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Impact of wind turbines on Maxinkuckee skyline, other aspects hot topic for Council

The potential role of Culver’s Town Council – and other local government bodies – in possible installation of dozens of wind turbines in Union Township was discussed at last week’s (July 12) Council meeting. Audience member Hank Bilsland, of South Street in Culver, asked if the Council had taken a position on the matter, which has been the subject of several meetings in the area in recent months.

As reported recently in The Culver Citizen, Florida-based company Nextera Energy is proposing to place a number of wind turbines in Marshall and Fulton Counties, many visibility from Culver’s town park and other shores. The matter has been controversial due to side effects some claim the turbines can produce in human and animal health, among other concerns, though the company has refuted such suggestions in its presentations.

Responding to Council member Lynn Overmyer’s comment that the turbines would be placed outside Culver’s town limits – and therefore do not fall within the Council’s purview – Bilsland said he attends the Osh Kosh Air Show at Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, a much larger lake than Maxinkuckee, where a great many wind turbines have been placed. He said the view of the lake has been radically altered there by the presence of the towers.

“These things (wind turbines) have a tremendous effect on the country. You have to see something like that to put it in perspective.” Adding he understood the proposed turbines in this county will be “the highest of any that have ever been done,” Bilsland said, “I think the town should have a position. Once they’re here, there’s no stopping it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing (at Lake Winnebago). They’ve grown even more since last year…I think the town needs to realize they could be affected. Studies now say they hurt property values in a big way.”

Town attorney Jim Clevenger said the company was looking at the southern tier of Marshall County, largely in the Argos area approaching Culver. Nextera is about halfway finished testing two towers for feasibility of the projects, he said.

“There have been clients and farmers in to see us,” said Clevenger. Audience member Patty Stallings, a member of Culver’s Parks and Recreation board, said she attended a recent meeting of Culver’s Kiwanis Club where Nextera representatives spoke and showed a digitally enhanced image of towers visible from the park and along the east shore of the lake.

“There were 14 to 18 towers we could see from the park,” she said. “I asked the park board to study it and make a decision, and then come to you to see if you could study it. Then we could go to the county to discuss it. They’re 45 stories high at the tip of the thing. “I think as government bodies,” she added, “we need to go and express what we feel about these things.”

Jane Grund, of the Lake Maxinkuckee Association, said that organization’s board of directors has formulated a resolution against the project, and she has spoken to Ralph Booker, plan director for the county’s Planning Commission, “about what we can do to stop it “You can read the (county) ordinance online,” she added. “Everybody should talk with (Booker) themselves. (The project) is permitted as a special use in section 6 and 7. The county commissioners have to be involved in it…it would go before the BZA because a special use permit is required. Nothing has been submitted yet.”

Stallings added the company would sell energy derived from the turbines to nonlocal companies. “It won’t reduce our energy bills,” she said. “(The company) will pay property taxes, which will go to the county to spend as they want. They’re (Nextera) offering a lot of money to property owners (to lease their land for the project).”

“A lot of money to property owners and their neighbors,” said Clevenger.

911, dispatch discussed

In other discussion, Marshall County Sheriff Tom Chamberlin discussed funding issues faced by the county’s 911 emergency dispatch system. The shortfall is largely the result of a drastic reduction in the number of households with land-line telephones in the county. $1.53 per month is collected from land-line owners, said Chamberlin, towards the dispatch service, but presently around 30 percent of Marshall County homes have transitioned away from land-lines, mostly to cellular phones, and that number is likely to increase.

He said the state charges 25 cents per cell phone user, but it’s unclear where those funds go. The county maintains 911 trunk lines and computer terminal stations manned by eight paid staff, four part-time, and one communications supervisor. All are “cross-trained” as jailers, he said, and the total of 19 employees in the department can also provide “ample support” during the course of the day when emergencies arrive. Between police, EMS, and fire calls, Culver’s county-dispatched service calls totaled around 2,600 for 2010, including 911 wired line calls, regular calls to Culver’s police, cell 911 calls, and calls initiated by local emergency workers.

County dispatchers handle all Culver Police Department calls, 24 hours per day, seven days per week, said Chamberlin, whenever Culver police aren’t able to answer their local number. Culver pays $4,000 per year for that service. Like Culver, many small towns around Marshall County maintain a local phone number for emergency calls, and many residents still utilize those numbers, he said.

