After a great deal of planning and discussion, it looks as if the Litchfield School District will be getting their windmill after all.
During Tuesday’s Litchfield City Council meeting, the alderman gave the project the OK after City Attorney Brad Hantla said that if the small wind turbine was used primarily as an educational tool, then no rezoning would be necessary.
Hantla, who had discussed the matter with the school district’s attorney, Jay Adams, compared it to the high school’s auto shop program. Hantla said that a business like that wouldn’t normally be permitted to run in a residential area, but since it is a educational tool, it is permissible.
City Administrator Andrew Ritchie said that the amount of power produced by the turbine, would be about 1,500 watts, or the equivalent of an extension cord in your house.
Prior to the final decision, Litchfield Superintendent Chad Allison detailed the project for the council.
Allison said that the purpose of the project is to give the students the opportunity to see an alternative energy source and to try to educate them on how to take care of the earth.
The project is made possible through a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, with which the district has worked involving its solar panel program.
The Foundation recently set up a K-12 Wind Schools Pilot program, which awarded no more than five grants to K-12 schools that demonstrated exceptional performance as recipients of Illinois Solar Schools grants.
The Litchfield School District was one of the five schools selected and could receive up to $20,000 in grant money for the project. The deadline for accepting the grant was actually June 1, but the foundation agreed to extend that date until the issues involving zoning could be resolved.
Allison said that the structure would be put up near the north end of the football field and would be a lot smaller than the commercial wind turbines, like the one located near Farmersville.
Allison then talked about some of the concerns with the program, starting with aesthetics. He mentioned that aesthetics are really dependent on a person’s tastes and he wasn’t sure what role someone could have to legislate taste.
Allison then moved on to concerns over the sound of the turbines. According to the superintendent, the sound would be much quieter than a lawn mower, and probably quieter than a Friday night football game.
Allison continued by saying that the sound pressure level from a wind turbine at 100 feet is less than inside a car, or near a home computer. He added that a clasp hitting a flagpole is more distinguishable than any sound a small wind turbine makes.
The next concern was property values, about which Allison said there has been no study that shows a decrease in property values due to proximity to wind turbines.
Allison finished by saying that the students could read a book or watch a video on wind turbines, but would get more out of actually seeing the machines work, comparing it to the school’s building trades program.
Alderman Dwayne Gerl asked about the height and span of the structure. Litchfield School District’s buildings and grounds coordinator Dale Bruhn said that the structure would be approximately 100 feet tall (86-feet is ideal according to Bruhn) and would be on a nine foot by nine foot base.
He said that the blades of the turbine would be smaller than the one put up by the Schmidt family just north of Litchfield.
Alderman Gerl asked if there was any chance that a student could climb up the tower and hurt him/her self. Bruhn said that he wasn’t sure on what type of structure would be built, but he didn’t believe that it would be a lattice type that would allow it to be climbed.
Once the wind turbine is built, the information it provides will be web based, which will allow students in all grades, not just the high school and middle school, to learn from it.
The final vote to allow the project passed by a 6-1 margin, with Alderman Tim Hancock voting no and Alderman Gary Law absent.
In other business, the council voted to approve a bid from Respondex that would repair the city’s railroad crossings in the industrial park. The bid calls for the city to pay no more than $20,000 of the project, while Respondex pays the other $10,000 to complete the new asphalt crossing.
The council also approved a bid from Neuhaus Heating and Air Conditioning in Litchfield to fix the HVAC controls in city hall. Ritchie explained that the city had budgeted $10,000 to repair the one section of the building, with hopes that the other section would be all right. But when the other section began to fail as well, the decision was made to correct all of the controls in the building.
Neuhaus’ bid of $15,224.06 will replace all of the thermostats in the building and will add a centrally located control station that will allow the heating and cooling system to be controlled by one computer. The project will also fix a duct problem in the building to make the HVAC system more efficient.
Alderman Harold Ellinger asked if there were any repercussions for the company that originally installed the HVAC system. Ritchie said there were not, because the city had several different companies work on the system or replace elements since that time.
Other items passing on Tuesday were motions to approve payment of application number three for work on the water treatment plant once the city receives the partial waivers of lien, to approve the prevailing wage rate ordinance, to change the zoning ordinance pertaining to corporate limits and contiguous areas, and approval of a facade grant to Coffman Drug Store.
The purchase of a new life safety/rescue boat for use on Lake Lou Yaeger was pulled from the consent agenda and tabled until the next council meeting with no discussion.
The council also heard from Litchfield Dive Captain Scott Haenel, who recently attended a summit meeting for dive teams in Illinois.
Haenel said that the Litchfield Dive Team is the southern most fully recognized dive team by MABAS (the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System program that allows communities to contact each other for mutual aid) and only fully recognized dive team south of Peoria.
Haenel credited the council for continuing the training of the team, his team and former dive captain Larry Pence, who formed the team, for the success of the dive program.
Haenel, who is also a dive instructor, also said he is finishing a class of eight divers right now, with another seven signed up for another class. He added that two more towns are interested in dive classes as well.
The meeting wrapped up with Ritchie updating the council on several projects, saying that the State Street project and the new traffic light control system are both basically finished. He added that repairs are being done to Jackson Street currently and that work is progressing well on the Niemanville Trail project.
Mayor Tom Jones asked when the Walton Park Bridge would be ready for traffic again. Ted LaBelle of Crawford, Murphy and Tilly said he didn’t know an exact date, but that the hope was for the project to be complete by mid-July.