DIXON – Over the past few months, officials in Lee and Whiteside counties have heard plenty of promises from wind energy companies.
Corporate officials often pledge to take care of complaints about their turbines.
Only time will tell. But experience may be an indicator in Lee County. Whiteside County, on the other hand, has no wind farms.
In its files, Lee County has 11 complaints that say turbines have affected TV and radio reception – all received this year about one company. They also blame turbines for other problems, including shadow flicker and difficulty selling homes.
Rosemead, Calif.-based Edison Mission Group has 114 turbines in Bureau and Lee counties. Residents in both counties have complained that the towers hurt broadcast reception.
In some cases, Lee County has documentation on how the company answered the complaints about the wind farm, which started a year ago.
In March, Big Sky sent letters via Federal Express to residents who have complained about the problems. The company offered a settlement of $2,500 for each resident to resolve their grievances; it was called the “best, last and final” offer.
“We believe this to be a fair market offer that has already been accepted by several of your neighbors,” the company said in the letter.
The company has 58 turbines in Lee County and 56 in Bureau County, covering 13,000 acres.
Resident Gary Todd filed his complaint in January, saying his rental property on Sheehan Road had suffered poor TV reception since the turbines went into operation.
In response, he said, Edison Mission put in a satellite receiver for his TV and offered to pay $2,500 for satellite service. He took the deal. The money could pay for satellite service for a few years.
“It was kind of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of deal,” he said.
Others refused the offer.
“They did have an offer of $2,500 if we never complained again,” said William Ogan of Baseline Road. “It didn’t seem right at the time.”
Ogan, who filed his complaint in January, said the company told him that his antenna wasn’t high enough. But he disagreed. With that same antenna, he said, his TV got better reception before the wind farm started.
His wife, Claudia Ogan, said her TV had often been down to one channel since the wind farm started operating. The turbine blades appear to affect the signal, she said.
“They said it was our fault, that we had to cut down trees next to the house,” she said. “We truly believe that some of the problem is caused by windmills. It’s not as if we can’t afford cable, but some people can’t.”
Still, she said, there’s a plus side to the turbines. Her family gets payments for two of them because they stand on the Ogans’ farm.
“We have a brother-in-law in a nursing home, and this is paying the way,” she said.
Mark Henkel of Maytown Road near Sublette complained in April that because of the wind farm, TV signals are intermittent, with the entire picture lost at times.
His wife, Tammy Henkel, said Edison Mission hadn’t responded.
“The ones who complained earlier got some extra service,” she said. “We’ve gotten nothing. It’s very frustrating to watch a program and you’re not even seeing half of it.
“It’s nice to sit down and watch the news or ‘CSI.’ But we’re hardly getting them. They’re not coming in.”
Aiming to be ‘good corporate citizen’
Susan Olavarria, an Edison Mission spokeswoman, said she didn’t want to discuss the details of any particular complaint.
“We’ve been diligently working to investigate and resolve legitimate issues raised by any complaining landowners, providing periodic updates to Lee and Bureau County administrators,” she said. “We want to be a good corporate citizen.”
In certain cases, Lee County has Edison Mission documents on the examination of particular properties. The company often advises residents to install taller antennas or better equipment.
It hired a consulting firm, Antenna Solutions, which stated in a report, “The TV reception issues appear to be caused by faulty or obsolete reception equipment.”
The firm added that the area in question is on the very edge of transmitters’ ranges. It advised that residents get state-of-the-art antennas.
In its main report, Antenna Solutions concluded by saying that more complicated issues needed further study.
Asked whether turbines had any effect on TV reception in general, Olavarria declined to comment.
Complaints about wind farm
The following are complaints filed, includes names of residents and dates of submission, to the Lee County zoning office on issues with the Big Sky wind farm, which straddles the Lee-Bureau county line:
William Ogan, Jan. 11: Getting fewer TV channels. Picture affected by movement of blades.
Gary Todd, Jan. 19: Poor TV reception. Poor cellphone reception.
Steve Full, Jan. 19: Shadow flicker.
Robert Nally, Jan. 19: Poor TV reception.
Doug McLaughlin, Jan. 13: TV reception disrupted.
Brian Jones, Feb. 9: Can’t use cordless phone outside and in parts of house. Radio station interference. Shadow flicker. Too many towers close to residences.
Joan Burke, March 17: Loss of Quad Cities TV stations.
Mark Henkel, April 7: Quad Cities stations are intermittent in quality of signal, losing picture on TV at times. New antenna put up a year ago.
Daniel Stephenitch, April 18: Poor TV reception.
Tom and Judy Sharkey, July 25: Not able to get some channels. Purchased a new TV and antenna for $1,190.
Ray Zakrzewski, Aug. 18: Shadow flicker is unnerving. Poor TV reception. Two potential buyers of house have refused to make offers because of these issues.
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