A local businessman and pilot is calling for an independent investigation into the illegal construction of eight wind turbines near the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport.
Ian McLarty of Eberts told The Daily News Wednesday he warned municipal officials last December that the eight windmills on the south side of the airport property were in violation of height restrictions.
“But the only person they would listen to was their so-called independent consultant,” he said. “I even supplied supporting documentation to back my claim and it was all ignored.”
South Kent councillor Frank Vercouteren said he supports McLarty’s call for a study to be done.
“The citizens of Chatham-Kent need to know what is going on at the airport,” he said. “My phone is ringing off the wall.”
Vercouteren said he thinks administration knows more than they are telling councillors or the public.
“We need to know more – what we’ve been told so far isn’t enough,” he said. “The citizens deserve it.”
On Tuesday, The Daily News reported that municipal officials had launched an internal investigation into the matter.
“There will be lots of questions asked,” said Don Shropshire, the municipality’s chief administrative officer.
McLarty, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Chatham-Kent in the 2010 election and plans to seek election in the 2014 race, said municipal officials did not accept warnings from pilots and airport stakeholders during a meeting held at the airport in December.
“It was after that meeting that I contacted Transport Canada and made my concerns known to two inspectors – chief inspector Keith Ryley and inspector Mike Lucking,” he said.
McLarty noted that Mayor Randy Hope confirmed in a media release Tuesday that the municipality was informed by Transport Canada in January that wind turbines may have been constructed in the height protected area.
“Why did he not take immediate action but instead allowed this to drag on for six months?” he asked. “The municipality should have shown leadership at the outset rather than now being forced to take action and be subject to the associated bad press that goes along with it.”
“I made them aware of this situation a month earlier and they chose to ignore me,” he said. “They then went on to hold a press conference indicating there were no safety issues and the mayor issued his now-famous eat crow remarks.”
Late last year, Hope told the Daily News Chatham-Kent-Essex MPP Rick Nicholls will “have to eat crow” when an independent report is tabled indicating there are no safety concerns for the municipal airport as a result of the wind turbines.
A voice mail left by the Daily News with Genivar, the consulting firm hired by the municipality to undertake a safety report on the airport last fall, was not returned.
McLarty claims a national precedent will be set if the turbines are not removed in short order.
“This entire mess at the local airport is being closely watched by pilots and airport officials across the country and even in the U.S.,” said McLarty. “It’s a serious matter and something that should never have been allowed to occur in the first place.”
McLarty said he hopes the farmers on whose land the turbines were built won’t “get burned” because of this controversy.
“It’s a situation that never should have been allowed to take place and must be rectified as quickly as possible while letting administration deal with the aftermath.”