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Woodford clears Minonk wind-energy project for sale

EUREKA – The Minonk wind-energy project didn’t get blown off course Tuesday night.

By a 9-5 vote, the Woodford County Board approved a resolution that affirms the partial ownership transfer of the 100-turbine project being built near Minonk. The wind-farm developer, Gamesa Technology Corp., eventually plans to sell the entire project to Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. of Canada.

Some board members questioned the transferability of the project’s county-issued special-use permit.

“We think the county did the right thing,” Jiddu Tapia, chief development officer for Gamesa, said following a board meeting that attracted a standing-room crowd.

“This really isn’t an issue related to wind, in my mind,” Tapia told the board before the vote. “This is related to how business is treated in Woodford County.”

State’s Attorney Greg Minger recommended ownership-transfer approval despite some board members’ complaints about how the special-use permit, issued in 2010, conflicted with county zoning ordinances.

Board member Doug Huser was the most vocal opponent of the resolution, which also didn’t receive support from Russell Cotton, Tom Evans, Duane Kingdon and Barry Logan. Huser suggested the county receive additional legal counsel from contract-law specialists.

“(Minger) is doing his darndest, but he just cannot keep up with the workload we’re dumping on him. It’s through no fault of his own,” said Huser, who also said the state’s attorney had offered conflicting advice.

Minger appeared to take umbrage.

“You have an attorney. It’s me. Put the burden on me,” Minger said. “If I’m wrong, come back to me and say, ‘Minger told us so.’ There’s no reason not to approve this at this point in time. … Let’s just move on.”

Tapia said Gamesa is complying with the special-use permit. Board member Mike Hinrichsen concurred. He cited approval last week from Livingston County, where 25 of the Minonk-project turbines are located.

“I just have a hard time sitting back here and really understanding why we’re at this point,” Hinrichsen said. “We have got to move forward and make it easier to do business within this county.

“If we continue to act in this way, we will be left in the dust.”