DIXON – Two members of the Lee County committee reviewing the county’s wind farm ordinance struck deals with wind energy companies a few years ago, according to public documents.
Another member has expressed concern about his colleagues’ ties to the industry.
In 2008, Ron Conderman, the panel’s chairman, entered an easement agreement with Big Sky LLC, which he said was for a substation that the company eventually decided not to build.
A year before, member Mike Pratt signed an agreement with Big Sky for electric lines and wind energy facilities.
Big Sky, a subsidiary of Santa Ana, Calif.-based Edison Mission, built a wind farm that stretches from Bureau to Lee counties. Many nearby residents have complained about the turbines, saying they’re creating noise and shadow flicker and are interfering with TV reception.
Conderman and Pratt are members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, which hears proposals for new wind farms.
Conderman said no money changed hands in connection with his Big Sky agreement. The company was interested in having a substation on his property, but apparently chose another site, he said.
“I’ve checked with the state’s attorney. He indicates there is no conflict of interest,” Conderman said.
He said he didn’t know how much money he would have received had the substation been built on his farm.
State’s Attorney Henry Dixon didn’t return a message for comment Monday. Pratt also couldn’t be reached.
Opponents of wind farms have called the committee biased in favor of the wind industry. They have targeted member Keith Bolin of Bureau County, who works for the industry.
Bolin, the office manager for Mainstream Renewable Power’s Walnut office, readily admits he’s an enthusiastic backer of wind farms.
The opponents also have questioned the participation of member Alan Pfeifer, a Sauk Valley Community College professor, noting that he was in charge of a study to get a wind turbine at the school. Pfeifer said the project constituted only a tiny fraction of his duties.
Committee member Steve Robery, who wants greater regulation of wind farms, said he didn’t know if the agreements with Pratt and Conderman were conflicts of interest.
But he said the committee’s chairman and vice chairman should have investigated such issues when the panel formed last fall. They should have asked “each potential member whether or not they had any prior dealings with a wind turbine company that may be construed as a conflict of interest,” he said in an e-mail Monday.
“This question should have been asked and answered as part of the committee selection process instead of waiting to see if it came up later,” said Robery, a Franklin Grove resident.
He said that if there is the “slightest hint of a conflict of interest in a given situation, the situation should be avoided.”
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