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Council holds closed-door meeting to discuss agreement with wind energy company

Piedmont’s city council had previously used the public spotlight to rail against a proposed wind farm, but to discuss an agreement with a wind energy company to allow wind turbine construction just beyond the city limits, the council decided to hold court behind closed doors.

Lacking any discussion of an active lawsuit or personnel matter – the two matters validated for private meetings by state law – the city council entered into executive session Thursday night in a move that appeared to stretch the legality of the Open Meeting Act.

Councilman Donnie Robinson voted against the exective session and declined to participating, saying he felt it was an improper use of private meetings.

“I think it should be discussed in an open meeting,” Robinson said.

Councilman Bobby Williamson also voted against entering executive session, but joined the other council members following a a majority vote to leave the public meeting.

Thursday’s council agenda listed the purpose of the executive session as a chance to discuss a proposal from Apex Clean Energy. City officials have said the proposed agreement would have the city drop its fight against wind turbine construction beyond its borders and allow Apex to build some turbines within three miles of the city border.

The city council had previously voted to enforce its ban on wind turbines beyond its borders and voted to join an anti-wind farm group in fighting the proposed wind farm project west of town.

The willingness to consider the proposal from Apex is a reversal for a council that just a few months ago had threatened to file a lawsuit against Apex in an effort to halt wind turbine construction. Details of what the proposal includes have not been shared by Apex or officially by the city, but one city official said it involved payments to the city.

“No decisions were made,” Mayor Valerie Thomerson said after returning from executive session.