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Word from Benzie County Michigan

BENZIE COUNTY (Michigan) BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS (meeting November 1, 2011)

Neither of two resolutions dealing with renewable energy was voted on by commissioners. Board members approved formation of a three member Renewable Energy Committee charged with the task of coming back to the full board December 20 with a resolution for fellow board members and the public to discuss and possibly adopt.

Mark Roper, Almira Township; Anne Damm, Benzonia; Roland Halliday, Crystal Lake, Platte and Lake Townships; Chris Olson, county administrator; and Dick Figura, county lawyer, will serve on the committee.

Commissioners agreed they would be better off to come up with their own resolution on the issue that sparked heated debate following the introduction of two other resolutions regarding renewable energy- one submitted by Allan O’Shea, former Manistee County commissioner and advocate of the proposed Duke Energy industrial wind turbine project (O’Shea said he is not and never has been an employee of Duke Energy); and one drafted by Chuck Beale, from Blaine Township.

O’Shea brought a similar resolution to the Manistee County Board of Commissioners which they approved 4-3 October 25. O’Shea’s intention was to have the board approve his statement, a “Resolution Supporting Wind Power Development” in Benzie County. The 10 paragraph document promoted strictly wind power as a renewable energy source and stated that the county board of commissioners “supports the development of one or more utility scale wind farms in the county and encourages the townships in the county to make land use decisions that encourage wind farm development…”

The alternative resolution submitted by Beale encouraged “energy conservation, net metering and the advancement of clean energy which include but are not limited to solar, solar thermal, biomass, wind, geothermal, municipal solid waste, landfill gas production by municipal solid waste, and kinetic energy of moving water, which include all of the following: waves, tides or currents and water released through a dam; all of the above being consistent Michigan’s Renewable Efficient Energy Act PA 295.” This document also mentions use of the county’s “2020 Comprehensive Plan… to provide policy and guide decision making for future land and infrastructure development decisions within Benzie County.”

At least 24 people spoke in favor or against industrial wind turbine development in Benzie County. Results of an unofficial vote among the 100 or so people attending the session indicated 50 opposed wind turbines, 24 supported them and five people indicated the had no opinion.

Halliday opposes industrial wind development like the one proposed by Duke Energy for Benzie County because while a select number of landowners will make money, many more will see the value of their property decrease. And the county could receive less in its tax collections. This fact is documented by a number of surveys and information collected by real estate appraisers in both the United States and Canada. The wind companies say this is not so. If that is the case then they should offer a Property Value Guarantee (PVG) where a wind developer bond should be required to guarantee with no undue delay in PVG payment to legitimately affected homeowners, and/or to buy out homeowners located within two miles of any turbines if they elect to relocate away from the turbine project and cannot sell for the pre-project market value of their properties. Such a guarantee is nominal in cost, relative to total project costs, and is used to condition high impact land use approvals such as landfills and even limestone quarries, as well as other wind energy developments.

In other business, undersheriff Bill Sholten retired effective Friday, Oct. 28. Detective SGT David Tucker was named as “acting” undersheriff.

Commissioners appointed Mary Carroll to serve as a member of the county economic development board of directors.

MSU Extension regional director Pat Cudney introduced staff members who will be serving Benzie County.

Patty O’Donnell, with the NW Michigan Council of Governments, presented board chair Don Tanner and other county officials with a plaque for their successful participation in an energy conservation project.

Mike Rice, court director of youth services, outlined his budget and services provided for the in home care portion of the child care fund.

Deb Server, executive director of the council on aging, asked commissioners to put a renewal request on the August 2012 ballot for a five year period for continued senior services. There could be a possible increase in the millage request, she said.