In 2010, the county dispatch’s shortfall was over $18,000, with the county’s general fund making up the difference. Chamberlin explained the county council is the fiscal body which could raise the fee per land-line user, but he noted such a move could affect low-income residents and doesn’t solve the growing problem as more and more people turn to cell phones exclusively.

He said he proposed a fee based on each community’s usage of the service, noting the large difference in use between Tippecanoe Township, for example, and the city of Plymouth. He said the county council may form an ad hoc committee from around the county to look at funding.

New sign permissions approved

Council actions at the meeting included agreement to guidelines suggested by Culver’s Chamber of Commerce regarding placement of “sandwich board” style signs on sidewalks outside businesses, a matter which came up during a previous meeting.

Street superintendent Bob Porter asked that the language of the guidelines be changed to allow for 48 inches’ clearance for handicapped compliance, and that it include language to prevent obstruction of view for drivers leaving an alley. Council member Ralph Winters noted the stipulation was for signs to be legal from daylight to dark, and suggested the vote pertain to this year only, to give an opportunity to follow up on the matter next year.

It was also agreed signs could be placed in winter and summer alike. Attorney Clevenger noted the guidelines would need to be written into Culver’s zoning ordinance.

Street work Porter reported to the Council that the Indiana Department of Transportation’s cultural resources department has told the town it much have an archaeological reconnaissance study conducted in order to move forward with work pertaining to its Safe Routes to School grant, which replaces sidewalks along several routes in Culver. As a result, small holes would have to be dug every 30 feet “to see if there’s any archaeological sites” along the route, said Porter. Affected areas would include part of Main, Ohio, and School Streets. Planning firm the Troyer Group will work with Ball State representatives to facilitate the work, at an additional cost of $4,564.

Porter said the department ordered the move due to a 1950s study which recorded prehistoric deposits in the area from glacial activity. Council members, who approved the additional cost, discussed the need to supervise the project to prevent damage to sprinklers and other underground

“I authorize the expenditure,” added Winters. “But I sure don’t approve it.”

Porter also discussed a quote from Verl Shaffer, local clock enthusiast and repairman, for a large, outdoor clock to be placed in Culver’s downtown for $7,213, of which Shaffer would pay $308 towards rosettes on the clock.

The endeavor is part of another grant-funded project to improve Culver’s downtown streetscape. Winters said the project seems to be “going way over budget. This (clock) will be very attractive, and the price seems reasonable, (but) I thought we would be asking for community support.”

Town Clerk Casey Howard said the Culver Redevelopment Commission will be paying the town’s portion of the project, and could use its funds to pay for the clock. Council president Ginny Munroe said she hesitated to turn to private fundraising for the clock portion of the project.

Indian monument proposed

Culver EMS director Chuck Dilts, who is also a Scoutmaster in Culver, informed the Council he had been contacted by a representative of the Fulton County Historical Society to facilitate a Scout project to place a large rock with a sign marking the presence of a Potawatomi Indian village on the shore of Lake Maxinkuckee in the 1830s.

The rock would be placed in the town park at the west end of the “Indian trails” with a dedication ceremony in September. Some in the audience pointed out the location of the actual village – one of two on the lake’s shores – was a few miles away and across the lake on its east shore, and the rock could be misleading to visitors regarding the actual history of the area, though Dilts said Historical Society representatives sought to avoid private property issues in placing the rock.

Street millings have also been placed along the former railroad bed – now a walking trail – between the town park and Academy Road for safer walking conditions, it was reported.

Other Council actions

In other actions, the Council approved $1,308 for charting software for Culver’s EMS; a contract for up to 200 tons of salt for use this winter on Culver’s streets, at $58.09 per ton; a resolution to adopt Marshall County’s hazard mitigation plan (an annual resolution); and agreed Porter and Howard should write a letter to property owners at Marmont and Main Street, where water from a circular sump pump floods the sidewalk regularly and presents a potential safety hazard.

The Council agreed Howard and Porter will also write a letter to property owners on South Ohio Street to urge them to clean up properties there, after Overmyer said she’d received calls from residents wondering why so much money went into street, curb, and sidewalk improvements on that street without enforcement of cleanup ordinances there. Howard updated the Council on word she’d received from Garden Court board president Ron Liechty regarding progress on Culver’s Garden Court senior living facility, presently under construction on South Main Street. The project is 29 percent completed, said Howard, and it’s expected to be done as planned in January, 2012, allowing tenants to move in by the end of Marsh. 85 percent of residents will be local, Howard said.