ROCK FALLS – Who is the Whiteside County Airport manager speaking for when he expresses his concerns about wind turbines in the area?
He says himself, not the airport board.
At last month’s airport board meeting, County Board Vice Chairman Bill McGinn, D-Sterling, asked airport manager Mike Dowell about who he was representing when he testified about the turbines.
Dowell wears three hats – as a pilot, the president of M&M Aviation Services and the airport’s manager, a position he holds under a contract with the county.
Dowell said Monday that he testified for himself because the board hadn’t taken official action on the nine turbines planned for the Deer Grove area.
The Federal Aviation Administration has indicated that the turbines would pose no hazard to air navigation.
But Dowell told the airport board in February that he didn’t like the turbines because of safety reasons.
According to the board’s minutes, Dowell asked to draft a letter about his concerns on behalf of the airport board.
The board voted unanimously to have Dowell write the letter and send it to the board’s attorney, Dave Murray. It would be sent under the attorney’s name, according to the minutes.
Dowell said Monday that he drafted the letter, but the attorney is reviewing it. He hoped it would come up for a vote at the airport board’s monthly meeting on Thursday.
He said he never represented himself during his testimony as the airport manager.
McGinn, however, said Dowell wasn’t clear about who he was speaking for.
He said Dowell is paid by the taxpayers and it appeared as if he were protesting the turbines without the airport board’s authority.
He said Dowell is free to express his opinions, but should keep his distance on airport issues if he doesn’t have the board’s authority.
McGinn, who attends airport board meetings, said he leans in favor of wind turbines, saying they promote economic development.
Dowell has acknowledged that there would be lights on the turbines, but said he feared that in bad weather they would be hard to see, possibly jeopardizing people’s safety.
He wondered who would maintain the lights if turbines were abandoned.
Also, with turbines in the area, medical helicopters wouldn’t be able to rescue some people during emergencies, he said.
Other local pilots also have expressed concerns about proposed wind farms.
Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power, which is planning the wind farm, has said it had submitted information to the FAA about its project.
It is planning 19 turbines for Bureau County and about 30 for Lee County.
The Whiteside County Board meets at 5 p.m. Thursday at the airport, 10950 Hoover Road, south of Rock Falls.
The board may consider a letter drafted by airport manager Mike Dowell expressing concerns about proposed turbines 6 miles away.
For more information, call the airport at 815-622-3591.
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