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Hobart residents concerned about Merrillville wind turbine project

MERRILLVILLE | A proposed wind turbine at an electrical union’s Merrillville headquarters is expected to provided job training opportunities for union members, but some Hobart residents who live near the site have concerns about how it could affect them.

A lengthy discussion about the matter took place during last week’s Town Council workshop.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 697 is seeking a variance of use from Merrillville to build the wind turbine on its property near 73rd Avenue and Mississippi Street, which is near the Hobart border.

Hobart residents told the council they are concerned the turbine could reduce their property values, create constant noise, affect wildlife and produce other nuisances.

Jeff Ban, of DVG Inc., said the turbine would be about 160 feet tall from its base to the highest point of its propeller.

Three wind turbines that are the same size were built in 2011 for CityBus in Lafayette. Town Councilman Tom Goralczyk and Hobart City Councilman Jerry Herzog said they visited the site.

Those turbines aren’t producing loud noise and they haven’t caused major problems with animals, they said. One bird and one bat have flown into the turbines since they were built, they said.

A Hobart resident said she also visited the site and heard a high-pitched tone the entire time she was there. She also is concerned the wind turbine blades could create major damage if they began to deteriorate.

Ban said the IBEW turbine would have to be shut down if it produced noise exceeding 60 decibels, which is what Town Code allows on the property.

Herzog said there are safety precautions that would stop the turbine from moving if it isn’t running properly.

Goralczyk said he doesn’t see a problem with the project, which, it has been said, could help union electricians obtain higher paying jobs.

He also explained that the union helped the town buy and install solar panels on the Town Hall roof at no cost to Merrillville.

“They’re stepping forward for the community,” Goralczyk said.

The Town Council will vote on the variance of use during its 6:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday.