December 16, 2011

Adjacent landowners to share in wind farm profits

David Roberts - The Independent, 16 December 2011

HOLBROOK —The Navajo County Board of Supervisors, by 4-1 vote, will allow a 194-tower wind generating project north of Holbrook to proceed unimpeded.

In voting against the proposal, District V Supervisor Jerry Brownlow said he is not against the project, just their desire to be granted blanket waivers for setback restrictions. He said board members toiled over the wording of the ordinance, in effect only since the advent of the Iberdrola project near Snowflake, and it should be followed.

Supervisors J. R. Despain, and Jesse Thompson, whose constituents will be more directly affected by the economic impact of the project, were joined by David Tenney and Jonathan Nez in approving it.

Nez granted his vote with the caveat that the Disgen Marcou Mesa, LLC project managers contact the Navajo Nation and, as a courtesy, explain the project to them.

The 390 megawatt project is to be located on land north of Holbrook that for the most part is not now, never has been, and according to all in the room, never can be inhabited. According to District III Supervisor J. R. DeSpain, the soil is not good for agriculture, there is no water for existence and any rain stops traffic because of the clay.

Planning Director Greg Loper told Supervisors that he and his staff thought Disgen Marcou could do more to acquire waivers of setback requirements from landowners to come into compliance with the ordinance.

Echoing DeSpain’s sentiments, Project Manager Dale Osborn said his company had sent out 1,000 letters to landowners, and was not seeking waivers. He said his company is entering into easement agreements with landowners that will allow them to participate in profits. The problem arises in an ordinance, he said, that requires a 1,350 foot setback to any property from the wind generators. Since 40 acres is generally 1,320 feet square, there is no way to locate a tower on the smaller land holdings within the ordinance.

Such a restriction, he said, would knock out about the third of the towers, and eliminate small landowners from receiving any money. Because of federal tax subsidy sunsets, the project must be built in 2012, making approval at this meeting imperative, he said.

Navajo County Drug Project Director Debe Campbell gave her annual summary to the board.

She highlighted Public Service Announcements, one of which features Steven Reidhead and his well-documented ongoing recovery from methamphetamine addiction. While the county’s drug problem is real, she said, and exacerbated by the economic situation, her program is starting to reach out to adults as well as children.

There has been a rise in cocaine-affected births at Summit Healthcare, an increase in meth-related complaints, and an ongoing problem with synthetic “designer” drugs that keep changing formulas and names as soon they are outlawed.

The Project made direct presentations to 4,744 people, received 1,385 column inches of press coverage and 10,144 public service announcements during the year. Board Chairman David Tenney presented Campbell $1,000 for the Drug Project.

For the first time, Navajo County received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) and is the highest recognition in government budgeting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the US and Canada. This is in addition to the Distinguished Budget Awards that Navajo County has received for both our FY 09-10 and FY 10-11 budgets prepared by James Menlove, Cris Parisot and the Finance Department.

County Manager James Jayne gave Menlove and the finance team the plaque.

“This accomplishment also addresses our Fiscal Responsibility Goal,” said Jayne.

The General Plan goal is “As a responsible steward of public monies, Navajo County demonstrates fiscal accountability, while providing innovative and quality services” and Fiscal Responsibility Objective to “Demonstrate accountability and transparency.”

The supervisors voted to appointed Vickie Jo Baldwin and Richard Arthur Hunt as precinct committeemen to fill vacancies on the Navajo County Republican Committee.

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