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County keeps wind energy request up in air

The County Board of Commissioners decided to send a message regarding wind energy projects in the county by opting not to act on a request to release from 26.311 acres in Windsor Township PA 116 for the purpose of building an energy substation planned for the Thumb Loop.

Citing a resolution passed in November, 2012, where commissioners voted to not take any more action regarding wind projects until the state clarifies the legislation and taxation of wind turbines, commissioners said the planned substation is related to wind energy, and voting on the measure would violate their previous actions.

The request for the release of the property from PA 116, which is intended to preserve land for farmland use, was from ITC Transmission and NextEra Energy Resources, which will divide the property. Attorneys from NextEra, the Pheasant Run Wind Park and ITC Transmission were present for the decision, and all appealed to the commissioners to pass the resolution to release the property.

The property is part of the Pheasant Run Wind overlay district, where NextEra Energy, of Juno Beach, Fla., is developing a 150-megawatt wind farm. NextEra and ITC requested the PA 116 release on behalf of the property’s current owner, the Marilyn Elenbaum Trust, from which the companies plan to purchase the property.

Commissioner Dave Peruski said the legislative committee met with Huron County Corporate Council Steve Allen, who advised the committee the board had three courses of action from which to choose:

• Vote on the resolution, approve it, and send it to the state for final approval.

• Vote on the resolution, not approve it, and the decision will be sent to the state for an appeal.

• Vote to defer the decision to the state.

Rather than choosing one of those options, the board decided not to take any action on the request.

“We’re going to send a message here,” said Commissioner Ron Wruble.

All commissioners were in agreement, however, that their action, or rather inaction, will likely make no difference regarding whether the property is released from PA 116.

“I think regardless of what we do or not do, it is a foregone conclusion. The state approves of this legislation. The property will be divided and the substation will be built on that site,” Commissioner John Nugent said.

Allen agrees it is unlikely the commissioners’ message will be heard by the State Land Use Commission, which has the final say regarding PA 116 requests.

“I suspect the state will treat it as a rejection in light of the fact (commissioners) did not take action,” he said.

The state has the right to overturn the rejection, and it is likely it will release the land in this case, Allen said.

In other action during Tuesday’s Huron County Board of Commissioner’s meeting:

• Peruski announced the Huron County Nature Center’s Ladyslipper Festival will take place May 25 and 26. Cleanup at the Nature Center is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 4, and anyone who wishes to help may join the effort.

• The board voted to contract with Wade Mazure to complete 2013 commercial, agricultural and residential appraisal studies at a cost not to exceed $40,000.

• The board authorized the county treasurer to issue a payment to the State of Michigan DHS-Cashier Unit in the amount of $12,783.

• The board voted to employ Joshua Loss as a full-time corrections officer in the sheriff’s office, with a salary of $32,500, effective May 4.

• The board voted to employ Jordan Gunsel, Charles Stevens and David Aldis as part-time corrections officers in the Huron County Sheriff’s Office at a rate of $10.50 per hour while in training and $13 per hour upon completion of training. The employments all were effective as of April 23.

• The board voted to employ Lawrence Hartwick and John Atwell as seasonal, casual marine officers in the sheriff’s office at a rate of $10 per hour while in training and $13 per hour upon completion of training. The employments were effective as of April 23.

• The board increased the rate of pay for seasonal, casual marine officer Benjamin Willenberg from $13 to $14 per hour, effective May 25.

• The board increased the rate of pay for marine patrol officers Matthew Clark and Alexander Jobes from $9 per hour to $13 per hour, effective May 25.

• The board increased the rate of pay for casual dog census deputies Anthony Jobes and Allison Periso from $9 per hour to $11 per hour, effective May 18.

• The board supported the application for Federal and Local Bridge Program funds for the replacement of the Hartsell Road Bridge.

• The board voted to adopt ice skating rules for the Huron County Ice Arena.

• The board moved to authorize Commissioner Clark Elftman to sign the Memorandum of Understanding between Huron County and the State of Michigan Veterans Affairs.

• The board voted to allow a National Day of Prayer ceremony at the Veterans Memorial next to the County Building from noon to 1 p.m. on May 2.