MANSFIELD – Richland County officials want the final say on all road work needed for the construction of a wind farm that is being planned for Crawford and Richland counties – including Plymouth and Sharon townships north and west of Shelby.
County commissioners met Tuesday with county engineer Tom Beck, assistant engineer Jim Lichtenwalter, Columbus attorney Steven Grassbaugh and assistant county prosecutor Andrew Keller to establish requirements for a road agreement with the developer.
The Ohio Power Siting Board has approved plans for the project, which is owned by Element Power, and has required the company to reach a road agreement with the affected counties and townships that will cover damage by heavy equipment. Under county regulations governing overweight and over-wide vehicles that were approved in early 2011, the county can require a company to choose the route it plans to use, hire professionals to determine appropriate load limits and develop upgrade plans and hire a contractor with the county supervising the work.
Grassbaugh told the group Element Power originally submitted a proposed agreement that had no local government oversight.
“Element Power is going to be in a time cooker, so they’ve hired an engineer to see what kinds of things they need to do – what roads could be used, should be used and what work needs to be done,” he said. “It’s been the position of this board that we want to be in control of construction on our roads – period.”
Grassbaugh said one proposal that came up during preliminary talks would have Element Power contract and pay for assessment and construction plans, have the county engineer review them at appropriate times and then have the county contract for the work with the company paying the bill. They did not discuss details about making sure money is available to pay for the road work.
“Their concern is that we’re going to go and build the finest road system on their dime, and our concern is they’ll be gone and we won’t have the money,” Grassbaugh said. “Somewhere in between there we’ve got to come to an agreement.”
Commissioners said they also would like to see the agreement include construction oversight by the county, the use of local companies so problems can be resolved more quickly, and protection for public safety.
“I don’t want to be restrictive to their project, but I do want them to adhere to Ohio law,” Commissioner Tim Wert said.
Grassbaugh said indications are that the windmill project could start in the first quarter of 2013. He said the company is looking for a buyer for its power, which would give it the money to proceed.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners approved the purchase of nine new computers for the sheriff’s department at a cost of $8,668, with the payment coming from the sheriff’s revolving contingency account. The information technology specialist for Auditor Patrick Dropsey has indicated the current computers are not repairable.
Commissioners also met with the county health insurance subcommittee to complete plans for a wellness incentive program that is part of the county health insurance plan and held an executive session to discuss compensation for the Child Support Enforcement Agency.
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