EUREKA – When it comes to those constructing the Minonk Wind Farm, Woodford County residents aren’t the 98 percent. Not yet, anyway.
Some Woodford County Board members are displeased only six of the 292 people employed at the wind-farm construction site appear to be their constituents. Duane Enger of Gamesa Technology Corp. cited those figures Tuesday night during the board’s regular meeting.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” board member Barry Logan said. “They sold this project on bringing jobs to Woodford County, and only 2 percent of the work force is coming from Woodford County.
“I realized the numbers were going to be somewhat low, but I didn’t think it would be this low.”
Enger acknowledged Logan’s point. But Enger also said the nature of the jobs cause an ebb and flow.
“This is short-term labor. These aren’t long-term positions yet,” he said. “That’s when we start hiring folks who are going to be around for a while.”
Many of the current jobs require specialized knowledge that might not be available locally, Enger said.
Union restrictions also apparently play a role. The 100-turbine project – 23 are complete, Enger said – extends into Livingston County, which is in a different union local than Woodford County. Most current construction is in Livingston County, according to Enger.
Logan and colleague Doug Huser suggested less complex construction elements, such as concrete and gravel, could be sourced locally. Enger said he didn’t know how much has been.
“When they sold this project, they sold it on local people,” Huser said. “When reality sets in, it’s not what they promised.”
“I think that we’ve always represented the construction phase is going to be kind of fast and furious,” he said. “Let’s get it done for the least amount of money as soon as possible. Once we’re up and running, then we’re going to be sourcing and people are going to be living in the community.”
Enger estimated seven to 12 full-time employees will be working at the wind farm once it’s completed later this year. The construction crew is near its peak, which likely will come in August or September, he said.
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