MONMOUTH – By a 3-2 vote, the Warren County Board’s Building and Grounds committee recommended approving a four year extension of the county farm lease agreement with Monarch Wind Farms. The full board will vote on the extension at a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9.
After going through a long process to get the wind farm through the zoning board and approved by the county board last year, in December Monarch requested an extension of their lease. It needed the extra time because the lease included a clause allowing the county to terminate the lease if Monarch was not producing electricity by August. Because of the state’s funding issues and other procedural delays, Monarch told State’s Attorney Chip Algren they needed more time.
When Algren relayed this request to the Warren County Board, members decided to use the opportunity to have an outside lawyer review the lease. At the February meeting, Algren said he’d spoken with Monarch and the outside attorney and could have a revised lease ready for review by the end of February.
The 10 changes to the lease – most cleaning up language or clarifying existing provisions – were considered and approved by the Building and Grounds committee Wednesday.
Prior to discussion of the changes, board member Marvin Hawk – who is not on the building and grounds committee but was attending the meeting – asked the committee to table the debate. Algren provided the committee with copies of the lease and an outline of the changes a few days ago, but not by the Feb. 23 date that had been discussed at last month’s full board meeting.
“We have not had adequate time to review this,” Hawk said.
Algren said that while some dates had been thrown out at the last meeting, “we got it out as quick as we could.”
When no committee member made a motion to table the debate, Hawk immediately left the meeting.
Some of the changes in the lease include:
— Eliminated a typo stating the lease was for 80 years. It is a 40-year lease.
— Extended the termination clause until Oct. 20, 2015.
— Added a section that, in the event the original developer were to default, would allow any lenders or financiers to cure the default and take over the wind farm.
— Clarified that Monarch is required to pay all taxes on the wind farm.
— Clarified the issue of the confidentiality clause. Some board members had expressed concern that the clause prohibited them or citizens from publicly discussing any complaints or problems with the project.
Algren said the confidentiality agreement only extends to areas such as trademark sensitivity or personal financial disclosures. Anything that would be open under Illinois Public Record laws – including written complaints submitted to the board – would not be covered under the confidentiality agreement.
— Clarified that the special use exemption takes precedence over the lease. For example, the lease states all electrical cables must be underground, but the special use exemption allows an overhead wire from the substation to the grid – which is the only way such a wire could be run.
During the discussion, board member Dave Jenks, who had repeatedly voted against the wind farm, said in Macomb a wind farm project is in trouble because of the cost of underground wiring.
“They’re saying, if you don’t allow us to put it above ground it’s a deal breaker,” he said.
Algren said Monarch has never raised the issue and if they did it would be up to the board to decide what they wanted to do because it would require a change in the special use exemption.
Members Rusty Stanton, Doug Harper and Tim Bresnahan voted in favor of taking the revised lease to the full board, while Todd Winkler and Brett Stahl voted against it.
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