Officials continue to face complaints about noise from select residents living in the Hope area within the California Ridge Wind Farm, run by Invenergy LLC. The county’s first wind farm — made up of 104 turbines stretching toward the county’s western border — became fully operational in December. Weinard termed the situation the county’s “biggest controversy” for the year, and said the county has little power in dealing directly with the complaints. “We have no zoning, we have no land use, we have no home rule,” he said. “The only thing we have is the ability to issue a building permit and that only deals with the safety of the structure.
DANVILLE – After more than 20 years on the Vermilion County Board, Gary Weinard started his first term as chairman in December facing issues ranging from potential tax increases and courthouse renovations to the sale of the longtime county-owned nursing home.
“The first week I came in there were a lot of things sitting on the chairman’s desk,” he said.
Nine months later, the county has sold the nursing home, put a new roof on the century-old courthouse and is working to extend the streak of five straight years without a tax increase.
Weinard credited the people “behind the scenes,” including staff, as well as county board members.
“By and large things are going smoothly,” he said, noting that party affiliation among board members has dropped away. “We don’t have a lot of partisan bickering. I take my hat off to the board, especially if you look to the west, north and other directions. They don’t have that same harmony.”
While some issues have been worked through for the county, plenty of others remain – starting with county buildings. Aside from the new courthouse roof, work still remains for courthouse interior offices that received damage as a result of water leakage from the old roof.
In addition, Weinard said the county is looking at either repairing or replacing the elevators in the century-old building as well as the five-story structure’s boilers.
“The boilers have a lot of age on them,” he said. “They are low efficiency and I’d like to bring the county board a plan for some new boilers – 90 percent plus efficiency – something that will help the utility bill over there.”
While the elevators and boilers are important, a bigger – 12 stories to be exact – problem stands across the street from the courthouse. Bresee Tower continues to have structural problems, creating a growing problem for the County Annex building which is built around the base of the tower and actually shares plumbing pipes with it.
According to Weinard, the county needs to think about the problem and get some ideas about where to go with it.
“I’ve got real concerns about where that’s going,” he said of Bresee Tower. “The roof is in need of attention. That’s a concern. At some point, that structurally is going to become a liability and the way we’re built and the way city hall is built, you’re not going to take that down and occupy this building.”
The 94-year-old building located near East Main and North Vermilion streets is owned by First Corbin Financial Corp. of Corbin, Ky. First Corbin closed the building in 2005.
In addition to current roof issues, Bresee Tower has experienced other structural problems. Terra cotta debris falling from locations on the building forced the construction of a covering over the sidewalk in 2006.
It was named to Landmarks Illinois’ annual “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places list” in 2012.
Weinard said he is not looking at bringing down the building as the only option at this point, but does feel one idea deserves some consideration from the government entities located in downtown Danville.
“There is merit to forming a joint study group between Vermilion County, the City of Danville and Danville Township about building an all overall building and have those three share space in there,” he said. “There is space downtown that would lend itself that’s still close to the courthouse and still keep the center of downtown Danville alive. That’s an issue that merits a little bit of study.”
The idea of relocation also works well into the swiftly aging Courthouse Annex building, which continues to experience problems.
“At some point it makes sense to find a new location to put this thing in,” he said. “The inefficiencies in this building are huge. The wasted space and inefficiency is huge.”
Vermilion County recently took over possession of the empty lot to the east of the county courthouse as part of a settlement in a lawsuit between the county and the City of Danville. Weinard has said there are no immediate plans for the lot.
Questions face other county buildings outside downtown Danville. Weinard said officials are “struggling” with what to do regarding the Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency Building at 2507 Georgetown Road.
Up until the beginning of 2013, the building – the former South Danville TV site – housed the Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency as well as the county coroner’s office. It was purchased by the county in July 2005 with federal funds.
Beginning last year, however, county officials started looking at ways to deal with the building – which has had a long list of problems, ranging from an outdated electrical system, plumbing problems and a leaking roof.
“We are in the process of acquiring, at the request of (the Illinois Emergency Management Agency), a professional appraisal of that building,” Weinard said, adding the county has entered into an agreement with a local firm.
“We still have an expectation and a hope that we can find a new home for EMA that will work in the county,” he said.
Weinard noted the highway department also needs additional storage space. A new salt storage building was completed this year for the department, which was “badly needed,” Weinard said.
Not every problem facing the county, however, deals with county-owned buildings. Officials continue to face complaints about noise from select residents living in the Hope area within the California Ridge Wind Farm, run by Invenergy LLC. The county’s first wind farm – made up of 104 turbines stretching toward the county’s western border – became fully operational in December.
Weinard termed the situation the county’s “biggest controversy” for the year, and said the county has little power in dealing directly with the complaints.
“We have no zoning, we have no land use, we have no home rule,” he said. “The only thing we have is the ability to issue a building permit and that only deals with the safety of the structure.
“IEPA is the agency that controls and monitors and fines excessive noise,” Weinard added, noting that 50 decibels is the level that been set by the state.
The other wind farm closest to construction is located in the area southwest of Hoopeston and northwest of Rossville. The wind farm project, recently purchased by Apex in Virginia, is the only other project that has received building permit approval from the county.
Weinard also said Invenergy continues to indicate initial plans for a Phase 2 expansion of California Ridge that will add as many as 60-70 wind turbines.
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