair of roads damaged during construction.
“We’ve got to have assurance that they’ve got money or a bond for decommissioning and also for the roads,” said board Chairman Dennis Bogner.
In other business, the board adopted a $6.24 million 2011 budget incorporating a plan that will for the first time require county employees to contribute to the cost of group health insurance.
Under that plan, which could put the county on a collision course with labor unions, each participating employee will have to pay at least $126 a month. The total cost surged from $366 to $546 a month, said board member Travis McGlasson.
Because union contracts call for full county payment, “We’re going to have to negotiate with the unions,” Bogner said. “If they aren’t willing to pay it, then we might have to make other (budget) cuts.”
The budget reduces University of Illinois Extension funding from $81,000 to $61,000 and trims about 5 percent from the general fund across the board, but doesn’t entirely eliminate deficit spending, said Sloan.
“We’re still projecting a deficit of $100,000 eating into our reserves,” he said.
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